Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Identifying Building Artisans

The ecosystem for Vernacular architecture has become fragmented. It is important to analyse the existing artisan networks because it helps to identify expertise; to guage connectivity; to access existing knowledge assets and to understand the lost knowledge problem. The matching process through which artisans may be linked with projects depends crucially on the availability of information and how this information is shared. There is a need for a search mechanism and the markets that it will serve.

In a research paper 'Improving the Search Mechanisms for identifying Building Artisans to support the Vernacular type in India' I explain further a few of these issues. This paper was presented at the International Conference on Vernacular Settlements held at CEPT Ahmedabad in Feb 2008.

It is available in its full pdf version at :

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Antique market in Mumbai

If you are looking for antique furniture in Mumbai, there is a large market for teakwood and rosewood furniture at Jogeshwari in north suburban Bombay. It is a market where a few shops selling old furniture started business forty years ago. Over the last decade, the antique market here at the Oshiwara bridge on S.V.Road has grown with more number of shops dealing in antique furniture.

Each of these shops is actually a linear space less than 15 feet wide and upto 80 feet long. There is no formal entrance or a shopfront. As you stand on the street, you see an unending passage. You enter and there are teakwood cabinets and rosewood chairs stacked up on one side. You inspect them as you walk along and go deeper into the shop. The linear dark space in the front opens up into an open-to-sky backyard that has natural sunlight streaming in and which is mostly the workshop area. Often, this is where the mending and the polishing of the furniture happens. This area has tools and implements that hang from its walls.

‘Mohd.Idris Khan & Sons’ is one of the older shops here. Idris Khan explains that he has 6-7 artisans at a time, working in his warehouse, where they mend antique pieces and also make new furniture based on old, traditional designs. He pays each of them Rs.350 per day. When you look around at the pieces in the shop that have been newly created, you know that Idris Khan has some very good craftsmen. They are from Nepal and West Bengal mostly.

The shop has an album of photographs of furniture that have been made in the past or from what clients have sent them. One can order from this collection or give them other designs and they can deliver what you need. Idris Khan’s son, Mohamed Ahmed Khan explains that they are very careful in their choice of wood. They use Old Burma teak and Rosewood as much as possible, which is sourced from Mustafa Bazaar in South Bombay. The superior quality rosewood comes from Cochin where old, traditional constructions are continually being demolished.

Ahmed Khan gives us further insights into their sourcing efforts. They have identified that the carrom boards made in India more than 40-50 years ago were made of rosewood that did not have knots. It was important to use a knotless rosewood frame so that the striker would bounce off well. Now, this is the rosewood section (almost 2ft x 2ft) that is used by Mohd.Idris Khan & Sons’ for sculpting out a curved arm for a chair. They had a sample on display and it was a beautifully executed piece of craftsmanship. Presently, they have 12 carrom boards in stock for such use. They presume that it was the same company that manufactured these carrom boards.

Ahmed Khan is the liason between the customer and the artisan. He understands the needs of the customer, adapts from the resources available and generates the design for the artisan. Ahmed Khan has no fear of their innovative ideas of sourcing and designing being replicated elsewhere. He affirms that it is the skill of the artisan that ultimately creates an exquisite piece and that is not easily replicable or easily found.

A planter’s chair, with long armrests, found in many traditional kerala houses is on sale for Rs.8000. An ornately carved four-poster bed is priced at Rs.1,00,000 (a hundred thousand). Ahmed Khan explains sadly that although he will find a buyer for this piece, it is most likely to be someone from outside India. He wishes that more people in India would be interested in the antique furniture. He says that it is only the Parsis and the Christians who still aspire to have antique furniture to decorate their homes. The Parsis are not only the people to sell furniture to, but are also the ones to buy good pieces from. Ahmed Khan believes that no one cares for his antique furniture as much as the Parsis do and that the most delicate pieces have been preserved well only in the Parsi homes in Bombay and elsewhere. In many Indian cities now, people seem to be interested in buying Italian or Malaysian furniture. These are made of particle board or synthetic boards and are neither functionally or aesthetically close to the traditional Indian pieces that are available here. Mohd.Idris Khan & Sons can be contacted at 022-26781339 or emailed at khansons786@yahoo.com

