Friday, January 23, 2009

Hampi Conservation

The 'Hampi Conference' was held at the Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore from 16th to 18th January 2009. It was a way for some of us to learn that Hampi means so much to so many people. There were scholars both from India and from abroad who have lived in Hampi and researched its many complexities for more than a quarter of a century. People who have spent so many years of their lives to document, to analyse and to share the history of the societies that have lived in the Vijayanagara region. There were the local residents from the Hampi area who shared knowledge of the indigenous ways of living that have been responsible for the survival of the Hampi Ecosystem.

An Ecosystem has been defined as "a living community along with its physical environment, considered as an integrated unit". The many layers that were uncovered at the Hampi conference affirmed that the way to approach Heritage Conservation at Hampi had to be simple in thought so that it could flow in and out of all the complexities and bind them together once again. An "ecosystem approach" recognises that humans with their cultural diversity are an integral component of many ecosystems. How could we strengthen the involvement of the local community in the process of revival?

Hampi has been declared as a 'World Heritage site'. The 'Hampi World Heritage Development Authority' has been formed. There will be teams of professionals in various disciplines who will work towards a Master Plan for Hampi. However, the objective is not something that lies at the end of this road. The objective is to respect substantially the human component of this ecosystem and that lies in the "process". In a Biological ecosystem, energy transfer takes place through the food chain which makes its beginning from the sun. In a Conservation ecosystem, it is a similar transformation of energy that must happen and this makes the 'process of conservation' a key element in the Hampi efforts.

Is it possible to establish a small space/cell within Hampi where any passer-by can walk in to know about the current happenings on the 'World Heritage Project'. This could be similar to the Information Cell, for instance that the 'City of Rotterdam authorities' set up for its citizens in The Netherlands, where information leaflets, books, fact sheets and films were available on what had been documented of the past and what was being proposed for the future. It was a glass-fronted shop with large, wooden models of the existing urban fabric and of the new developments being designed for its people.

This cell, could have a meeting room where local residents could discuss with the authorities on how they could participate in the project. It could provide access for scholars and experts to old historical maps and to the new 'Digital Elevation Models (DEM)' or the scientifically prepared georeferenced basemaps that are being now generated for Hampi. It would house a comprehensive library with books, documents, newspaper clippings on Hampi's heritage efforts and current development plans, on the Hampi Utsav & how to contribute meaningfully to it, correspondence on hampi's conservation efforts and much else. It is possible that more people from Hampi will begin to have a reverence for their architectural and natural heritage.

The main purpose of this cell would be to create enthusiastic teams of people all over Hampi who want to be a part of the Conservation effort and to bring back the indigenous ways of sustainable development back into our lives.


Based on a comment on this blogpost, i am adding this note. Here, a Conservation ecosystem for Hampi is seen as a long-term vision in which local residents play an important role. It would be essential to understand and influence positively their thoughts, ideas and actions towards the Hampi region.

Secondly, an ecosystem approach would focus on a revival of the indigenous skills that made Hampi a world heritage site. Perhaps, the traditional building artisan and his skill will sustain if there is a continuous flow of projects to execute. Therefore, we may want to work towards enhancing artisan networks and connect them to on-going traditional and contemporary architectural work.

We may want to document or codify traditional knowledge so that it becomes a part of the present design and conservation education programs in India. At the Hampi conference, Dr.Cheluvaraju from Kannada University had observed that "In the past, myths and rituals made local people preserve natural and built heritage"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bamboo building

In the villages of Assam, bamboo building is common even today. The houses are detailed out to combat the heavy monsoons. The floor of the house is a bamboo weave that allows the water of a flood to flow in, rather than keep it out. This is an important principle of sustainable development. During this time, the inhabitants of the houses get into the canoe that every house stores in the stilt area below the bamboo floor. When the flood waters recede, the assamese people occupy their house again. The belongings are protected by putting them up on the bamboo loft. The roof of the house is built with local grass and can last upto 10 years before it is replaced again.

The houses shown here are from Dhuba Ati Gaon, a village about 30 km from Kaziranga, the wild life santuary in Assam well-known for its one-horned rhinoceros. The people in this village originally belonged to the Miri tribe from Agartala and chose to settle near the Brahmaputra river. Today, they are called the Mising community.

The bamboo weave makes both walls and floors breathe allowing a cross-ventilation all over. There is natural light that comes in from this weave as well.

The woven bamboo loft allows the clay pots and pans to be held easily.

An earth plastering is often done over a close-knit bamboo wall for further protection.

There are several innovative details to learn from in the assamese house.

The stilted part of the house is for protection against a gentle flood. It is for the canoe that belongs to the house and for the children of the village. Here is a link to : Crafts in Bazaars