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250 things that an Architect should know

Michael Sorkin, the noted architectural critic and educator who passed away last month in covid-19 wrote about 250 things that an architect should know in his book What Goes Up . I have to admit that I myself don’t know probably 50 percent of items listed. but it’s fun to go through this list once in a while and assess our knowledge and position in this regard.

Hold your breath. Here are the 250 things:

1.The feel of cool marble under bare feet.
2.How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.
3.With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week.
4.The modulus of rupture.
5.The distance a shout carries in the city.
6.The distance of a whisper.
7.Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as “modernist” avant la lettre).
8.The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City.
9.In your town (include the rich).
10.The flowering season for azaleas.
11.The insulating properties of glass.
12.The history of its production and use.
13.And of its meaning.
14.How to lay bricks.
15.What Victor Hugo really meant by “this will kill that.”
16.The rate at which the seas are rising.
17.Building information modeling (BIM).
18.How to unclog a Rapidograph.
19.The Gini coefficient.
20.A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old.
21.In a wheelchair.
22.The energy embodied in aluminum.
23.How to turn a corner.
24.How to design a corner.
25.How to sit in a corner.
26.How Antoni Gaudí modeled the Sagrada Família and calculated its structure.
27.The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda.
28.The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses.
29.The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi.
30.The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travelers.
31.The basics of mud construction.
32.The direction of prevailing winds.
33.Hydrology is destiny.
34.Jane Jacobs in and out.
35.Something about Feng Shui.
36.Something about Vastu Shilpa.
37.Elementary ergonomics.
38.The color wheel.
39.What the client wants.
40.What the client thinks it wants.
41.What the client needs.
42.What the client can afford.
43.What the planet can afford.
44.The theoretical bases for modernity and a great deal about its factions and inflections.
45.What post-Fordism means for the mode of production of building.
46.Another language.
47.What the brick really wants.
48.The difference between Winchester Cathedral and a bicycle shed.
49.What went wrong in Fatehpur Sikri.
50.What went wrong in Pruitt-Igoe.
51.What went wrong with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
52.Where the CCTV cameras are.
53.Why Mies really left Germany.
54.How people lived in Catal Huyuk.
55.The structural properties of tufa.
56.How to calculate the dimensions of brise-soleil.
57.The kilowatt costs of photovoltaic cells.
58.Vitruvius.
59.Walter Benjamin.
60.Marshall Berman.
61.The secrets of the success of Robert Moses.
62.How the dome on the Duomo in Florence was built.
63.The reciprocal influences of Chinese and Japanese building.
64.The cycle of the Ise Shrine.
65.Entasis.
66.The history of Soweto.
67.What it’s like to walk down Las Ramblas.
68.Backup.
69.The proper proportions of a gin martini.
70.Shear and moment.
71.Shakespeare, et cetera
72.How the crow flies.
73.The difference between a ghetto and a neighborhood.
74.How the pyramids were built.
75.Why.
76.The pleasures of the suburbs.
77.The horrors.
78.The quality of light passing through ice.
79.The meaninglessness of borders.
80.The reasons for their tenacity.
81.The creativity of the ecotone.
82.The need for freaks.
83.Accidents must happen.
84.It is possible to begin designing anywhere.
85.The smell of concrete after rain.
86.The angle of the sun at the equinox.
87.How to ride a bicycle.
88.The depth of the aquifer beneath you.
89.The slope of a handicapped ramp.
90.The wages of construction workers.
91.Perspective by hand.
92.Sentence structure.
93.The pleasure of a spritz at sunset at a table by the Grand Canal.
94.The thrill of the ride.
95.Where materials come from.
96.How to get lost.
97.The pattern of artificial light at night, seen from space.
98.What human differences are defensible in practice.
99.Creation is a patient search.
100.The debate between Otto Wagner and Camillo Sitte.
101.The reasons for the split between architecture and engineering.
102.Many ideas about what constitutes utopia.
103.The social and formal organization of the villages of the Dogon.
104.Brutalism, Bowellism and the Baroque.
105.How to dérive.
106.Woodshop safety.
107.A great deal about the Gothic.
108.The architectural impact of colonialism on the cities of North Africa.
109.A distaste for imperialism.
110.The history of Beijing.
111.Dutch domestic architecture in the seventeenth century.
112.Aristotle’s Politics.
113.His Poetics.
114.The basics of wattle and daub.
115.The origins of the balloon frame.