As I chat in Hindi with a taxi driver while travelling in Mumbai, he tells me that he is building a house for his family in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and plans to buy good solid wooden doors from the Jogeshwari antique market. I ask if his town continues to have indigenous architecture or buildings made with local materials. He says most traditional houses have been replaced by modern concrete constructions. Naseer also adds that their prophet has written that “Jab sab ghar pakke hoh jayenge, toh samajh lena ki pralay ah gaya hai

I have written earlier about the Chor Bazaar in Mumbai. Here is the link to it : Bazaar Tour 2: Antiques Mumbai

And, you can read more about the 'canal bazaar in Kerala' or the 'flower market in Madurai' and other bazaars at my blog Indian Bazaars

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the Bamboo grove

Its the first time I've ever filmed something and this is only an experiment with not so much meaning, more an experience for me which I was lost in completely. It did begin to have a purpose as I started to think about it.

I had been sitting for a while now in this bamboo grove. As the sun rose higher in the morning sky, the bamboo stalks and the ground in front of me shimmered with changing light.

I thought to myself, it's so difficult to create something and to create something this beautiful. I just sat there watching it all and gradually was deeper into this phenomenon as if it was the first time that I had noticed anything at all about nature.

As I listened, I started to think about architecture as we know it, architecture that uses materials such as brick and concrete, an architecture that has a structure so real and permanent that it stands there in front of us, for many years, totally unchanging.

And here, in front of me, was this natural environment that was gently moving as the breeze entered the grove, that was allowing some light and not allowing some. I asked myself then : "If I were to believe that this was architecture, what was I to learn?"

For me, it was more the process of being there and simply filming without thought that was a learning experience. It was time spent just to look at a branch, to look at the many leaves, to look at one leaf, to look at the ant that climbed up the bamboo stem, to pretend that this was a habitat where I was as small as that insect that stopped here for a moment and then left, to know another of nature's many worlds.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Design Inspiration at Lalbaug gardens

We had heard from some of our friends that the 'Green Heritage walk' organised by the group 'Bangalore Walks' was an extremely good one and something we must do. We took the walk this weekend. It is a walk conducted by Mr.Vijay Thiruvady every Sunday from 7am to 10am at the Lalbaug gardens in Bangalore. Mr.Vijay Thiruvady has immense knowledge about trees, is a great storyteller and you are bound to have a wonderful experience!

While at the walk, I realised that being there amidst nature was inspiring and generated some thoughts about design. I thought it would be nice to share this.

You come across these framed pictures of deities and you wonder who put them there? Does that person or group come back here to worship? Whose place of worship is this now? There's a fresh flower on the top of the frame. Is it from a passer-by? The frames themselves are partially covered with termites. There is not much it takes to create a place of worship. Life is sometimes both simple and beautiful at the same time.

This leaf we learnt is from the tree called Ficus Krishane. The tree gets its name from the shape of its leaves which form two cups or sometimes one cup. The Legend says that Lord Krishna is supposed to have collected butter in this leaf cup. Many of us have picked up a dried leaf. Others go closer to the branches of the tree to observe the green leaves that are cupped. Apart from being a cup leaf, I find the form of the leaf very interesting. If one were to make a paper lantern using this form and use an LED light within it, could it be interesting enough?

We then came across a tree commonly known as the 'Elephant apple'. Its botanical name is Dillenia Indica. For a description of the tree, I am linking here to Mr.Vijay's notes on this tree, which is a part of Vijay's musings about trees at Lalbaug. What was also interesting to know is that the leaves of this tree have been used traditionally to polish ivory. Here is a picture of the dried leaves of the tree. There's something nice about the dried leaf. It seems to have another aesthetic quality after it is dried up. If one were to study this leaf in detail for the design of a tensile structure, it may have some lessons for us. There is an increasing transparency to the leaf material as it ages.

