ALAPPUZHA Heritage Project: SITE EXPERIENCE
The immense beauty of the landscape of Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, can mesmerize anybody; of course I was awestruck too. But for me the strength of Alappuzha lies not only in the landscape but also its built heritage which complements it beautifully. It took me almost ten days to correctly pronounce ‘Alappuzha’ which I can never forget and hence I got the logic behind ‘Alappuzha’ renamed as ‘Alleppey’ by the British.
After a tiring night travel, the sight of the sea shore excited me greatly as we don't have them where I live. Soon we reached our rest house, freshened up and decided to have a walkthrough around the canals which gave us our very first insight about the city. The town seemed much bigger and had more potential than what we had expected . The long walk was tiring at first, but the heritage beauty of that place caught hold of our interest. Listening to Benny Sir’s views on various site issues really made us question about our approach to any site and especially to a site of this big scale. This interactive walk was very helpful in our later site work and analysis.
Next day early morning, we divided into smaller groups of three and started with the site survey; mapping down all the potential areas. Looking at us mapping, clicking pictures and inquiring made the residents curious and interested, which was in a way helpful in collecting the information. Talking about the town, it presently contains copious layers of history but the decline of trade took away its former glory when Alappuzha used to be a buzzing town filled with traders, merchants and coir workers. The hustle and bustle of the town while it was serving as a seaport is now only heard in the form of stories told by the locals, who proudly start the narration and end up with a deep pain in their hopeless voices. They feel the loss and believe that Alappuzha can never get back those glorious days.
The initial plan for the city was carefully done to make it function as a port town, with numerous trading activities introduced and traders were invited from various states to settle down. But now since the port is abandoned, the whole purpose of the city as well as the canals has changed. Now the canals are only an element of landscape. This has entirely changed the occupational system of Alappuzha due to which the city has lost its original character which has become difficult to revive. Most of the traders who were brought to Alappuzha back then have now left as the trade declined.
The architecture of the town is not as complex as Thanjavur as it was initially designed as an industrial city. The details like wooden brackets, windows and doors have their own unique quality.
Alappuzha survey was a result of productive group work. It was a unique opportunity which gave us a city level perspective and also taught us to respect the user’s point of view which is the base of conservation. Being unfamiliar with the place was never a hurdle. Locals had a positive attitude which helped us cover a huge area within a short period of time. I look forward to this project becoming an example for many such similar declining industrial towns.
I would love to visit the city again as it initiated a deep thought process in me and gave me immense exposure. After this experience I feel a lot more responsible for my actions, which may cause a great impact on lots of lives.