116.The rate at which copper acquires its patina.
117.The levels of particulates in the air of Tianjin.
118.The capacity of white pine trees to sequester carbon.
119.Where else to sink it.
120.The fire code.
121.The seismic code.
122.The health code.
123.The Romantics, throughout the arts and philosophy.
124.How to listen closely.
125.That there is a big danger in working in a single medium: the logjam you don’t even know you’re stuck in will be broken by a shift in representation.
126.The exquisite corpse.
127.Scissors, stone, paper.
128.Good Bordeaux.
129.Good beer.
130.How to escape a maze.
131.QWRTY.
132.Fear.
133.Finding your way around Prague, Fez, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Rio, Mexico City, Solo, Benares, Bangkok, Leningrad, Isfahan.
134.The proper way to behave with interns.
135.Maya, Revit, CATIA, whatever.
136.The history of big machines, including those that can fly.
137.How to calculate ecological footprints.
138.Three good lunch spots within walking distance.
139.The value of human life.
140.Who pays.
141.Who profits.
142.The Venturi effect.
143.How people pee.
144.What to refuse to do, even for the money.
145.The fine print in the contract.
146.A smattering of naval architecture.
147.The idea of too far.
148.The idea of too close.
149.Burial practices in a wide range of cultures.
150.The density needed to support a pharmacy.
151.The density needed to support a subway.
152.The effect of the design of your city on food miles for fresh produce.
153.Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes.
154.Capability Brown, André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Muso Soseki, Ji Cheng, and Roberto Burle Marx.
155.Constructivism, in and out.
156.Sinan.
157.Squatter settlements via visits and conversations with residents.
158.The history and techniques of architectural representation across cultures.
159.Several other artistic media.
160.A bit of chemistry and physics.
161.Geodesics.
162.Geodetics.
163.Geomorphology.
164.Geography.
165.The law of the Andes.
166.Cappadocia firsthand.
167.The importance of the Amazon.
168.How to patch leaks.
169.What makes you happy.
170.The components of a comfortable environment for sleep.
171.The view from the Acropolis.
172.The way to Santa Fe.
173.The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
174.Where to eat in Brooklyn.
175.Half as much as a London cabbie.
176.The Nolli Plan.
177.The Cerdà Plan.
178.The Haussmann Plan.
179.Slope analysis.
180.Darkroom procedures and Photoshop.
181.Dawn breaking after a bender.
182.Styles of genealogy and taxonomy.
183.Betty Friedan.
184.Guy Debord.
185.Ant Farm.
186.Archigram.
187.Club Med.
188.Crepuscule in Dharamshala.
189.Solid geometry.
190.Strengths of materials (if only intuitively).
191.Halong Bay.
192.What’s been accomplished in Medellín.
193.In Rio.
194.In Calcutta.
195.In Curitiba.
196.In Mumbai.
197.Who practices? (It is your duty to secure this space for all who want to.)
198.Why you think architecture does any good.
199.The depreciation cycle.
200.What rusts.
201.Good model-making techniques in wood and cardboard.
202.How to play a musical instrument.
203.Which way the wind blows.
204.The acoustical properties of trees and shrubs.
205.How to guard a house from floods.
206.The connection between the Suprematists and Zaha.
207.The connection between Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha.
208.Where north (or south) is.
209.How to give directions, efficiently and courteously.
210.Stadtluft macht frei.
211.Underneath the pavement the beach.
212.Underneath the beach the pavement.
213.The germ theory of disease.
214.The importance of vitamin D.
215.How close is too close.
216.The capacity of a bioswale to recharge the aquifer.
217.The draught of ferries.
218.Bicycle safety and etiquette.
219.The difference between gabions and riprap.
220.The acoustic performance of Boston’s Symphony Hall.
221.How to open the window.
222.The diameter of the earth.
223.The number of gallons of water used in a shower.
224.The distance at which you can recognize faces.
225.How and when to bribe public officials (for the greater good).
226.Concrete finishes.
227.Brick bonds.
228.The Housing Question by Friedrich Engels.
229.The prismatic charms of Greek island towns.
230.The energy potential of the wind.
231.The cooling potential of the wind, including the use of chimneys and the stack effect.
232.Paestum.
233.Straw-bale building technology.
234.Rachel Carson.
235.Freud.
236.The excellence of Michel de Klerk.
237.Of Alvar Aalto.
238.Of Lina Bo Bardi.
239.The non-pharmacological components of a good club.
240.Mesa Verde.
241.Chichen Itza.
242.Your neighbors.
243.The dimensions and proper orientation of sports fields.
244.The remediation capacity of wetlands.
245.The capacity of wetlands to attenuate storm surges.
246.How to cut a truly elegant section.
247.The depths of desire.
248.The heights of folly.
249.Low tide.
250.The Golden and other ratios.