We are almost at the end of our walk, the three hours have just flown by! The tree we are now looking at is a Silk Cotton tree many, many years old. It has these buttress-like parts of its trunk that spread out at the base. What is amazing here is that there are quite a few branches that go out almost horizontally for a distance of almost forty to forty-five feet! How does this happen? How can there be a cantilever this long? Would we have achieved this in steel? At what cost?

As you now look back again at the buttresses, you notice that there are thick roots also above the ground at some places that go out for long distances towards each of the long branches. Could it be then that the branch is able to cantilever itself because the root goes out in a similar fashion, more horizontally than the roots of other trees, that the vertical distance between the branch and the root are lesser than usual, creating a C-shaped homogenous form, of branch and root working together and giving it the stability to make possible this cantilever?

As we walk along a bit more, you can't help thinking that what you see on the ground is as inspiring as what you see in front of you everywhere at the gardens. Every step of the way, you see a beautiful composition. Sometimes, its the grass, flowers and the natural stone. Sometimes, its the patterns from the leaves of the tree just above and at some places, its the silk cotton that has travelled with the breeze to now rest with the dried leaves of a Juniper or a Candle Tree.

I link here to another blogpost that came about after this lovely nature walk. This is Mangoes for sale and is at my other blog : Indian Bazaars

Friday, April 16, 2010

Documenting a Vernacular house

There are so many ways in which one can document a vernacular house. It is good to observe, to analyse and most importantly, to interact with the people who have built these houses and who live in them. Discussions with old masons and carpenters can bring out interesting revelations. One has to remind oneself to not assume answers to what we observe but to ask many questions as we walk through these houses and streets.
a street in Georgetown in Chennai, India

One can study the following :

1. Forms & Proportions
2. Building materials & their source
3. Techniques of construction
4. Structural concepts
5. Detailing
6. Doors & Windows
7. Spatial hierarchy
8. Building elements – Foundation, Wall, Floor, & Roof
9. Lighting
10.Natural systems of ventilation
11.Storage spaces
12.Rituals related to house construction & sustainability
15.House decoration

Its just good to hope that there will be an ever-expanding fraternity that will want to study, document, learn and evolve from within this built-environment heritage. The more we study it, the more we will want not to lose it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mud house - 4

This is a continuation from the blogpost, Mud house - 3 where we looked at 'The site' and 'The walls'. We now go on to discussing the next steps.

3. Plastering & Flooring
Preparation of the floor and plastering of the walls is carried out at the same time. It is a task usually undertaken by women. A mud floor is usually 4 cm thk. The plinth comprises of earth that has been excavated from the foundation trench. To obtain a 30cm high plinth, more earth may be acquired from the surrounding areas.

In order to avoid cracks on drying, sand is mixed with the mud in the proportion of 1:5 i.e. 1 part sand to 5 parts earth for plastering as well as for the flooring mix. For plastering and flooring together, no.of persons required are 8 women for completing the work in 1 day. The mud floor is allowed to dry for a day and then cowdung is spread on the mud floor. The walls are whitewashed from the inside and the outside. The whitewash may be available in packets of 3 kg. The walls of a 3.0m diameter house usually require 4 packets of whitewash.

4. Roof
Whilst the wall is being constructed, the wooden members that make up the loft are placed on the wall before the last 60cm of wall is raised so that these palmyra members get embedded in the wall. As soon as the wall upto 1.8m height is completed, the midhi or loft may be constructed. This comprises of 4 beams in palmyra placed across the room with battens spanning across the beams. The battens rest side by side so as to leave minimum gaps between them. This is then covered with 8cm of mud layer. Over the midhi, a support system is built in order that the palmyra members forming the core may rest on it.

