Special Issue on Traditional Materials and Construction Technologies: Volume XI

About the Volume

India is an invaluable repository of traditional building practices that emerge as a response to its diverse climatic, geological and socio-cultural expressions. This vast resource is continuously being threatened by the unprecedented growth of the construction industry and the quest for a ‘modern’ and/ or ‘permanent’ habitat. Many indigenous building approaches are losing their relevance and are being rapidly substituted, ultimately proving unsustainable, both economically as well as ecologically.

While substantial research on traditional building materials and techniques exists and is ongoing, its implementation, specifically for contemporary development, is often contested. This special issue provides a platform to discuss the various processes that document, disseminate, conserve and promote the use of traditional materials and techniques in contemporary building practice.

The first section focuses on specific traditional materials and architectural elements, their established use in historic construction along with challenges in their present use. While Bais discusses the existing lime practices across India, Das highlights the lack of research in contemporary standards for aggregates such as sand. The second section talks about architectural typologies, forms and traditional building techniques along with experiments towards contemporising these. ‘How’ and ‘how much’ to contemporise come across as highly relevant questions that Madan and Jain discuss through the case of Wai in Maharashtra. Residential typologies in Gujarat, Karnataka, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan, covered in the following articles, reflect diversity in use of materials, contextual responses as well as commonality in the underlying rationale for development of components, forms and techniques. The embedded knowledge systems and associations with socio-cultural frameworks are highlighted. The latter part focuses on implemented projects that attempt to bridge contemporary usage with traditional materials and technologies through bamboo and mud structures, in combination with non-traditional materials.

Highlighting challenges to the continuity of traditional building practices, this volume also acknowledges the ongoing research by institutions such as the Design Innovation and Crafts Resource Centre and the INTACH Heritage Academy. Concerted efforts are being made by the Institute of Research and Documentation of Indigenous Studies to document ethnic communities that have been neglected in most mainstream research. One major challenge is the disconnect between current government schemes for major construction works in rural and urban areas and traditional methods of building habitats as reflected in the Avas Vikas Yojna.

As a whole, this special issue encapsulates the significance of using traditional building materials and techniques for long term sustainability. The role of current technology in facilitating it, figures as part of the discussion, as does the curiosity of the researcher and designer in making the traditional building systems meaningful for the present.

Editorial Team


About the Volume

Traditional Materials
Lime Practices in India
Sangeeta Bais
Deconstructing Sand as an Aggregate
Neeta Das
Earthen Construction: Adapting vernacular technologies
Hilary D Smith
Timber Conservation: A brief overview
Ravindra Gundu Rao
Stone Jaali: Daylight performance analysis
Dharmesh Gandhi
Glazed Tiles: Historic use in Mandu and Agra
Malvika Bajaj Saini

Forms, Techniques and Experiments
Contemporary Explorations of Traditional Material Systems: Wai, Maharashtra
Amrita Madan and Nitish Jain
Building Processes and Challenges: Ladakh
Debasish Borah
Conserving Buddhist Monasteries: Ladakh
Bhawna Dandona
Exploring Residential Typologies: Katra Dulo, Amritsar
Rachan Puneet Singh
Timeless Traditions: Ainemane of Kodavas, Kodagu
Poonam Verma Mascarenhas
Construction and Ornamentation of Havelis: Shekhawati, Rajasthan
Urvashi Srivastava
Tectonic Study of Jain House Form: Khambhat, Gujarat
Sapan Gajjar
Contemporary Explorations in Mud Construction: Kerala
Shailaja Nair and PB Sajan
Experiments in Bamboo and Mud: Tapovan, Udaipur
Gaurav Gurjar
Bamboo Habitats: Icra, Darjeeling
Aruna Bhardwaj
Tunnelling Techniques: Water Management in Medieval India
Mukta Latkar-Talwalkar

Institutional Initiatives
Training, Research and Capacity Building: INTACH Heritage Academy
Navin Piplani
Studying Ethnic Communities: Institute of Research and Documentation of Indigenous Studies
Deepa Dutt
Re-evaluating Built Heritage: Design Innovation and Crafts Resource Centre
Rajdeep Routh and Mitraja Vyas
Reviewing the Indira Awas Yojana: The Politics of an Awas
Shardul Patil

Events and Conferences