Saturday, August 12, 2017
Beautiful in a will-not-take-your-breath-away kind of way
I have been visiting the United Nations Building by Joseph
Allen Stien for a while now. And I am
always struck by the studied expression of the central fenestrations that hold the building together. It to me is a simple expression of the buildings relation to the
ground and how it seeks lightness as it moves upwards. An expression made by a
very careful manipulation of three materials, and a triumph of proportions!
I am at once
reminded of the intricate wood lattice work facades of the fortresses and
temples of the Tibetan tradition of building that one sees in the architecture
of Bhutan, Tibet and Ladhak. Where a desire for lightness and seismic stability
yield a façade of a somewhat similar ordering as we move from the ground to the
air. Of course the effect is markedly
different in the case of the UN building, where it is one façade of narrower entry block, as compared to that
of Dzong or Lakhang (temple) but the
similarities are so apparent.
Do I find it beautiful and meaningful because I have
encountered it before and it is familiar and I am able relate to it as well as
recognize it from my past? Or is it beautiful because it has meaning and
expresses a relationship with the site / ground it sits on and the sky and
acknowledges these elements in different ways, and also explores the
possibility of a different inside-to-outside relationship at the different floor levels?
(There is no tour-de-force of architectural gymnastics or herculean structural
achievement, that seems so much the
requirement for being considered architecture in this day)
It is beautiful, in a quiet, will-not-take-your-breath-away
kind of way.
Is it beautiful because of nostalgia? Or is it the poetic expression?
Labels: architecture, Architecture in delhi, Fenestrations, Indian Architecture, J A Stien, Lodhi Estate, nostalgia, Poetics of Architecture, Poetics of Construction, Stone, UN Building, Windows
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The Value of Architecture is the Architect - No wait!
On my Facebook feed, instagram and twitter, I read the unfortunate news
that the Hall of Nations has been brought down.
It is no difficult argument that it should not have been, or
that there are far ugliers, more ungainly and completely un-celebrate-able
buildings in Pragati Maidan (the Irony of the name does not pass me at the
moment!) that should have met this fate long before Hall of Nations perished to
So the question comes to mind -How? Or why?
As a young upstart of a practice, and a young architect trying
to make headway into the world of design it is formidable kind of future to
But I think the answer lies probably, not in architecture or
its value or how its value is perceived, but in the nature of discourse on
architecture in the country. Which even now is yet to come of any kind of age.
I happened to attend an event at IHC discussing the proposal
of National Museum of Architecture, a small group of architects and people from
Before long the discussion wound its way from architecture
to architects, and the value of keeping a repository of works of the who’s who.
And it suddenly became quite apparent how little discourse
there was, and if there was any it was more like Name-Dropping.
The discourse on Architecture is not the Discussion of
Architects. And the Value of Architecture is not in the name of the
Authorship. They are separate. The Architect may be important by a symbiotic relationship to the
Value of the Architecture, the reverse is painfully untrue.
But in that small realization I believe the discourse of
architecture may be carried out in earnest. The value of architecture is not the
name of the Architect who designed it. Its value is (and should always be)
quite clearly distinct.
Labels: Architects, architecture, design, discourse, hall of nations, indian modernism, modern architecture in india, modern india, national museum of architecture, pragati maidan, raj rewal
Sunday, July 03, 2016
Wondering…... about Walls and what they Do...
Its a nice wet sunday, I am sitting in my studio, looking out over the Mehrauli Archeological park, all freshly painted green by rain, Lila and Frida and Yuuka loll about lazily after their mid day meals and on my table is the book - Mehrauli, A View from the Qutab, by Karoki Lewis and Charles Lewis.
With no particular aim, I am flipping through it. I have no memory of how the book got here or if it is mine at all, but that is besides the point. It is just interesting to look at a curated and "other" view of the places and streets i walk through ( sometimes even unknowingly) almost every day, some familiar and easily placed, others still enigmas even after four years of being drawn here.
On page 41 is a double spread, a wide angle, front-on shot of the Madhi Masjid, and in the bottom right of the picture is seen a winding tarmac surface, a road. For a while I tried to place the image, and then it did come to me. This is the disused mosque on the left of the road, as you wind your way up the hill and before you see the rear of the Jain Mandir (temple) complex.
