Amaravati Government Complex Design Competition

Chandigarh was a long time ago, but arguably, no development of a new state capital has generated as much excitement and hype as Andhra Pradesh’ Amaravati city. While India is looking up to Amaravati as a modern day, even ‘futuristic’ capital that may well become a template for India’s 100 smart cities project, the city itself has a rich and glorious past.

Three international firms were shortlisted in the final stage competition including Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners from London, UK, BV Doshi of Vastu Shilpa Foundation from Ahmedabad,India and Fumihiko Maki of Maki and associates from Tokyo, Japan.

The brief for the competition was to design spaces that are eco-friendly, assimilates green and blue concept and most of all, act as vital geographic and economic gateways to their respective markets

Jury members comprising Erwin Viray (Professor of Architecture and Design at the Kyoto Institute of Technology,Japan), Suha Ozkan (Founder president of World Architecture community , Turkey), Rajeev Sethi (Designer and Art curator, India) , KT Ravindran (noted urban designer and educationist, India ), Keshav Varma (Ex- Municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad, India) led by chairman Professor Christopher Charles Benninger of India selected the design submitted by Maki Associates of Japan. 

The top level technical panel headed by  Professor Benninger had held several rounds of discussions with the three shortlisted competitors for three days and went through micro-level information provided by the planners. The jury spent nearly 40 hours in examining the plans and proposals of three top firms abefore reaching their decision.

 

ROGERS STIRK HARBOUR + PARTNERS LED BY LORD RICHARD ROGERS

 

 

MAKI ASSOCIATES LED BY FUMIHIKO MAKI

 

 

VASTU SHILPA FOUNDATION LED BY BALKRISHNA DOSHI

 

According to the hon’ble chief minister  two iconic buildings including High Court and Secretariat would be developed in Amaravati. He said that it is people’s capital and the design would be placed in public domain for debate and suggestions from people. He also told that the best designs from two other architects (Vastu Shilpa and RSH+P) also would be taken into consideration to develop Amaravati as world class capital.

 

Inspirations for the designs:

It is symboliFumihiko Maki and BV Doshi both were friends from over five decades who were shortlisted for the competition entry and the chairman of the jury panel Christopher Benninger regards both of them as his ‘mentor’.

 

 

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From top: the legislative assembly designed by Le Corbusier for Chandigarh and the below one is the legislative assembly proposed for Amaravati by Fumihiko Maki as a tribute to his ‘Guru’

 

It was also to be noted that inspiration behind the projects submitted by these two architects were visibly inspired by their ‘Guru’ Le Corbusier. It is Le Corbusier alone whose body of work inspired young Maki to visit Chandigarh in the 1950s and there he be-friended Doshi who was overlooking Corbusier’s projects in India.

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Doshi with Maki in Ahmedabad, during Maki’s visit in 2013. They remained lifelong friends after their meeting in chandigarh in 1950s.
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Professor Christopher Benninger with Ar. Fumihiko Maki in Mumbai, 2012
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Ar. BV Doshi with his shishya Prof. Benninger

 

While it remains clear that Corbusier was the guiding force behind Maki’s design, it is evident that Louis Kahn played a definitive role in Doshi’s plan of the capitol complex.

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Louis Kahn’s unbuilt Hurva synagogue project
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The High Court as proposed by Vastu Shilpa
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Buildings proposed by Vastu Shilpa
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Buildings proposed by Vastu Shilpa
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Fumihiko Maki and Collective Form: Three Paradigms

Fumihiko Maki

Fumihiko Maki

Fumihiko Maki graduated in 1952 from the University of Tokyo.

In his final undergraduate years he took part in Tange Lab , an incubator set up by Kenzo Tange for Japanese post war reconstruction. In 1953, he made a trip to United States to finish his education and started up a professional relationship with the States which was to span his whole life.

Between 1958 and 1960, Fumihiko Maki travelled throughout Europe, the Middle East and India where he visited the work of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh, which was being completed that time.

These travels confirmed his interest in grouped buildings and in city as collective creation. In spite of being involved in Metabolist movement from the start he was never keen on mega forms and mega-structures and continued his path on individual research, distancing himself from technological utopia.

In 1960 he was invited to attend the Team X conference in France by Smithson’s. Although he was seen as a modern architect his strong links to tradition and vernacular have helped him to understand the subordination existing between constructed individuality and achieving a cohesive urban form.

In 1962, Maki returned to Harvard, where at that time Jose Luis Sert was dean, to work as an associate professor. In 1965, he went back to Tokyo and two years later he commenced the first phase of Hillside Terrace.

In 1993 he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Maki co-authored, along with Masato Otaka, an article titled ‘Group Form’. In this text he stated that it made no sense to study building in isolated entities and that as until then the collective form had not been tackled properly.

He defined three different approaches to form: Compositional, Structural and Sequential. The first is two dimensional, takes place on one plane and static. The second is the large framework which encompasses all the functions of a complex organism or an urban nucleus. And the third refers to the collective form or shifting group which evolves from a spatially interconnected elements.