Giambattista Vico’s New Science

Image result for vico frontispiece
Frontispiece of Vico’s The New Science: It offers a guide to this reading in the “Idea of the Work,” which is formulated as a commentary on the elements of the dipintura, the engraving of its frontispiece. In the opening line of the New Science Vico compares this engraving to that described in the text of the Tablet of Cebes, which was held in such high regard in Renaissance humanism.

Giambattista Vico:

On October 18,1708, the start of the school year at the Royal University of Naples, Professor Giambattista Vico, who occupied the chair of Rhetoric, gave a stunning speech to his students, eloquently criticizing Cartesian ideology. This speech would be published later as On the Study Methods of our Time.[1]  But the time of the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in the eighteenth century was so much dominated by the Cartesian logic and thinking, that Vico’s thought was not popular. This is perhaps the reason why Vico’s magnum opus La Scienza Nouva published in 1725 went unnoticed. Vico was disheartened with the reception of the book and written a letter to local priest expressing his disappointment. He also sent a copy of the book to Sir Isaac Newton. There was no evidence whether Newton read the book, or even if he had received it. Scholars suggest, even if Newton would have read it, he would have no understanding of the content. [2] Convinced it is a masterpiece- Vico made a revised second edition in 1730. The result was same. There were correspondence between Father Carlo Lodoli and Vico to publish it and Vico sent his six hundred pages of manuscript in Venice but ultimately there was some misunderstanding and the project failed. Still undaunted, Vico published the book third time in 1744, dying shortly thereafter.

The third edition of the book was published six months after Vico’s death and the full name was Principles of New Science of Giambattista Vico concerning the Common Nature of the Nations. Vico referred to this work as “Principles of humanity.”

Frontispiece: It offers a guide to this reading in the “Idea of the Work,” which is formulated as a commentary on the elements of the dipintura, the engraving of its frontispiece. In the opening line of the New Science Vico compares this engraving to that described in the text of the Tablet of Cebes, which was held in such high regard in Renaissance humanism. He notes that as the Tablet of Cebes offers a scheme of morals, the dipintura of the New Science offers a scheme of civil things. This tablet “may serve the Reader to conceive the Idea of this Work before reading it, and to bring it back most easily to memory with such aid as the imagination [ fantasia] may provide him, after having read it” (NS 1).In the “Idea of the Work” the whole of the New Science is presented in microcosm for the reader. In the last lines Vico writes,“to state the idea of the work in the briefest summary, the entire engraving represents the three worlds in the order in which the human minds of the gentiles have been raised from earth to heaven” (NS 42). To grasp this work as a whole, the reader must perceive how the worlds of the divine (the divine mind and the human mind understood as the divine element in man), the civil, and the natural intersect. Human wisdom for Vico has two parts, civil and natural. The former is that in which the ancients excel; the latter is that over which the moderns have developed mastery. This central idea or theme serves as the ultimate principle guiding the specific transitions of the work. Vico explicitly informs the reader what this principle is: “We find that the principle of these origins both of languages and letters lies in the fact that the first gentile peoples, by a demonstrated necessity of nature, were poets who spoke in poetic characters. This discovery, which is the master key of this Science, has cost us the persistent research of almost all our literary life” (NS 34). These poetic characters, he says, are imaginative genera or universals whereby the first figures of the gentile nations organized the particulars of their world. These genera are expressed in fables that tell first of gods and then of heroes. Vico writes, “the first science to be learned should be mythology or the interpretation of fables” (NS 51). The New Science depends upon the discovery of a new science of mythology that allows Vico to discover and present his new science of history of the common nature of the nations.

Vico says this New Science or metaphysic, studying common nature of nation sunder divine providence, discovers origins of human institutions among gentile nations and thereby establishes a natural law of the gentes. This natural law passes through Egyptians and they handed down three ages that world has passed through. These are:

  • Ages of gods- when gentiles believed they are living under divine providence,
  • Ages of heroes- where heroes reigned in aristocratic commonwealth believing in their superiority over plebs and
  • Ages of men- where all men regard themselves as equal in nature and establishes commonwealths as well as monarchy- both being a form of human government (NS31).

