Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Scenario 3: THE LIVING HERITAGE (2012)

The village will survive through its people and not only the architecture. The vernacular style may give way to newer built forms, but since the residents have an innate sensibility of aesthetics and style, they would be able to develop them. There are enough incentives for a resident to redevelop the spaces by himself and not sell it. A sub-economy is created to generate funds for the ones who want to maintain their old houses by preservation and restoration on a regular basis. The model seems to be successful because it is able to make a lot of people to join it. The community still lives on and so does a part of its glorious architecture. Even the newer built scape today matches the local style, with the added features of modern functions like parking, among others. The evolution looks natural. Ranwar is still the place where its own children continue to live. Can we look at similar alternative methods of conservation practices for other precincts in India?

Mr. Fonseca has been waiting for a long time to redevelop his property in Ranwar. His 170
year old cottage is not only a second generation type house on the main street but also the
only one with the oldest wooden grill façade. He was very glad to know that the laws that a
resident of a heritage precinct has to follow to redevelop his own house have become a little
less rigourous. Now, unlike earlier they no longer have to deal with the heritage committee
members. The Advanced Locality Management of Ranwar was one of the major speakers to
advocate this change in the attitude of the committee members. Mr. Fonseca and the other
residents of Ranwar are relieved, as now they will be able to live in the houses and vicinity
they have grown up in. Even though they might not be able to preserve the same old style
cottages due to the high maintenance cost, at least they will be able to redevelop them and
make the most of the space while tuning it to the functions of today.

The decision was taken by the committee mainly because they understood that the residents
can be trusted with the property, as the local aesthetics have been etched in their minds. It is
definitely better than having a third party developer or architect constructing something that
could stick out like a sore thumb. Since development cannot be stopped, the change has to be
accepted. How we participate in this change is the deciding factor. Mr. Fonseca understands
this very well and he consults an architect with a fine sense of vernacular aesthetics. He
is sure that he wants the façade intact. The architect suggests that the façade should be
retained and gives plans in which it is incorporated with the newer built form behind it. He
also suggests a set back of approximate 2 meters from the façade backwards. Mr. Fonseca
likes the new plan and starts finalizing the details. The building behind will be ground + 4
storeys, with all the functions required for a modern lifestyle. The façade treatment will be
contemporary, matching the local style. The interiors similarly will be based on the plan of
a typical East Indian Catholic house, with larger spaces for community activities within the
house, there is an open space in the ground floor which serves as a backyard for all who will
live there, and these will also become new nodes of interaction. He will make sure that only
people from his community will be encouraged to live in the new apartments. It seems like
a conservative call but he has seemingly justified reasons for it.

The rosaries continue to be recited as always. The foods still tastes and smells the same.
Fr. Larry still continues to get his bottled masala pounded in his backyard. The newer
generation might not be using the open spaces in the same way as their grandfathers did,
but they have devised new means to interact with their contemporaries in the hamlet like
meeting once in a while at a coffee shop. The process of evolution in the village looks natural
today. The happiest are the ladies of the 1/4 funds as some of the members who have decided
against leaving the hamlet. They celebrated this great news by hosting one of their mouthwatering

There are a lot of elderly residents who do not want to move out in the last few years of their
lives. They wanted to live where they had learnt how to live a life. To make sure that their
houses look intact and new, they planned to get regular maintenance work done. To generate
the funds for it, they worked collectively, like selling packaged bottled masalas, starting a
tiffin service, to learning new skills. They organised these activities either in their respective
houses or rent a small place in Ranwar itself. These kept them busy as well as taught them
new skills. Their model started taking shape in a few years and got a lot of people interested,
including the young. They liked the idea of having some economic activity, which will
generate funds exclusively for the maintenance of the old houses. This way they would not
have to depend on a third party for the financial backup for preservation and restoration.
Of course they also say this is all for the love of the place they live in and to keep the culture
alive. One would be inclined to believe them because of the sincerity with which they have
been doing these activities. The women now meet every afternoon, packaging masalas for a
nearby East Indian Cuisine restaurant, which sells it as a brand ‘Ranwar’ product. A part of
the profits goes back into the business and the rest of it goes into the upkeep of their houses
and the vicinity.

The Rest Ranwar is revived today and the young have taken charge of its activities. With the
initiatives of the villagers, apart from being a gymkhana for the community of the village,
it is also an interpretation centre and retails brand ‘Ranwar’ products made by the women
of the village.

Fr. Larry says that the village is living again, well, some old cottages may have given way to
newer buildings, but he is grateful to God that Ranwar’s kids are still here praying rosaries
in the month of May and October.

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