Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ganapati Karkhanas

The men worked quietly on the plaster of paris idols. They let us come in, let us watch them at work. It was so unusual to be in a place with so many ganeshas. The streets around Shivaji Chowk in Pen, 45 min.from Panvel, in Maharashtra are lined with Karkhanas or workshops that create the Ganapati statues that are sent to Bombay and to towns all over Maharashtra. It is said that more than 70% of the statues that are sold in Bombay are made in Pen.

Each of these ganeshas are destined to have a life of their own, in street corners in Bombay and elsewhere that are preparing themselves to celebrate the arrival of the elephant god - the megastar of the ganesha festival.

These are not the most ideal conditions for the artisans to work in and yet the work goes on. Can tourism not bring in the funds that can also upgrade working environments within the ganapati karkhanas?

There was natural light falling on the quiet ganesha in waiting. The men who were skilled with their hands and had made these gorgeous idols from ordinary clay were men to be admired.

A ganesha tour could indeed be a beautiful experience for many of us. It could be a one-day trip that would begin with the ganesh darshan at the karkhanas, then, a walk down few of the streets in Pen, to know the still prevalent vernacular architecture of the konkan region, a lunch and then, some looking around in the local bazaar and interacting with the local people.

A vernacular house could be identified for lease to be managed by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation or as a Private sector enterprise in the vicinity of Shivaji Chowk, similar to the heritage houses developed by Pondicherry tourism as boutiques, restaurants & coffee shops.

A traditional street that could be developed as part of the walking tour in Pen in addition to the visits to the Ganapati Kharkhanas.

Infrastructure such as roads, water supply and drainage systems may need upgradation if a floating tourist population is expected. The tourist facilities that could be provided here are:
  • Restaurant with local cuisine
  • Tea shop that is clean and with a ganesha storyline for the theme
  • Rest rooms/Toilets
  • ATM
  • Ganapati Souvenir shop
  • Ganesha Museum

There are an increasing number of craft tours and textile tours that allow us to explore the world of the artisans in India. "One day in the life of a silent Ganesha" could be one such fulfilling experience for the discerning tourist.

One of the karkhanas visited was the : Wadke Bandhu Kala Mandir, Kasar Ali, Pen - Raigad. ph: 02143- 254237 & 93707-17877

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Architecture Design process

This is something i wrote whilst travelling in Europe more than 12 years ago. It was the first time ever in Europe. Everything around was fascinating and intriguing and made me contemplate about experiencing life, experiencing architecture and about how these have shaped my thinking on the architecture design process.

Before asking people to share their experiences, I begin to think about the experiences within different environments that I have had. How do my surroundings affect me? What are the thought patterns that these environments generate? There are images reproduced here in the form of sketches, that my mind captured, at the plaza, on the street, within a building, on the train or in the cathedral.

Experiences in life make us think the way we do. Although two people could see the same things at the same time, they might not always do so. If I walk through a busy street, I see and remember. I walked through the street with you. What I saw is different from what you did. We walk towards the Eiffel Tower. I see the caricaturists on my right. You enjoy the river Seine on your left. I feel the arch above us, that holds the bridge. You see the ornament on the bridge. We walk to the Pompidou centre. I see the pipes and railings. You see the people on the escalators.

If you see the river Seine, you may also see the caricaturists the next moment. If you see the ornament on the bridge, you may also soon feel the arch above us. If you see people on the Pompidou escalators, you may not miss the pipes and railings. Time is a dimension to be considered too, is it not? Whilst walking, what might be within the range of vision one moment, might not be, in the next. If you don't feel the arch above us at this moment, in the next moment, we are not below the arch anymore. Experiences are linked with time, aren't they? Especially it is, when two people walk along a street, you experience in one moment the ornament on the bridge, and I, the arch above. In the next moment, you cant feel the arch and I cant see the ornament. It was only for the moment and that moment is now gone.

Here is a link to some of my poems & sketches of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Friday, March 6, 2009

a way of seeing Review - March 2009

Over the years, I have opened several times John Berger's book 'Ways of Seeing' and been entranced by its words and its images. This blog had to be called 'a way of seeing architecture' because so much learning has always come to me from the book.

So far, this blog has had posts about architectural design and heritage conservation in India that have ranged from questioning what is good design, to understanding why Codifying Indigenous Building skills is important to contemporary architectural design and some observations on the vernacular architecture of the Konkan houses. The blogpost on Bimilipatnam documents the process of people's participation in a conservation effort on the east coast of India. There are some thoughts on the Chettinad houses of Tamil Nadu and the heritage conservation at Hampi.

The search for meaning in architecture and heritage goes on...so, what IS good design? HOW do we create an ecosystem for heritage conservation?

"But suppose there IS no meaning! Suppose life is fundamentally absurd! Or suppose EVERYTHING matters, which would be worse??" - Calvin, in 'Its a Magical World' Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Waterson