The team documented the traditional architecture of Kangra Valley, via study of a village called Khirku, near Rakkar and learned contemporary mud construction in the region, which has been a derivative of the traditional wisdom. Special thanks to Didi Contractor and her craftsmen, for sharing with us their construction wisdom and also to the team at Dharmalaya, where the team had a hands-on experience in working with mud as a building material.
A complete change of atmosphere and environment can really impact a person, and depending on the situation, sharpen his or her senses. When the shift is from the overcrowded, bustling city to a quaint, peaceful hillside village, it really changes the outlook of a person. Apart from the general calmness, the clean air and new culture, it’s the connection with nature that has been reestablished. Such were the first thoughts that came to our mind as we settled down in the village of Khirku to begin work on the project.
Architecture is not without its people, and the people of Khirku are whom we are indebted to. Their knowledge about their homes is vast, and they’re well aware of why and how their traditional techniques are more beneficial. Yet, the desire to be ‘modern’, the attractions of the city have crept into their minds, and its visible how it has changed the village. It’s not wrong; it’s just a side effect of development. While their children go to schools now, and are looking at higher education, one really begins to wonder how much this settlement will change in the next 5 years. It will definitely be a big reformation, but it can go in unpredictable directions.
After the small initial period of unfamiliarity, the villagers really warmed up to the team. Hospitality was omnipresent here, and they were always ready to answer our questions and tell us about their lives. Learning about another culture is a completely new experience, especially when you try to live it for two weeks.
The project did not only include living in the village and studying their lifestyle and architecture, but it also included studying the improvised sustainability of Didi Contractor. Her lectures were educational of course, but more than that, they were extremely inspirational. Her words really moved us, and so did her architecture. Thus, from Didi and Khirku, we had learnings that went hand-in-hand, and helped us encompass the term ‘sustainability’.
Widespread propagation of urbanization has left in its wake few practices of vernacular architecture, with most of them phased out, and methods we could still incorporate being driven out of most places, with only settlements around India, like Khirku for example, following them. It also thus becomes important that, we dont not let upgradation and curb the aspirations of such settlements. Thus the right adaptation becomes important. We can only try and understand by experimentation, the correct adaptation, and for that we need to start somewhere. Inspirations like Didi, are the correct source to understand progress towards such measures.
What we must do is spread awareness about the ideology of sustainability rather than just preach the methods. This is one of the most important learnings, that to practice something, or even believe in it, we must firstly understand the reasons and history behind it.
The final phase- the Exhibition aimed at curation, exploring new parameters of representation and aesthetic display of data. A first for many, a lot of ideas were brainstormed, eventually carefully selecting the modes of representation that would do justice to the project, context and materials.
The team decided to use hand sketched technical drawing showcasing the materials and construction techniques of the documented village and its houses. Digital medium was used to express the construction processes, with provision for the visitors to make scaled adobe bricks to get a fair feel of materials and its use. Holographic projection to understand the construction techniques was displayed. Finally two documentaries we presented, one on the culture of Khirku and the other on the wisdom of Didi Contractor.
Ar. Pooja Morje
Ar. Prasad Nakil
Ar. Geetesh Varte