The roof frame uses Palmyra, Sarvi and Ruvvala wood. Near Haripuram, the village in Visakhapatnam district where this mud house was built, Ruvvala was freely available but the charge for carrying each bundle to the site of construction had to be paid. The roof frame used 6 bundles of Ruvvala. The number of palmyra trees that were used for the pitched conical roof structure were four. It is preferable to buy the wood in wholesale i.e. to purchase the trees and have them cut as per requirements.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does your building make business sense?

This is from an article that I wrote for Business Gyan :

The origin of your business or entrepreneurial venture has been a creative idea. Some years have been spent in developing that idea, in seeking capital, in marketing the idea, in learning to focus and in making the idea a long-term goal. Through all this, your business has nested itself in one, or more than one physical environment. This may have been a garage to begin with, an office in a commercial building, two floors in an expensive location in town and today, you may be a company with its own building or about to occupy its own premises. If you have the time, it may be worthwhile today to do a Post-Occupancy Evaluation of the building and to ask yourself and your team – Does our building make business sense?

Here is a link to the full article

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mud house - 3

This part of the Mud house series focuses on the following :
1. The Site
The site is selected and then cleaned. Construction work begins with digging a 30cm deep trench as per the required circular plan. This layout is marked at site by placing a pole in timber at a point which may be the centre of the circle. This is fixed temporarily. A thread tied to it, the other end of it holds an iron rod. This end is moved around to mark the circle on the ground. A 45cm wide trench is dug. The earth excavated is thrown into the circle and this becomes the filling for the required 30cm high plinth of the house. The trench is only 30cm deep since here at Haripuram village, the soil is rocky. The number of persons required for this task are four and the duration of work is one day.

2. The Walls
The walls are built in mud by the cob wall technique i.e. earth is mixed with water thoroughly with hands and also feet to form the right consistency. Next, balls of mud are placed into the trench to build up the wall. At a time i.e. in one day, only 60cm height of wall may be erected. It is allowed to dry, before the next 60cm of wall is built on the following day.

Since no further construction takes place that day, the time is utilised for the mixing of the earth and water to be used for subsequent construction. The soil mix must be sufficiently clayey. In case of difficulty in obtaining clayey soil, it is carted from the neighbouring areas. However, such a need occurs rarely.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Institute for Revival of Traditional Building Arts

Some years ago, I was documenting the Restoration efforts made by the West Zone Cultural Centre towards conserving the Bagore-ki-Haveli at Udaipur. Whilst doing the study, I came across a document that contained guidelines for setting up an ‘Institute for Revival of Traditional Building Arts’. Such an Institute had been initiated at Jaipur but it had closed down eventually. Maybe, elsewhere in India, there will be efforts to put up an Institute such as this one at another time. I reproduce here some key points from that document :

The work strategy for the institute will be :

- To document old traditional building art forms through a survey of buildings of historical and architectural importance
- To extensively photograph work done in such buildings. The cataloguing will be done building-wise and building art formwise.
- To locate master craftsmen of traditional building art forms in the various districts and to catalogue them including their addresses and other particulars
- To select old heritage precincts and buildings which need restoration, reconstruction, revival etc. and to make these available to the Institute for conducting training on actual working conditions
- Selection of artisans / trainees for receiving training and to lay down minimum educational or experience standards for a particular art form
- To prepare the curriculum indicating the period of training, theoretical and practical classes to be conducted and to identify faculty for imparting training
- To document the trainees skills and addresses, on completion of the training, so that this talent pool is available for being called upon whenever work is needed to be executed on a commercial basis and also to provide employment to them, wherever possible, through the efforts of the Institute
- To prepare films, videos, slides and literature for use as training material. This will need to be done separately for each building art form
- Brochures and technical literature to be prepared for dissemination of information to the prospective customers of such work
- To find avenues of work for the trained artisans in the public and private sector
- To evolve new patterns, new designs and improvements in old designs so as to make future work both time-effective and cost-effective
- To conduct research and development in traditional building materials
- To make traditional building art forms more economical and acceptable to the public

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mud house - 2

The layout of the round mud house was always the same. It comprised of a circular inner room which was used mainly for storage of grain and all the main belongings of the household. During winter, this room was also used for sleeping. In the summer, the family slept outdoors or on the spactious verandah that was a part of every house. Enveloping this inner room, in plan, was another circle which served on the left as the kitchen and on the right as a store room or a sitting/sleeping area. The circular house was based on the concept of a verandah and again verandah.

