In a Supreme Court hearing Tuesday (October 27), Senior Advocate Shyam Divan argued about the discrepancies in the process of the Central Vista Redevelopment project. How exactly are such projects executed and what are the important steps to making an architectural project in the public domain transparent, efficient and sustainable?
The Site and Studies
The Central Vista is a heritage precinct, declared in the 1962 Master Plan of Delhi as an “important site to meet the aspirations of a rich culture”. It is important, then, to do extensive multi-disciplinary studies if there is an intent to redevelop the area. For instance, the UK Parliament Expansion study took them 10 years.
“First, they should ascertain their requirement for the next 25 years and develop a programme accordingly. After you decide the magnitude of the project, you select a site. In the case of the Central Vista, you already have the site, so you need to fit the programme to the site. In these times, you also need to look at how technology will shrink your floor space and make your adjustments accordingly. The studies that need to be done should include infrastructure, from electrical loads and water supply to waste disposal. The more the built form, the more the waste. Will there be new routes for sewage or will the present systems have the capacity to absorb more,” says architect-urban designer KT Ravindran. Traffic, heritage and environment assessments, too, will need to be done. There can be multiple committees involved in such surveys.
The Design Brief
Following this, the design brief or concept is prepared which tells prospective participants what is expected of them, what the scope of the project is, the intent and the dos and don’t based on the studies. The design vision is explained in the design concept. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
Based on the design idea, in the case of Delhi, the project proponent (construction agency like the CPWD or NBCC) or the client (any government department or ministry) has to seek conceptual approval from the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC).
“These are financial decisions, which also include clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and monetary allocations from the finance ministry. The General Finance Rules 2017 say that for conducting a competition or floating a tender, details of which should be available in the public domain. The information will include project assessment studies that have been done by regulatory bodies and NDMC. A regulatory Master Plan is made by a body that has elected representation, which is NDMC, MCD or DDA. In the Central Vista Redevelopment Project, it appears that CPWD’s project masterplan is supplanting the city’s regulatory Master Plan (MPD2021). The CPWD is not an urban local body, the NDMC is. So they should have sought sanction from NDMC who should have scrutinised its compliance to the existing regulatory Master Plan,” says architect Madhav Raman.
“In the Central Vista Redevelopment project, technically there was no call to competition. It was a Notice Inviting Tender. For any architectural design competition in the country, there are guidelines by the Council of Architecture that have to be followed. Such a competition invites architects, designers, planners to give a solution, which may include a remuneration. The competition may or may not have prequalification conditions. Only those who qualify can apply,” says architect Sanjay Bhardwaj.
The COA suggests that competitions of such importance can be conducted in two stages or more. The first is only an ‘Ideas Competition’ where the merit is on possibilities and innovation. The second stage is where the winner is selected based on his/her capacity to deliver. The difference between a competition and a tender is that a design competition is not an award of contract, it could just be for a prize. A tender is a firm intent and the selected applicant wins the contract. The winner also is the one who has the best offer, in both financial and technical bids. Once the contract is given, the architect is on a deadline to expand on the design brief, work out cost estimates and prepare a detailed design plan.
The names of all jury members are usually announced before the competition. The jury can make recommendations about the winning design as well. It is also open to peer review and public consultation.
After NDMC seeks NOCs from fire service, Airports Authority of India, Archaeological Survey of India, followed by approvals from Heritage Conservation Committee and Central and CVC, then it submits the project to DUAC for detailed approval. With their clearance, the project construction can then begin with periodic supervision by the municipal body to ensure there are no major changes to the plan are made on site.
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