Arun Menon

K K ThaplyalArun Menon (b. 1977), Associate Professor of Structural Engineering at IIT Madras, holds a first degree in architecture, masters degrees in civil engineering and earthquake engineering, and PhD in earthquake engineering from University of Pavia, Italy. His research interests are in structural aspects of historical structures, structural conservation, seismic assessment and strengthening of historical masonry, and earthquake-resistant design of modern masonry buildings. He has more than 15 years of experience in the field of seismic engineering and historical monuments, and has authored over 65 technical articles. He currently coordinates the activities of National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures (NCSHS), an MHRD-supported research centre at IIT Madras.

Arun Menon is member of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS – India), Expert Member of International Scientific Committee on the Analysis and Restoration of Structures of Architectural Heritage (ISCARSAH), member of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Panel for Masonry, CED 46:P7, and Technical Activities Committee (TAC) Member, International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures (RILEM), Paris, France. Arun Menon has been a consultant to UNESCO in Cebu and Bohol in The Philippines (2014) and Bagan, Myanmar (2016-18) for post-earthquake assessment and stabilisation of historical monuments. He has been involved in conservation projects in India, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Abstract of the Lecture: Structural Systems in Ancient India

The Indian subcontinent is endowed with a vast, varied and ancient tradition of building spaces for different functions ranging from the sacred and religious to military, from royal to proletarian, for the individual and the community alike. Such a history that spans several millennia, finds expression in a range of structural materials (mud, stone, bricks and timber) and structural forms. With regard to sacred architecture of the temples (but not limited to it), one can unmistakeably sense that “spirituality was the master-key of the Indian mind” (Sri Aurobindo, The Renaissance in India, 1920), with a rare sensibility to material laws and forces, the importance of physical sciences, and the acumen of how to organise the arts of ordinary life. In the words of Ganapathy Sthapati, “it was a self-enquiry focussed on inner phenomena and replication of the inner experience onto the outer world of reality” (V. Ganapati Sthapati, Building Architecture of Sthapatya Veda, 2005). The ingenuity of this material expression (i.e. the built form) cannot be scrutinized merely from superficial sight.

The available knowledge on the structural behaviour of different typologies of historical Indian structures is limited. While significant effort has been dedicated to documenting historical monuments in India, by both Indian and international researchers, their focus has customarily been architectural documentation. An understanding of the structural morphology, materials and the structural behaviour is a prerequisite in developing a sound structural conservation strategy. Based largely on the experience of the speaker in the different projects he has steered at NCSHS, IIT Madras, the two-part lecture attempts to throw light on a limited number of recurrent structural typologies in Indian architecture, such as hypostyle halls (mandapā), entrance gateways (gopurā) and temple towers (vimāna), and construction systems, such as trabeate (post-lintel) system and corbelling. The lecture will also attempt to trace the development of vernacular structural forms responsive to environmental factors (particularly earthquakes), fine expressions of which can be found in the hilly seismically active regions of the Himalayas.