3-9 May 2013 #654

Afghan experience

In 2010, a flash flood hit northern Afghanistan and damaged a 165-year-old public bath house, Hammam Khist-i-Kopruk. Life of an Afghan Hammam explores how the local community led by Dutch architect Anne Feenstra worked to revive an old architectural tradition to restore the building and the culture associated with it.

This superbly produced book records the flood, the damage, and the painstaking restoration. Written by Indian architect Tanvi Maheswari, it is passionately penned and superbly illustrated in which one can sense the author’s dedication for preservation and restoration in a difficult conflict environment.

The book looks at the whole history of bath houses, and traces it back to Roman times and Greek influences. The technique of building the baths is faithfully revived, local materials and skills were used. Bricks, lime plaster, cut stones were hard to come by, but there was plenty of cement and steel. The project is a lesson in sustainable architecture and how cumulative knowledge can be used to restore historical sites and also yield lessons for modern day designs.

This is a eco-conscious technique that has important lessons for Nepal as well so that the designs for our schools and public spaces are sensitive to local climate conditions. This book doesn’t have all the answers, but its message needs to be propagated not just in rural Nepal and Afghanistan, but also into those who mindlessly copy western energy-intensive structures in our cities in the name of modernity.

Life of an Afghan Hammam is being launched in New Delhi’s Habitat Centre, Gulmohur Hall at 7pm on Friday, 3 May.

Open to all.

Life of an Afghan Hammam

ignited extinguished rekindled

by Tanvi Maheshwari

arch i platform 2013