I Have Seen The Future
Yesterday I went to Gurgaon for a day. Gurgaon is the town to the south of Delhi that has absorbed most of its overflow corporate energy. It is a new town, built for corporations and middle-classes to escape the chaotic memories of the city, and to provide enclosed modern living for the newly affluent.
When suddenly a significant percentage of a city of sixteen million have money and want part of "new Singapore" (the advertising slogan for one of the new developments) it takes a lot of space.
The monumental apartment blocks have strange ziggurat forms and stretch for miles, surrounded by gates that could make you think of Buckingham Palace. Their pastoral names ("Hamilton Court") do not compensate for the desert-like feel of this place, despite the ongoing monsoon. The apartment blocks, skyscrapers and shopping malls, many of them still under construction, impose a water burden on this arid region that it may or may not be able to sustain.
Many of the major corporations are building major installations here. Microsoft, Alcatel, Dell, Nokia... The place is full of cars and businesspeople. It is the new current of India. It is New New Delhi, a chance to forget New Delhi, and Old Delhi, and build again, according to the times. No pavements tempt people to walk around and clutter up the place. No public transport yet exists between here and the main city, 25km away, so only the people who should be here are.
Easy to see why it is also a place of forgetting and oblivion. Several previous capital cities have been abandoned because they couldn't generate enough water for ther courtly residents, and perhaps this historical relic will come back to haunt this place. Huge glass buildings are built as if the architects were willing themselves to forget that they are building for the north Indian plains, where summers reach nearly 50 degrees, and where glass is the most illogical material. Having trapped the burning sun, however, they do know how to air condition these places back to a chilly 19 degrees again, and the sound of air conditioners rivals that of traffic in places.
The idea of what the future Delhi will look like is a patchwork of other places. Singapore and Dubai provide the most proximate models, with snatches of New York and Tuscany thrown in. There is a complete departure from all the centuries of local architectural experimentation, designed to battle the heat. The British were part of that tradition, in their building of the cloistered Connaught Place. The new, corporate empire, however, insists on a certain kind of architectural consistency all around the world. And here it is, in the desert.