bhopal memorial competition

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Winning Entry for the Design of Memorial for the Victims of the Bhopal Tragedy
Hindustan Times Sept 23, 2005

(Last Minute) Model Snaps

Competition Brief by EPCO
Government of Madhya Pradesh intends to develop a memorial complex for the victims of gas tragedy that occurred on 3 Dec.1984 at Union Carbide premises, Bhopal.
The Complex in its entirety and content reminds the tragedy that occurred twenty years ago. The central issue to the memorial complex, whether to retain the dark side of the event or to suggest recovery from the tragic event towards a new understanding & hope of human endeavors, is totally open to competitors in the presentation of their architectural intentions.
Focus of the campus, the Ground Zero (the processing unit structure as point of event of the gas tragedy) is eternal but the relics over it may or may not last long, can either be retained or removed as the design demands. The existing structures in the premises at present are either storage units or administrative blocks or control rooms of past functions. The participants can integrate them or replace them in any suitable form and function .The area shown for secured landfill site on the map can be integrated with the total area in the form of landscaping. Challenge of the competition is to sensitively evolve the concept so that due attention is paid to its significance.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Team (from Left) Suditya Sinha, Moulshri Joshi, Sanjeet Wahi,Amritha Ballal & Uttiya Bhattacharya Posted by Picasa

A Memorial for Bhopal

Design Process:

On the Tragedy
On Bhopal City
On landscape strategies
On Existing Memorial Designs and Proposals
Site Study

Identification of Primary Stakeholders

Identification of key Issues

Formulation of thematic Program

Design diagrams





Each aspect of the design in a memorial has a dual responsibility to fulfill. A memorial by definition has to sustain and elicit the memory of the tragedy for the general populace. In this sense it is rooted in the past.

Twenty years since the tragedy and for much longer in the future the memorial has to stand against the human tendency to forget. It has to commemorate the past while being relevant to the present and the future.

Hence the design has to include time, human activity and community perceptions as tangible elements in the planning stages itself so that the memorial continues to evolve even after it is built.

The Formulation of the program was a crucial step in this direction; it would determine to a large the extent the sphere of influence and continued relevance of the memorial. The program elements would be instruments that engender their own evolution guided by time and process. The competition brief was open ended and provided ample scope to include elements which would ensure that the memorial design, while being the conclusion of one process, would be a catalyst and evolving point for many more.

Thematic Program


Acknowledgement and Remembrance: MEMORIAL WALK

Healing and Rehabilitation: COMMUNITY FACILITIES

Awareness and Addressal: RESEARCH FACILITIES


The Site

The site is currently situated in the Northern periphery of Bhopal city. It is a part of a small island of industrial plots in an otherwise largely lower and middle income residential zone. Currently, in the context of Bhopal the site is located in the blurry margins of the cityscape and mindscape. At the onset it does not seem to offer much potential in terms of an audience or setting for a memorial of this scale.

But conversely such a project has the ability to revitalize the entire neighboring zone and bring it to prominence. Also, if one maps the projected expansion of Bhopal the area will gradually become a central node in the Northern zone. The site, therefore, offers many latent possibilities that can be harnessed.

Design Diagram

At a micro level the largely triangular site is bounded by a railway line and vast industrial plots on three sides. Only a protruding edge faces the highway and the settlement. This provides a small window of opportunity for interaction with the public realm. Otherwise most parts of the site are visually and physically inaccessible. Boundaries needed to be broken down to allow the site to be part of the City, while the City had to reconnect with the Factories to be reminded of the tragedy.

There was a need to reexamine and redefine the existing sense of visibility, accessibility and opportunity the Factory complex shares with the rest of the City. To weave the memorial into the existing city systems required efforts to link it to the neighborhood - physically, notionally and functionally.

A powerful way of doing so was to develop new vehicular and pedestrian linkages in order to establish a dominant visual contact with the surrounding area. The realignment of the road opens site to the settlement and makes a part of the site physically merge with the adjacent settlement. The Landscape weaves around the road such that the pedestrian linkages remain unhindered by the vehicular movement.

The M.I.C and Sevin plants from where the gas leaked dominate the memorial complex, both physically and symbolically.

