Sridevi Changali and Rosie Paul started Mason’s Ink seven years back
They redefine architecture to discover a sustainable connect with heritage
They conduct public outreach programmes regularly
Their initiatives intend to achieve gender equality on the construction site
Mason's Ink is a young and promising practice that is in their own way trying to create a positive impact on the planet and on the society at large.
Demolition squads bulldozing through Bengaluru’s crumbling heritage structures had first caught their eyes seven summers back. That shocking lack of a heritage consciousness and the acute vulnerability of every old building worth preserving had the architects in them think, talk and act conservation and sustainability.
For Sridevi Changali and Rosie Paul, the brains behind Masons Ink, the time was ripe to cut a new path that went beyond buildings and design. It was time to educate, redefine, refashion architecture to discover a sustainable connect with heritage.
The duo’s untiring efforts had them marry conservation with purpose, heritage with hands-on education. To nurture a new generation of builders and architects with a heritage consciousness, they arranged workshops, exhibitions and hands-on training with natural materials.
Sustainability had to be the norm and not just a choice for Masons Ink. It also had to be accessible to the common man. They were convinced that the way forward was to go back to the mud, that was a definite fit in their constant endeavour to lower the carbon footprints.
But to activate a rethink among architects and builders, they had to break some myths. That ‘mud’ was always about building for the poor, that it would look a certain way, and it would not last.
As Paul recalls, it was also deeply about community participation. This was necessary to build a sense of ownership. Sustainable architecture mandated this approach. It had to be linked to socio-economic, cultural and environmental factors. A balance was critical.
Committed to breaking stereotypes, the duo had always harboured a dream: to achieve gender equality on the construction site. Pushing boundaries, they yearned to empower women masons who actually did more physical labour on the field but failed to climb up the ladder.
The duo has proposed to work with them, train them, equip them with skill sets they had hitherto no access to. Having already found the right partners, they are now awaiting the required funding.
Women masons or young architects, builders or designers, the duo had perfected an approach that guaranteed knowledge transfer on heritage and sustainability. Cutting across barriers of age, Changali and Paul worked with students and professionals between six and 60 years through collaborations with schools, colleges and nonprofits.
The duo’s efforts have inspired many young architects to look at their projects through the hitherto ignored filters of sustainability. Their ‘hands-on heritage’ workshops have unmasked the potential of many demolition-bound buildings to be rediscovered for their heritage, repurposed and preserved.
The workshops, often located right inside heritage structures, were an education for the duo too. They realised how poorly informed were the heritage-building owners on alternatives. Forging alliances with the owners, young architects and masons, Changali and Paul are happy they could inspire many to pause and not blindly tear down buildings.
For six years, the duo actively collaborated with multiple stakeholders, inspiring hundreds to look at architecture and heritage buildings differently. This has earned them accolades on many national and international forums.
Rosie Paul’s stint in Pondicherry, as the head architect of Auroville Earth Institute, had exposed her to an ecosystem where heritage preservation was a way of life. That only renewed her vigour to specialise in earth technology and cost-effective design.
Senior architect and founder of Auroville Design Consultants, Suhasini Ayer acknowledges the exemplary work done by the duo in sustainable architecture with a distinctive connection with earth technology. She lauds Changali and Paul’s commitment to the cause with a proven authority over architectural knowledge cemented with talent.
So far, Paul has executed several projects, employing earth technologies both locally and globally. She has a post master degree in Earthen Architecture, local building cultures and sustainable habitat from CRAterre, France. Besides managing projects at Masons Ink, she is an earth consultant to SELCO Foundation, India and Good Planet Foundation, France.
Graduating with a masters in Historic Building Conservation from the University of York, the UK, Sridevi Changali’s association with heritage has had a solid foundation. She has been associated with The Council for British Archaeology and The York Archaeological Trust.
As project coordinator with INTACH, Pondicherry chapter, Changali played a key role in the revision of the Listing and Grading of Heritage Buildings in Pondicherry. She is also a consultant with the Indian Heritage Cities Network Bangalore and Bhubaneswar Urban Knowledge Center under the smart city initiative.
Urban architect Naresh Narasimhan lauds Rosie and Sridevi’s mission of safeguarding heritage and promoting sustainable architecture. He says, “They have conducted several public outreach events that aim at creating awareness in these fields.”
Masons Ink, he notes, “is a young and promising practice that is in their own way trying to create a positive impact on the planet and on the society at large.”