The inner room received light only through the door to the room. Because of the extremely low overhang of the thatch roof, it was better not to have windows. And the low overhang was to protect the mud walls from the rains. The roads leading into a hamlet were the usual narrow mud paths, opening into large open spaces, around which mud and thatch huts lay strewn.

The children were always outdoors unless they were at school, which was a basic one, and yet not all families could afford to send their children to school. Some children continued to play in their verandahs or just outside their homes waiting for the school bell to ring when the other children would join them.

While the children played in the sun, the mother cooked on the common chulahs (stoves) built by them in the open spaces. These had been made in the same earth that had built their homes. Wood was used as fuel.

While the rice cooked, some women were busy within the house, cleaning, or putting a little one to sleep. They moved back and forth from indoors to outdoors, making transitions through spaces and making similar transitions through the day from family responsibilities to social intermingling.

The design principles that had been followed in the layout of the coastal andhra houses allowed these interactions amongst families. It was a way of life that they had always followed. Often, roof overhangs of adjoining houses touched, but one bent a little to go beyond, on the mud path that lead between them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mud house -1

This is the first part of a series of blogposts on an experiment in mud construction that was carried out in the village of Haripuram, near Visakhapatnam. The traditional coastal andhra village was typically a cluster of round mud houses. The houses were built close to each other in a circular formation so that the cyclonic winds that often hit the coast bounced off tangentially away from the cluster. Houses with two family units were often roofed and walled in rectangular form.

The old houses in Haripuram were more than thirty years old and they had mud walls and palmyra thatch roofs. However, the new constructions being built used reinforced cement concrete slabs and burnt brick walls. Initially, the possibility of constructing a two-storeyed mud house was discussed to bring back mud as a viable building material. For this, a manual block-making machine would have to be purchased. This required a higher budget for our first experiment. Also, the local masons would need to undergo special training. It was then decided that a single-storeyed mud and thatch house with a few of its drawbacks eliminated would perhaps be a better way to begin.

It was hoped that such a model house would evoke confidence in the people to learn to improvise on their ways of building. It would be clear that the new house which didnot have the disadvantages of the old houses had only incorporated a few simple changes, but was in all other respects like their earlier houses which they knew how to build anyway. I started to sketch the mud houses in the village.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Architecture & Representation

In beginning to understand architecture, to study it from drawings and images, you realise that such a study would be looking at architecture from a distance. It does not involve us in a living environment.

In India, architecture has had spiritual meaning that may relate to the time of day, in the way light enters the sanctum sanctorum of a temple at a particular time on a particular day in a given year. The architecture of water in the stepped wells of ahmedabad is an experience of shade from the sun for a traveller. How do you represent these experiences?

This question brings us to studying art and how it has been represented. Perhaps a study of finding meaning in art would bring us closer to finding meaning in architecture and understanding how to represent it before its creation and after.

I reproduce below an exercise I undertook as a student, to study a painting, to walk through it as if I saw nothing else, to be inside the painting and not outside it.

I looked at the painting `ANNUNCIATION´
by Crivelli

And then,
My eyes tired of the rapid translation
Of visual images into geometry
I heard the applause

I could not help seeing
The Geometry in its composition
And, for a while
Nothing else.

The second act had begun.
My mind switched
From `spatial analysis´to the `meaning´
Of this drama

Now, I had to `see´and `listen´
Listen to the murmur
Of the hands and the eyes
To later interpret their meaning

I must therefore divide this story into two parts
the first dealing with Meaning
and the second with Geometry


This painting exposes the difference between the level of curiosity of a child‘s mind as compared to that of an adult. The scene involves several characters of which only one is a child. Only this child seems to look outside of himself. He is not aware that he is being seen. The others know that they are being seen. Perhaps, they view themselves as participants of a drama. They must play their part and play it well.

