Who is an artisan? Artisans are masters of their craft, keepers of traditional techniques which have been learned through decades of tribal knowledge and passed on to generations of communities. Their artisanal techniques infuse soul to the craft and architecture blending finely with the fabric and tradition of the context. These are the most tangible manifestations of the material/intangible cultural heritage. Through this, each community transforms their resources into masterpieces that are useful, aesthetic and carries symbolic meanings and values.
Architectural practices respecting the local craft and style lend creative meaningfulness to the purpose of the building. The need and richness of craft in architecture to the craft of architecture makes the overall drama of art and architecture more responsive to people and surroundings.
So, the artisans and their ecosystem in the social-economic beneficial criteria are very important to sustainable development. The local master craftsmen are more learned and skilled when we look at the regional boundary. Their expertise and indulgence in designing lead to substantial economic as well as problem-solving aids.
Traditional classes derived from the basic principle of form, shape, proportion, and scale are a standout in the orthodox practice culture. The present scenario of Architecture is far from being respectful to the local cultural ethos and heritage. Art and architecture should speak of its time which is curated by the innate knowledge of traditional materials and technologies through the hands of artisans. Joining hands with them is a holistic approach and perspective to any form of space or craft.
In a country like India where diversity can be seen and reflected in every aspect, craft adopted by the communities and the individualistic fashion of these craftsmen has a vital role. Along with it rendering a sustainable livelihood system and economy especially for the women sector. Therefore, the contribution of art and architecture to promote and enhance tribal knowledge is profound.
Uttam Jain, A Mumbai-based architect, narrated his experience of working with the local artisans on his cinema house project about 80 km from Jodhpur, in a conversation with Narendra Dengle, an architect-academic. A local master craftsman, Lal Mohammad Was in charge of the site, he couldn’t read or write properly but was well versed with the drawings. The architect and the client came up with a solution adding Rs.30,000 extra affixing one – square feet, a chequered pattern of a local dressed stone on the facade. To this, Mohammad gave a solution of ‘lap joint’, to the issue which was adding no extra costs. Jain recognized this as a lesson in humility.
Likewise, the regional Flavours are embraced and honed by their skills and expertise. Their touch makes the art and architecture of the place wholesome and personal. Architecture as craft should be a collective panorama of artists, artisans, and craftsperson considering artist is Architecture in nature. The growth of urbanity in art and architecture has side-lined the artist since leaving them merely workers on site. The vanishing much-needed human touch is somewhere the effect and result of advances. The role of an artisan shouldn’t be belittled in the overall process and cycle of design.
Hunnarshala Foundation, founded in 2001, is a classic example of a holistic approach to community and artists and empowerment. They aim to bring artists into the mainstream of construction practices through training and empowering them. The foundation throughout its reconstruction projects in Kutch and other disaster-prone areas has built a good network of artisans.
Empowering the community by running programs on art and architecture practices in the urban context, with firming them in traditional knowledge. Hundreds of artisans today are using their skills and craft to contribute to building cities nationally as well as internationally.
Hunnarshala has initiated a much-needed dialogue with the artisan of the country and has revived their local artisanal knowledge to create disaster-resistant and safe architecture. Delivering a clear message that when power is vested in the community’s hand their decision creates the best solution.
Sandeep Virmani, Executive vice-chairman, Hunnarshala Foundation says, “Solutions also happen when you work with your hand. It’s in the doing, the connection with mind, head, and heart, is how we have built a solution when architects and artisans come together, they develop a vocabulary, focused around the material. It’s the material that tells you what the solution is.”
Maybe due to the practices of great architecture, we are losing out on the value of knowledge gathered through generations. New collaboration and expression open new avenues of architectural perspective, keeping artisans and traditional systems in limelight ultimately crafting a niche for them. The role of artisans in the architecture Project is the reflection of vernacularism and continuing tea of tradition. Relationships must be weaved with artisans and communities uplifting the regional field of art and architecture by promoting local traditional practices and materials.