The Architectural Conservation Traineeship in Hyderabad was a hugely positive learning experience for all involved. The Traineeship was coordinated with the World Monuments Fund and was the first overseas project under the Commonwealth Heritage Skills Training Programme.
The teaching delivered by GN Heritage Matters was excellent and gave the Trainees a sound theoretical grasp of the work being carried out on the Former Residency, and how this approach fits within the broader context of conservation management practices in India. This was paired with practical teaching, so Trainees were able to apply classroom learning directly to a live conservation project.
Tangible progress was made by the UK and Indian Trainees alongside skilled craftsmen and architects on the South Porch, and on the Lansdowne Gate, in particular. Trainees learned to slake lime which they then used to re-plaster the Porch. On the Gate Trainees were able
to participate in the constriction of the jack arch roof. This was a great practical learning experience and contributed towards the works programme on site.
The teaching programme was supplemented with visits to heritage sites across Hyderabad, from grand palaces to funerary monuments. All site visits were conducted by experts in the heritage sector, giving Trainees the opportunity to better understand contemporary conservation practices in India.
Panoramic view of the former British Residency and gardens, showing Roberts Gate, the Empress Gate and Central Mall, and Lansdowne Gate (clockwise). Work is being carried out to restore these historic gateways and Central Mall and landscape.
Now that I am back to my everyday reality, I have had the ability to reflect on the experience I had whilst in Hyderabad. From the foods tried, friends made and skills learnt, the Traineeship was a phenomenal opportunity. The hustle and bustle of Hyderabad was far from what I have been used to back in the Herefordshire and the constant hum and honking of autos and interesting displays of colour in both local modern architecture and advertisements heightened the tranquil environment of the Former British Residency where we spent the majority of our time. The Residency has been restored by an incredibly passionate team and to great result. It was an honour to be able to get to spend an extended amount of time in such an asset which benefits its users, students at Osmania University College for Women.
When not at the Residency, we were out exploring Hyderabad. The site visits were a real treat and really gave us the opportunity to understand the traditional built heritage and crafts of the Deccan as well as trace the steps of Mughals and Nizams through their mosques, tombs and palaces. The architectural forms and styles, aside from the Classical influences, were completely new to me and understanding the construction forms and decorative features highlighted to me by experts at each site was invaluable. I have already begun further research on these sites from the much cooler climes of the UK, and I have so much more to read and see!
It was great to not only get hands on and have a go with new techniques and materials as part of the Traineeship, but also be able to talk through conservation philosophy and reasoning behind decision making on-site. Talking through with practitioners was one of the real highlights of my experience.
“Understanding how climate, politics, people, economics, as well as health and safety, come into play across India, in comparison to in the UK, has been eye-opening and has made me reflect on best practice and question why we do what we do and how we do it. I always believed in working with craftspeople and local materials before, but even more so now. The experience has reinforced how important it is for ‘prescribers’ of conservation to get dirty, be hands-on with buildings and collaborate with every member of the project team”.
I am already planning on building model replicas of some of the construction details I witnessed and worked on within my workshop, to see how they can be transferred to the structures I work with, and our weather. Some of the mortar mixes and additives used were completely different to what I would look to work with and I look forward to exploring their applications here too. The practical and theoretical knowledge gained on this trip will be transferable to my work for many years to come and will also give me the confidence to collaborate with others and pass on my knowledge. I already have a few lectures lined up to talk through what I learnt!
Before the trip, I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, our group gelled very quickly and also got on amazingly with the other local students and tutors. No matter the situation, we could have a laugh. The different restaurants we went to while off-schedule were also great from traditional restaurants to glitzy modern venues in Hitec City. I already miss not having my daily masala chai and regular feeds of Hyderabadi Biryani! I would really recommend the course for providing such a unique and immersive opportunity to experience conservation but also develop great camaraderie.
My time as a Commonwealth Heritage Forum Architectural Conservation Trainee was equally surreal as it was informative. Before the Traineeship, I had a rough idea of the immediate ambitions I had hoped my time in India would benefit from.
“But, working with and learning from such exceptional architects, students and craftspeople, not only at the Former British Residency but from the plethora of sites we visited, I left India with a much clearer idea of where my place could be within architectural conservation”.
In particular, whilst I have always been interested in the architectural history of funerary monuments, the time spent with the Aga Khan Trust at the Qutb Shahi Monuments Park showed me that I wanted a much more hands-on role. Seeing the Aga Khan architects’ direction in terms of the concealing and revealing of historic layers on the tombs highlighted to me the significance of the primary historical research on the practical execution of the conservation. As a heritage consultant, I spend a lot of my time using my academic background to identify historical phases in buildings, but my contribution often concludes at these primary stages.
“I now know that going forward, I want to contribute more directly to architectural conservation. Much like the Aga Khan Trust’s work, I want to use my research to implement conservation strategies and help guide that plan through to the conclusion, to see that those strategies are enacted with the same amount of sensitivity and care shown by the team at the Monuments Park”.
I will always enjoy research and architectural history, particularly funerary architecture and tomb monuments, but now I hope that I can have a much more proactive part in their maintenance and preservation in the future! For this reason, I would recommend the course to anyone looking to better understand their “place” in architectural conservation.
The Hyderabad Traineeship was a fantastic learning experience, as well as an experience I will really treasure. The team in India took great care of us and the combination of lectures, practicals and site visits led by conservation professionals made for a really engaging and informative programme.
