The stepwells are generally storage and irrigation tanks in which sets of steps must be descended in order to reach for water and mantain the well itself. These structures are mostly common in western India and in arid regions of South Asia where they provide regular supply in regions affected by heavy seasonal fluctuations in water availability.
The stepwells, (the erliest date to 600 AD), essentially appear as infrastructural monuments for water collection, huge artifacts somewhere between landscape and architecture sunken in the earth. They are usually composed of two constant elements, a well and an access route: the well collects monsoon rain percolating through layers of fine silt (to filter particulates), eventually reaching a layer of impermeable clay. The second elements, the staircases, are descended to reach water and allow the use of the infrastructure. There are no two identical stepwells, as each one of them, – about 3000 were built -, reveals specific features in the shape and in the decorative motives; in some cases the stepwells host galleries and chambers around the well.
With their ability to allow the population to survive during arid months, the wells slowly turned into temples dedicated to water or even metaphores for the Divine River, the Gange. An inhabited infrastructure, the stepwells became leisure and ritualistic spaces: providing a comfortable microclimate they also turned out to be a favourable space for the community to gather. Despite the completely different scale and geographical location, the developement of social gathering around a water collecting space in India reminds us of the social character of the wells in Venetian campos (squares). Each campo, with its central well, was born to allow rain water collection and progressively it developed into a community meeting point, connected to the daily act of getting water.