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A window on: Calcutta
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In the last 50 years, Kolkata has received massive waves of refugees, immigrants and re-settlers, often invading the porous space, and the neglected places of the existing neighborhoods, building and densifying railways, vacant lots, public gardens. This has undoubtedly contributed to the growing congestion and overcrowding, perhaps putting a strain on the urban middle class.
This has produced the most extraordinary social mix ever seen in a city. Everyday Kolkata mixes managers and barbers, lawyers and shoe-cleaners, limousines and rickshaws. Hawkers and street kitchens are mostly seen as a source of nuisance, or worse. On the contrary, the benefits of proximity are largely exploited without mention: the abundance of services, the flexibility of the labour market.
Instead, Kolkata’s policies seem to deny deliberately all value to proximity. This is particularly perceptible in the formal colonial city, the “vanishing city” that Chaudhuri correctly tries to defend; but it also refers to other central neighborhoods. For fifty years the city has been supporting, and sometimes forcing, the divorce of the middle and upper classes from traditional neighbourhoods: Salt Lake city, the Eastern bypass, Rayarhat are the following steps of a progressive estrangement from the city core. At the same time, the multiple manifestation of street life, its misery or excess, as well as its potential virtues, have been either repressed or ignored.
(ENG) Extraordinary Calcutta, by Marco Cremaschi
The Journal of Urbanism