2007 Yearbook

INSTITUTE OF HISTORIC BUILDING CONSERVATION YEARBOOK 2007 31 I N R E V I E W NIKHIL JOSHI – A CULTURAL PILGRIMAGE: SANSKRITIC YATRA NIKHIL JOSHI is an architectural assistant with Carden & Godfrey Architects in London. CAREER BACKGROUND In 1996, I left my home and loved ones to pursue my dream of becoming an architect. Before the ‘formal’ education at university, I used to travel extensively all over India to learn and study its rich and varied heritage in my own ways. I strongly feel that the heritage of India, be it the pristine beauty of the Taj Mahal, the serene splendour of Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram, the glory and mystique of the Qutb Minar or the eternal sensual flame of Khajuraho, all of which inspire instant awe and admiration, motivated me enough to study the cultural heritage of India in depth. After successfully completing my BArch studies in 2003, I started my career as a part-time faculty member teaching basic design and history of architecture subjects in the architecture colleges in Pune. At other times I worked freelance, designing furniture for students, graphic signage, doing photographic recording of historic buildings for various listing projects, and working on small- scale architectural projects. As I was working mostly part-time, it provided opportunities to participate in various heritage-related conferences and seminars. My first professional project, a design for a Jain temple, was short- listed among the final three entries in a national open design competition. The design concept was based on the ancient Indian building science of ‘ Vaastu-sastra ’, keeping the very spirit of the tradition and integrating it with the contemporary landscape. I was not awarded the job due to my lack of experience but it definitely increased my morale and I continued my pilgrimage with more zest and zeal. THE ‘ GURUKUL ’ In autumn 2003, a few years into my quest to understand the meaning of the ‘living heritage’ and the ‘monument’ in the Eastern perspective, I continued my pilgrimage to the West, not only to learn about the past heritage but also to study the current cultural traditions of the Eastern society from a different viewpoint. Rabindranath Tagore, a towering figure in the literature of Bengal and winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1913, gave the following advice in 1907 to his son-in-law, who had gone to America to study agriculture: ‘To get [on] familiar terms with the local people is a part of your education. To know only agriculture is not enough; you must know America too. Of course, if, in the process of knowing America, one begins to lose one’s identity and falls into the trap of becoming an Americanised person contemptuous of everything Indian, it is preferable to stay in a locked room.’ Inspired by Tagore’s advice, I commenced my graduate studies in Conservation Studies (Historic buildings) at the University of York, based in the magnificent King’s Manor. I consider the year I spent there as the most fruitful of my life. King’s Manor opened my eyes for the first time to the philosophies of heritage conservation and to the comprehensive understanding of the different approaches and key concepts in built heritage conservation prevalent in different parts of the world, together with a focus on an integrated approach to conservation and the management of heritage. Apart from having lectures by distinguished persons, we also had hands-on training and site visits to historic places. My academic placement with English Heritage’s regional conservation section for Yorkshire broadened my perspective towards the importance of community involvement in the management of cultural heritage. King’s Manor completed my transformation into the combined product of East and West that I am. SAVING THE ‘TIN TEMPLE’ As part of my graduate coursework, I wrote a dissertation arguing a case for the democratisation of the built cultural heritage in the UK. It discussed the issue of adding entirely ‘new’ categories of heritage, and the need to look beyond the accepted canon of what is heritage. The dissertation applied the theme to the preservation of corrugated iron (CI) structures, and the need for greater research and better understanding in terms of both their The Shore temple in Mahabalipuram, India, built in the early eighth century and now a World Heritage Site, from a drawing by Nikhil Joshi