‘Group Form’ is the form defined by a group of buildings which share strong physical relationships. It is based on four factors: the basic materials and the construction methods; the intelligent and dramatic use of geography and topography; the human scale and lastly the sequence of development. Bringing together the basic elements which form part of these aforementioned factors such as the constructions, the open spaces between volumes and the reiterated use of certain visual effects, creates a sensation over time which is perceived as natural phenomenon of producing form.

For Maki, the architectural spaces represent the stage, the human beings as actors, and the events of urban life constitute the actual play.

Group Form both outlines the collectivity and unites a group of buildings in functional, spatial and social terms. This is something which emerges bottom up, from a specific social group, not top down, from financial or political powers. In this sense, Group Form is a veiled critique by Fumihiko Maki of the Megaform of Metabolism.

Group Form
Collective Form

This diagram which appears in the later versions of Maki text, Collective Form, Three paradigms, is a schematic representation of three ways of classifying the Collective Form. The first type, Compositional Form, is based on the rules of composition and encompassing the cases of planned cities such as Chandigarh or Brasilia. The second, the Megaform is present in Metabolist projects such as Agricultural City by Kirokawa or the Tokyo Bay program by Tange Lab. Lastly, the Group Form pertains to, for instance, the stepped villages of the Greek islands or the Dogon villages where time is the key player.

Dogon village ,Mali
Dogon village, Mali
Tokyo Bay plan by Kenzo Tange
Tokyo Bay plan by Tange Lab

Hillside Terrace can be identified with the third diagram as its formal resolution is far removed from any composition or style by the author and yet at the same time it eschews this idea of grandeur which is often associated with mega structures.

Hillside Terrace, Tokyo
Hillside Terrace, Tokyo
Hillside Terrace, Tokyo
Hillside Terrace, Tokyo
Hillside Terrace, Tokyo
Hillside Terrace, Tokyo

The priority for urban design, according to Maki, is to recognize meaning. What is planner’s goal when working on a specific site? What are they aiming to express? These reflections are often lost due to the difficulty in managing an overly ambitious programme in the aim for its implementation to create a controlled environment. The next step would involve working on and attempting to humanize this meaning.

In Hillside Terrace, the attempt is to artificially recreate in one part of Tokyo the complex mechanisms and connections which arise spontaneously in the historic city. The approach involved selecting a model or motif, a pattern, which could undergo formal and spatial operations and have the sufficient capacity to generate variations.

Hillside Terrace is a miniature city, built in phases, which took over thirty years to complete and is home to low-rise buildings, interconnected public spaces, low walls, thresholds, passageways and vegetation.

Hillside Terrace, sums up thirty years of urban design in Tokyo, thirty years in modern history of architecture and thirty years in the professional career of Fumihiko Maki.

Hillside Terrace is a world apart, separated from downtown Tokyo which can be made out in the distance. Maki aimed to build a continuous urban landscape by using a combination of staggered volumes which move forward and backward in relation to the street. The ground floors are in some cases transparent or are set back and lend community to spatial elements such as corner accesses or interior staircases in the aim to create a small city atmosphere within a megalopolis. For Maki, Urban Design is something which is tangible, finite, physical and anchored to the locations rather than merely being an abstract theory founded on urban policies, planning regulations and social issues.

The chaos and fascination of Tokyo come together in Hillside Terrace based on that slow collective process of creating form which has left outstanding historical examples in its wake due to its unexpected urban relationships, as in the case of the Greek city or the small rural villages of the Mediterranean coast. Hillside Terrace fulfils a collective desire: that universal emotion invoked by small-scale charm.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G

Before we get into other details of our Kindle Paperwhite 3G review, let’s quickly see why it continues to be the world’s best-selling e-reader. Kindle had been always very popular. When kindle was first released in the United States on November 19, 2007, the response was overwhelming. The entire production of kindle was sold out in five hours and it remained out of stock for approximately 5 months.

It’s very popular because they streamlined many latest innovations including the famous E Ink Display. This E Ink technology makes the ability to read books from a device like real paper print possible with no eyestrain. Then we witness E-reader race in the following years among reputed brands such as Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all using E Ink technology.

However, in the year 2010-11, Tablet became even more popular with the pioneering company like Apple and its iPad making every possible breakthrough for an ultimate portable multitasking device. It is nice to read books or magazines with colorful illustrations which are not so with E Ink E-readers. The chances of E-readers surviving on the market into the 2012 holiday seasons seemed weak. But guess what? They did it again to recreate the same excitement and success story with E Ink ‘Pearl’ display.

E Ink Pearl display was a wonderful thing to happen with better display contrast and resolution. But the problem with any E Ink device is that you can’t read in the dark as it does not illuminate like LCD or LED. You need a reading light to read in the dark which is not always comfortable.

Amazon released Kindle Paperwhite on October 1, 2012 ,making headlines again. This Kindle Paperwhite includes built-in light display that will illuminate the screen evenly and is adjustable. The display comes with a pixel density of 221 ppi (pixel per inch) and a resolution of 758×1024. During the launch event the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, emphasized on the patented built-in light technology as an outcome of four years of research & development. Well, you got to believe him when you compare side by side between Nook Touch with GlowLight and Kindle Paperwhite.

