An artist’s creation immortalizes her name. There are only few who posses the audacity to move beyond the self-acclamation and devote their lives for restoring the heritage left by their predecessors.
Aishwarya Tipnis is one such architect. An alumnus of School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India with a specialisation in European Urban Conservation from University of Dundee, Scotland in 2007, she is a recipient of the UNESCO Award for Heritage Conservation in the Asia-Pacific Region 2016 (Award of Merit for Mahidpur Fort; Honourable mention The Doon School), Commonwealth Professional Fellowship 2011, Bonjour India Travel Fellowship 2010 as well as Scottish International Scholarship 2006. She is the principal architect of eponymous architectural firm in Delhi, working towards making the past relevant to the future.
Aishwarya is also part of the UNESCO expert team for the preparation of the Conservation Management Plan for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway World Heritage Site. She is currently a visiting faculty at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and author of “Vernacular Traditions: Contemporary Architecture.”
First published in Surfaces Reporter® Dec’17 issue, here is an excerpt from an interaction with the talented young conservation architect. To see some of her work, check the projects section.
What are the challenges of being a Conservation Architect?
To be a good conservation architect, I believe you first need to be a very good architect. Further, as a conservation architect in India, you have to be a technical person and balance that with social empathy. The work of a conservation architect is very serious as it has the power to change lives. It is not a easy job but one that is very hands on, often I call myself a match maker solemnizing the marriage between the past and future.
It is usually a bottoms up job, where you need to engage in conversations to understand what the client or community needs before prescribing solutions. You need to know your materials, building construction, history, research methodology and design skills at the back of your hand.
It also entails a lot of hard work both mental and physical, of course there is the travel to the exotic locations but there is also a task at hand that needs to be completed, sometimes in rural and semi-rural locations. There is a considerable amount of desk work and details drawings to be generated and it’s not just about making them pretty but making them accurate and implementable too.
Which has been your most challenging yet rewarding project so far and why?
Each project is unique and have their own nuances, I suppose it is very critical to fully understand the building or site, the issues it is facing and then use design as a tool to solve those issues. I believe the best solutions are often the most obvious ones and will emerge only when you are completely immersed in your site/building. All my projects have been challenging and extremely rewarding. It is very difficult to pick one project because each challenge has contributed to enriching my understanding of the discipline and helping me devise a bespoke methodology.
If I had to pick one it would be the Doon School, it has been what I call my “text book” project, where the value of professional opinion has been fully respected and I have been given the flexibility to manage and lead the project for the best interest of the building & institution within the allocated financial budget.
The faith and support of the School has been incredible and I suppose it stands for a building which has been restored by its community purely for the love and respect of their own heritage. It has been an approach with the funding has come from alumni donations and each penny saved is a penny earned, we have to be honest and conscientious and at the same time pragmatic in our decision making process.
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