Documentation, Land Use Plans, Surveys and More.

The CHA Project’s Consultant Conservation Architect Kamalika Bose led a group of students from CEPT Ahmedabad and the Aarhus School, Denmark, to do a first-of-its-kind exhaustive, in-site survey and documentation of Kolkata’s Old Chinatown

On a mercilessly hot mid-May afternoon, a group of students, some brown, some white, are seen measuring, photographing, sketching random old houses and Buddhist temples in Tiretta Bazaar. An old Chinese gentleman, watching from a distance can’t take it anymore. He ushers them into the cool central room of the Sea Ip Church, chiding: “Why can’t you do all this when it’s cooler. Why in this heat? Why in summer?”
It’s a Summer School workshop for architecture students from CEPT Ahmedabad and the Aarhus School of Architecture Denmark, led by The Cha Project’s consultant architect Professor Kamalika Bose.

This intensive on-site study had students documenting and analysing the spatial dimensions of the two-and-a-half centuries old Chinese settlement, and observing the various community interaction patterns embedded within. For The Cha Project, this context is extremely important; meticulous research is the bedrock of the revival blueprint.

Professor Bose feels that the on-site study, the first of its kind in the area, has been invaluable in evolving the revival project’s methodologies to address key issues threatening the place and the community, and more importantly, it has provided a deeper understanding of this unique settlement, its institutions, living practices and community interactions. The primary objective of the study was to understand the culture, community, settlement and contemporary significance of the Chinese community in Kolkata whose strong identity is palpable even today.

(From ‘A Heritage Gem Sits in the Heart of the City, Unacknowledged, Incognito,’ by Rinkoo Bhowmik)

After a sweaty but exciting workshop, the CEPT-Aarhus Summer School participants pose with members of the Chinese community in front of Sea Ip temple in Cheenapara.

"Chinatowns are generally associated with loud neon signs, billboards, and large buildings with Chinese characters. Kolkata's Chinatown is very distinct in that it does not visually declare itself; only when you start walking within it do you discover its hidden secrets."

– Thomas Hilberth, associate prof, Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark, working on a study titled Cheenapara Cultural Identity & Heritage of the Chinese in Calcutta’