For a while it looked unfamiliar, where was this place? where you could casually walk off the road, and stroll into a mosque? Yes i could place it and yet some how it did not belong to the Mehrauli of now, where everything is behind walls and fences, and everywhere there is gate, which you are un-invited to pass ( if anything, that is what you feel when you see the gate the guard, the shabby upkeep and the fences that the ASI has built around its dead empire).
Why do we need a fence? A wall? A gate? Who's mosques and tombs and temples are these anyway?
And what is the wall doing? is it keeping the mosque safe? is it Keeping the people safe? is the road safer because now a wall keeps it from the mosque? So that no kids can park their scooters, or cycles and sit on its steps and while away time in lovely weather like today ( and in doing so keep a watch on the road)? Is the security guard there really needed? Are people really stealing stones off the wall? and a fence will stop them? And what happens at night behind the locked gate? Or behind the high wall?
Or are these things here to tell us this is mine and that is yours? So i can throw my garbage over the divide into what is not mine. And keep secure what is inside my gate? And what is outside my gate is another man/ woman/child/governments/owners /aliens /gods/ devils/terrorists business?
What if there were no walls? And no gates? would we all be killed by marauding cattle? Or better neighbours?
What if there were no gates outside which you could drop your plastic bag of garbage with the wilful justification of this great knowledge that the land outside the gate was not yours?
If you look at it another way, walls have made us more violent,… and gates have made us care less...
Labels: architecture, ASI, Conservation, gate, Jain Mandir Dadabari, Lodi period Mosque, Madhi Masjid, mehruauli, mosque, walls
Saturday, November 21, 2015
The Museum of Knowledge, Chandigarh - the Idea
Friday, February 06, 2015
OF A KNIFE AND A WINDOW
I have always been fascinated by knives, the clear purpose
of blade, as an implement to part, cleave, sever. Designed to held by hand and deployed by a
stoking motion. Stylized and fashioned over time, and yet the the purpose built
directness of knife is a joy when encountered. One that does its job perfectly,
a balance of shape, weight and
proportion. So a sugar cane stripper, in a village in Bengal completely
I cannot entirely explain its beauty, one has to see it
used, the effortlessness and the appropriateness to task and skill of hand. And
fit. The Crudeness only ramifies it “perfection” if you could call it that.
The knife here, is one side or edge of an unfolding. One
where I want to talk about directness of purpose, shape, use and response. The
other edge is a window. The connection
may seem a bit farfetched, bu I hope I can string together a certain aesthetic
History and theory, somehow have a knack of complexifying
things. And often to a point where the conversation becomes hard to follow,
laborious and altogether disjointed from the simple pleasure that the practice
of architecture and its obvious aftermath – the building , are supposed to
Design is most often a search, an enquiry into the nature of
things and their relationships as part and whole which together provide a
framework for expression and creation of both the built and the not built. I
use the word not built, as different to Un-built, to clearly identify the act
or decision of not building certain things or parts of buildings or space – like
not building a wall in certain parts to provide apertures that can act as point
of entry – doors, or communication – windows.
These decisions sometimes are results of stand points and
intellectual exercises and some times of a considered and carefully mediated
response to condition of site or location or topography or geography that
inform the omission.
Much of the time, the articulation of the omission is guided
by our altogether urban (and thus fairly sophisticated responses of form and
function that are created from a surfeit of resources and technologies), born
in synthesized environments that are completely controlled and regulated and
overflowing with choice.
Our obsession with systems and technologies sometimes I feel
lend a certain sterility, and disconnect. We become of higher orders than the
environments we live in.
With this background then, when one encounters the primitive
answer it is both satisfying and liberating.
A window, doing what it must - made from what is available, with no
desire for beauty or celebration, no call for intellectual validation or flag
waving. Nothing but pure window. And when you look closer then, a story
Labels: architecture, BAMBOO, BENGAL, BLADE, DIRECTNESS, FENESTRATION, FUNCTION, GRILL, IMPLEMENT, KNIFE, MUD ARCHITECTURE, MUD HUT, purpose, RURAL BUILDINGS, shape, SUNDERBANS, TOOL, VILLAGE HUT, WINDOW
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Zen Garden of Khel Gaon
So, I was visiting a client in Khel Gaon. And I happened to
On does then wonder and think.
What is a Zen Garden, is a pool with a rock and stone path
leading to red bridge?
Where do you find them? And why? And how do they find place
in Khel Gaon?
