What goes on behind preserving the architectural treasures around us?  How can one ensure that the structures that have stood the test of time, do not lose their essence?   

To uncover the answers to these concerns, Voyance teamed up with renowned architect Vinod Kumar MM, the founder and director of DD Architects in Thrissur.

Any conservation initiative he does begins with a thorough investigation. He feels that learning about a place’s history and importance are essential. The lack of proper research can cause a site’s destruction. Research has to include understanding the skills and materials used to build a structure, originally.

Watch the full interview here :-

Rediscovering Home

Vinod grew up in Malaysia and Thrissur, India. He pursued his architectural degree in Bangalore. He was unaware of the architectural significance of his native state in those years. Thanks to his internship days he realised what he had been missing. “I spent my internship in Ahmedabad, working under Miki Desai who was researching Kerala architecture. This was my introduction to my home land’s architecture,” he informs, observing the irony.

Conservation, Preservation and Restoration

“In the case of the Vadakkumnathan temple, the onus is to retain the original look of the structure. A person viewing the conserved structure shouldn’t feel that it was touched upon,” he shares. “For Vadakechira which is an old heritage pond in Thrissur. The idea was to revitalise it. Give it a new meaning,” Vinod says implying how the idea of conservation or restoration is different for every structure.

Copying an old structure just creates unimaginative imitations he laments, “There’s this misconception that bringing back the ‘oldness’ in newer architecture is something to be applauded. Maintaining the ‘Pazhama’ as we’d like to call it. I believe that architecture should always denote the time we live in,” he comments.

“An antique is an antique; you cannot fake an antique,” he adds. 

Projects – Past, Present & Future

Vinod has worked on projects that helped conserve important places like the Sakthan Thampuran Palace, the Brahmaswam Madham and Vadakkechira to name a few. The architect believes that the eye for conservation comes with experience. His work at the Vadakunnathan temple, the Guruvayoor temple’s koothambalam, have even gained recognition from UNESCO for their restoration efforts. 

An interesting ongoing project is the restoration of Vanchikulam, a historic waterway that used to connect Thrissur with Ernakulam and other regions.

Vinod is the convenor of INTACH (The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Thrissur. He has worked on various projects as a part of the organisation as well. He’s also the chairman of the Indian Institute of Architects, Thrissur.

The Spirit of the Structures

This calm and collected architect has interests that go beyond restoration projects as well. He looks forward to working with new designs and creating new settings. His office at DD Architects is the perfect illustration of this.

Conservation is all about keeping the original feel of a place, Vinod feels. One needs to understand the original intentions. The feelings and ideas that arose.

“It’s about knowing the spirit of the architecture,” he concludes.

By Supriya

Supriya began her journey as a published writer with an internship with a leading newspaper in the country. From there, she has been a dedicated writer for various publications over the years. A trained Odissi dancer, she holds a deep passion for art forms and heritage.