Kawardha Public Realm Plan

"Navigating Indian cities is a risky affair where people have to be ultra-careful on roads, and dwellers hunt for moments of respite - how can design solutions provide critical infrastructure support and also address human comfort?"

This question forms the basis for developing ideas for improving the quality of life of people in Kawardha - a city of about 50,000 population in Chhattisgarh state. The design ideas blur the lines between hard and soft infrastructure, merging the built environment with Kawardha’s natural beauty. Our concepts are based on site studies of the city, research on existing/vernacular landscape and urban systems, and user surveys that are all integral to our process of developing design solutions. Based on our survey and studies we proposed a system of parks and playgrounds adjoining water bodies in Kawardha that also clean the water and are all connected through pedestrian spines along roads.


Kawardha, Chhattisgarh




Research + Design


Alpa Nawre, Lillian Cooper, Lokesh Lohi

We spoke to the inhabitants of Kawardha to better understand their needs and wishes for their city - and thoughtfully translated their ideas into feasible and beautiful design solutions.



A talaab or pond, is a human made water-body created in natural depressions in the landscape or on level ground with dams, embankments or short retaining walls to gather monsoonal rainwater for use later in the year. The talaab’s edges have traditionally been the public commons, where people gather every day and where different rituals related to festivals, birth, death, and marriages are practiced. Read more about this vernacular water landscape infrastructure system here: "Talaab in India: Multifunctional Landscapes as Laminates"

Kawardha, like most other Indian cities has an existing system of these water bodies spread about the city. Unfortunately, conservation efforts for most of these water bodies have resulted in their becoming gated spaces with restricted access. Further, untreated waste-water flows freely into these water-bodies and adversely affects their water quality.

Inaccessible Spaces: Locked gate to Kawaarda's talaab edge.

We envision re-incorporating the talaab landscape infrastructure as an integral component of the urban fabric. The built edges provide inclusive, multi-functional public spaces with shade and seating, and the natural edges are used for water filtration through green infrastructure strategies.


Indian streets are vibrant public places where life unfolds and folds - children take over streets as play-spaces in the evening, funeral marches and wedding parties move with sombre gaits or jubilated dancing, religious processions invite all to partake in a public celebration of festivals, vendors sell and morning walkers keep a brisk pace. In Kawardha too, walking is an integral part of life - and yet with motorized transportation little has changed to make space for the pedestrian experience of streets. During our studies we saw several day laborers walking on one of the major through-fares of the city on their way to the Collectorate office, bravely walking alongside the motorized traffic and jumping out of way as needed. These uneducated laborers were probably giving up their day's wages to take care of long-pending paperwork at the government offices - their struggle begins even before they get to the offices. Simple streetscape elements - such as safe cross-walks, dedicated pedestrian paths, signage and shade will mean a world of difference to communities who don't have the means to drive.

Kawardha Roads: Traffic is chaotic and pedestrians make their way across with a prayer and lots of pluck.

Simple streetscape improvements, such as the addition of signage and crosswalks, can help enhance pedestrian experience and urban quality of life. These pedestrian corridors connect to the public spaces on the edges of ponds and the river.

Water Pollution: Waste-water flowing into the Sakri river.


In ancient times, it was the good fortune of cities to be settled on banks of rivers and in contemporary Indian cities, it is the misfortune of rivers to be next to cities. Large amounts of waste-water from Kawardha flows untreated into the Sakri river, which originates in the nearby Maikal hill range and is north of the Kawardha city. The urban fabric and daily life of Kawardha is oblivious to the presence of the river other than a place to discharge waste; and thus, the river edge provides an opportunity to not only be developed as a vibrant public edge but also as a place to filter and treat the waste-water flowing into the river.

Sakri River Interventions: We propose a landscape infrastructure that can be used to address critical issues like sewage wastewater flowing into the river while also creating a public amenity.