 Improved and New Technologies with Kindle PaperWhite 3G

The PaperWhite Patented Built-in Light Technologyamazon-kindle-paperwhite-3g

You can say that this innovative Patented Built-in light technology is the dealmaker for this e-reader and an edge over its predecessors as well as other dedicated e-readers. Unlike the reading light that usually fails to illuminate evenly on the screen, this PaperWhite illuminates the entire display screen evenly. This is a much-awaited feature by every booklover. Amazon flattens out fiber optic cable into a sheet and incorporates LEDs to entirely and evenly distribute light on the displays

How does PaperWhite Patented built-in light help?

You can read in the dark or in the bed at night without disturbing others, also PaperWhite screen actually enhances your reading experience in a bright lid environment or outdoor. What it does is that when you read in a bright lid environment with the light setting high the display screen matches up the surrounding brightness for better reading experience. On the contrary, you should keep the light setting low while reading in a dark room to match the surrounding which comforts your eyes and enhance  the reading experience. Confusing? Yeah, it is confusing but it works!

The PaperWhite LEDs are always on to enhance reading experience as explained by Amazon, but it won’t diminish the battery lifespan if you keep the light setting at 10 or less. The brightness of the screen can be adjusted from a scale of 0-24.

Improved Display Screen

E Ink has gotten much better over the years which become even more evident when you do side-by-side comparison kindle-paperwhite-2between (basic) Kindle and Kindle PaperWhite. According to Amazon the PaperWhite is 25% higher contrast than its predecessor with higher pixel density. Kindle and Kindle Keyboard 3G offers only 167 pixels per inch as compared to 212 pixels per inch of Kindle PaperWhite. The result is crisp and sharp text even for the smallest font.

If you own Kindle or Kindle Keyboard don’t expect a major improvement. You might not even notice it unless you use the smallest font while comparing.

Touch Interface

To incorporate built-in light Amazon uses three layers for the PaperWhite screen display – light guide, touch screen and the E Ink display. There’s the chance of getting not so responsive touch interface. Yet, the touch interface is very responsive and even better than Kindle Touch, the previous generation. It is now faster and more responsive.

Battery Life

Actually, there is no room for complaint in regards to battery life with any E Ink readers. But with the inclusion of built-in light there were speculations of possible poor battery life. Amazingly, based on 30 minutes of daily reading you can still get up to 8 weeks of battery life with the wireless off and brightness set to 10 or less. This is the same battery life as Kindle Keyboard which comes without the built-in light.

Time to Read

This is a new feature for PapaerWhite that study and predict how long you’ll take to finish reading a chapter or the book based on your reading speed which is constantly updated as per your reading speed and habits. This is an ingenious idea and very useful in assessing the approximate time to finish a book.

Old Good Features That Were Retained

X-Ray Feature

When you purchase a Kindle e-book, Amazon includes some pre-installed details about specific person, locations, xray_kindlefictional characters, subjects or concepts. Needless to say the details will differ by book.

This preloaded information is accessible using Kindle Touch X-ray function by going to the menu from any page. It will help you to view all of the passages throughout a book or a novel that mention fictional characters, places, historical figures or ideas. This is an exclusive feature of kindle e-reader and as Amazon puts it – X-ray lets you explore the ‘bones of the book’.

Whispersync

The Whispersync feature equipped the device with the ability to jump on any device and pick up from wherever you left off reading the last time. It will synchronize your bookmarks and annotations across your devices which is very nice. Synchronization works easier and faster with 3G connectivity. With the Wi-Fi, you may need to sign in and search for a network before you can sync.

Webkit for Basic Browsing

Unlike most of the other dedicated e-reader, you can do basic browsing with Webkit via Wi-Fi connectivity. Though this is an experimental feature it is nice that you can quickly check your mail or the web without switching device. However, you can’t access Webkit over 3G. The only two places you can access over 3G is Kindle Store and Wikipedia. This is why Amazon can safely say 3G is free.

 

Kindle Paperwhite WI-Fi

CLICK HERE TO BUY – Rs. 10,999/-

Kindle Paperwhite WI-Fi + 3G 

 CLICK HERE TO BUY – Rs. 13,999/-

Other features that influence your reading experiencefont-paperwhite

Apart from the main features that makes Kindle PaperWhite truly a path-breaking E-reader there are other features worth mentioning. The ergonomic design of Kindle PaperWhite makes it easy to hold the device in one hand for long-form reading and it’s lighter than a paperback.

You got 6 hand-tuned fonts and 8 adjustable font sizes to suit your needs. It can hold up to 1,000 books with its internal memory which is like carrying your personal library wherever you go. In fact if you need more space you can simply archived your books on Amazon Cloud and re-download anytime you need for free. You get unlimited Cloud access for books you purchased on Kindle Store.

When you are not sure of the book you want to buy, simply read the first chapter for free and see if it meets your expectations. Amazon Prime members can borrow one book in a month for free with no due dates and select from over 180,000 titles. Kindle customers can also borrow books from over 10,000 public libraries in the States. This feature will work not just for your kindle device but any supported devices with kindle App.

If you like you may also lend your books to friends and families who owns Kindle or Kindle app devices for a period of 14 days. Reading Kindle books is not just limited to the Kindle device you may sync and read from your iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, laptop, Mac or Pc using the free Kindle App.

