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The Bharuch diary part 2: teamwork

Posted on: Jan 29, 2013

The site (or the area that was selected for detailed documentation) was a cluster of about 30 houses. It was called a 'Khadki' (meaning settlement). The trophy functioned on different scales. It was like a study in layers. The first layer was that of the town. That was Bharuch. After studying various settlement typologies, we had narrowed it down to the settlements of Gujarat. They had that rich socio-cultural texture that the brief talked about. From there, it was about identifying a city or town that still retained these settlements. Bharuch was one such town. There were numerous settlements within this town and most of them still retained their 'old structure' quite literally.

The second layer was that of the settlements. Selecting one of them from so many was quite a task indeed. Every one of them would have everything that we were looking for. It took four grueling days of intense discussion, debate, show-and-tell and some basic documentation to determine that 'Acharwad ni Khadki' (that's the name) was the one that would be our answer (we first-years reached the site after this decision was made).

Layer number three was to select a 'main structure.' This structure had to be one within the delineated settlement and it had to be one of the original ones. That meant it had to have survived exactly the way it had been built. If it had been renovated, then its value would reduce. This structure could be called the embodiment of this settlement. It was like the ideal grandparent of all the houses there. Of course, there were houses older than the structure that was chosen but they were either dilapidated or renovated to the extent that for all intents and purposes they had become new structures.

This layer study was the initiation of the documentation process. It was like this bridge between what was done in college for the past four months and what we were supposed to do on site for the next 10 to 15 days. It was necessary but at the same time, not much time could be given to it. There were other things that needed to be done now that we were on the site. This layer study also helped in distributing work to the teams. There were two teams that stayed within Acharwad at all times. They were tasked with detailed measurements of all the houses in it. There were two other teams working in tandem with these guys and they were the 'details' team. These guys worked on a completely different scale of documentation. They documented the micro detailing in those houses. This included any aesthetic/artistic carvings done on the windows or doors, skylights, or any other components of the house. They had to make a sort of glossary of all the details that they had documented. And they had to give this glossary to the 'planning team' so that they could mark them on their drawings.

Then there were the 'site teams.' That year, Nidhi had selected to document a large part of the town. The actual site was only about a fifth of that part. This was in order to explain the complete context and how our site fit into it. As a result, the site teams had to first acquire a Development Plan (DP for short) from the municipality. That plan was supposed to have all the existing structures and developments of our area. But as with all government property, it was extremely outdated. The first task of the site time was to correct this DP and update it. They went about the whole site and had to search for high vantage points to survey the area and mark all the types of different roofs that could be seen. The other task of this team was to document all the streets, by-lanes, roads, paths, gutters and trenches. They would create the base of the drawing. The planning team would then place their houses in this base. That way we would get a proper plan. There was one team that measured the contours on the site. This would further complete the drawings and also provide data for analysis. This team was the go-between for the planning and the sections and elevations teams.

The 'sections team' was one that could always be seen in the streets. They would move about on the 'section lines' decided by the heads and measure all the structures along it. At the end of the day, they would sit with the planning teams and try to match all their drawings with theirs. It was considered a miracle if they could match even a part of them. And so it was always a lively sight. No one in either team would be ready to accept being in the wrong. Their fights would be the source of entertainment for all the other groups. In the end though, one of the third-years or Nidhi herself would sit with them and that would speed things along so that they could fight about the next section.

Finally, there was the 'analysis team,' which I was a part of. We had to move through all these teams and gather relevant data for creating a story for our site. At the same time, we had to deal with the intangible aspects of the brief as well. We had to travel around the town and try to a create virtual timeline for the town as well as the site. This was no easy feat. We had to look for hard proof and talk to people to figure out just how this town came into being. It was like a reverse treasure hunt with absolutely no idea about the clues or anyway of distinguishing fact from fiction. It was the most fun I had ever had! Nothing even came close to the thrill of trying to do what we were doing. It wasn't at all an adrenaline fuelled experience. It was much slower and much more fulfilling. By the end of the site visit, I knew that this was exactly the kind of work I would love to do for the rest of my life.

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