Book I: Establishment of principles

Elements :

Vico asserts that in human institutions, mental language must be common which is capable of expressing so many diverse aspects (NS161). This common mental language is the basis of Vico’s New Science and this is supposed to be foundation stone of constructing a mental vocabulary shared by all the articulate living and dead languages (NS 162).

Man lost in ignorance, makes himself the measure of all things. When men have no idea of distant and unknown things, they judge them by what is familiar.

POETIC METAPHYSICS:

For Vico, wisdom of the poets- their poetic metaphysics was the earliest wisdom of the mankind. It was unrationalized, as primitive men were not capable of abstract thoughts.

“Poetic wisdom, the first wisdom of the gentile world, must have begun with a metaphysics, not rational and abstract like that of learned men now, but felt and imagined as that of these first men must have been, who, without power of ratiocination, were all robust sense and vigorous imagination.”(NS 116)

To write good poetry, said Vico, one must feel as children. “Children have a remarkable gift of imagination. When the world was in its childhood, all nations were nations of poets, for poetry is simply imitation. Primeval man had a special kind of poetic thought and whole civilization stems from there. Poetry was the source of the civilization. (NS 215,216,217)

Vico’s thesis about poetry being first and foremost knowledge is based on the following reasonings:

  1. Poetry is a collective product,
  2. Language of Poetry is in constant flux,
  3. It is not scholars or savants, but simple people who are the true judges of poetry,
  4. Poetry uses myths to attain the truth, for general and profound truth is best expressed in myths,
  5. Poetry stems from imagination, but its basis is experience- its function is transmission of this experience,

Vico wrote,

“if the criticism of our time is inculcated in children, their poetic abilities are damaged. Their imagination is dulled and obscured, and their memory is impaired and yet the best poets are those who are guided by imagination…I would venture to affirm that by instinct they [poets] seek out the truth in same measure as philosophers. But the philosophers address himself to the learned people. The poet, on the other hand, addresses himself to the masses, and for this reason, speaks about particular examples furnished by splendid deeds and words of characters of his devising. Thus poets depart from the everyday truth in order to create a more perfect one…They speak falsehoods in order to be in a certain sense, more veracious still.”[3]

Philosopher and philologists have given us the “principles of humanity.” This principle of humanity is equivalent to the phrase “common nature of nations” as quoted in the title (J2). These principles are the principles by which creatures who are not human, are humanised.

To discover how human thinking arose, Vico said, he spent twenty years (NS 338). Vico claims his New Science as history of human ideas, on which metaphysics of human minds must tread (NS 347). The time and place for such a history must be determined by the common sense of human race.

The New Science attempts to describe “an ideal eternal history” experienced in time by each nation from its “rise, development, maturity, decline and fall (NS 349).” For Vico, the world of nations is certainly a human construction and its reflection can be seen within the human mind (NS 349). The New Science creates reality greater than the geometrical world, by its association with institutions dealing with human affairs, which are far more tangible (hence more real) than geometrical elements of points, lines, surfaces and figures (NS 349).  

If the creator also becomes the narrator, then history for its sake is certain. For God, creation and knowledge are one and same thing (NS 349).

Principles of New Science:

  1. Divine Providence:  this makes up law and divine institutions,
  2. Marriage and thereby moderation of passions:     
  3. Burial and therewith immortality of human souls:

Vico opines that since these characters are felt by the majority, it should be the basis of social life.

Book II: Poetic Wisdom

Vico while investigating the source of wisdom of ancient gentiles, finds that it began with the metaphysics, that “seeks its proofs not in the external world but within the modifications of the mind of him who meditates it. For, as we have said above, since this world of nations has certainly been made by men, it is within these modifications that its principles should have been sought. And human nature, so far as it is like that of animals, carries with it this property, that the senses are its sole way of knowing things.” (NS 374)

Hence poetic wisdom, the core of this book, have begun with metaphysics, which is not rational or abstract reasoning of our times but it was rather felt and imagines by the first men. (NS 375)

When first men created things, their ideas were their own and inherently different from God. “For God”, Vico says,“ in his purest intelligence, knows things, and by knowing them, creates them; but they [first men], in their robust ignorance, did it by virtue of a wholly corporeal imagination.” (NS 376) Because of the corporeality, the ancient men dealt it with sublimity. This sublime treatment perturbed the creators to a great extent, which turned creators as poets.[4]

Poetic Logic concerns the imaginative foundations of speech and language, rooted in the four tropes of metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony (NS 404-409).

