Wednesday, 8 November 2017

_ Originality _ 

On similar lines, I. M. Pei, American Architect had said "I'd rather be good than original "

Flipping through a "foreign" Architecture magazine with glossy pictures, I was struck by the resemblance of a building in Dallas to one that I had recently seen in Bangalore. The proportions, the curtain glazing, the column cladding, the detailing of the entrance; everything was remarkably similar. This started me thinking about this whole business of "borrowed inspiration" in Architecture.

It would be unrealistic to expect every Architect in the world to continuously produce original and innovative work. Of interest would be the lineage of the copy. The sequence of copying…..

So where does the sequence start ? Would the latest "inspired building" be the last? Each of these buildings in various cities obviously serve a purpose and they quite possibly serve it well. Is one better than the other ? Does it matter if it’s a copy of a copy ? Suppose you had a document that you valued. To preserve it, you take two photocopies of it. Suppose the copies are so good that you cannot make out which is the copy and which is the original. Do you now have three valuable documents ? Or has the document lost value in the act of copying ?

Regardless of the above conundrum, the fact remains that our cities are dotted with such buildings. Builders’ brochures generally describe these as "world class" buildings. One cannot deny that some of them add interest and perhaps make the city a more exciting place. Few of us have the privilege of travelling around the world and perceiving these connections. So lets just sit back and enjoy it when your local builder gives you "world class" buildings. Originality is perhaps over rated anyway.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

_ The Colours of Motion _ 

The Colors of Motion is a site that explores the use of color in movies by using a script to determine the average color of each frame. The colors from the frames are displayed sequentially in a strangely mesmerizing scrolling page of subtly shifting hues. Or, as prints if you prefer. I’m partial to this white Christmas one.

Friday, 4 August 2017

_ Architecture and Emotions _ 

Just think of some of the ways architecture can manipulate your own experience. In this book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, US author Charles Montgomery points out that some environments predictably affect our moods.The fact is that environments do affect us, regardless of whether by design or by accident. In 2008, researchers in the UK found that a ten-minute walk down a South London main street increased psychotic symptoms significantly.With some quick research, I found that the healthier a person is, the more a good environment will affect them positively and the less a bad one will affect them negatively. Mentally ill patients show about 65 times more negative reactivity to bad environments than controls and all these reactions translate directly into symptoms.The same patients have about half the positive responsiveness. That’s fewer smiles, less laughter and a reported drop in feeling the “fun of life”.But that’s not all. The potential for architecture is richer still. The ease with which architecture can embrace sublime aesthetics makes it great for generating awe.Psychiatrists have found that awe reduces the prevalence and severity of mood disorders. Could sublime architecture even potentially save lives?The psychological effects of architecture are difficult to prove, but difficulty doesn’t dilute the value of a building that hits the right notes and creates a sense of awe. Each building type has different functions, and for each there’s an imperative to use the building to help create an optimal mood, desire or sense of coherence, security or meaning.

Monday, 19 June 2017

_ House and Home _

Is there a difference between a house and home? Can I as ' the architect' influence the difference one way or another? 

According to Oxford Dictionary:
house (n):  

building for human habitation, especially one that consists of a ground floor and one or more upper storeys.

home (n): 

a The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household

b : The family or social unit occupying a permanent residence.

Not much help there!

A house is a type of building where you put your stuff, and home is where you live your life.

As an architect who designs houses, modern houses in particular, I don’t think that I can make your house be a home but I do think I can make it a lot harder for your house to become a home.

For me, home is about creating memories and shared experiences with your family. These things can happen in a house, an auto rickshaw, a restaurant – on a bench in park – wherever you happen to be. I don’t think it has to do with your “stuff” even though your belongings do contribute to a space being yours. 

Most 'modern' houses photographs dont show any signs of "stuff". Some evidence of human beings living in that space. Stuff which has meaning to the owner and why he/ she cares enough to move it around with them from space to space.. This stuff has emotional connection. Where is all the stuff in a modern house? So does this mean you have to have stuff in order to have a home? 

