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Revitalising Mamallapuram

Part 2 Project 1998
Sundari Ganapathy
Anna University Madras India

Sundari Ganapathy

This design problem addresses the classical conflict of interests between tourism, development and conservation efforts at the programmatic level. Impressively, this project did not resolve the conflict by privileging any one interest at the expense of the other two. The study and analytical phase discussed the conservation efforts and the overall development of the monument area. Among the various design interventions that followed, recovering important urban spaces in the town and reinforcing its archeological and historical importance was identified as a priority. This was a sensible and intelligent decision. To me, it reflected the emphasis and accent on the public realm of development, architectural programming and design. The earnestness to restore spaces for people, to reinforce its environmental role and use this opportunity to strengthen the authenticity of the monument area placed this project above the others. Sundari was willing to go beyond the narrow understanding of architecture as a stand alone entity and explore its complex role in the process of place making.

The project did not take short cut to resolve the question of `appropriate' use, form and aesthetics in designing within historical precincts. Typological features of traditional urban forms and spaces and the axial relationships that predominantly existed in the South Indian historical towns were studied and creatively interpreted.

Another important and interesting component in this project was housing for the stone craftsmen. Contrary to the institutional approach in providing mass housing, this project studied the cultural aspects of craftsmen's habitat and creatively used these anthropological insights. This is reflected in the design where work places are fused with habitational spaces. In addition, no space in the individual units are mono-valent. Like any traditional house, the spaces perform multiple roles. This arrangement is a consequence of cultural prefrence , which, to me, is an 'appropriate' response. The presence of various collective space and the manner in which they relate to individual units also reflect this.

Unlike many other recent student projects, this does not privilege or over emphasis the issues of architectural form and aestheics. On the contrary, it locates, draws inspiration and dedicates design to place making and the relates it to the anthropological needs of the user in focus.

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