The child would like to have his presence acknowledged. He could direct the world, he thinks, because he knows what‘s going on, if only they would listen to him. But, he has decided to take refuge behind the parapet, to act naive, only of course, till he is Big.

One wonders if instead of Crivelli, any one of us were painting this picture, would we have represented the little child as seated on the steps... instead of standing behind the parapet. Would it have altered the meaning of the image if instead of being concealed in part behind the parapet, the child had instead been painted as hiding himself in the folds of the robe of one of the men...

Or, what would happen to our interpretation of the composition if the child stood beside the kneeling saint and lifted a building block from the model held in the hands of the saint. Would it be a sacrilege to treat the representation of an important event in so light a manner? And, could this then be the starting point of caricature?

Besides, is the child accompanying one of the three men? Or, has he climbed the steps on his own to get away from the street and the strange happenings there? The apple and the peanut. Are they his playthings left behind on the street in his haste to get to the head of the stairs?

Have the three men gathered at the steps because a programme they were participants of within the building has just ended? Are they on their way out... Or did they hear of an extraordinary event happening in the street and therefore hurried outside to watch? Or, is this simply their favourite rendezvous after work hours? They are not plotting against enemies, are they...Is the curtain shown in Virgin Mary‘s chamber, a mere representation of a circumstantial object or is it meant to be a symbolic barrier between the duality in the life of the Virgin Mary – separating her divinity from her mortal existence and its implications, as drawn from the objects shown beyond this curtain.

Anyway, are all those objects, curtain and bed and books actually to the right of her or is that a mirror wall by her side reflection the room space to her left, hidden from our point of view behind the column...


The painting ANNUNCIATION by Crivelli confirms at the outset the presence of a spatial datum.

The vanishing point of the painting is held at the furthest end of this datum, appearing, however, at the centre of the vertical axis of this two-dimensional representation and with respect to the horizontal axis at its first quarterly division. It is a one-point perspective drawing with all the object lines directed towards and converging at this vanishing point.

One notices instantly the beam of light from the sky directed at Virgin Mary in the lower right half of the picture. It is especially conspicuous since it is the only line in the painting that does not converge or that is not directed towards the vanishing point. This divergence from the rule gives it a special quality to make it a symbol of power. It is presumably a very important feature of the act being represented. As one looks at the rug hang out on the parapet near the peacock, one may not think about what length hangs on the other side, for, one knows.

We can see in its design a symmetry about its width and from our prior exposure to such designs know that the design would be symmetrical about its length. This establishes its length to be twice as much as is visible to us on our side of the parapet. However, if the rug design were instead a small motif repeated unevenly, we would be quizzical about the length of rug that hangs on the other side of parapet.

The painting is composed so that more than one-half of its right side is occupied by a solid mass and another one-quarter of its left side, leaving a quarter-width for displaying the spatial outlay. The spaces show various forms of human behavioural patterns within the different planes. The Virgin Mary is encased within the GOLDEN RECTANGLE. Thus, the proportion of the Golden Section seems to have determined the position of the different objects within her chamber. In a reconstruction of this part of the painting, one may derive a series of golden rectangles which result in the appearance of the logarithmic spiral.

“the dichotomy of individuality and universality may be seen as
Art for art‘s sake against Art as a system
Geometry for art‘s sake and Order as a system”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Athangudi tiles

I had an opportunity to visit the village of Attangudi, near Madurai where traditional artisans continue to make colourful floor tiles that are similar to the red oxide floor but with geometrical and floral motifs. The tiles looked beautiful. As you watch the tiles being made, and go back and forth from looking at the process to the finished product, you know that this is something you want to use, simply because the colours, the designs and the sheen look great.

