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05-08-2017 | Open Forum | Issue 3/2019

AI & SOCIETY 3/2019

Vernacular architecture as an idiom for promoting cultural continuity in South Asia with a special reference to Buddhist monasteries

Journal:
AI & SOCIETY > Issue 3/2019
Authors:
S. Ghosh, A. Goenka, M. Deo, D. Mandal

Abstract

Architectural style is a medium for the promotion of cultural identities and cohesion. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations provide a prism through which all forms of vernacular architecture can be viewed. This study is presented through the lens of the soul of the eye coupled with the power of technological probing. This synthesis affords a most appealing and lyrical exploration of the course of the development of cities within the SAARC nations. It showcases research results combining the above stated synergy—starting from some of SAARC’s sophisticated historic cultures, cultures that ebbed and flowed along its shores and valleys. This paper shall touch upon unique cultural roots stretching back to the Dravidian civilization that flourished over 3500 years ago and also look at the grouping of houses within the Indus Valley Civilization in Lothal and the Sarasvati Valley Civilization in Kalibangan. The sensitivity underlying SAARC architecture and its traditions are seen in many communal settlements, profoundly so in the Indian subcontinent and in Sri Lanka. The paper shall showcase two specific, but nevertheless, distinct styles of communal functioning within unique architectural strongholds in the ancient Ratnagiri University in Odisha, India, and also touch upon a unique blend of styles of landscape architecture in Sri Lanka. The overarching emphasis of this study is that throughout SAARC’s history, architecture has been creatively adopted to the need of its users and the characteristics of its climate and location. It has always fulfilled the needs and nourished the spirit of its people, promoting cultural cohesion even today. In this context, it is interesting to explore traditional techniques of vernacular architecture in houses in Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The common thread linking mass housing in Lothal, Kalibangan, Anuradhapura and Ratnagiri about 2 millennia ago, with present day housing patterns, is in the application of sustainable building practices using intelligent building forms, fabric and orientation. This paper explores this commonality from a modern perspective using CFD. As the SAARC countries still struggle to get a fuller understanding of their unique ecology and the complexity of their diverse cultures, revisiting the architectural legacy of their indigenous societies might prove insightful. The need for this revisit becomes even more relevant in the wake of the Paris Agreement and more recently the Kigali Agreement. The discourse on providing indoor thermal comfort to the SAARC people cannot be decoupled from the climate change story—heating, ventilation and cooling consume a large amount of energy and have a deep underlying link with the targets set at Paris and Kigali. The onus will be on a large number of stakeholders to meet these targets—engineers, architects, manufacturers, policy-makers, researchers and consumers. This paper aims at reminding the stakeholders of the richness and the usefulness of their vernacular architecture in upholding the ideal of sustainability.

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