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Connecting Histories

JW Marriott Hotel
Kolkata, West Bengal India

Free Entry

About the Event

A city in transformation. A city recreating its horizons. A city maneuvering itself to accommodate, invigorate, and assimilate its many layers of history, its multicultural population, and its diversity of intellectual expression. Calcutta morphing into Kolkata.

A city which for visitors and residents alike elicits a plethora of conflicting, often confusing responses, with its crafted antiquity sitting in stark contrast with contemporary urban interventions, technological advances against the city’s rapidly deteriorating wetland ecosystem, and yet extraordinary beauty is still found in the most unexpected places; incredible potential inhabits ordinary streets. Another serene ghat to discover, undercurrents of an elaborate water systems to understand, the glamour of a tech-district to imbibe, an imposing palace to stumble upon at a nondescript cul-de-sac, forgotten bubbles of foreign culture to experience, in a concrete jungle verdure to breathe in…it is this knowledge, that no matter how much one knows the city, there is always more to learn, that constitutes for most of the city’s appeal.

But will this collection last? Or does there exist a risk of globalization compromising upon the city's unique character in an endeavor to conform to universally established standards of contemporaneity?

To answer this, we must fall back on history; analyze our present to envisage our prospect. It is this endeavor that the Convention pursues - creating a common ground for a multitude of cultures existing in parallel, and drawing upon knowledge from their network of connected threads of history that has enabled them to remain culturally anchored, even as their paradigms of innovation take flight.

Kolkata is not easy to summarize, its history not easy to categorize, but if attempted, it is rarely uninteresting. Its strategic location on a trading delta at the crossroads of civilizations ensures that it is a melting pot of cultures - Indian, British, French, Danish, Dutch, Armenian, Chinese, and more - where each flavor finds expression in the layered built environment of the city as colonial echoes, traditional mysticism, and periods of synthesis leading to the contemporary syntax of tropical modernism. But what sets the city apart from other metropolises is its hegemony of Bengali middle class residences over aristocratic mansions, colonial establishments, or modern steel and glass towers. Contributing to the larger built fabric of the city, these densely planned residences with their raised 'roak' plinths, phased courtyards, long cast iron grilled balconies, louvered windows and occasional elements of decorative whimsy create interactive edges between buildings and the street, a phenomenon that contributes in making the larger neighborhood - the "para" - more vibrant and conducive to sociable exchange, with life spilling out from within buildings and on to the street, extending all the way up to the corner tea stall - the impromptu epicenter of the residents' social, political, cultural, and intellectual parley. As this fabric gets further interlaced with the criteria of time, space, economy and globalization, it creates a style that can be labeled neither as renaissance nor as neo-classical, neither Indo-saracenic nor art deco, but one that is quintessentially Bengali in character - traditional yet eccentric, private but people oriented - and hence, at a time of mechanized uniformity, worthy of deeper investigation.

Thus, this Convention investigates Connecting Histories against the multipart milieu Kolkata, as a city at the threshold of promising new possibilities of contemporary regional and global concepts of development, and aims to subsequently channel them towards sustainable directions. The Convention hopes to present a palette of possible positions on developmental expressions from portfolios of its eminent panel of expert theoreticians and practitioners. Focusing in on issues such as authenticity, identity, ideology, heritage, hybridity, human rights and dignity, the conference supports thinking beyond conventional concepts, categories and texts. Departing from an Euro-centric approach and drawing upon the repertoire of an evenly distributed international gamut of regional field experts such as George Ferguson, Sugato Basu, Joy Sen, Kaiwan Mehta, Alejandro Echeverri, Sameep Padora, Deepak Parekh, Palinda Kannangara, Biju Kuriakose, Gurjeet Singh Matharoo, Pratap Talwar, Juergen Mayer and Madhav Joshi, covering a wide thematic spectrum encompassing history and transformation of cities, design vocabulary, urban development, housing and public life, and heritage conservation, this Convention aims to not only unravel a network of natural, cultural, social, economic and political issues that have been created with the passage of time, but to also connect practices to their context, design to theory, and development to history.


Day 1 - 3rd March, 2017

10:00-11:00 - Inaugural Session
11:00-11:20 - Theme Overview by Ar.Kaiwan Mehta

Session 1
Humanizing Heritage: restoration, conservation, adaptive-reuse power and public opinion in a rights based approach to democratic practices in heritage conservation and management.

11:20 – 11:30 – Introductions
11:30 – 12:00 – Sugata Basu
12:00 – 12:30 – Joy Sen
12:30 – 13:15 – George Ferguson

13:30-14:30 – Lunch

Session 2
Design Dialect: craft to contemporary the confluence of indigenous artisanry and international innovation

14:30 – 14:40 – Introductions
14:40 – 15:40 – To be Confirmed
15:40 – 16:25 – Palinda Kannangara
16:25 – 16:55 – To be confirmed
Interactive Session

Day 2 - 4th March, 2017

Session 3

Where the City Sleeps: housing and living people's aspiration and participation - a dichotomy of quantity and quality against the backdrop of affordability.

10:30 – 10:40 – Introductions
10:40 – 11:10 – Biju Kuriakose
11:10 – 11:40 – Sameep Padora
11:40 – 12:25 – Alejandro Echeverri

13:30-14:30 – Lunch

Session 4

Grand Moves: urban direction and movement holistic approaches to sustainable urban development and planning integrating multidisciplinary socio-economic processes to physical infrastructure

14:30 – 14:40 – Introductions
14:40 – 15:25 – Juergen Mayer
15:25 – 15:55 – Pratap Talwar
15:55 – 16:25 – Madhav Joshi

- Ar.Leila Araghian, Iran
Interactive Session and Closure

Time Details

March 3, 2017 - March 4, 2017
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Venue Details

JW Marriott Hotel, Kolkata, West Bengal, India