Edited Excerpt from the Prelude to the Book of Proceedings
'History of Architecture - Towards Writing from an Indigenous Perspective' is a book of Proceedings of a Workshop conducted in the School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal from September 18 to 20, 2015. This volume tries to capture the essence of the project, as it was conceived and as it has evolved over many discussions and deliberations in its journey in the last six months.
The idea of the present research stems from an earlier published essay 'The Discovery of Architecture - A Contemporary Treatise on Ancient Values and Indigenous Reality' co-authored by the two architects and academicians M.N. Ashish Ganju and Narendra Dengle, The proposal for a research project involving a team of experts working within an institutional framework of an academic curriculum to culminate in a comprehensive publication was put forward by M.N. Ashish Ganju to the School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal. It was formally accepted as an exploratory research project of the institute in July 2015.
The first meeting of the project was hosted in SPA, Bhopal on July 10th, 2015, initiated by Mrs. Sunita Kohli, Chairperson, SPA, Bhopal and M.N. Ashish Ganju. All Deans, Heads of both the Architecture and Planning Departments, and Programme Coordinators of the Post Graduate courses of Urban Design and Landscape and Planning - Urban and Regional participated in this meeting. This meeting was the first one to brainstorm on how an institutional mechanism could be worked out involving all, or some of our programmes, and be coordinated with the team of multi disciplinary external resource persons who would be collaborating in the project.
It was at this meeting, that the first Workshop was proposed and scheduled from September 18th to 20th, 2015 which would have the participation of the external resource experts and also the faculty from within the institute. It was felt, that collectively, a research framework for the project, would be formulated.
A one day discussion session was also held in New Delhi on 14th August, 2015 for fine tuning the structure of the workshop scheduled in September.
The workshop in September was structured in various sessions. The inaugural session saw the presentation of papers by all the experts on their initial thoughts and interpretations of writing history from an indigenous perspective. This became the starting point of all subsequent dialogue.
The workshop saw three more sessions of intense discussions on the theoretical understanding of the project, the mechanisms of undertaking empirical research to have an evidence based research thrust, integrating them as studio projects, and the collaborations and funding options to be explored. These sessions were in the form of dialogues and discussions amongst all the participating experts. One of the sessions was held at the historic site of Sanchi, with discussions on investigative documentation and interpretation of historic sites being the central theme.
By the end of the third session, the experts identified of a set of initial research themes which could form the basis of the first book volume titled "Towards Writing History from an Indigenous Perspective". A Thematic preamble to the volume was decided to be written by Sunita Kohli, as one of the initiators of the project, followed by chapters by each of the contributing experts on the various dimensions of the subject ranging from theories and methods of study of historic built form and their transformation and adaptatios in the present context. The experts presented their observations in the concluding session to a forum of faculty and students from across the disciplines of SPA, Bhopal who talked of possibilities of institutional dovetailing within the academic curriculum.
This presents the journey of the project thus far.
I hope readers will find this rendition of history of architecture to be novel, not only in its contents but also as evidence to break the myth that books on history are as much a strain on your wrists as on your minds!