Illustrated talk with Ed Hollis, Professor of Interior Design at ECA
From the construction of India’s first coalmine in 1832 to the arrival of the Railway in the 1860s and the steel industry in the early 20th century, the conurbation of Asansol in West Bengal has been the product and the agent of colonial and modernising processes, of which the architecture of railway colony and industrial works form tangible traces.
At the same time, Asansol is home to other built heritages from the same era: tribal buri shrines, thriving temples to the goddess Durga, and the royal houses of Panchakot and Malia. They trouble the colonial story, betraying the complexity of negotiations between Modernity and the Orient, as they produced one another in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Far from tourist trail or metropolis, this complex built fabric is at risk. Its imperial progenitors left seven decades ago, and now heavy industry is also leaving the region, leaving little prospect of any new source of economic renewal on the horizon. At the same time, changes in modes of living, and the complexities of property tenure are rendering what is left redundant and often ruinous.
Like many provincial Indian towns, Asansol lacks much of a cultural heritage infrastructure. There are no public museums or libraries in which its citizens might encounter its histories; and archives are held in corporate or private hands. Consequentially, and paradoxically, the buildings of Asansol, decaying, and undervalued as they might be, form its only accessible public history.
In this talk Ed Hollis, Professor of Interior Design at ECA will narrate his recent work in Asansol, explaining how he is collaborating with activitists in the town who believe that its architectural heritage, undervalued as it is, may hold the key to the revival of its fortunes. This talk will uncover and narrate its complex histories, asking critical questions of contemporary heritage practices, and exploring ways in which an understanding of the past can help people to build a sustainable future for Asansol.
* Wine reception after the illustrated talk
Edward Hollis studied Architecture at Cambridge and Edinburgh followed by a year working for Geoffrey Bawa, the architect renowned for his landscape garden of ruins and follies in the coastal lagoons of Sri Lanka.
Returning to the UK, he worked as an architect for five years in the practice of Richard Murphy in Edinburgh. He now teaches Interior Design in Edinburgh College of Art, ensuring that in work and play, he never has to leave the magic kingdom of Auld Reekie. His prolific research output focuses on the relationship between Architecture and the art of storytelling in History, performance, and myth; but he spends most of his time encouraging students to read, understand, and transform the stories that buildings have to tell.
In Autumn 2009 his award-winning best seller, The Secret Lives of Buildings was published, followed in 2013 with the The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors.