Invisible Monuments

“A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture.” – Nikolaus Pevsner  

Is it this attitude that brings neglect to buildings and spaces of everyday use by common people?
The bling, glitz, and glamour of what we call Monuments may have some relevance to the ways of building and technologies buildings for the privileged. We have been learning, studying, and documenting the lives, and cultures, of only certain elite layers of society. 

Architecture, the oldest art of civilization, of shelter-making, of putting a roof over one’s head, must tell the stories of all layers equally. Only then will we be fully informed of the bigger picture of what the true civilization of certain eras looked like.

We know of the exquisite details of the bath where the kings and queens bathed; we know of the magnificent mausoleums and tombs their kin were laid to rest in; we know of the massive, impenetrable forts where the rajahs laid low in the face of a siege.

These monuments were crafted and built by fine sets of hands – of common people. Do we know enough about where they lived? Do we know of the places where they laid to rest their loved ones? Do we know where they learned their craft, went to shop, to rest, to play at leisure? Do we know where they laid low for safety and security? Documenting this comparatively unknown section of history then becomes imperative.

Monuments are important – their construction often nurtured talent and skills, enabled livelihoods, and told stories of a certain time, albeit partially. Many monuments were built with this as the intention. Do those conceptualising our monuments of today even realise this as a need?

One must learn from history.
To repeat the mistakes from the past indicates a certain ignorance of its implications.

A large section of our population does not live in the pristine homes that architects design. Most design and build their own, using and honing their home-grown wisdom as they do. It is time we start paying attention to commonplace buildings – they have an immense wealth of knowledge to share, and many tales to tell and they hold a sensible way to the future too – our future. 

This is an ode to the monuments that we pass every day, the ones that are usually not spared a second look. Because they form the spine of our collective lifestyle; they are what should inform our culture at large.

Here’s to the Invisible Monuments.

The ones that house the soul of India.

After tackling parts of Eastern, Central, and Northern India, Ar. Gita Balakrishnan now aims for the mighty Sunderbans, in a cross-country route, from Kolkata to Dhaka. Spreading the goodwill of good design across country borders, the walk for our cause continues!
All the more special this time for bringing about Unity Through Design.

Follow @gita_ethos and @walkforarcause on Instagram for live updates!

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