To download a book on your Kindle is very easy and it takes less than a minute to download straight from the Kindle. There is no waiting which is great.

To turn pages you don’t need to swipe but just a light tap is all it need. Looking up for definition is easy with Kindle built-in dictionary. You may even enjoy instant dictionary lookups in supporting languages such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, Simplified Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese.

I like the Kindle ability to show ‘Real Page Numbers’ matching to the real page numbers in a print book. This feature will be particularly helpful for any citations and references.

Difference Between Kindle PaperWhite free 3G + Wi-Fi and Kindle PaperWhite Wi-Fi only

The primary difference is their connectivity. Kindle PaperWhite Wi-Fi model can connect to the internet only through Wi-Fi connection whereas Kindle paperWhite Wi-Fi + 3G model can connect to the internet via free 3G as well as Wi-Fi connection. The 3G model has a global wireless coverage of more than 100 countries and territories.

The other difference is their weight. Kindle PaperWhite Wi-Fi only weigh 206 gram and Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G weigh 217 gram. There is hardly any difference to make you feel lighter. Finally, there is a price difference of Rs. 3000/- between the two versions.

Is Kindle PaperWhite a Good Choice For Your Children?

If you want your kids to read just books with no web surfing ability like the tablet, you bet this is a good choice. Web surfing with Kindle PaperWhite is very slow and very much an experimental feature. No one will want this as their primary device to surf websites. Moreover, you can even restrict access to Kindle Store, Amazon Cloud and web browsing with Parental Controls, taking full controls of what your kids can do with their Kindle.

As mentioned earlier, there is no audio support with Kindle PaperWhite and if your kids like audio books or need text-to-speech feature the option is Kindle Keyboard.

The Search of the Curious

On the eve of final review:
The followig article was
written exactly two years back
before the third year studio design.

Even now I would change very few points 

When I decided to write a piece on my understanding about design I have almost 24 hours for final review. Designing a craft centre may not be the end of understanding but may be just the beginning of our learning of cultural forces. What is demanded by the requirements is often met by gross sized boxes and we don’t know how to make space fulfill. The top-down approach of making a block and designing the interior just to fulfill the space requirements often hurts me.

The search for perfect design does not just make sense. As often stated by one of our professors no design is bad or good. Everything has its own motives. The idea is to analyse about weakness and strength of each design solution. Probably the greatest gift of architecture is that we don’t have a single solution like mathematicians. We delve into the plurality and search for answers. It is like the search for the weave which binds all the strands of the cloth. We are always in search of the soul of the site, the surroundings. I wonder how many of my fellow mates has talked to a craftsman about what they need or what they would like.
The problem is that people have forgotten to talk to strangers. The society forbids now to make interactions. You have the internet in front of you and it answers all kinds of possible questions. But sadder still is that people even don’t use the internet for their improvement. Instead, we are more hooked on the photos shared, where the latest gizmos are displayed, what is the price of newest galaxy phone etc. Pleasure is consumed in seconds in front of a digital screen and young has forgotten to be happy. If you would like to find where is Pago island you would just type in Google and find instantly that it is in the east of Australia and Papua New guinea. But if you try to find it in old Atlas then you would spend a good 20 minutes or so to locate it & in the meanwhile, you would know about so many other places that you did not think they exist. The Internet has become the go-getter of copy-paste culture, even not acknowledging the original authors. It is ending up doing more harm to more people than doing more goods to few people.

Nowadays architecture students are obsessed with latest soft wares, plugins and other possible ways to glitter up their presentations. Unfortunately, a fraction of this time is spent on the design idea, the concept, and understanding. People are going gaga over the latest development that enables one to create parametric design solutions. But one has to understand what is parametric is. In easiest terms it is the best possible use of available resources. Doesn’t traditional design uses the best possible angle of solar orientation and ventilation? Computer literate architects disobey the traditionally knows concepts and instead devote their time to rediscover the same old principle that lived centuries. They instead develop some curves inspired by some western architects and term it Green in the name of LEED. They control their space by mechanically conditioned air and yet term it green by placing more saplings of the tree that would take years to mature.
Places of the world have now become some amusement parks thrown by some litters of some so-called star architects. They develop structure on their own and call that ‘fantabulous’. They know it won’t be possible anywhere else. An analogy of this is like Shah Jahan who ordered to take the hands off the master craftsman in order not to make anything even close to Taj.

Architecture is a curious craft. I love it because it offers to study me the history, culture, craft, society and multifaceted aspects of it. It is not only an architect’s responsibility to save the society from ugly structures called postmodern but to show the much-treaded path already left behind by our ancestors. The chaos, dynamic synergy that exists in culture is too strong to ignore. The essence of soil tells you to soak into it and not to indulge in the uber ugly towering structures. The tallest structures have been the ghoulish expression of animals within us, not the peaceful one. It underestimates the values, culture and an even undercurrent of passions. It seeks to touch the new height. The height of ugliness. They speak out to each other see how many people I can accommodate, see how many luxury I can provide. It is a never-ending competition between the monsters. A hotel in Ahmedabad seeks to touch new height by its curves. The hype around it is so tremendous that one forgets to tell that it is a shoe. It is like the child who questions the naked king where your clothes are? We need child like those. Fearless questions, which can tear apart the vague theories. The theories put together by Derrida are beyond the understanding of a common man. It seeks to create an intellectual raj where you cannot question an erudite for the fear that erudite might not able to explain it.

