The studio experienced various limitations throughout the semester that forced us to re-strategize and re-assess the direction we wanted to take our planning efforts. One major limitation was data-accessibility. The lack of access to data covering air pollution, drainage routes, and waste management sites impeded our ability in measuring and locating certain areas of concern. With our week-long visit to Varanasi, obstacles arose due to the cultural and religious events that were occurring in the city. We arrived during the week of Holi, which slightly impacted our community engagement efforts as the city stops to celebrate its historic tradition. Also, trying to set up meetings with certain officials and professors who have access to crucial data was difficult largely due to the cultural festivities of the week. Lastly, the lack of urban design and architectural students in our studio limited our ability to produce quality renderings that could help our Varanasi counterparts visualize our recommended proposals.
Going forward, we hope other city planning and architectural studios tasked to provide solutions for Varanasi will assess and critique our recommendations as a baseline reference. The level of data analysis, community engagement, and design proposals we have managed to achieve throughout the semester has built a sound foundation for future groups to work with. As the city seeks to become a smart city, future design studios should continue to provide incremental steps towards how Varanasi can achieve that goal, but not at the expense of eroding its cultural and religious fabric. Our studio’s approach has been to provide sensible solutions to a heavily-dense city with the hopes of preparing the city -environmentally, structurally, and behaviorally- towards becoming a smart city. Lastly, as planning-related data is rarely accessible in India, future groups should create a strategic plan from the beginning with their Indian partners on how to retrieve necessary information.