The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched a course in urbanization from October last year. Now students are learning this as a subject in their classes.
The whole ideology behind the introduction of this course is to sustain, enrich and carry forward the three-decades-long work already done in Kolkata for integrating ‘human values’, with particular attention to indigenous Indian Culture, into educational institutions and various such organizations.
IIT’s department of Architecture and Regional Planning and the MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning join hands and started the credit course of City Planning inspired from Tagore’s Shantiniketan. The idea is to turn at least a slice of Bolpur, outside the campus, into a signature township that will bear the imprint of Visva-Bharati in every nook and corner. The credit course has been christened ‘Triple Bottom Line Approach for a Sustainable Heritage City’.
Sanyal Chattopadhyay, the Ford International Professor of Urban Studies at MIT said “Santiniketan is a world-class example and though we are initiating it, many more foreign universities should study the relevance of this 19th-century town planning marvel even today.” He further added that “The three key areas of research are urban design and heritage, creative economy, and environment.”
Located about 158 km northwest of Kolkata in Bengal’s rural hinterland, Santiniketan embodies Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of a place of learning. Tagore as a towering figure in the millennium-old literature of Bengal established this model township in 1863 with the aim to help education go beyond the confines of the classroom, and from then Santiniketan grew into the Visva Bharati University in 1921, attracting some of the most creative minds in the country. Shantiniketan which denotes abode of Peace is a beautiful garden was laid out on all sides of the house and the environment is always present in one’s consciousness.
It was always the objective in Santiniketan that learning would be a part of life’s natural growth. The first step towards this objective was to establish in the child a sense of oneness with nature. A child has to be aware of his surroundings – the trees, birds and animals around him. The mind is deprived if one is indifferent to the world outside.
Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, IIT Kharagpur Director said that ”Santiniketan represents the epitome of an older, nationalist imagery of cultural pastoralism, a pastoralism that defined the arts as much as it undergirded emphasis on the rural and the agrarian from which a modern economy would emerge.”
Now there is a team coming up with a plan of how these imprints could now move on to a catchment area of Bolpur which comprises of 15 students from MIT and 12 from IIT-Kagarpur, respectively. The area would then be developed into a showpiece or model township for visitors. On this Chattopadhyay said, “We have the example of Shakespeare’s birthplace, Strat ford-upon-Avon, before us.The entire town has been designed keeping the bard’s house as the fulcrum. Even bank ATMs or the sandwich outlet is in sync with the design. We want to create that effect here also.” The main focus of this course was therefore, in finding out that how planning can evolve practicable norms, within a given ecological, regulatory, and investment terrain and climate, through which diverse range of economic and social styles of activity, as well as a plurality of ecological, cultural terrains can continue to have a future.
The objective of Santiniketan was always that the learning would be a part of life’s natural growth. The first step towards this objective was to establish in the child a sense of oneness with nature. A child has to be aware of his surroundings – the trees, birds and animals around him. And the same joyous atmosphere where the children look as happy and free as ever will be evident from Tagore’s Township which was introduced as a course with a joined collaboration of MIT and IIT Kharagpur.