Another thing that haunts me is the expression. Students are told to explain graphically. What is the intention of the teachers? To devote less and less time to understand a potential problem to society? To give less than 2 minutes in a sheet made in 10 hours. It undermines the thought, the intellectual capacity to think. Just some colours and graphics are sometimes too little for the story. Students are not encouraged to write papers anymore. They are taught how to apply interesting graphics instead. Students are encouraged sometimes to make 3 dimensional renderings which are like real life. They end up making a dream image which might not be possible in real life. The concept cries foul. For the sake of beauty treatment, the concept takes backstage. Computer-generated views take centre stage. In present scenario if one say I can only do AutoCAD he or she is stared at or becomes the next topic to discuss. On the flip side of it, someone is too interested in applying Luna colours to whatever design is produced. A well-coloured drawing can never be bad design is the opinion in the mind.

One thing that lies beyond the understanding of mine is why everything has to be designed? Cannot something grow on its own? What happens to the much talked about marketplaces that have grown on its own? No architects have designed it. Urban designers heaped their praise around it and showcase it to compare the failure of Starbucks and big macs.
One has to learn to be travellers, not tourists. A true traveller does not any plans, foreground information about the things to be visited. He or she just travels and learns from the people, culture, and nature. Designing a craft centre which is not a museum is living piece of history itself. It is being created then and there. Before your eyes.
All we have is measurable materials. That is to create immeasurable truth, beauty and strength. No one is going to tell the architect about the secret attributes of it. It is his curiosity that will generate the immense sense of place, of understanding, of interaction and sense of accomplishment.

Curiosity is the eye of an architect.

 

THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE IN INDIA

THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE IN INDIA

Co-authors:
Ayan Choudhury & Kunal Rakshit

 

Amidst the busy and mundane daily life that we live today, ever taken some time away and reflected at the past? Ever tried to turn back the clock? Google Earth provides us with an important tool, the Time Slider, it allows one to literally turn back the clock and revisit any place anytime in the history and experience the change that place has got under. In other words, it is called retrospect. Now, ask yourself, what if the change didn’t happen the way it did? What if in the timeline of History, something got altered and one set of actions got replaced by something else, where would we stand today? How the world would have shaped up today if all didn’t go according to the ‘plan’, the divine plan.

If we turn the clock back to the 1940s, amidst the bloodshed and the revolution, the cry of ‘Vande Mataram’ echoing through every alley, a new country is emerging, a young country with a rich history but with a burning desire to create something new, India, Modern India. Post-Independent India went through a lot of turmoil, it was like the day after an Indian Wedding, the guests are gone but the ‘memories’ of their stay remains along with the mess, you don’t know which stuff is yours and what to throw out, every corner of the house throwing up a treasure chest. India needed to be rebuilt; it needed to make a mark of its own and Architecture played an important role during this modernization of the society.

The Western Exports
At the stroke of midnight, 15th August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru took on the reigns to administer a newly born nation, India and immediately after, India was graced by the presence of two of the most influential architects of the modern era, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Both of them visited India within a gap of a decade and interestingly, both occurred as coincidences, and the rest, as they say, is history.

After the partition of India, the former British province of Punjab was divided into East Punjab and West Punjab, the latter comprising of the Muslim population while the other, the Hindus. The Indian portion or the East Punjab required a new Capital to replace Lahore (now in Pakistan) and thus Chandigarh was carved out of Punjab to serve the purpose. Now, Modern India needed a newly planned modern capital. In came Albert Mayer, an American based planner and Matthew Nowicki, his architect partner and together they developed the master plan for the city. But on the fateful night of 31st August 1950, the Trans World Airlines Flight 903 plunged to its death in the Libyan Desert and with it died Matthew Nowicki, he was returning from his visit to Chandigarh. Mayer, clearly in mourning, discontinued the project of Chandigarh soon after, though he continued his stay in India and occupied himself with developmental projects in Rural India. The mantle of designing the city of Chandigarh now went on to the celebrated architect, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier.

What if the plane had not crashed? What if Albert Mayer had decided to continue on his Master Plan of Chandigarh, after all it was his friendship with Nehru that got him the job? What if Le Corbusier never accepted the job of planning Chandigarh (he did refuse them once before)? Let us RE-imagine the scenario if Nowicki never died in the plane crash.

