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Please tell us about yourself
Aishwarya Tipnis has just saved a fort, and won an award for it.
The Delhi-based architect who runs her own eponymous architecture firm has won awards for two of her projects from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
Aishwarya Tipnis, who studied architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and a masters degree in European Urban Conservation from the University of Dundee, returned to India to set up an independent architectural conservation practice in 2007. Since then she has worked diligently towards changing the stereotypes of heritage conservation in India, from a largely preservationist approach to a holistic perspective of conservation encouraging sensitive and bespoke interventions in historic buildings and settings.
Tell us about one of your projects
Her other project has been to restore Doon School (started in 1935), the Eton or Harrow of India, and school of a host of prominent Indian politicians including the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. ‘The Doon School is an exemplary example of a living historic building that needs to be continuously adapted to meet the needs of contemporary life and the project stands out as a professionally undertaken project, meticulously planned, executed and supervised, which is rare for an unlisted building in India. The project involved the structural stabilisation of the building, facade restoration and the introduction of a pilot for a ‘smart classroom’ within the historic building,’ says Tipnis.
Tell us about your Master’s course at Scotland
“The first Indian student on the course, my work has primarily focused on the preparation of urban conservation plans of the former European Settlements in India, namely Chandernagore (French) and Chinsurah (Dutch) as well as other 19th century non-monumental historic buildings, neighbourhoods and towns.
“My training in Scotland exposed me to the concept and techniques of interventions in historic buildings. This has directly translated into spearheading the first private initiative for the restoration and rehabilitation of a 19th century listed haveli in the walled city of Delhi.”
A benchmark project in itself following the internationally prescribed methodologies, it has achieved many firsts in strongly advocating that the future of heritage does not lie in fossilising the city but in creative and sustainable design, setting an example for the entire city of Delhi. This project has been extensively featured in the Indian and international media.
How do you approach conservation?
“When I was studying architecture, it was all about India Shining. Everyone was building new swanky offices. Demolishing and rebuilding was preferred to conserving and restoring,” she says. She was constantly asked why she wanted to restore or conserve a building when it could be taken down and rebuilt. “It made me realize very early that I was swimming against the tide.”
Restoration is the marriage of the old and the new—it’s about how sensibly one can do that, keeping in mind the lineage of the past with needs of the future.
“The ethos of my practice has been to make Conservation a ‘popularist’ movement rather than an elitist exercise. I’ve been involved in further propagating the learning in the form of workshops, Design Jam,special lectures, books and publications which have inspired and shaped many young architects as well as broadened their concept of urban heritage conservation in India. I have spearheaded the first cross disciplinary projects in community engagement, heritage conservation and digital humanities in India.”
And if Aishwarya wasn’t already busy enough, she’s also an independent consultant to UNESCO, World Monuments Fund New York, The Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands, Embassy of France in India, and The Doon School.