Trapped between the polarity of depending on agriculture and animal husbandry on one hand while being cradled in immense climatic variations and erratic monsoons on the other, water conservation emerged as the preponderant architectural obsession in ancient India. Water has served as an indispensable part of religious rituals and has been axiomatic in shaping the settlement patterns, customs and traditions of the people. Consequently, every region in the sub-continent developed traditional water conservation structures in tune with their geographical needs and embodying their myriad cultural idiosyncrasies. Among the various types of traditional water structures, stepwells are an indigenous and divergent phenomenon found extensively in regions of Gujarat, Rajasthan and North-Western India. Stepwells span across ten centuries of the cultural heritage of India and stand apart as a superlative expression of their time. 

The ‘Stepwells of Ahmedabad’ exhibit is a self-directed initiative of a group of students and architects from India. Set within the framework of a non-Western context and an unforgiving climate, it presents extensive data on structure, size and construction of the stepwells built in and around Ahmedabad. The content on display is the culmination of two years of on-going research, laid out in the form of architectural drawings, diagrams and comparative analysis alongside photographs of the splendour and decay. Now on display for a third time, the objective of this edition has evolved into garnering interest and raising discussions not only about the structures themselves but also larger issues of water, settlement patterns and the social relationships to which they are connected. It is important to recognize, not only the structures included in this exhibition, but all traditional structures, as valuable expressions of indigenous knowledge and perspectives as we tackle a growing global water crisis.