No Corbusier in India!! A little too tough to imagine right now but that’s exactly what would have happened. The Chandigarh what we see today would not be the rectangular city with a grid-iron pattern for the fast traffic road, instead it would have followed the fan-shaped master plan which spread gently to fill the site between the two river-beds; a curvilinear network of roads surrounding the residential blocks, the 2 axial routes bordered by linear parks which would connect the zones, namely: Apartment Housing, Low-Cost Housing, Schools, Temples, Outdoor Theatres and Bazaar. The super block would have been a self-sufficient neighborhood units placed along the curvilinear roads and comprised of cluster type housing, markets and centrally located open spaces. We would never witness the Assembly building with the paraleloide hyperbolic roof and the domino style would have taken couple of decades to enter India. We might be studying Albert Mayer’s works as examples of Modern Architecture in India. Chandigarh might have turned out to be the ‘Chicago’ of India and we would be studying his works on post-colonial Delhi rather than ‘Piloti Architecture’ and its influence in Mass Housing today.

We don’t know what would happen in place of Sanskar Kendra Museum, Mill Owners Association (ATMA), Sarabhai house or Shodhan House in Ahmedabad. Certainly Ahmedabad’s modernist design legacy would not have been discussed like what we do today. The Carpenters Centre at Harvard University which was also Corbusier’s only building in the States would not have the same design if Shodhan house was not made in its place.  Talk about butterfly effect?  Instead, probably we would have spent time discussing more about Walter Gropius’ influence on Achyut P. Kanvinde’s built works and how it faced resistance from Claude Batley (who established the Department of Architecture at the J. J. School of Art) as one of its leading protagonists. Batley held the opinion that traditional Indian character and motifs in building had to be expressed in contemporary work which was un-gropiusian definitely. More debates would follow on line of how we are adapting Indian motifs in practical dimension. Without the thumping presence of Corbusier in Indian context, we don’t know what would have happened to modern masters like B.V. Doshi who was doing apprenticeship in Corbusier’s Paris Studio. Maybe the whole IIM Ahmedabad and Bangalore’s design fate would have changed its course.

The Other One
Let us shift our focus to the post-Independence education of India. Calcutta and Bombay had already established themselves as pioneers in Indian Education with top-ranked Universities and Colleges flanking its sides and raising its neck out in the competition. The first Indian Institute of Management, initiated by Nehru, was already established in Calcutta in 1961 and a new one was commissioned soon after in 1962 at Ahmedabad. Eminent Physicist Vikram Sarabhai and businessman Kasturbhai Lalbhai played a pivotal role in setting up the institute. Indian Architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi was initially commissioned with the job of designing the Institutional Building but having worked for and under a certain Louis Isadore Kahn back in America, he was aware of his importance and the impact it would have on both Kahn and Indian architecture, he recommended the job to Kahn.

More importantly, if Corbusier did not come to India and would not have the rapport with Vikram Sarabhai then probably Mr. Sarabhai would have never considered Doshi for the prestigious project. It was Sarabhai’s blind faith with Corbusier that he entrusted young Doshi with such prestigious project. What if Doshi did not realize that? What if in the bid for personal glory, he accepted the job and continued designing the Institute? What if Vikram Sarabhai did not give the famous nod to go ahead and commission Louis Kahn for the job? Louis Kahn would have never set his foot on the Indian subcontinent.

We now envision India without Louis Kahn, how would it look like? IIM-A or IIM-Ahmedabad would be an institutional building designed by B. V. Doshi and Anant Raje, and would most probably lack the monumental character that is trademark of a Kahn building it has today. A building by Doshi would certainly be a stroke of genius without any doubt, but there is still doubt whether it would have the same effect Kahn’s design has, the gigantic opening to the plaza, the majestic appearance of brick walls. We often see the Brutalism and heavy use of geometry in Doshi’s work especially in Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University, Ahmedabad but that was after he was influenced by Kahn’s work but with no Kahn, modern architecture would still be following dome and vault structures, something which was broken by Kahn after he visited Asia.

Louis Kahn did not limit himself to only India; he also took on projects in Pakistan (East and West both). He designed the National Assembly building in Dhaka in 1962, when he was at the pinnacle of his career. The use of reinforced concrete at the then present context was a bold move and again, the sheer monumentality of the building gained by the huge monolithic walls made it one of the icons of Modern Architecture and showcased how different was Kahn’s approach in using concrete from that of his contemporaries.

But we are looking at a world where Louis Kahn does not visit Asia and thus does not design the National Assembly building, Dhaka. Who would have built it then? Maybe Fazlur Rahman Khan would have built it, being one of the top engineers to be born in Bangladesh, or it could have been Muzharul Islam, the one who was actually commissioned to design the building.

If Muzharul Islam designed the Sangshad Bhavan, it would have followed his usual exposed brick structure, eminent from its use in the College Arts and Crafts (1953-54), a style which we see being followed in Institutional buildings here like the CEPT by Doshi or NID (National Institute of Design) by Gautam and Gira Sarabhai (both in the 60s and 70s). The building would have reflected the architectural style that dominated the sub-continent during that period, use of reinforced concrete to build the frame and fill in with masonry walls, the distinction between the two surfaces would then be obscured with stucco, often containing decorative detail. This method of construction gained popularity hugely in India and its sub-continent due to its easy manufacture and cheap availability of labour; Bangladesh was no exception, the works of Islam was a living example. Thus, if we envisage a Bangladesh without the influence of Kahn, an insipid society with identical houses with no flare for creativity and boldness comes up. The Assembly Building would be a grand building without a doubt, but it would definitely lack the austerity that Louis Kahn’s design brought.The whole gamut of architecture profession in Bangladesh would have been class apart without Kahn’s definite direction. The modern architecture of Bangladesh would lack the tooth for sure.