And more? What is Zen? Is it a red bridge? Or a Rock-strewn
path? Is it designed to evoke and induce a certain contemplation?
And if the label had not been there would it be apparent?
And then the most important? Why?
I will leave these as questions with no attempt at answers
Labels: architecture, asian games village, design, garden, khel gain, landscape, landscape design, new delhi, question, zen gardens
Saturday, June 14, 2014
THE CITY YOU PISSED IN
Case 1.The other day stopped at a red light, a few seconds
later an Audi A6 pulls up along side, the man at the wheel, well heeled with a Hublot
on his wrist, lowers the window and casually drops a disposable plastic glass
out the window.
Case 2.On Sunday last, I went to the Darya Ganj book market,
and I got there before time, the sweepers where still cleaning up, you could
see small piles gathered at regular intervals. Piles of dust and dirt,
wrappers, used condoms, syringes, stubbs, bandages, and unrecognizable things,
all being collected and then disposed of into a hand pushed cart – by hand.
Case 3.At the Mehrauli bus terminal, there are toilets, that
are not used, but a wall is – the toilets are kept locked. I wonder if they did
put up toilets would people use them?
A. If we throw garbage outside our gates on the street
side, or just some where when people are
not looking. And if we have no qualms about dropping the empty chips bag down
the side of the auto. Or out the window in the middle of wilderness on a train?
Would you piss in a toilet if there was one?
B. Is cleaning up some one else’s job- the governements? The
oppositions? The sweeper you so generously pay 50 rupees a month to carry your
You can cry hoarse about how bad/unsafe/unlivable/uncivic and third
world the city is and so why you like London or Paris or whatever white skinned
city is vogue this season.
You can vote all you like for progress and development and
safety and whatever other Sh%# you would want - till the day you don’t drop the
disposable glass, or flick the wrapper or spit on the curb or stop right across
the zebra lines - the city will smell just as it does to me right now –
PLACE YOU PISSED IN!
The pattern of growth, urban development and progress of the
city doesn’t give you much choice in the matter. Needless to mention is the
abysmal lack of civic facilities or the upkeep of the miniscule number of those
provided, that is only the tip of the iceberg sized issue.
Systematic privatization and /or restricted access to the
city’s so called public spaces has reduced the actual truly democratic spaces
of the city into spaces that are often not accessed by and thus uncared for by
the citizens who most wield the power to have this spaces well kept.
(We do not want to be in our city any more. We don’t walk
its streets, we don’t play in its parks or stroll its boulevards. Our desire
for the more progressive energy burning and upmarket and marketable lifestyle
has removed us from the city into pockets of isolated synthetic environments
which we shudder to move out of. And as consequence the city becomes a monster,
not because it is but it is a sort of chicken and egg situation that once set
in motion the city presumably remains unsafe because those who want to/can make it safe are no longer willing to
be present in it.)
The only truly democratic space in the city is the street,
that the middle class and upwardly mobile would be loath to set foot on. They
are only fit to drive thru and to make condescending glances at the less
fortunate who have yet not risen to the point being able to drive through them.
Or the truly economically destitute – the homeless and the nomadic sellers at
street light and beggars.
Most public space in the city bears a stance of “Do Not
Enter” either in terms of access or
control or by a necessarily requiring financial transaction that in
self-reflexive manner polices and thus keeping large parts of population out.
So what is left of the city - that you, me, the guy in the
fancy imported car and the Metro, the homeless under the may flyovers and the
vegetable vendor is that common denominator that you cannot avoid but would
never want to possess – It would just be a place you would take a leak in if
you if you had to.
Of course another thing is that no one actually belongs to
Delhi – no one is a Delhi-ite if that is a tern you can use. You are either
Punjabi, or from UP or from Bihar or Bengal or Gujju, or from Kerala or from
Bangalore or Lucknow or some other place. Delhi Belongs to no one except the
Jatt boys riding about on 350 cc bullets without helmets! And even they are
dying to get out!
In some way its like a thru’ station – everyone is passing
through – here while it lasts , taking what they can while they can take it and
then heading out to some other place. Much like something/someone used.And that
It’s all cyclical – it’s a city you piss in, because it is a
city you piss in!
Labels: architecture, Delhi, Democratic Space, Future City, new delhi, Piss, Pissed, progress, Toilets in the City, urban development, Urban Planning