Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mairie’

The recent collapse of the 144-year old Mairie at Pondicherry has raised a basic question – can the stream of Civil Engineering be re-engineered to include a specialization in heritage structures?Mairie hall b4 collapse

Since the advent of civilization, humanity has attempted and perfected the art of building magnificent structures. The pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Brahideeswara Temple and the Taj Mahal in India are some of the outstanding examples of craftsmanship, architectural design and structural robustness.

Much before the modern stream of civil engineering came up, structures which are labeled as heritage ones today came up. The discipline of civil engineering has evolved over the last 150 years or so. Many advances have been made in building technology and materials. However, what has perhaps not progressed much is the capability of the so-called modern-day civil engineer to understand the basic science and technology of building structures in the past. This has led to a situation whereby assessment and certification of the structural stability of a heritage structure has become a highly subjective area. Called upon to do so by governments and other organizations, a vast majority amongst us are rendered clueless. Gizah_Pyramids

We apply criteria which appear to be untenable. We try to assess the structural stability of a building based on the clouded vision of our own education and experience over the years. In many cases, it proves to be an educated guess which, to the outside world, sounds like an ‘expert’ opinion. The result is often disastrous. Buildings certified to be ‘safe’ by some of us collapse like a house of cards, unable as they are to face the fury of nature at some point in time.

Let us not rush to blame our education system and our academicians for this drawback. Perhaps the fault lies more in our attitude and mindset. Sure enough, there is a serious deficiency in the tools, techniques and tests that we apply to assess the robustness of a heritage structure. Great_Wall

Even at the risk of appearing to be digressing from the main subject, let us draw a parallel from the field of medicine. How do we judge the level of sickness of a patient? Once we ascertain the extent of the ailment, we are in a better position to prescribe a cure for the hapless patient. If allopathy offers a wide array of diagnostic tools, we are surely wise to use the same. But when it comes to medication, allopathy may perhaps end up treating only the symptoms. A real cure may come only from an alternative system of medicine, say, from ayurveda, homeopathy, etc.

In a similar vein, when we apply the modern-day tests and techniques to ascertain the stability of a heritage structure, we get good information. But what we lack is an ‘alternate’ stream of civil engineering which would provide a cure for the ailing structure. Brihadeeswara_temple_Thanjavur

The challenge before us today is to develop an alternate stream of this exalted branch of engineering. What we need to undertake is an in-depth research project which would apply modern-day techniques to heritage structures the world over. Obviously, this has to be done in a non-destructive manner. Right from the structures which came into being more than 5,000 years back to the ones which were built just 150 years back, we need to understand their structural elements, their materials and their building techniques which have gone into making them withstand not only the vagaries of nature but also the abuse by people over centuries.Taj_Mahal

This alone can help us to develop our in-depth understanding of the art and science of heritage structures. A global research project of this nature, if taken up, would help us to re-engineer and reform our present day stream of civil engineering. By bringing in a specialization in heritage structures, we shall lay the foundation of an alternate stream of knowledge.

This would ensure that future civil engineers would be better prepared to assess the stability of priceless heritage structures which have survived so far. This would also ensure their being able to prescribe ways in which the longevity of such structures could be improved upon. Such structures would then be preserved for posterity, enabling our coming generations to marvel at their beauty, aesthetics and stability.

(Thoughts of Mr A K Das, a prominent expert in the realm of Civil Engineering; images courtesy Wikipedia)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks)

Read Full Post »