What happens when a professor of architecture and an environmentalist get together? They talk about Tagore, Vivek- ananda and how heritage and science are two sides of the same coin.
Joy Sen and Arunendu Banerjee cited the words of great thinkers and scientists and narrated incidents that marry heritage and science, two apparently contrasting fields, at Talk on Science and Heritage at Ramdulari Park, held as part of the CIMA Awards Show, presented by Reliance Industries and powered by YES Bank, in association with The Telegraph.
"Science helps us see our heritage in a new light. I move with both," Sen said as he spoke of various exhibitions and projects involving IIT-Kharagpur that seek to bring science and heritage together. "The mantras of Sama Veda are very scientific and yet they are such an integral part of heritage."
The professor of architecture and regional planning and head of the department at Ranbir and Chitra Gupta School of Infrastructure Design and Management pointed out how Vivekananda encouraged debate at Belur Math as he wanted his proteges to get over their obsession with the past and look beyond accepted ideas. "Unless we stop obsessing about the past we cannot appreciate new things. But he did not want us to forget the past either. What Vivekananda wanted was a blend of heritage and science," said Sen.
He went on to explain how the cycle of seasons holds heritage together. "Seasonal change is a part of science but with each season we celebrate various festivals and traditions. That again is heritage. Many identify seasons with the heritage it encompasses (Makar Sankranti, Poush Sankranti). Had there been just one season, we would not have got a chance to celebrate so many festivals. So what is science in one language is tradition and heritage in another," said Sen.
From popular analogy (intuitions and ancient wisdom) with a scientific basis to involution, evolution and iconography, Sen had the audience engrossed with his arguments and inferences. He quoted from historical and religious texts and even scientific theories to fuse science and heritage, backing his talk with a visual presentation and some tidbits from personal life.
Arunendu Banerjee's presentation touched on the architectural masterpieces in Santiniketan, an instance of environmental continuity through built heritage. "Santiniketan Griha, the oldest building there, is aged 150. But the way the Tagore family maintained and preserved it, nothing looks out of place even now. Science helps us get over hurdles and preserve heritage," said the environmentalist and anti-structural engineer. Similarly, the Upasana Griha has "not lost its content validity even now".
From Tagore's futuristic architectural plans to how Chhatimtala is a soul-searching experience, Banerjee's talk connected built, unbuilt and omni-built heritage to science. "The whole green environment in Santiniketan is heritage. Yet its architecture, concept and classes in open spaces are all symbols of modernity and a laboratory of ideas in itself," he said. The mud architecture used there became an eye-opener for future students.
Banerjee also spoke of restoration projects that he has been associated with. "To restore old spaces and property and make them fit for reuse is the best way of paying respect to both science and heritage."