Concept Narrative

MEMORIAL WALK: Acknowledgement and Remembrance

The memorial walk focuses on The Bhopal Tragedy while exhibits on other industrial disasters and resultant activism give the added dimension and perspective. The memorial is intended to house the existing body of documentation and art work related to Bhopal and to inspire further research and expression. A series of spaces and exhibits illustrates the plight of the victims and acknowledges their spirit of resurgence.

Architectural Expression

The memorial walk is a linear progression. It operates on two levels: The plaza at the ground level and the walk at the subterranean level

The Plaza:

The relocated sculpture of the Lady and the Child and the MIC and Sevin plants serve as the two symbolic ends of the memorial complex: cause and effect, point and counterpoint.
Visually and physically uncluttered the plaza provides a sweeping view of the two focal points.

*[The lady and the child is the only public memorial for the tragedy in Bhopal From its current location at the fringes of the site, this People's Memorial is reinstated as the anchor point of the final memorial. Here it will be the physical and notional connector between the "victims" living in the neighborhood and the "Factory".
Seen for miles around the M.I.C and Sevin plants are the physical relics and a constant reminder of the tragedy.]

The main road is realigned such that it intersects the memorial plaza at the center, the two representative ends creating visual interest oneither side. The Memorial hence becomes an integral part of the visual cityscape. The plaza weaves across the road, over and under, such that pedestrian linkages to the memorial complex remain unhindered. Hence, visually, notionally and physically the site and the memorial are completely integrated with the city and the surroundings.

The walk:

The memorial walk is a journey underground where light is thrown on the facts of the Bhopal tragedy through exhibits interaction and debate and finally through spaces meant for contemplation and homage. Skylights create a dramatic play of light and shadow, illustrative of the factual murkiness surrounding the tragedy. The journey culminates at ground zero below the factories where it all started or for that matter ended.

At Ground Zero

It is proposed that tribal artisans create permanent installations of Bastar artwork of life-size, life-like human figures numbering in thousands. Like the countless who passed away in the 1984 tragedy whose actual human toll still remains unconfirmed…

COMMUNITY FACILITIES: Healing and Rehabilitation

Making the site part of the surrounding settlement

The immediate community suffered the most in the aftermath of the tragedy. As primary stakeholders to the land, the proposal has to be geared towards reaffirming their right to the land and its development.

The southern edge of the site would be treated as a public place for the neighboring communities. Community facilities like a School cum Youth Center, training halls, community hall, playing fields are located in this zone It is used for development of structures related to providing additional social infrastructure and to aid in the economic revitalization of the area.

Symbolically, the sculpture of the ‘Lady and the Child’ is reinstated in this part of the site, recognizing its ability to act as a galvanizing element for the community. The public congregation spaces for community participation are oriented around this sculpture.

The key to the success of this regeneration exercise lies in involving, representing and serving the community … an attempt to bring the city back into the site.

RESEARCH FACILITIES: Awareness and Addressal

Research and Development

One of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world today is reclamation of land from toxic dumps and industrial contamination.

In the immediate backdrop of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, the research center would be devoted the coexistence of Industry and Ecology.

The Research Center will contribute to the revitalization process by enabling artists, scholars of engineering, the social sciences, economics, landscape, urban & environmental planning and to develop a comprehensive, multi-level understanding of the challenges facing the city as it seeks to return abandoned industrial landscapes to productive use.

The Center would be built on the existing plinths of the abandoned factories and would house offices for various NGOs and developmental agencies involved towards the benefit of the City. Office space would provide an opportunity to build the tax base and rejuvenate decaying infrastructure of the whole site through rents and corporate involvement.


Nothing would be more evocative of life and revival than recasting a contaminated toxic wasteland, which is what the Union Carbide site has been for the past twenty years, into a sprawling ecological park. A decontamination process has already underway; the landscaping would be a catalyst for a new, more hopeful identity for the Union Carbide site, now synonymous with death and loss.

