Trapped in its trademark avatar as an IT hub, Bengaluru had long lost that connect with its once-cherished history. The city’s heritage structures lay in deep decay as the march of the urban sprawl continued in reckless haste. Can a late, desperate push to reverse the trend succeed? Beyond those pedestrian malls and ill-kept parks, tourists see nothing of interest.
Lost in their travails of work and commute, newcomers wonder: Does the city have a past at all? In response, Bengaluru might just have to go back to where it all began: The Old Pete area. That journey is about to unfold. Foraying deep into the Pete area, the Namma Metro green line will bridge the gap. Modelled to reflect its historic surroundings, the KR Market Metro Station could eventually be the gateway to a forgotten Bengaluru. Integrated station So, here’s the plan: The underground station is to be developed as an integrated space for the young and old, with linkages to historical spots within walking distance. Kote Venkataramana Swamy temple, Tipu Sultan’s fort, his Summer Palace complex and the century-old Victoria Hospital are all just a walk away.Once commercial operations on the Green line begin in April, footfall is expected to spike. The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) are sure this will spark an unprecedented interest in the City Market area.The challenge is to explore the tourist potential of this interest. How do they do that? Urban planners attached to DULT talk about a station design that relies on pedestrian priority and intermodal integration with easy access to public spaces.Design agenda On the design agenda is an ambitious list of attractions: A tourist pavilion with cafeteria, an outdoor amphitheatre, junction improvements for better accessibility, streets-caping of Fort C Street, signages reflecting local history and more. But how long will it take for the actual heritage sites in the station’s vicinity to be revived? As civic evangelist V Ravichander emphasises, the heritage narrative should go beyond the metro station. The old city market building, the fort and other structures are in now a mess. “The entire place needs a vision.”That vision could take five to 10 years. If a historical restoration of the area is the grand plan, the Market could eventually regain its old look. But, as Ravichander notes, that plan might have to bear with some radical changes, including pulling down the Sirsi Circle flyover.Swarna Valaya The Swarna Valaya (Golden Corridor) proposed last year by urban architect Naresh Narasimhan could then seamlessly blend into that grand heritage vision. Simply put, the Valaya is a heritage trail from the Tipu Palace in the vicinity of the KR Market Metro station to the Bangalore Palace. This stretch of about five kilometres has at least 30 heritage buildings that are over 100 years old, as Narasimhan informs.The Old Pete area, where Kempegowda’s Bengaluru began as a market place has its own charm that is now lost in the cacophony of everyday clutter. KR Road that leads to this area and Avenue Road which pierces through the Pete are rich in history, a heritage seldom heard outside its surroundings. Heritage tourism Packaged as a part of heritage tourism, the Valaya proposal was presented to the then state tourism minister R V Deshpande in 2015. There is no official word yet on the project. But the KR Market Metro station as a gateway to the heritage hub could just be the perfect start to the Golden Corridor.Designed for both pedestrians and those taking the Metro in its path, the zone could potentially boost the city’s heritage value. Aided by signboards, maps and mobile apps that tell interesting stories linked to those heritage buildings, the millennial generation could be beckoned. Once the Namma Metro phase 1 is ready by April 2017, accessibility to these spots is bound to get even easier. Heritage Zone Act But before that takes shape, the structures themselves need to be protected from land sharks, from commercial interests. That can happen only if the government passes a Heritage Zone Act that guarantees the city does not lose any more heritage buildings of British vintage and earlier. Can the KR Market station. designed to reflect its surroundings, be a template for the future? Nobody wants to bet on that. But, as heritage and urban designer Sathya Prakash Varanasi says, the need for road and transport infrastructure projects to blend with the context cannot be emphasised enough.The architecture should be contextual, contends Sathya. “It should be sensitive to its location. The blending can be achieved by colour, material and design. The context/location can be reworked as public spaces,” he explains.

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