Since the untimely collapse of Pondicherry’s landmark and historic Town Hall, the Mairie, there has been a concerted effort by the local community to ensure that it is restored using the original brick and lime-mortar technology and all original architectural features, and put to public use. This has involved engaging government departments in charge of rebuilding efforts, the World Bank that is financing the restoration, and the mobilizing citizens to actively voice their opinions on the restoration efforts. Ongoing debate on the restoration of the Mairie focused only on building technology to be employed, and seemed to ignore the larger vision of future use, design, and management.
In October 2015, UDC facilitated a participatory community workshop, with 40 participants from diverse backgrounds, in an attempt to arrive at a consensus on what the future of the Mairie should be. The workshop was conducted over 3 brainstorming sessions:
Session 1: Preserve, Change – What architectural features of the Mairie should be restored, and what features could be improved?
Session 2: Create – What are the public uses that the restored Mairie could incorporate? What should the Mairie not be used for?
Session 3: Connect – What might be the modes of management for the restored Mairie?
As a final exercise, an experimental design charette was conducted by dividing participants into four groups, each anchored by a local architect. The groups were required to take into account the outputs of the three sessions, and use the design constraints to arrive at their own proposals for what a restored Mairie might look like.
This workshop was considered a landmark exercise by the local community, as it was the first time that diverse voices could voice their opinions as well as engage in a participatory design exercise.
The outputs of these sessions were collated and submitted to the Govt. of Pondicherry and to the World Bank for consideration.
The future of the Pondicherry’s Mairie still remains uncertain, as there has been no public announcement by the Govt. of Pondicherry on its intentions towards this site. UDC continues to follow local developments closely and lend its support as required.
Project team: Devangi Ramakrishnan
Partner Organisations:People for Pondicherry Heritage, INTACH Pondicherry