  1. Metaphor: It is most useful when it can give sense and passion to inanimate objects (NS 404). In all languages, Vico notes, metaphor has anthropomorphic associations with objects, for example, head for beginning, hands of clock, flesh of fruits, blood of grapes, bowel of earth (NS 405). This further proves Vico’s first claim, that ignorant man makes himself the measure of the universe. Faced with incomprehensibility, man makes things out of himself and becomes them by transforming himself into them (NS 405).
  2. Metonymy springs from the first poets who had to describe most particular and sensible ideas (NS 406). When we want to utter our innermost spiritual and sensible understanding, we have to take refuge of metonymy. Metonymy, according to Vico, “drew a cloak of learning over prevailing ignorance of these origins of human institutions.”
  3. Synecdoche refers to a part of the whole being. “Head” commonly used in vulgar Latin, means the whole man- its origin lies as ‘head(s)’ were the only thing that could be identified in a forest (NS 407).
  4. Irony comes in the period of reflection, fashioned on falsehood as “first men of the gentile world had the simplicity of the children, who are truthful by nature.” (NS 408)

These four tropes, as part of the poetic wisdom are modes of engaging with the world, follow each other in a historical sequence, with residues of the former remaining “figuratively” in the domain of the latter.

The decadence of human age, and the ultimate return to the bestial behaviour giving rise to the new age of the gods, is the result of an ironic distance in which one comes to recognize disparities between figurative representation and “literal” reality, in which literal reality is considered the truth.    

Book III: DISCOVERY OF THE TRUE HOMER

Tradition says Homer was blind and from his blindness, he took his name. In Ionic dialect homer means blind (NS 869). As historians conclude, Trojan War, an epoch-making event, did not take place, there was great doubt if Homer existed in real (NS 873). With some surviving poems of Homer, Vico takes the middle ground saying, “Homer was an idea or a heroic character of Grecian men insofar as they told their histories in song (NS 873).”

Homer was the reason that Greek people competed with each other for the honor of their fatherland and claimed for being citizen. Opinions are diverse as Homer, lived in the lips and memories of the people for a span of 460 years (NS876). Each of the poem (constituting the epics, Illiad and Odyssey), were called homeros, being sung by poor rhapsodes who had to make living by singing them throughout Greece. Vico opines these rhapsodes are authors of poems as much as the people (or Homer if he was a person) who composed the histories in them (NS 878).

Homer (or the idea of Homer)  being an incomparable poet, living in the age of “vigorous memory, robust imagination and sublime invention” cannot be a philosopher. (NS 896) This idea of Homer being incomparable can be traced in the frontispiece of the book as Homer receives the divine light, reflecting from the breast plate of metaphysics and hence any human made ideas cannot be come close with it.

Bibliography:

Aitken, R. James (Robert James). 1995. “Piranesi-Vico-II Campo Marzio : Foundations and the Eternal City.” M. Arch., McGill University.

Bayer, Thora Ilin, Donald Phillip Verene, and Giambattista Vico. 2009. Giambattista Vico: Keys to the New Science : Translations, Commentaries, and Essays. 1 online resource (xi, 209 pages) : illustrations. vols. Cornell Paperbacks. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3138065.

Danesi, Marcel, and Frank H. Nuessel. 1994. The Imaginative Basis of Thought and Culture: Contemporary Perspectives on Giambattista Vico. Media, Communications & Culture Studies ; v. 3. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Vico, Giambattista. 1990. On the Study Methods of Our Time. 1 online resource vols. Book Collections on Project MUSE. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctv3mt9fb.

Vico, Giambattista, and L. M. Palmer. 1988. On the Most Ancient Wisdom of the Italians: Unearthed from the Origins of the Latin Language : Including the Disputation with the Giornale de’ Letterati d’Italia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Vico, Giambattista, and Leon. Pompa. 2002. The First New Science. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge, U.K. ; Cambridge University Press. http://link.library.utoronto.ca/eir/EIRdetail.cfm?Resources__ID=1049994&T=F.