“I particularly enjoyed learning about the process of slaking quicklime and hot mixing limecrete, as well as the various locally sourced additives that are used in lime mortars. Typically when I have worked with lime in the UK it comes already prepared in the form of NHL or Lime Putty. However, there is a growing appetite amongst the conservation community for hot mixing lime, so I now much better understand that process, should I encounter it in a future project”.
I’m already putting my new knowledge to use in my placement at a basilica in Venice, which is a rendered brick building, like the Hyderabad Residency. This project largely involves carrying out a condition report on a section, and so the architectural content of the Hyderabad Traineeship has been immensely helpful for developing how I would approach reporting on this scale, as my conservation degree training was more orientated to working on objects. I was also already able to ask my fellow Trainees for advice, I learnt a lot from their expertise in architectural conservation and their crafts and had a lot of fun exploring the city with them. I feel incredibly lucky to have been awarded this opportunity, it was a truly unique experience and I feel enriched by it both personally and professionally.
I would like to thank the World Monuments Fund and the Commonwealth Heritage Forum for offering me the opportunity to undertake the Architectural Traineeship in Hyderabad.
It truly was a once in a life time experience and I can honestly say that we really made the most of it. For me there were several highlights; the site trips to the Qutb Shahi Tombs and the Chowmahalla Palace offered an incredible insight into both the local architecture of Hyderabad and the conservation principles used across India. The chance to see first-hand and behind the scenes the recording of our shared built heritage allowed me to draw parallels between practices in the UK and India; it also presented several new ways of recognising and recording the value of our built environment.
The programme itself at the Former British Residency was another highlight of the experience. The internationally renowned speakers and practices that led it presented a variety of approaches and shared their wealth of knowledge with us all. As someone who spends the majority of his time in the office the chance to get hands on and actually construct something was a welcome change. Underpinned by what we had learnt in the classroom the lime rendering and jack-arch construction was without doubt one of my favourite few days at the residency. The construction team on the ground were more than willing to let us get involved at every stage of the process.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Traineeship. The leadership from the UK side and on the ground was brilliant and the shared experience with the other trainers has formed friendships that will last a long time; bring on the reunion”.
Without doubt, attending the Architectural conservation Training Programme was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will always hold fond memories of.
From the moment we arrived at The Former British Residency, Sarath Chandra and his team made us feel welcome, and with the help of some interesting lectures from some of India’s top conservators, I felt up to date with what the project had entailed, and also a greater understanding of Indian architecture.
“Coming from a practical background, I was unsure about how the theoretical lectures would benefit me, but they all helped to give me an insight as to how and why decisions are made within a project, how projects are managed, and how workloads and workforces are managed to achieve a successful project. Each and every lecture was both useful and interesting, and certainly enhanced my knowledge”.
By far the most enjoyable part of the training programme was the practical workshops. To be a part of the team that repaired the Jack arch was a great experience for me as a bricklayer. It was great to work alongside Head Mason Soronous, and get to see how him and his team work, and I learnt so much in such a short space of time working with them.
I also really enjoyed the decorative stucco workshop. To get the opportunity to work and learn alongside the Indian students, in particular Saleha and Ammara was fantastic, and to see how much everyone came together to work as a team was great.
All of the field trips and excursions were also brilliant, and alongside the lectures and workshops, really pulled everything together to give a greater understanding of Hyderabad, India, and its history and architecture. It was a great city to stay in and explore, and I loved experiencing it and the culture.
I cannot thank the Commonwealth Heritage Forum and the World Monuments Fund enough for the opportunity to attend the Architectural Conservation Training Programme,
“it was a fantastic experience, and one I would recommend to anyone who is thinking about applying for it, I would do it all again in heartbeat”.
Coming from a niche craft background like scagliola, the broad range of people, skills and crafts and the depth of knowledge we encountered was a highlight for me. Exposure to different expectations for heritage, crafts and the built environment in India was eye-opening; it definitely made me appreciate the comparatively vast network of support for heritage we enjoy in Europe. It was refreshing and encouraging to meet local conservation specialists, consultants and architects and to feel part of a global “effort” – this massive shared goal of caring about heritage and doing something to look after it, in a way I hadn’t really thought about before this trip, that feels like a very valuable thing to have experienced.
I feel fully qualified at this point to heartily recommend applying for similar Traineeships. My post-grad conservation course was my only formal experience in heritage before this so I wondered if I might be out of my depth, or that there would be gaps in my knowledge that meant I couldn’t fully engage with all aspects of the traineeship. Happily I found this wasn’t the case at all, and that everyone’s best contributions were actually just their excitement, enthusiasm and open-mindedness. We had a really good bunch of co-adventurers!
“While the itinerary was a busy one and we had plenty of things organised to keep us busy, it never felt like we were ticking boxes or working our way through a to-do list; our enjoyment and interest was always considered and we were encouraged to contribute and share ideas or experiences from our work at home. In that way it felt collaborative, and the welcoming environment made it feel as though we, and any future trainees, could almost shape our own experience of the Traineeship”.
My favourite kind of historic building is one I can properly snoop around in so we were really lucky to have a great guide at the wonderful and impressive Chowmahalla Palace, but I think even luckier to get to see so much of the behind the scenes work at the Former British Residency, where we spent the majority of our time. Getting to see the effect of time and climate on the unrestored parts of the building really made clear the effort, patience and skill required to get the restored parts looking immaculate and underlined the huge scale of the project. I feel lucky to have visited at this stage and really look forward to seeing how it all unfolds.
Trainees receive certificates, presented by Dr Tejaswini Yarlagadda, Chair of Pleach India Foundation and WMF India Donor.