Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chettinad Columns

Some of the places where "chettinad columns" are for sale :


Arasu Arts, Govindarajan, 40, MM Street, Karaikudi – 630 001, Sivaganga Dist. Tamilnadu

ph : 04565-4334020, 4338570, 4396790

Senthil Arts, 90/2, Ve.Vr.St. (Near Sathian Theatre) Karaikudi 630 001

ph : 04565-420030, 8550065

Venkateswara Furniture & Timber merchant, 65, MM Street, Karaikudi 630 001

ph : 04565-2421706, 2436238



He has an old house where he displays everything.


ph : 09842533046.

He knows several dealers in Karaikal and can suggest places where these columns are available.


Ms.Kali Borg, Sharnga, Auroville. ph : 0413-2622337
mob : 94430-90114
Kali deals in "antique furniture & building materials"

She is a stained glass artist too and also runs a guesthouse at auroville called 'Sharnga'. One can also check out the auroville website.


1. Rani Arts
They make new furniture that looks like antique. (They also have chettinad columns, brackets, and so on). Located at McNicholas road, near Egah Theatre ph : 044-26422948/8843

2. Murray & Co.
Auctioneers, with a separate exclusive section of rosewood and teakwood antique furniture. One has to ask about it, not open to all walk-in customers. Since they are always on the look out for houses in Tamilnadu which are being dismantled, they may be able to acquire chettinad columns. ph : 044-28600880/55872437 . They are behind LIC building, on Mount road. Well-known and easy to find. But, best to call them first to see if they can get the columns, what price and when.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


In India, there are mainly two kinds of architectural heritage that receive attention, the “Indian” heritage and the “Colonial” heritage, the latter mostly in the form of public buildings. There are government agencies, professional bodies, and concerned individuals working to conserve some of this urban heritage. On the other hand, there are many, many small towns spread all over the vast country that have quaint and historic streets which remain obscure and neglected. These are streets lined with hundred-year-old, tile-roofed houses that hold a record of the history of the place.

The houses are also a record of the indigenous building skills that have evolved over time, but they are now being demolished to be replaced by modern concrete constructions. The price of the land is now higher and more important than the price or the historic value of the house that sits on it.
Bimilipatnam is one such town near Visakhapatnam on the east coast of India. It was a historical trading town, whose importance diminished as a new port was developed in Visakhapatnam, 25 km away. Bimili is the second oldest municipality in the country. It has some English, some Dutch, and some Indian heritage.

Bimilipatnam having once been a Dutch settlement, the Netherlands embassy was willing to be part of an initiative which would involve the residents of the town, the Andhra Pradesh government, and local non-governmental organizations for its development with a view to restore and preserve the architectural and natural heritage of the town.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Built-heritage inTranquebar

Tranquebar is an old danish settlement, 100 km south of Pondicherry, in Tamil Nadu. It is now called Tharangambadi. Today, much heritage conservation work goes on here. The Neemrana group of hotels began to restore a dilapidated house some years ago. The 'Bungalow on the Beach' is now a heritage hotel.

The Bungalow, the Fort Dansborg and the waters of the sea in the serene environment of Tranquebar create together a very special experience.

The old bungalow facing the sea & the fort was adapted for re-use as a hotel by the INTACH pondicherry team . This has become the starting point for more restoration work also by a Danish foundation. Now, several more houses have been restored in Tranquebar.

Francis Wacziarg, Co-founder of Neemrana hotels believes that the interest in restoring heritage properties has been steadily increasing in different parts of the country. Earlier, people built a new house where the old one crumbled. Today, they want to consider converting it into a hotel. "We get about three proposals a week.” (Ramakrishnan, The Hindu Metroplus 2006)

Amongst the old maps of Tranquebar, Peter Anker's map gives a vivid picture of the Fort and the street patterns that were originally planned. Here is a link to the Old maps of Tranquebar and to the history of this town on the Coromandel coast.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Indigenous skills

A Temple restoration in Tranquebar needs skills in brickwork of a high order; a Heritage conservation plan for Chettinad needs skills in lime work, wood work and much more; a revitalisation of the Buddhist sites in Orissa needs stone workmanship of excellent quality.

The master artisan is the one who can make meaningful contributions having spent years of apprenticeship to acquire these skills.

In contemporary India, this tacit knowledge of building skills needs to be codified or transformed into explicit knowledge in order for it to become a part of the formal architectural education system.

In a recent article in 'India Together' i discuss the importance of Codifying indigenous ways of building and the directions we can take in documenting skills and vernacular buildings.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

IIMB campus

Architecture is about the choices we make. In India, as elsewhere, there has often been a disparity between what architects value as good design and what the public perceives as design that is appropriate for them.

Architects often speak of their need for an “ideal client” This client is one who would not interfere with the planning of the aesthetically perfect building that the architect is trying to create. The client emphasizes at every meeting with the architect, his need for more user-friendly spaces; for finishes that are maintenance-free; for a building that will cost much less than what it is estimated to cost or at least not more. Architects find it difficult sometimes to have the same priorities.

On the other hand, users sometimes ask for a building that uses glass and steel facades, although the architect may be able to offer a better solution in terms of climate-responsiveness that uses brick or stone.

The design of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore is the result of years of effort by the architect Balkrishna Doshi and his team to develop a contemporary architectural language with an indian identity. It is based on extensive research of the Indian architectural planning principles conducted by Prof.Kurula Varkey especially for this project.

There is a need for a platform that generates a dialogue between architects and non-architects about the various issues that influence design in architecture.

P.S. Recently, the film 'Doshi' was screened at the IIMB auditorium. Dr.Balkrishna Doshi was invited for the screening. There was a Q&A session after the film. Someone asked : "And, what about the aesthetic of frugality?" At IIMB, the Central Pergola is a beautiful space - spatially as well as in the way light enters the space and often people have asked if the expenses incurred and the absence of functionality can justify its existence. And, Doshi's reply " Must one take away from aesthetics to achieve frugality? I think the use of stone masonry for the walls has made sure that plastering is not required for the next 40 years. That is also a way to bring frugality into the architecture"

Another interesting part of the life of the IIMB campus has been the shooting for Rajkumar Hirani's latest film 'Three Idiots'. Over a period of six months, the film was shot at various locations within the campus and starred Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor & Boman Irani. One morning, there was a new clock tower at the main gate of IIMB. It was part of the film set. It looked real but more importantly, it looked like it belonged. Had the architect thought of a clock tower for the original design of the IIMB campus? Made one think about the role of the clock tower in american campuses. Cornell University's Clock tower had been an important point of reference for students and others.

The United States had a history of campus design that could be studied. Amongst the contemporary designers, one could study the work of Michael Dennis who had designed the extension to the University of Virginia and the Syracuse University, amongst other campuses. There were principles of campus design that had evolved over the years. These included developing a primary axis and several secondary axes. At Cornell, this primary axis had led to the Clock Tower. Actually, the secondary axes had too. The Clock tower was a stately structure, but it also had the chimes that every student at Cornell carried memories of for the rest of his life.

Here is a link to an article by William McDonough & Michael Braungart on designing a sustainable campus : A Building like a Tree, a Campus like a Forest