I know that people who have things going on don’t maintain a perfect photo ready home. Too often modern houses appear sterile, inhuman – certainly not child friendly – and devoid of personality despite the fact that modern homes were originally supposed to make life easier to live.

I think I have convinced myself that an architect can’t create a home, that is a job is for the occupants to take on and complete. As for the consideration that a modern house is more difficult to be a modern home, I will need to think on that a little longer … 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

_This is Mumbai_

This is Mumbai. A city that can be at once deeply familiar but also newly restless on the same road. A city whose very material for being is serendipity. A giver of anonymity and a giver of the densest participation in humanity. And still, with all its gifts, it requires only one thing from us: utility. The only thing Mumbai requires of its citizens, its tourists, its commuters, its passerbys, its participants, is to use the city. The only thing one cannot do in Mumbai is embrace it with apathy.

This is Mumbai. We come here unfinished, looking to the city for answers, for solitude, assignment, and for reward — looking for someplace to finish our sentences. And the city, in turn, presents endless possibilities. No matter if one lives here a year or a life, if utility is the city’s aspiration, then its reward is its neighborhoods.

A couple of years back our office shifted their premises — all of 5.5km. After about a decade in one South Mumbai neighborhood, we moved just over 18,000 feet to south-west. Mumbaikars live and breathe by the people and services on a single chowk, so moving this far is just as well moving countries. Changing currencies. Allegiances. Time zones. But without sympathy. Because it is, after all, still one city.

When our office was at Nana Chowk, I saw neighborhoods unlike I’d seen before. “The city,” as Mumbai is called has neighborhoods of course. Yet Nana Chowk  has them at a different scale and speed. Within a month of joining RMA architects, I’d been offered protection, free goods from shop keepers and was friends with the stray cats . In more than two years there, I’d been delighted, loved, infuriated, and everything in between. And I relied on the people on my block to be there for me through it all.

We are now located at Kala Ghoda — the kind of Grand Central of our borough — where the steady traffic and sirens are companions in the afternoons. It’s no pastoral neighborhood, but the frenetic diversity of pace, scale, sounds, lights, and people to befriend envelops one in possibility. It’s less bake sale more survivalism, less kirana shops and more of western malls .

This is a city I associate with aspiration, and a city I look up to be inspired again and again. Of all the cities, it may be Mumbai who is the most unflappable, the most infallible, the most impenetrable, but the most loyal and the most forgiving. As such, it is Mumbai itself who is unfinished, its unkempt seams and its unsmooth asphalt, its uptown arts and its devoted downtown, living undone, side by side.

This is Mumbai. A city of neighbors making the unfinished finished. It’s been spat on and praised, paved over and cheered on. It needs us to finish its sentences. For despite all of the promised anonymity of this singular city, “Mumbai” is plural.

Friday, 14 April 2017

_The stakes in culture_

The global is shallow, the local is deep - Ulf Hannerz (Anthropologist), Transitional Connections

In stark opposition to the flexible and accommodating global cities stands the image of the culturally invaded village. The tales of omnipresent McDonald's or Cafe Coffee Day in once "remote" areas are often related sometimes humorously but often wistfully, with a double disappointment with the culture lost and a gateway vacation spoiled.  

In these examples (and many less dramatic but still poignant ones) cultural globalization appears far from the joyous existence of infinite diversity and rather as the desperate last thrashings of endangered local cultures before a conquering giant. 

Many places on this planet are seemingly interchangeable agents of homogenization, whether airport terminals, Pizza Huts or (like the recent addition to the list-) Starbucks. But looking closely, looking literally on the ground, we can find pockets of great specificity and singularity; capable of under certain circumstances anchoring certain communities. 

