“Freedom Square: unbridled expression of the values of a city”
Calicut, a quintessential port with glorious cultural inheritance and widely known for its hospitality has a treasure trove of unrevealed historical tales yet to be shared to the world. The city known for its social life, boasts of many lively active public spaces like Mananchira maidan, SM street, Sarovaram bio park, Calicut beach and cultural venues like Tagore hall and Town hall. But being a city with such a glorious past, it for a long time lacked built spaces evoking historical sense, leaving a traveller to reconstruct the medieval splendour of the place, all by himself. City’s heritage spaces were longing for a facelift, to stay relevant to time, yet conveying layers of history for the new generation. Out of this shared need grew a beautiful partnership between the Sri. A. Pradeep K MLA and IIA Calicut centre, known for their social and public initiatives. This collective movement of the people’s representative and professionals are spurred by a desire to unveil the potential of public spaces and the values embedded in the society. This unique partnership has been exploring the true prospects of design in every facets of life from birth to death, right from Ammathottatil, anganavadi, primary schools, Schools, streets, bus stops, hospitals, parks, old age shelters, crematoriums. One such initiative, freedom square, is a standing testimony of the rich past and aspiring future. The multi-disciplinary firm de earth was entrusted the conceptualisation and design of freedom square on behalf of IIA Calicut centre.
The Past Kozhikode, land of the Zamorins is an abode of historic tales, trade and truth. Rich in art, culture and cuisine, this legendry city has had welcomed people from all parts of the world. And the history walk offers a glimpse through this glorious narrative. Most of Kozhikottukar or people of Calicut who grew up in the city would have childhood memories woven together by the waves, the wind and the familiar sight of these dilapidated piers. Dashing into the waves, frolicking in the beach, we only had to look up from our play to see the long piers stretching into the sea. The waves relentlessly rolling on, crowds wavering, times changing and through it all the piers simply stood in their raw barren beauty, with waves of change relentlessly lashing against their pillars. The old beach stage, once stood where the freedom square is now, hosted many historical events and personalities. The beach stage was the most prominent and largest venue for cultural programmes and political conventions in the region. The stage though was just a reminiscence of the past with its structure sinking & dilapidating due to aging. Kozhikode shore has been a witness to many historic events, including pitched naval battles and the arrival of ships from distant lands. Several national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Indira Gandhi and Krishna Menon have addressed people here. The 'Beach Road' was renamed Gandhi Road from Evan's Road after Mahatma Gandhi's visit in January 1934.The remains of the Port and the trading culture can still be seen in the form two dilapidated piers extending into the sea; the North and the South Pier. The Pier that we see near the stage was originally the 'Iron Screw-pile' pier to the north and was built in 1871, 400 ft long (120 m) with a 'T' end. Numerous cranes on these piers once loaded spices and other goods destined to foreign ports like Aden, Genoa, Oslo, London, Bremen, Hamburg, New York etc. On 12 may, 1936, Nationalist movement saw its peak and Satyagrahi’s assembled at this historic beach of Calicut under the leadership of Mohammad Abdurahiman to break the ‘Salt laws” were ruthlessly attacked by the British police injuring more than thirty people. P.Krishna Pillai and R.V.Sharma proudly defended the ‘national flag’ from forcible seizure. “Freedom Square” commemorates this heroic fight and all other historic movements for freedom and liberation of our nation that were staged here. Unfortunately, this stretch of space had no landmarks or built space evoking a sense of the historical significance of the place, and hence the freedom square.
Wholeness This project was conceptualized and realized with design as an integrated solution. A multifunctional space which can revitalize the entire stretch of beach as a nodal point not only from the perspective of public life but also historical and leisure travellers and the citizens themselves. The existing stage is carefully carved to be a multifunctional space, diverging the performance stages with a symbolic spine into the sea creating positive spaces. The built area subtly evokes a sense of the multiculturalism of Calicut and its openness to newness. The large main stage facing south is designed for political events and large functions. The North stage is for cultural events and the central walk radiating from the space is designed as a reminiscence of Calicut's history with a walking gallery, with historical narratives engraved on curated plates. A curio shop will sell the artefacts and collectibles relevant to the region, while the state of the art green rooms will be an asset for the successful functioning of the performance areas. Abstract wall sculptures depicting the historic Salt Satyagraha arouses historical memories and points towards the invisible roots of our city. The place this created become an identity for the city for ages to come.
Versatility The cultural versatility of Calicut has been thoughtfully incorporated into the design. Freedom square itself adults to seasons, time, function & users. The space is equally open to political and cultural events of various scales. It also acts as a meeting place, a striking photo destination, an urban gym and more. In the gentle morning light, the space opens up inner vistas of freedom, openness and possibilities in the minds of people strolling the path. And the poignant evening light adds a subtle depth to the space. The idea of optimal lighting that accentuates the freestanding walls add to the aesthetics as well as the functionality of the place as the people stroll through the beach till the wee hours of the night. Locally sourced natural materials add a contextual charm. They not only bring in an unaffected rustic charm but also withstands the harsh sea weather, aging gracefully. The freedom square along with the light house and cultural beach, welcomes heritage walks that will raise historical awareness and invites and integrates people to support preservation and conservation of historical monuments.
Towards a design inspired city IIA Calicut Centre along with the leadership of the local government and bureaucrats could carve out a series of public spaces through thoughtful design with the vision of inspiring a new generation of sensitive citizens. Freedom square is one of learning, sharing, caring, one which will foster higher civic sense and create an everlasting identity for a city. It is a space of togetherness, of celebration, of reminiscence and of immense pride. A garden for art, music, literature and culture to thrive, freedom square give bountiful returns to society. Simply put, a space designed to raise the happiness quotient of the land, and to give it an identity& pride it deserves.
Beyond the imagery Monolith sculptures enhanced by the light house in the backdrop, stand upright as symbol of Calicut's historical resistance to domination. The walkway through these monoliths has possibilities of deep personal inner awakenings as well as awakening of civic and public identity. One can only try to capture in words the ethereal feeling of walking through the monoliths inviting us to see beyond what is visible. As one walk glimpses of the blue-grey emerge, saltiness of air intensifies, gentle music of waves rolling as though from one's own forgotten memory awakens the senses and then the vast, vast openness of sea envelopes your being completely. At such blissful moments, the space can even act as a place on this earth offering a tiny glimpse of eternity. Freedom square is a standing testimony of the endless potential of architecture and urban inserts, in inspiring a better life filled with love, respect and pride.