Converting the open area into a landscaped park provides a large public green counterpoint to the existing industrial backdrop. Creating smaller, more intimate sculptures, imaginative parks and installations as points of interest will be instrumental in drawing visitors to the site. Therefore the park is a powerful resource and asset for creating awareness, especially on issues of industry and ecology. While it functions and attracts as a leisure zone, each aspect of its landscaping derives from the Bhopal tragedy.


The park is designed along radial zones emanating from the industrial building we chose to retain onsite, namely:

Ground zero (the MIC and Sevin plants)
The viewing tower
The Baolis ( underground wells): where the workers took refuge on the night of the tragedy.

These undulating zones overlap and intersect, providing a matrix of interconnected nodes, paths and sectors. The nodes provide the focal points, be it as installations, performance areas or onsite research labs. The paths direct movement, such that no part of the site remains inaccessible or underutilized. This integrative framework for ecological organization provides a distinct over all identity to the park while being flexible and adaptive. Each sector uses slope gradients, solar aspects, adjacent contexts and vegetation to generate a robust localized identity and accommodate specific uses be it ecological reflection, commemoration of the tragedy, passive recreation or active sports.

The park capitalizes on the views of the factory that are unique to this site. Cyclists, joggers, picnickers and pedestrians will find in the Park an interconnected web of pathways that offer a seemingly inexhaustible array of experiences. Various theme walks, cycling routes and trails serve several purposes: to create and improve green infrastructure, provide more recreational opportunities, appeal to tourists, and increase the understanding of the site’s history among local residents as well as visitors.

The Park is committed to involving the community, instilling a feeling of ownership in the park and generating an ongoing sense of stewardship. It will be a destination for exploration and learning—a place that defines and practices sustainability education. This will extend the park beyond its natural borders through educational and social connections.


By virtue of its context, the park can be a destination for exploration and learning—a place that defines and practices sustainability education.
This theme is integrated through juxtaposition, comparision and emphasis in the landscape though theme based paths that tell the story of the “Industry” and “Ecology”—with a pronounced emphasis on decontamination.
All these components of the landscape – the onsite labs, testing pits and wells, green houses and bioremediation plantation –come together as a dynamic public laboratory to the research facility.


An important aspect is the selection of the plant species. The plantation scheme comprises of species used in *phytoremediation. Native eucalyptus trees, flowering plants such as gerbera and chrysanthemums, bamboo, Indian mustard, industrial hemp, amaranth, sunflower, poplar, brake fern and even vegetables like carrots, broccoli and spinach have proved effective in removing chemicals like Cadmium, lead, nickel, Selenium, sulphur, lead chromium and other toxic materials like dichlorobenzines from contaminated soil.
These plants and trees can be used ingenuously as landscape elements like bamboo groves or sunflower fields, while signage can inform the visitors of their toxic cleansing properties.

* Phytoremediation is a general term used to describe various mechanisms by which living plants alter the chemical composition of the soil matrix in which they are growing. Essentially, it is the use of green plants to clean-up contaminated soils, sediments, or water. Phyto-remediation is potential low energy, low maintenance and it has a 'natural' appeal to citizens. Several crops may need to be grown over successive seasons to fully clean up the site.

The Event

The park is setting for cultural events of different scales throughout the year. The main event will be the annual anniversary of the tragedy which would bring to together people from around the world on a large scale. Every year, the night of December 3 sees a festival, a concert, a celebration - at the genesis of grief. The world mourns the lost, the dead, the dying. The world also exults – in the joy of a slow process of healing beginning to show, of a city picking up its pieces and moving ahead, of a bruised and battered people slowly lifting up their chins and looking the future straight in the eye.


The memorial for the Bhopal Gas tragedy holds universal significance. However for the victims, the immediate surrounding settlement and for the City of Bhopal, the site has added relevance.

A mixed land use strategy is critical for the regeneration of the site. The new alignment of the road purposefully restructures the Site into zones which can be allocated different land use. These zones can be developed and managed by different stakeholders.

This offers opportunity for implementing an incremental development plan, corresponding to the inflow of funds.

This process also provides the flexibility for a participatory planning that involves and provides incentives to the various stakeholders. If the final development reflects the aspirations of the affected parties, it will establish a relevance and financial sustainability of this project in the long run.