Thus both San Francisco and Mumbai, or even Raipur and Ooty offer ways to think about the unevenness of the global cities and towns. In both cases there is a spectrum from highly homogenized and interchangeable spaces of consumption and capital to pockets of meaning, memory, moral narratives and authenticity of specific locations. These types of places coexist and interact in any given city, albeit in historically and graphically different ways. Place, then, becomes a vehicle for making a variety of moral and practical claims linked to universal discourse of human rights or a discourse of humanity and equality. Place continues to matter in the midst of globalization, and we must pay attention to it in order to understand globalization with actual policies and communities. Scholars of the city and globalization must leave open the possibility of place-bound actions and activities rather than presuming their demise at the hands of global capital.  

Thursday, 2 March 2017

_Precious about process_

Our fears often lead us to stick to traditional modes of operation and keep our motivations for choosing particular deliverable shrouded in mystery. If we are going to be innovative and flexible, we need to also clearly communicate our motivations. If clients understand the process and are confident that the new proposition is indeed the best direction, they will appreciate the narrative behind your choices and will be far more willing to reconsider timing or format of deliverables.
Experimenting with new types of deliverables has been both a bit terrifying (well, maybe just for me ) and entirely thrilling. Of course, they are never perfect, but that’s okay. Selecting more innovative deliverables rewards us with focused client feedback, curious peers, and a fresh take on what our process could be for future projects. We keep evolving and improving, and get stronger as practitioners and a team—all by being willing to not be precious about our process.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

_ Red and Black _ 

Corrugated roofing sheets is recycled as partition on site to store material 

@Delhi 2012 photo by payal patel

Saturday, 7 January 2017

_ Art _ 

“Art taps into the reality of the transcendent” – Makoto Fujimura
Translating what I saw in my mind’s eye onto the paper was what I always wanted to do. Really, I did. I love to draw but could not do it in a way that expressed what was there. I’m certainly no artist. So a young life full of dreams of drawing spilling over onto sketch books was displaced. Thankfully poetry and prose did it.
Though not sure where I picked it up, any affection for the painting and drawing others had done, was always proportional to how representational it was. So, I was more than willing to see the genius and beauty of Carvaggio and Rembrandt. However, all modern art which was the opposite of representational was out of bounds. It was weird. I couldn’t understand it. It had the feel (or lack of feeling) of inaccessibility. So I ignored it.
All of this was the furniture of my mind when I began seeing the work of Makoto Fujimura on the internet. Having never heard of Nihonga – the ancient method of Japanese artists using particular mediums, setting it apart from Western art – I was drawn in by it’s long history and distinctive techniques. But my curiosity did not square with my convictions, firmly held about art, which was not representational. Would it be weird to say, “I had a kind of guilt about beginning to love his art?”
All this changed on a plane. A few years ago I was flying to Gokak to visit a stone quarry. Sitting by the window, like a kid, I was wide-eyed with wonderment. And then I saw it. I saw “modern art” created by farmers. I saw a patchwork of squares, full of browns and greens of different shades. Some of these squares contained triangles and circles which certainly made sense to those who placed them there but they seemed haphazard from above. Thousands upon thousands of these squares stretched in every direction. And it was absolutely beautiful.
This God’s eye view provided me with me a glimpse of something which has often been right in front of me but I had never seen.
As a result, a kind of conversion happened, and the burden I carried, which supplied me with guilt, had fallen away and the scales fell off so that I saw beauty I had missed. There is a mundane quality to the shapes and drips of the modern paintings which we pass over all too quickly, mainly because we never stop and step back or hover over the smallest of details in our lives.
I now pore over the work of Fujimura. I am neither qualified nor desire to give a fully informed professional opinion on his work. However, I do know this, his work never ceases to move. Perhaps, it’s because I cannot get my head around it. Or maybe because it is more like poetry, expressing the inexpressible parts of life.  Then again, maybe it is because I am seeing something new and old at the same time. Fixed and Fluid. Regardless, I am thankful for his use of materials which in their glory, move me to consider the immaterial.

_ mind the gap_  There's a gap between where we are and where we want to be. Many gaps, in fact, but imagine just one of them. ...