As I was forced to sit on a hot seat in my car parked on C G Road displaying inside temperature of 51 C after paying parking fees, I have decided to dedicate this piece to a small group of highly creative professionals you may not be aware of, as it is their creative genius that has made living in Ahmedabad a wonderfully warm experience.
To understand their great gift to the city, we need to go back to the time when CG Road was a peaceful tree-lined lane with large bungalows of bhadralok of the city. This was possible in those days only because our building bylaws allowed only 1 FSI.
FSI is an index deciding the amount of construction on a given piece of land, whereby 1 FSI means that a 100 sqyd plot can have only 100 sqyd construction. It is easy to see that FSI 1 means a pleasant horizontally growing town with open spaces for everything, including parking.
When real estate demand surged due to liberalization, we had a unique dual opportunity. We could have opted for horizontally spreading cities while pursuing a Keynesian model of pumping money in infrastructure.
It was a win-win opportunity as India has no dearth of land, and economic activities induced by infrastructure building would have really ignited our economy, but few architects of our town had a different idea. As Ahmedabad needed to grow rapidly, a group of architects appeared on the scene who realized what was really wrong with our city.
These architects realized that the worst sufferers in the city were its poor builders. In those days, our poor builders could barely earn 100% profit in each real estate scheme because 1 FSI prevented them from doing the social service of building more. As the sole purpose of the profession of architecture is helping builders get obscenely rich, this empathetic group of architects decided to work on the magic figure of 1 FSI.
Architects figured out that, as per the building bylaws; covered parking, peripheral balconies and cut-outs up-to certain sizes were not counted in FSI. So they designed buildings with covered parking spaces, balconies and cut-outs in such a way that builder can cover them after getting building use permit.
This creative interpretation of bylaws by these architects led to builders converting 1 FSI to nearly 2.5 or even 3 FSI.
So, the poor Amdavadi builder who merely earned 100% profit can now triple or quadruple it in every scheme.
Though the architects who aided and abetted the murder of urban habitat must have known that doubling or tripling the construction would clog the city and destroy it in long run, they celebrated it as a great achievement, leading to a rat race amongst architects and builders to get one-up in finding more rules to twist to construct more, and soon getting so brazen that breaking construction bylaws became a rule instead of an exception.
Today our builders have become so habituated to obscene profiteering that their hunger for FSI is constantly increasing. If architects keep avoiding the hot seat of social responsibility, society is incapable of understanding what it can lead to.
Unfortunately, the architects of this era are also failing the society in speaking up. With the density and constant arrival of migrant population, our cities are filled to the brim. If we are honest, we all know that increase in FSI never helps in lowering real estate prices. It just helps builders getting richer.
Let us realist that high FSI may give housing to all but homes to none. Time has come to start looking at the quality of life as a basic parameter in our developmental policies, as what we are building today are no longer human habitats, they are rat-holes.