History and monumentality: No build-back
Heritage will be no more a heritage if value is sacrificed, fashion is traumatized, space is commercialized and the face is painted in a gory complexion of modernist fallacies
After the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, former Berkeley professor and conservation architect Randolph Langenbach penned a malevolent compilation, “Don’t tear it down!” He was amassed with the art and artifacts in serenity and didacticism, purely conservationist and massive upheaval of tumultuous voices of heritage concerns across the globe for endorsing the historicity and monumentality of ‘Dhajj-dewari’ a majestic and meritorious architectural forms practiced for centuries in Kashmir.
The concern is safety and serviceability of structures.
However monumental and historical constructions are super-subtle, arteries of cityscapes and also deep down canals to infringe millions of dollars just due to their two verdant leaves-historicity and monumentality, otherwise jellied sophistications like bikini in freezing winter.
Dharahara replaced by a skyscraper laden with multiplexes and junk food centers is not desirable. Dharahara is a landmark of the country, conjectures feelings, beliefs and evokes the then reflection of 1832 Nepal’s respiration-undoubtedly majestic, scholastic and nationalistic contemporising the legacy of Bhimsen Thapa.
Apart from inside-the-cloth values, it has the most august architectural and civilization values of the 19th century and used to drag tens of thousands of visitors to snap the hearty panorama of Kathmandu valley before being knocked down by the 25 April 2015 earthquake.
Notably it was grounded during the 1934 earthquake too, but the reflective reconstruction was possible immediately, downsizing the stories, however the façade nevertheless morphed-a direct descent of the evolutional Dharahara!
Hereafter, one inference should be clarified, every dwelling that are to be constructed/re-constructed should be strictly on modernity assuring the seismic safety criteria.
However heritage and monuments are open archives and would die when poisoned with modernity. A lot of measures are there to erect without fallacies, seismic characteristics and preserve vivacity.
What Nepal and other world expects in case of heritage is not opening oriental food cafes, cinemas or wine and dine hubs, the sacred and perpetuated nerve shouldn’t be dismantled. Dharahara is replaceable by only Dharahara of its own type, the same applies for Maju Dega and others.
Before rushing off to modernized templates, the earth to space values are necessary, everyone can draft, propose and contend aesthetic tri-dimensional sketches. The socio-cultural dynamics is not morphed until the stage of destructive ultra-modernization and yet the values are respired by every people.
Undoubtedly, heritage is not the hippy pants-when you want it modified, shortened, roughed or carved punk. But rather accepting and endorsing values count a lot, heritages have long irrigated the greenery of the cityscape so the strict demand to be reconstructed in the same form, function, dimension, with the same materials.
Constructions have heritage values even after approximately 50 years. Their scrap value exponents are invaluable demanding routine rehabilitation.
Patronage matters a lot for heritage like the seductive galleries of 19th centuries that should be surviving, of painstaking vibrancy and parenthood through public care and affection.
People are perturbed, hypnotized and lessoned, the truest and irreplaceable herb is the cement-concrete-reinforcement complexion, partly agreeable and true for modernist and theorist dimensions of dwellings chalets to skyscraper though no-nonsense assignment is quite far from such founded but tilted assumptions that lies in restoration strictly.
Heritage will be no more a heritage if value is sacrificed, fashion is traumatized, space is commercialized and the face is painted in a gory complexion of modernist fallacies.
The rest of things are already red-carpeted for all these ultra-generation flairs, rambling and unconstrained hypothesis shouldn’t overshadow the traditional aspects-west can’t travel half a globe to see some flexed Indian movies in Dharahara tower always zealous of lifting into the hazy ambient of Kathmandu and eyeing down Kathmandu is the value and being lifted is seemingly a facility as we have been practicing in the Annapurna base camp. What happens someday if we start cable cars in Mount Everest?
Dharahara is for climbing hundreds of steps and breathing high and it should stand again with same the purpose used before.
Frenzied resolutions without public consultations and depreciating the value of structures and heritages are undoubtedly meant to erect many heritages in the form of an octagonal temple-odd man out in the majestic Bhaktapur city.
Eyes are closed and seemingly color-blinded with nothing except steel and concrete.
Remembered are Malla dynasties, Bhimsen Thapa and creators of Greco-Roman august architectural landmarks shaping the indigenous materials in the form with robust performance, beautified façade and spacious and lively vibes in all historical and monumental buildings.
Conclusively, they strongly demand the preserved form, functions and materials except for some garmented ornaments for earthquakes and other hazard resilience, not a bikini of assured modernity!
Gautam PhD is a researcher in Structural Earthquake Engineering