Another famous architect who would have been a strong candidate for designing the National assembly was Fazlur Rahman Khan. Now that would have been an interesting turn of events, Fazlur was one architect who was ahead of his time; he was considered “the father of tubular designs for high-rises” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was famous for devising innovative construction methods which influenced sky-scraper designing throughout the world, especially in USA where he designed the Willis Tower (second tallest building in USA) among other buildings. He would have influenced Bangladesh’ architecture a long way if he had designed an iconic building for his motherland. His framed tube structure or trussed tube structure if used extensively would have created a new language for Modern Architecture in Bangladesh. He had the potential to bring up Bangladesh into the international map architecturally and even bring it at par with international cities like New York or Chicago (famous for their skyscrapers). Not a debauched outcome sans the influence of Louis Kahn, a very different outcome but a positive one none-the-less.

And it goes on

The history of architecture since time immemorial never had had such an influence on a single incident and that too being an airplane crash. It was that fateful night of 31 August/1 September 1950 that changed drastically the course of architecture in the Indian Subcontinent for years to come which would eventually touch the lives of billions of people. The divine plan. Was it for good or bad? Time is not ripe yet.

 

 

Photo Courtesy: Kunal Rakshit

The Eyes of the Skin: Pallasmaa

 

The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses was written by Juhani Pallasmaa with regard to ‘Polemics’, on issues that were part of the architecture discourse of the time, i.e. 1995. It is also an extending of ideas expressed in an essay entitled “Architecture of the seven senses” published in 1994.As suggested by the title, this piece of literature attempts to highlight the importance of sensory experience in architecture. It is indeed a response to what the author terms as ‘ocularcentrism’ of Modern Architecture. Ocularcentrism is the act of prioritizing visual stimuli to all other sensory stimuli available to a human perception. He quotes famous German poet, Goethe, in his defense, “the hands want to see, the eyes want to caress”

Firstly, Pallasma discusses at length the sensory deprivation and distance caused by ocularcentrism; and how this keeps architecture from being as wholesome as it is capable of. This is so, as architecture today does not Pallasmaa argues, take into account, peripheral vision, shifting of focus, memory, and imagination. It “has housed the intellect and the eye, but left the body and other senses, as well as our memories, imagination, dreams homeless”.

Secondly, he points out how ocularcentrism has developed into a cultural norm; thus the eye can itself be biased, “nihilistic or narcisstic”. Therefore can be distanced and detached from the other senses, for instance, touch, thus allowing no emotional dialogue. To support his theory, he quotes examples of the dynamics of the sense of touch in heightened emotional states wherein, indeed “the hands want to see”.

Thirdly, the author compares the image of a modern city to that of what he terms a “haptic city” – a city which can be touched; contrary to the distant, exterior oriented modern city. Furthermore, he discusses how since antiquity, man has been the measure of not only his architecture, all his activities as well. To support this argument Pallasmaa quotes instances of the caryatid court and the experience of hunting in prehistory, where man becomes the central point of origin of everything. He emphasises on the presence of and an enveloping satisfaction through multi stimuli in nature; giving an example of a trek through a forest, and the feeling of being within the space of a clearing invoked by peripheral vision, complete with the crunching of leaves under the feet and sap smell that surrounds us through the trek.

Building on this starting point Pallasmaa speaks of the importance of the shadow in creating light. He suggests that it is the nuances of shadows and the dimly lit which actually tickle the senses, and that Modern Architecture seems to lack this appreciation of the shadow. Arguing systematically he takes the reader through all the senses in question; namely, hearing, smell, touch and taste. For each sense he quotes an example from nature, thus describing how it is an acknowledgement of all senses that completes a space. He talks of registering the speed of wind through hearing and detecting the temperature of the same through touch. Furthermore, he links smell with memory and adds that smell is by far one of the strongest mediums that add to the memory of an experience. He then brings into his argument the presence of man by discussing, time and the sense of proportion – as man is designed to perceive in comparison to his self -and action where man measures through moving within a space. In conclusion, Pallasmaa discusses the importance of these senses in the design process. He talks of the distance created between the architecture and the design due to mechanization of the process. This part of the argument need not be dwelt on for long as the previous text makes clear all the reasoning behind this, one can comprehend in pertinence to each sense, the importance of ‘feeling’ it during the design process. The text though very interesting, is a bit cumbersome, and requires frequent reference to the dictionary. The argument flows very clearly and systematically and highlights the disadvantages of ocularcentrism in comparison with each sense and how that made the Modern – cold and distant from man. The entire argument is very well illustrated with both quotations, graphics and experiential reference -which add to and are very pertinent to the argument. The author saturates the text with examples. This makes the argument very convincing and becomes intimate with reader. The author also makes psychological and physiological references making this argument scientifically sound and not just something rooted in poetry. One of the major textual references that are made, are to Halls book – TheHidden Dimension

The author laments that architects today have forgotten it- and hence his written response to this ignorance. The most appealing aspect of this text is that it can be understood by a lay person, due to the fact that all examples are such which belong to the life of all and do not use buildings to illustrate hence not limiting them to architects.

 

Image Courtesy: Wiley

 

A House From Kerala

‘A house From Kerala’ is a beautiful documentary which shows how a 300 year old wooden house was saved from being demolished and instead it was dismantled and moved 2000 km away to be rebuilt again. Architect Pradeep Sachdeva from Delhi took the grand inititaive which gives us an insight into how ingeniuos was architects of yesteryears.

Office US Atlas

OfficeUS, the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, was conceived as a working architecture office that explored the ways in which U.S. architectural practice has influenced the discipline around the world over the past 100 years. OfficeUS Atlas is a new book that compiles and interprets the research assembled in the exhibition’s OfficeUS Repository, an archive of nearly 1,000 projects produced by U.S. offices abroad between 1914-2014. The publication is the second in the four-volume OfficeUS book series, following Office US Agenda,  published last year.

atlas_03
Each chapter focuses on a different theme related to U.S. export architecture, and the opening spread features a timeline placing architectural events in a global historical context. Here, the oil boom of the 1970s attracted U.S. offices to build in the Middle East.
In many chapters, an infographic follows the chapter intro, illustrating the theme. Here, a diagram looks at the amout of building in the Middle East by U.S. firms in relation to the price of a barrel of oil.
In many chapters, an infographic follows the chapter intro, illustrating the theme. Here, a diagram looks at the amout of building in the Middle East by U.S. firms in relation to the price of a barrel of oil.

A massive, 1,232-page compendium, Atlas is structured around a highly organized mix of firm profiles, project data, press records, and infographics that detail the transformations of the U.S. architectural office and its international impact over the past century.

At the U.S. Pavilion, the Repository was presented as a system of 1,000 binders that lined the walls of the installation. Rather than preserve this material as an unchanging collection of data, the editors wanted Atlas to bring it to life and expand on the goals of the exhibition—to present an untold history that would provide seeds for future research, and provoke further discussion and debate.

The book contains a wide range of scans of original articles from architecture publications, along with mainstream newspapers and magazines. Above: Architectural Record article about the Middle East as a new client.
The book contains a wide range of scans of original articles from architecture publications, along with mainstream newspapers and magazines. Above: Architectural Record article about the Middle East as a new client.
Profile of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world's largest and most influential firms.
Profile of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world’s largest and most influential firms.

In highlighting some of the major historical narratives threaded through the century, Atlas uses the timeline of offices and projects established by the exhibition as its backbone. Given the sheer size of the archive, the editors and designers first considered arranging the book like an encyclopedia—with one page per project—or as a simple chronology. Instead, to bring out the themes, Atlas collects the exhibition research in the form of a reader, sequenced across 21 chapters that cover topics like “Crude Ideals: Architecture and Oil in the Gulf States,” about the growth of U.S. architecture in the Middle East, and “Intercontinental Comfort: Little America Abroad,” about the hotel building boom.

The finished Atlas features a timeline of 675 projects abroad by 169 US offices, illustrated by over 1,200 photographs and architectural drawings. The book presents only a small selection of the immense press archive that was compiled for the exhibition. In addition to showing the progression of architecture and architectural offices, it also documents the evolution of architecture journals,magazines and other publications over the past century, showing trends in editorial design.

Images Courtesy: Lars Muller Publishers

Modernism Rediscovered: Julius Shulman

TASCHEN’s Modernism Rediscovered brought to light for the first time some 300 forgotten architectural masterpieces, drawn from photographer Julius Shulman’s personal archives. Paying tribute to houses and buildings that had slipped from public view, Shulman’s stunning photographs uncovered a rarely seen side of California Modernism.

This extensive volume brings hundreds more architectural gems into the spotlight. The photographs, most of which are published here for the first time in a book, depict buildings by Albert Frey, Louis Kahn, John Lautner, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, and more, as well as the work of many lesser known architects.

Not just restricted to the West Coast this time, the images were taken all across the United States as well as in Mexico, Israel, and Hong Kong. Widely considered the greatest architectural photographer of our time, Julius Shulman has once again opened his archives so that we may rediscover the world’s hidden Modernist treasures.

The buildings burned in our memories, which to us represent the spirit of the fifties and sixties architectural design, were those whose pictures were widely published in magazines and books; but what about those that got lost in the process, hardly or never appearing in publication? The exchange of visual information is crucial to the development, evolution, and promotion of architectural movements. If a building is not widely seen, its photograph rarely or never published, it simply does not enter into architectural discourse. Many buildings photographed by Julius Shulman suffered this fate, their images falling into oblivion. With this book, TASCHEN brings them to light, paying homage to California Modernism in all its forms. The abandoned files of Julius Shulman show us another side of Modernism that has stayed quiet for so many years. Bringing together nearly 300 forgotten masterpieces, “Modernism Rediscovered” pays tribute to these lesser known yet outstanding contributions to the modern architectural movement. It’s like sneaking into a private history, into homes that have rarely been seen and hardly appreciated as of yet.

You can have a look at it from the following link :

Modernism Rediscovered by Julius Shulman

Images courtesy: Taschen