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Among the ruins

CATHERINE RHEA ROY
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PEOPLE Fascinated by the ruins of Hampi, George Michell has done extensive work on Mughal architecture

LOOKing INTO THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTUREGeorge Michell
LOOKing INTO THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTUREGeorge Michell

George Michell went to Hampi every year for about 10 years and together with his colleagues he traced the outlines of the place, fleshed it out and gave the town a place and time in history. An architectural historian, George studies old buildings, mostly in India, he makes drawings and takes pictures and has done a lot of work in Karnataka, not only in Hampi but also in Bidadi and Bidar he says, as he goes on to list out the regions he has covered in the south.

“When I began in 1980 there were no proper maps or drawings or data and the idea was to gather this material and put together a guide book to Hampi,” says George who does not speak Kannada and depends entirely on the English of the local specialists.

Ask him about what drew him to Hampi and he simply asks me in return, “Have you been to Hampi? It’s a spectacular site, one of the most spectacular ruins, and it’s not just about the temples like Tanjore or Halebid. From an architectural point of view there are forts and gateways, store rooms, hydraulic architecture, many different things set in this incredible landscape.” He stresses on the rock formations and the enormous historic importance, “After 1565, when it was abandoned it was never built upon or altered.”

He says, “With Hampi I just went there and made a map without any leads or logic. Each place the process is different, depends on how much information is available on the place. Sometimes I examine pictures or sketches that I make or I rely on previous work and of course on the locals who know a lot more. There is no single method of going about it I have to improvise given the situation but that is my job, I am a researcher.”

But his interests are not confined by borders, and George has done extensive work and research on Mughal architecture, and he was in the city to speak at a lecture on Mughal architecture which was organised by the National Gallery Of Modern Art. George is also the author of Architecture OF The Islamic World , “I have a general interest in Indian architecture and have done a lot of work in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and of course Karnataka,” he says. George is now working on a book on late temple architecture between the 15{+t}{+h}and 16{+t}{+h}centuries, “I’m trying to show how temples were built during these times,” says the architect who had a very brief career in an office before he started travelling. He splits his time between India, the UK and Australia where he is originally from.

India has many stories, each region has a different history, a rich one, “There is no single story, and my job is to investigate all these stories, some of them have been explored before and some have not.”

CATHERINE RHEA ROY

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