The Vanishing Heritage Project

The Vanishing Heritage Project

An Ashvita Foundation Grant for visual documentation and mapping of the heritage of Mylapore and Royapettah

In the face of large-scale redevelopment of the city and the absence of a Heritage Act, the structural identity of Chennai faces the threat of complete and irreversible erasure. Change is inevitable, but not sustainable if it is not borne out of an understanding of the social and cultural foundations of the city, of which its buildings are the most eloquent testimony to. It is of utmost urgency therefore to create a heritage map of the city before it is permanently reconfigured.

While several notable efforts are being made to create a thriving culture of heritage awareness, cultural programming and heritage activism, there is little by way of organised and concerted documentation for the generation of primary data, the building block of any meaningful and viable conservation effort.  It is this gap in systematic documentation and primary (mappable) data generation that Ashvita Foundation hopes to address through its Vanishing Heritage Project Grant. By so doing, it also hopes to create a viable platform for other efforts in the area of heritage activism and conservation.

The modus operandi of the Project is to disburse a grant amount of Rs. 1 lakh to each of the two selected teams to undertake the visual documentation and mapping of the heritage structures of Mylapore and Royapettah.  The aim of the exercise is to provide multi-layered architectural and socio-cultural contexts to these structures, to make them more relevant and immediate. The particular neighbourhoods were chosen for their distinct geographic and cultural histories and the alarming rate at which their heritage treasures were being lost.

The two teams that received the grant awards were chosen over a two-round jury selection process from over 40 entries. The teams were then assigned one of the two localities of Royapettah and Mylapore (based on their proposals, interests, and prior work).

Both the teams based out of Chennai and share a common interest in architecture, urban design and planning, and built-up heritage. The teams, however, bring diverse approaches to the table due to their varied composition.

Team Royapettah consists of Tahaer Zoyab,an architect, urban designer and heritage enthusiast; Pooja Chordia, a freelance photographer and travel enthusiast; and Uttara Chockalingam, an architect, photographer and crusader for heritage awareness.

Team Mylapore is a young team of recent graduates of architecture from MIDAS and AMS. Sivaranjani, Anbu Selvan and Shamila Kareem all share an abiding passion for heritage architecture and its preservation.

The two teams have been independently engaged in a documentation process that includes geo-tagging, mapping, photography, and annotation, of structures and edifices of heritage interest outside of the public domain. The Project guidelines lay out a basic framework for documentation, within which the participating teams are free to employ their own conceptual and methodological approaches. Since the commencement of the Project in January 2017 both teams have completed the bulk of the project requirement  that entails delineating areas within the Corporation defined bounds of the respective localities, systematically tagging buildings deemed suitable for documentation*, photographing them, and classifying them based on certain parameters.

The Project draws to its completion in September whereupon both the teams will submit their data in the prescribed formats to Ashvita Foundation. We plan to present the work done by the two teams to interested audience at Ashvita Bistro, Alwarpet on or around the Madras Week celebrations to elicit feedback and suggestions from the stakeholders.

Ashvita Foundation envisages the Vanishing Heritage Project Grant as the cornerstone of a larger and concerted project to defend the cause of heritage literacy and promote heritage conservation. It is only fitting that while the city celebrates it’s founding, that we should help lay the foundations for a new collaborative enterprise that will help raise the foundations of our city from the debris and give it the care and attention it deserves.

*(buildings and structures that are over 50 years old and that display a definitive architectural even if in various stages of hybridity).

For further details contact:, 9003365436



The Vanishing Heritage Project