Alappuzha Heritage Project: Site Visit
The immense beauty of the landscape of Alappuzha, Kerala is 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 in the built heritage, which complements the landscape beautifully. It took me almost ten days to correctly pronounce ‘Alappuzha’ which I can never forget and I also got to know about the logic behind the name ‘Alappuzha’, renamed as ‘Alleppey’ by the British.
Site Visit for Alappuzha Heritage Project
After a tiring night journey, the sight of the seashore excited me greatly as we don't have them where I live. Soon we reached our rest house, freshened up and decided to go for a walk around the backwaters of Alleppey which gave us our very first insight into the city. The town seemed much bigger and had more potential than we expected. The long walk was tiring at first, but the heritage construction of that place caught hold of our interest. Listening to Benny Sir’s views on the various site issues really made us question our approach to any site, especially to a site of this big scale. This interactive walk was very helpful in our later site work and site analysis.
The next day early morning, we got 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 as stories told by the locals, who proudly start the narration and end up with deep pain in their hopeless voices. They feel the loss of their heritage 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 when numerous trading activities were introduced and traders were invited from various states to settle down in the region. 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 the landscape. This has also entirely changed the occupational system of Alappuzha due to which the city has lost its original heritage 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. But the details like wooden brackets, windows and doors have their own unique quality.
The Alappuzha site survey was a result of productive group work. It was a unique opportunity that gave us an urban level perspective and also taught us to respect the user’s point of view which is the base of architectural conservation. Being unfamiliar with the place was never a hurdle. Locals have a positive attitude which helped us cover the huge area within a short period of time. I look forward to the Alappuzha Heritage Project becoming an example for many such similar declining industrial towns or port 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.
To know more about Alappuzha Heritage Project, check out the below-given link: