Build­ing Blocks

Guardians of our cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant her­itage, some of the best con­ser­va­tion ar­chi­tects in the coun­try en­list ways to keep ex­ist­ing ed­i­fices from fall­ing apart. By NAVNI KU­MAR

India Today - - HOME -

Tow­er­ing sky­scrapers dot­ting the sky­line are most com­mon these days as de­sign gu­rus set­tle for glass build­ings of dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes to cre­ate some­thing ex­traor­di­naire. But ar­chi­tec­ture is not just about cre­at­ing the new, it is also about pre­serv­ing the old. This is where the job of con­ser­va­tion­ists starts; as they try to treat ex­ist­ing struc­tures and mod­ify them for con­tem­po­rary use. A few well-known con­ser­va­tion ar­chi­tects tell us about the meth­ods they use to make ed­i­fices last longer.


Ahmed­abad-based Nimish Pa­tel and Parul Zaveri knew they could not ad­here to the mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture move­ment which was gain­ing ground in 1979 when they started out. “Con­ser­va­tion is not only about sin­gle mon­u­ments, it also takes into ac­count el­e­ments of nat­u­ral her­itage in­ter­wo­ven with man-made fac­tors in a fab­ric-like man­ner,” says Pa­tel. Their ar­chi­tec­tural firm, Ab­hikram’s first as­sign­ment was to evolve poli­cies for the con­ser­va­tion of Udaipur city. Since then, they have worked on a num­ber of projects such as

Chan­war Palki­walon Ki Haveli at Am­ber which re­ceived the UNESCO Asia Pa­cific award for con­ser­va­tion.

Sug­gest­ing ideas on how to make struc­tures that last, the duo says, “Con­tex­tu­al­is­ing de­sign in all re­spects, in­clud­ing the prin­ci­ples of plan­ning and de­sign, choice of ma­te­ri­als, tech­nolo­gies, pro­cesses and their ap­pli­ca­tions are fun­da­men­tal.” They al­ways look to­wards the most ba­sic ma­te­ri­als such as mud, brick, wood, stone, bam­boo, thatch and lime. Ex­press­ing a strong sen­ti­ment against the chang­ing trends, Zaveri says “Em­u­lat­ing the West con­sumes re­sources which we do not have. There are ex­cep­tions to these, but they are too few to make a dif­fer­ence.”


Old build­ings can be reused in­stead of break­ing them down (above); reg­u­lar main­te­nance of his­toric struc­tures in­creases their life­span (left)

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