Friday, 1 December 2017

Doing Conservation: interpreting 'Heritage' as a response to local context

As field-based conservation architects very rarely do we get opportunities to completely carry through our ideas and vision. One such fulfilling project we undertook years ago thanks to a far-sighted pro-active official was the 'Prehistoric Trail' project. It was conceived as a pilot - in the hope that it could be seen as a model for similar interventions in sensitive heritage contexts. We designed interpretation 'kiosks' (as we dubbed them) at select prehistoric sites in Karnataka.

Some photos below that I hope conveys our preference for a 'go-light' over a 'heavy-handed' approach.

Given the micro climate we were convinced that buildings (i.e. floors, walls, roof defining lockable spaces) were not essential at these locations. So we chose to design 'shelters' instead.

We demolished the existing abandoned material storage shed (seen in the earlier picture above) and reused the stones in our proposal. We also reused the timber beams and stone slabs in the roof. We restricted the footprint of the shelter to the existing plinth and so saved on unnecessary foundation costs as well.

Elsewhere (image above) we wrapped a basic thatch roof shelter around existing neem trees on site. The tree faced the dolmens on site and so we incorporated a stone bench beneath. We engaged thatchers from a nearby village to build the thatch roof. And used existing stones on site (left over from the fencing) for the paving.

The contractor was also interested enough to stay true to our suggestions rather than try and bulk up costs by proposing unnecessary materials. A win win overall.

We managed to install 'shelters' at three locations and had proposed an experimental in-situ preservation technique at a fourth location. But sadly that project didn't come through.