The collapse of the roof in the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion is the topic of the day in all newspapers and by experts on conservation. In the context of cities with long histories, that are fighting a losing battle against rapid urbanisation, rising land cost and indifference by people, it is critical that we learn the art of heritage documentation for prosperity.
The significance of this documentation is vital in countries, in cities, in towns, in Mohallas, where socio-economic consideration do not permit built heritage conservation. Paucity of funds and experts both in terms of consultants and workmen is also a deterrent for heritage conservation.
It is of prime importance to understand in countries like ours with rich heritage of built environment of 5,000 years and more, who draws the line on what is important. Do we have enough evidence either in written form or by hearsay about how the builders of Pyramid or builders of Taj Mahal lived, settlements of those times.
The world-famous Agra is still a 2 or 3 tier town in the Indian context, and old Delhi conjures up an image of over-crowded streets etc., yet they carry a big burden of heritage and glorious lifestyles of the past.
Efforts have been made to restore, retrofit or put for reuse buildings and areas for which information is available.
What about everything else? What about the streets, parks and elements of yesteryears?
Understanding this predicament has now become mandatory and urgent, to document heritage buildings in the correct format with excellent photo documentation to allow future generations to understand how our cities and towns grew and how did people live. Some such examples all over the world are heritage villages in well-known towns in America depicting the lifestyle, the manner of living etc., of a particular community at a particular time at a particular period in history. For example, the German village outside Columbus, Ohio, USA and Dhakshinachitra on Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai.
Heritage conservation laws and standards set in our country do not take economic criteria into consideration. Do we have special initiatives, can we have a Heritage Transfer of Development Rights (HTDR)? Can we have CSR funding to maintain beautiful wooden staircases in heritage buildings or chandeliers in Palaces?
A new re-look is the order of the day. In my opinion, this is the way forward and our education system must emphasis on this and include it in its curriculum especially in Architecture.
– Prof. Ar. D.S. Ramakrishna Rao, Advisor & Mentor, GSSS School of Architecture for Women and Director, Desirazu Associates, Mysuru, 19.11.2021
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