The question is “Would this only work in a traditional house plan?” Many of us are keen on a contemporary house and you wonder if a beige vitrified tile floor would be more in tune with your non-ethnic tastes? Luckily for us, there are immense possibilities, if we do decide to go with the attangudi tile floor. Its possible to order tiles with just a single colour and no motifs; its possible to order floor tiles that are plain and skirting tiles that have a simple geometric design, with colours that complement each other. Besides, I do believe that its possible to include elements with traditional motifs in a contemporary setting. Its just about knowing how much of the traditional and how much of the modern.

Here is a YouTube film on the making of Athangudi tiles :

Source : www.youtube.com

Most of us in the cities would buy tiles for our house from the biggest brands in ceramic tiles such as Kajaria or Johnson tiles. Kajaria Ceramics which is a 700 crore company has a European collection. They import tiles from Italy and Spain for the Indian market. While we source from Europe, can we also source from a village in Tamil Nadu? Kajaria has a distribution network of about 600 dealers and about 6000 sub-dealers all over the country. What if the display division of the marketing department at Kajaria or Johnson focused on promoting Athangudi tiles as well?

If the curricula in architecture schools in India would encourage its students to document vernacular ways of building and traditional building materials and their processes, we could create a database that Kajaria could use. If the curricula in management schools would encourage its students to document the supply-chain systems in rural economies and analyse how these could be made more efficient, we could perhaps make it attractive for Kajaria to seek out and support the artisan of Athangudi while making great profits in their business.

In the meanwhile, if you want to khow how to visit the Athangudi village, you can contact Karthick Gopal at tourism.karaikudi@gmail.com. He is part of the DHAN foundation, an NGO that works in several villages of Tamil Nadu. Here are their contact details : DHAN Foundation, 18, Pillaiyar Koil Street, S.S. Colony, Madurai - 625 016, Tamil Nadu.
Tel: +91-452-2610794, 2610805 and the link to their website : www.dhan.org

In case you would just like to order the tiles, you can still contact DHAN since they know the artisans well and will be able to give you their contact details. Here is a link to their blog: Explore Chettinad

Thursday, January 21, 2010

City Design in India

It may be useful to establish a Research unit to support a Municipal Corporation or Urban Development Authority in every Indian city.

This unit is required to develop further design concepts that will benefit the city in the long-term. There would be research activities conducted here (both by the Unit Staff & external Consultants) without the pressures of time and the urgency of constantly executing projects and “making a visible difference”. Projects would be allowed time from 6 months to 2 years before implementation takes place. Short-term deadlines and handling of the day-to-day problems of the city would be carried out by the other departments of Municipal Corporation or UDA. A Research unit of this kind will maintain consistency of vision for the city’s development over the years.

The following projects may be initiated at the Research Unit for City Design (RUCD) :
- Socio-economic and physical surveys of specific areas within the city
- Documentation of Streets & Public spaces
- How to utilise Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Infrastructure planning, such as water supply, telephone cables, sewerage system, drainage system, etc.
- Developing Urban Design guidelines
- Development of Urban spaces – squares /plazas and spaces between buildings -Improving Traffic sense and Civic sense amongst the Public (through awareness campaigns & educational packages for schools)
- Renewable energy systems – implications for the city, e.g. solar energy for street lighting
- Street design & Art in Public plazas
- Exploring the use of Rain-water harvesting on the city scale
- Environmental planning
- Fellowship programme for design & planning studies
- Exposure lectures / programs/ visits for the town planning staff
- Maintaining a network of Resource persons / professionals for projects to be undertaken
- Evaluating Building & Planning norms and making them more realistic and designed to make a better city
- Evolving strategies for the sustenance and future development of old, historic parts of the city
- Building and maintaining a Public library of City Design & Planning (with books on Urban architecture, Street development, Landscape Planning, Squares & Plazas, Lighting, Outdoor Environment, City Planning, etc.)
- Questionnaire Survey of Residents in the city regarding the day-to-day problems and facilities required.
- Questionnaire Survey of Visitors to the city (this may be carried out particularly at Professionals’Conferences being held in the city)