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Please tell us about yourself? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
Growing up in Delhi, Kanika Kaushal was drawn to the distinct buildings and neighbourhoods of the Old City. There she discovered a sense of community that differed from other places she’d visited. In Old Delhi, generations of residents live in ageing structures in very close quarters. Yet the walled colonial space has seen a major transition over the past few decades.
Ever-growing commercial activity and urban migration have clashed with poor infrastructure in Old Delhi. Eventually city officials declared the city a slum and began an ambitious redevelopment project to reinvent the old town. This inspired Kanika to investigate the old city from the ground up, to understand what it is made up of before the existing structures are demolished.
What did you study?
I did my B.Arch. (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprashta University) followed by M.Arch. (University of Waterloo). My thesis was based on decoding urbanity.
Can you explain your research work in architecture?
Thanks in part to funding from the International Experience award, Kaushal was able to take her research ambitions to the streets of Old Delhi as she sought to understand the architectural makeup of the historic city.
Old Delhi needed a bottom-up approach to its genetic DNA that embodies the specific quality of the urban fabric. Concentrating my research on Old Delhi was the absolute need of the hour.
The recent Master of Architecturegrad was able to visit old Delhi for two months of field research. Armed with old and new maps, Kanika trekked the streets, documenting how and where transformation have happened.
On site experience allowed me to understand three different scales – city scale, neighbourhood scale and building scale, all of which work together to formulate relationships that generate the city’s morphological logic.
In-person interactions with local residents and shop owners also provided key insight into the city’s past, present and future directions.
Their stories provided helpful narratives about the city’s growth and transformation. Their insight is crucial and must be a part of the city’s redevelopment.
Upon returning to Canada, Kanika put together architectural, urban design and planning guidelines to help renew the urban fabric of Old Delhi, while preserving historic spatial and cultural codes to prevent current residents from moving out.
Kaushal defended her thesis this past January and hopes to extend her research with a PhD in urban planning next year. She is currently a registered architect in India and working as a partner with an architectural firm.