The site has been closed to the public for 20 years. A flexible regeneration process could help the Authorities execute soil and ground water remediation, building restoration, cultural enterprise, and park development in parallel. Specific areas in the site could be leased out on short-term basis for cultural events. An ongoing cultural agenda and a constant flow of activities could raise interest in the space and help change the perception of the people regarding its latent potential.

Phase 1

Site Clean up

Phase 2
Road Network
Structural retrofitting of the Factory
Reinstating the statue of the ‘Lady and the Child’

Phase 3
Development of the Memorial and Museum, Training Facilities

Phase 4
Offices, Bazaar

Phase 5
School and community hall, Auditorium

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

HT Bombay Edition, sunday, oct 16, 2005

The Team & the Process..

The core team working on the winning entry for the competition comprises of five multitasking, multidisciplinary architects – all graduates of the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi – and currently living and working in the city. Coming from a background firmly rooted in design – they have grown over the past few years to embrace other core competences as well, seamlessly complementing each other, and other subsidiary support affiliates of the team. During the course of the competition – like all other tasks they have undertaken previously – they each had their individual responsibilities. However, unlike other mainstream projects that are attempted in the industry, they never limited themselves to their tasks alone – constantly involving themselves with other faculties, augmenting the efforts of others, and working in perfect tandem to produce the result they did. At the end of the competition bid, they had all grown beyond their given mandates – and have acquired the ability to tackle a complex series of problems, reorient their battle-lines based on situations, and been able to objectively act on specific situations.
The process of research, design and production of the competition-winning bid was similar to – and in fact a function of the team members. Like their strengths, assets and capabilities – their work too went through rigorous iterations, constantly questioning their own motives and intentions, and running through repeated checks and counterchecks to define their objectives and achieve them. Moreover, an important aspect of their effort was to meticulously record their workings – in terms of decision making, diagram development, and communication strategies. As a result of such documentation, their effort also spawns a valuable design research tool, and sets a potential precedent and template for future fast-track, design intensive exercises.
The team-members – all of whom worked in a non-hierarchical capacity in an equal footing – comprise of the following in alphabetical order of first names, with a brief description of each.

Amritha Ballal:
Coming from a background rooted in design, her work over the past few years include a multitude of projects including those on urban development and historic preservation in the urban context. Her primary involvements in the competition were on the fronts of concept development and design, and her knowledge and expertise in aspects of historic preservation, historiography of modern cities and program development were instrumental in the development of the winning scheme.

Moulshri Joshi:
She was the principal research backbone of the team, having worked over the years on many aspects of research and development focused on urban renewal in the developing world. The Bhopal project entry benefited through her work on the city and the site adjuncts, with a strong base on ecology, environment and society – which formed the basis of the program development. Her knowledge and understanding of economics and politics of urbanism formed a strong footing to the design and developmental plans for the proposal.

Sanjeet Wahi:
Besides his understanding of architectural design and concept-level ideation, his chief prerogative is that of visual media design and communication engineering. Over the past few years, his services and expertise have benefited many leading design offices in the country in their communication and presentation endeavors. The competition proposal was able to literally push the envelope in communication strategy and presentation skill due to his keen understanding of visual and computational media. His vital involvement in concept-level ideation was instrumental in communicating many complex ideas in the optimum possible manner.

Suditya Sinha:
One of the core design development personnel of the team, his competence with the actual business of crafting built form and producing tangible and realistic solutions were key assets to the winning entry. His career has been chequered by involvement in large-scale built projects across the country, which was critical to understanding the scale and expanse of the problem. His skill in managing and coordinating building production aided realistic appraisal of design iterations throughout the design development process.

Uttiya Bhattacharya:
Since his entry into architectural and design practice, he has been associated with a variety of design projects varied in scale and magnitude. Having simultaneously straddled multiple design disciplines results in his core competence of design management across various platforms – and his ability to incorporate seamless operations with design and production. During the course of the competition bid, his operational abilities, combined with design skill and concept development aided tackling the complex competition directives within reasonable timeframes and resources.

Monday, October 10, 2005

bhopal memorial sheets

the sheets