The Road Not Taken !
(As I would like to call this summer internship)
I wondered many a times why should we (Department of Architectural Conservation) alone have an internship programme during our summer vacation while others are having fun. Now I came to know what it was really meant for. The right choice also played a major role in that. This is not to praise Dr.Benny Kuriakose, the team leader of Vedika (based in Chennai), instead to thank him for the opportunities he had given us during a short span of six weeks. We, myself and three of my classmates who joined his office, had a couple of meetings In Delhi before we started the internship. He always used to tell us about his approach to the projects and their nature, which is entirely different from the other Conservation Architects. I was very keen to know what his approach was.
A systematic schedule for the internship was neither made by him nor by us in the beginning. Although, an order was there throughout this period, as if it was a planned one. He gave us choices and options and we finalized upon a work plan to follow, though most of the things were clueless. We could not find any conservation projects running in the office at that time. The major conservation related projects that were about to start, include a Methodist Church which was to be modified for the Centenary celebrations next year, a detailed condition assessment and manual preparation for 88 temples in Thanjavur and Urban Conservation in Alappuzha, the scale of which are in ascending order.
The first site visit and the condition assessment of the church were assessed in a discussion. We missed out many relevant defects and could not observe properly. Here we identified the huge gap between theory and practice. Another visit to the church, assisted by him, after the Thanjavur study, helped us observe and analyse the defects in the church in a better way and gave clues of their reasons and relations between them. The main problems there were the rising dampness, additions done in cement and the construction of an auditorium abutting the church. (The presentation given by a B.Arch. intern on Churches, gave a first-hand information about the design of various churches).
Extensive research and presentation was done prior to the 10 days long site study. The objectives of the study were a detailed condition assessment and a manual for dos and don’ts for the 88 temples which are under the Palace Devasthanam. The building level analysis done for the church helped this study. Six of us were split into two groups. Two of each group had cameras and one was to fill in the inventories. The areas which we saw till noon in the first temple, on the very first day, were again covered with him in the evening. (He did a flying visit to the temple which we were studying after visiting one of his projects in a nearby site). At the end of the day, we made a presentation of the photographs we had taken that day. He also projected the photographs that he had taken. Huge difference! Good that he came! The flaws that we made were pointed out by him. The aspects which we missed out, considering them as trifles, were found to be of great value. I became very cautious in our study once he gave us the feedback. The next day onwards, I saw a change in my own observation. (No wonder why Monika, one of the trainees who assisted us, asked me how I could find out the original extent of a temple complex before enquiring anyone there. She was informed the same by the temple priest). The discussions with the Prince in the Palace, the District Collector and other resource persons of Thanjavur and the talks with the local people for information gathering were a new experience. People in Thanjavur were very receptive and co-operative. There was a presentation in the office on temple architecture by a retired professor of IIT Delhi, Sri. Swaminathan, who taught us information is for sharing.