Uttorayon Township is a 400 acre development on a non productive Tea Estate in Siliguri, West Bengal. The guiding objective of the project was to create a model for low cost development in India which enhances community while respecting the environment.
Siliguri is in a unique position today; Trade links are flourishing and the city is benefitting significantly from its strategic location as the gateway to the northeast. Investments are being maintained at high levels with continuing opportunities, growing prosperity and secure incomes. Accompanying these changes is a desire for improvements in the built environment and in the general quality of houses, schools, hospitals and other socio-cultural facilities. One of the major challenges of current critical thought on housing is that of generating a residential space, not only from the required technical and spatial reformulation of the ‘built’, but also from the investigation of new urban orders. The key concept that is explored for the planning and design of this development is the formulation of a new urban system addressing issues of settlement identity, dynamic and flexible infrastructure, landscape and open space distribution, and perceptual paradigms. The Uttorayon Township project strives to address these very issues and generate a development that may serve as a model for future such developments.
One of the first decisions during the design process was to consider all homeowners as equal stakeholders irrespective of housing and plot size. This is contrary to many other commercial developments which enforce a regimented distinction between larger and smaller plot zones. The stated goal is primarily achieved by dividing the site into smaller neighbourhood clusters of 20 plots which vary in size but are all structured around a communal green space. The cluster organization is designed for multiple configurations that can respond to changing social demands and this as a system has successfully fostered a close immediate community. To further encourage social interaction, each cluster is also linked to a pedestrian and bicycle network which connect to important communal areas such as schools, shops, and the peripheral greens.
To keep development costs low, the main strategy was to respect the natural topography of the site and to use it for an integrated surface drainage system. By precisely calculating the correct slopes of roads and using existing natural streams, costs were saved in expensive underground piping networks. As a result more capital could be allocated to creating a secure and high quality infrastructure for each cluster. While these services are exceptional by Indian standards the total developing costs of the project added up to only 6$ per square meter.
The Township successfully uses simple technologies to tackle complex problems. The surface storm water drains are never more than 12.5 cm deep and the system eliminates crossover of services. Furthermore, a module sewage trunk flanks both sides of the neighbourhood cluster, which can be plugged into as development emerges. The resources available have been equitably distributed throughout the township to provide for uniform scales of development throughout the township.