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
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.
NIMISH PATEL & PARUL ZAVERI
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)