Notes from Ahmedabad

C. Aparnaa, Dhwani Doshi, and Sparsh Patlan observe responses to COVID in an Indian city.

Shifting Ground was an open call for visual reports about how the events of 2020 and 2021 reconfigured our relationship with both public and private space. Select entries were posted on the League’s Instagram account.

C. Aparnaa, Dhwani Doshi, and Sparsh Patlan sent observations from Ahmedabad, India.

They wrote:

“First life, then spaces, then buildings—the other way around never works.”
— Jan Gehl (1996)

Are we chasing the conventional norm, or are we aiming for a new one?

The pandemic has affected everything and everyone, leading to profound changes in our everyday lives, use of public spaces, and perception of the objects around us. These photographs document these redefined conventions in Ahmedabad during the early stages of the pandemic, demonstrating ingenious methods of enforcing social distancing, such as the repurposing of everyday objects like sofas and cloth into temporary barriers.

In the image below, a street vendor strings a rope between trees in an attempt to maintain social distance.

As has occurred around the world, people in the city have changed their routines, wearing masks in the crowd and sanitizing the items they use everyday. But not everyone follows the new rules; some prefer disobedience.

In observing how different realms of life have changed during the crisis, the privilege paradox is immediately apparent. While we have witnessed silver linings of compassionate behavior, with some people providing meals to the less fortunate (image below), the gulf between different social strata has been particularly apparent during the pandemic.

University students complain about online classes and boring schedules, but the child of the poor wage laborer can’t afford this luxury—the only educational materials she can access during this time are her old books (image below).

As the pandemic continues, it’s clearer than ever that designers need to work to understand the urban realm, with its multiplicity of actors playing integral roles in the network of livelihood and leisure.


C. Aparnaa, Dhwani Doshi, and Sparsh Patlan are urban design students at CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India.