To educate its students about the architectural concepts of heritage buildings, School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in Central Delhi has initiated close interactions with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the National Monuments Authority (NMA) on conservation and preservation projects being undertaken by these agencies.
According to SPA officials, the institute is “closely interacting” with the ASI and NMA to provide more exposure to students so that they may be able to understand the techniques used in building ancient and medieval-era monuments.
“We want our students to get more experience when undertaking construction work around heritage structures. These structures have a lot to teach us in terms of climatology and culture. Modern architects need to be more conscious of these aspects rather than erecting concrete and glass buildings that one sees all around Delhi today,” director of SPA Chetan Vaidya told Newsline.
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Historian Sohail Hashmi, however, feels one cannot “romanticise” the effort of “learning from the past”. According to him, many of the older techniques are hard to imbibe in present-day culture.
For example, several heritage structures used crushed brick and limestone as building materials. One of the most important properties of limestone that it absorbs water during rains and releases moisture as the sun comes out. That ensures there is no seepage in the buildings. Today, we use cement, which absorbs moisture but does not release it.
“Brick and mortar takes almost a year to dry. Nobody has that much time nowadays. Moreover, the process of maturing plaster takes about 40 years before the limestone’s benefits are reflected. One cannot work on mass scale unless major builders adopt these techniques. Today, we build on the basis of fixed parameters,” Hashmi said.
Earlier, Hashmi said, the structures were enclosed within four-foot thick walls. “Today, we don’t have that much space.”
Vaidya, however, believes that technological limitations of the earlier period led to evolving of more innovative ideas. “So, it always helps if students can get first-hand experience at these projects,” he said.