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Cultures, Communities and Design

Exploration for an Inclusive approach for Historical Settlement Conservation-A case of Agraharas, Kerala ,India
B. Tom & S. Kartha
11:00 am - 1:00 pm


Society describes a group of people who live in a defined geographical area interacting with one another and sharing a common culture. Culture is defined as a group’s shared norms (or acceptable behaviors), beliefs, practices, and guidelines for living and evolving human values. This includes all we bring under intangible culture conditioning the rules and input that make up a society function effectively. In the southernmost states of India, viz Kerala and Tamil Nadu exists a specific cultural as well as architectural entity known as “Agraharams”, which were the dwelling places of the Brahmin community involved in religious works associated with temples. Of these the unique Architecture of Agraharams of Kerala stand as a celebrated remnants of the glorious vernacular settlement that has evolved to satisfy the socio, cultural, religious needs of Brahmins. Presently they are a declining cultural layer resulting in loss of valuable heritage. These settlements which once embodied frugality and simplicity now seem to mirror the changing times. There is definitely a need to conserve and preserve the heritage of our historical possession as they are original, very distinct in its character, beauty, style and in its use. Such a concept has to be weaved into these Agraharam settlements for their preservation. But the participation of the community, one among the stake holders is a must in ensuring a sustainable mode of conservation as they are not the recipients but plays a key role in shaping the place and its identity. This paper explores the gap in the establishment of certain regulations, including standards and procedures for reviewing and approving development of such traditional settlements in the high density developing urban areas.


Dr. Binumol Tom is a Conservation Architect and Professor in Architecture at Rajiv Gandhi institute of technology, Kottayam. She has more than 22 years of experience as Architect and has been teaching Architecture in various Government engineering colleges in the state. As a writer, she has authored two books viz “Traditional Conservation practices of Timber Architecture– a case study of Thai kottaram, Travancore published by INTACH UK Trust (2007) and “Glimpses of Heritage – The City of Thiruvananthapuram”, published by IIA Trivandrum Centre (2011). She has also authored chapters viz “Jiirnnoddharana, the Hindu philosophy of Conservation” in the book “Asian Heritage Management: Contexts, Concerns, and Prospects” under Asian Studies series, published by Routledge, USA (2013), “Paitrika Nirmithikal”, in Kerala Samskaara Padanangal, DC books Kottayam November 2013 and “Hinduism and Tourism”, in the book Tourism and
Religion edited by Richard Butler (University of Strathclyde) and Wantanee Suntikul (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) published by Channel view Publications, Bristol UK, February (2018). In addition to this she has various media  publications. She has deliberated in various National and International forums. She is an approved guide for doctoral programmes and an Elected member from amoung the Heads of Institutions to the Council of Architecture, New delhi for a term.

Suja Kartha is an academician with 19 years of teaching experience in Architecture for undergraduate and graduate programs. Holds B Arch from College of Engineering, Trivandrum, M Arch in Housing from Hindustan University Chennai. Other work experiences include 12 years in the industry as Junior and Senior Architect in leading Architecture firms in Trivandrum (1985-1987)Vadodara (1989 Jan-June) Mumbai (1989-2001)and Trivandrum(1993-2000)). Presently serving as Professor in MCAP (Marian College of Architecture and Planning). Research Interests include Traditional Architecture, Conservation, and Education. Coauthored a book titled “Glimpses of Heritage – The City of Thiruvananthapuram”, published by Indian Institute of Architects Trivandrum Centre (2011). Served as member of the team for the preparation of Master Plan of Nilakkal Base Camp for High Power Committee (HPC) Sabarimala for the Government of Kerala. Headed the team for the preparation of Handouts for Heritage awareness for Town Planning Department. Government of Kerala Served as member of the Art & Heritage subcommittee constituted by the Department of Town Planning, Government of Kerala
Presented papers in International & National Conferences in India and abroad. Have travelled extensively to countries like Europe, USA, SriLanka, Nepal, UAE, Singapore, Indonesia etc.