Vico, Giambattista, Carlo Antonio de Rosa marchese di Villarosa, Max Harold Fisch, and Thomas Goddard Bergin. 1963. The Autobiography of Giambattista Vico,. Ithaca, N.Y.: Great Seal Books.


[1] (Danesi and Nuessel 1994, 2–3)

[2] (Danesi and Nuessel 1994, 3)

[3] (Vico 1990, 60–63)

[4] Poiesis in Greek means ‘to create’. Vico masterfully brings the creation back to the poets.

Sketches of Peter Rich

Peter Rich is an Australian architect whose sketches blows my mind. His sketches are manifestations of his travels and they are really special.

Series of sketches on Mandu : An ancient city of Madhya Pradesh- the heart of India
Mandu 2
Mandu 3
Mandu 4
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage city, a city of magnificent ruins – in Southern India
Hampi 2
Hampi 3
Hampi 4
Hampi 5
Hampi 6
Hampi 7
Kerala/ Cochin
Kerala/Alappuzha (or Alleppey)
Badami
Badami 2

Architecture of Memory: On the Relevance of Memory in Architecture

Photo by Hélène Binet from A Feeling of History by Peter Zumthor and Mari Lending

The link between Architecture and Memory is quite ancient. Numerous accounts have been written on how architecture was used as a memory tool. We learn from stories of the Greek poet Simonides, who identified from his memory every visitor in a banquet associating them with architectural setting. This art of memory often called “memory palace” was transmitted from Greeks to Romans and then into European tradition of storytelling. It was common to rehearse speech associating it with the landscape, the porch, the steps, the bedroom or balcony. Hypneretomachia Poliphili, a fifteenth-century Italian text shows Poliphilo in a dark forest, describing ancient marvels “deserving of a place in the theatre of memory” who encounters ruins of classical buildings in search for his beloved Polia in his dream. After the invention of the printing press, with books readily available, memorization techniques were less in demand. Later, memories were distrusted and frowned upon as an unreliable source. Frances Yates claims in Art of Memory that we, moderns, have no memory at all. Giordano Bruno, a sixteenth-century Italian polymath, espoused architecture, art, and poetry as a very few special disciplines, which require disciplined imagination which sprouts from memory. I argue in our more heuristic architectural discipline, architects must depend upon their memory as a tool to imagine.

I argue in our more heuristic architectural discipline, architects must depend upon their memory as a tool to imagine.

While we tend to associate memory as a complex electrochemical process taking place inside our brain, Juhani Pallasmaa claims that memories are also stored in our skeletons, muscles, and skin. Philosopher Edward Casey argues in a similar vein concluding in his book Remembering: A Phenomenological Study, “there is no memory without body memory.” Marcel Proust’s protagonist in In Search of Lost Time constructs his own identity through this bodily memory.

I would argue that architecture alone cannot produce any emotion unless we associate it with our memory. Our childhood memory is a fertile ground for our imagination. From this seed of memory, the tree of imagination takes shape. Imagination is vital to make architecture that is essential to the lived experience. Neuroscientists have found evidence that our fundamental perceptions don’t generate in the brain alone but is produced from the encounter between the body and the world. Through our interaction with the world, we create bodily memory. Architect Peter Zumthor makes this bodily memory speak through his architecture. He believes places and landscapes act as memory banks and an architect should actively interpret the memory stored in these landscapes to design that would be responsive beyond the spectacular form.

Every landscape and building are condensed memory and with memory we associate our microcosmic experiences with the world. Our existential space is built with multisensorial perceptions. The crucial question is, standing on our time, acknowledging the circumstances of our technological world, how can one imagine a palace to store memories which would safeguard the authenticity of human experience?

The crucial question is, standing on our time, acknowledging the circumstances of our technological world, how can one imagine a palace to store memories which would safeguard the authenticity of human experience?

References:

Bachelard, Gaston, and M. Jolas. 1994. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press.

Brodsky, Joseph, and Poets Laureate Collection (Library of Congress). 1995. On Grief and Reason: Essays. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Casey, Edward S. 2000. Remembering: A Phenomenological Study. 2nd ed. Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Dutton, Denis. 2009. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, & Human Evolution. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Fisher, Thomas. 2004. “What Memory? Whose Memory?” In Memory and Architecture, 11. University of New Mexico Press.

Hurst, Rachel, and Jane Lawrence. n.d. “(Re)Placing, Remembering, Revealing,” 25.

Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. 1994. A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Lyndon, Donlyn., and Charles W. Moore. 1994. Chambers for a Memory Palace. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, and Donald A. Landes. 2012. Phenomenology of Perception. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge.

Mertens, Manuel. 2018. Magic and Memory in Giordano Bruno: The Art of a Heroic Spirit. 1 online resource. vols. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History Ser. Boston: Brill.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2000. “Stairways of the Mind.” International Forum of Psychoanalysis 9 (1–2): 7–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/080370600300055814.

———. 2014. “Empathic Imagination: Formal and Experiential Projection: Empathic Imagination: Formal and Experiential Projection.” Architectural Design 84 (5): 80–85. https://doi.org/10.1002/ad.1812.

Pallasmaa, Juhani., and Peter B. MacKeith. 2012. Encounters 2: Architectural Essays. Helsinki: Rakennustieto .

Pérez Gómez, Alberto. 2006. Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Pérez-Gómez, Alberto, and Louise Pelletier. 2000. Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge. 1. MIT Press paperback ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Proust, Marcel, and Christopher. Prendergast. 2003. In Search of Lost Time. London ; Penguin Books.

Quian Quiroga, Rodrigo, and Juan Pablo Fernández. 2012. Borges and Memory: Encounters with the Human Brain. 1 online resource (ix, 213 pages) : illustrations vols. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3339513.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Mark. Harman. 2011. Letters to a Young Poet. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. http://www.perma-bound.com/ws/image/cover/005215830/m.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Robert Vilain. 2016. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yates, Frances A. 1978. The Art of Memory. Peregrine Books. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Zielinski, Sarah. n.d. “The Secrets of Sherlock’s Mind Palace.” Smithsonian. Accessed January 5, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/secrets-sherlocks-mind-palace-180949567/.

Zumthor, Peter, Mari Lending, and Hélène Binet. 2018. A Feeling of History. Translated by Esther Kinsky. Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess.

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The Bow and the Lyre

The Poem. The Poetic Revelation. Poetry and History.

Why poetry is important in everyday life. Taking a leaf out of Octavio Paz’s book to make a strong case for poetry in our daily life, culture and society.

Octavio Paz, the author of this book was a Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recognized as one of the major Latin American writers of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. This book The Bow and the Lyre contains timeless and profound ideals for our life, society and culture.

The Image

Images are product of imagination. We use the word image to invoke several different meanings. Each image or a poem consisting of different images contain many kinds of opposite or disparate meanings. Saint John speaks of Silent Music where two incompatible terms are put together. According to Paz, the image is key to human condition.

A child is surprised to know that a pound of stone and a pound of feather has the same weight. It is the character of the matter that appeals to the child. Paz calls it poetic reality. The poetic reality of the image cannot have its claim to the truth. The poem never says what it is, but what it could be. The realm of poem resides not in the realm of being but in Aristotelian “likely impossible”.

In dialectical process, the image of stone and the feather are completely opposite. Sometimes first term devours the second and vice versa. But some of the best images are where stone and feather continue to be ‘this is this’, ‘that and that’ and ‘this is that’ at the same time. In poetic terms, the stone is stone, the feather is feather as well as the stone is feather. This violates laws of thought and dialectic approach as dialectic proceeds with a string of reasons.

Since pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides, the uprooting of Being from primordial chaos, constitute the basis of our thinking. “Clear and Distinctive ideas” come from this difference between what is and what is not. The banishment of poetry and mysticism from western history has diminished its value. Western metaphysics ends in solipsism, i.e. the idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. Hegel’s attempt to go back to Heraclitus was futile. 

Despite Husserl’s call to “get back to the facts”, his idealism leads to solipsism.

Heidegger’s effort to go back to Parmenides’ era to find an answer hits the stone wall. Despite Western history going to an astray, Paz is optimistic about finding a way into the world and starting all over again.

On the contrary, Oriental thought has not suffered the same defeat. When Western World conceives ‘this or that’, the Eastern World pitches ‘this and that’ or even ‘this is that’. The fundamental texts of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism reiterates the opposition amid the terms but at the same time mediates the necessary reconciliation between conflicting forces. In the most ancient Upanishad, a fundamental text of the Sanatan Dharma or Eternal Order, it is stated, “Thou art woman. Thou art man. Thou are the youth and the maiden… Thou are the seasons and the seas.” “There is nothing that is not this and there is nothing that is not that” says Chuang -Tzu. He elaborates, “Life is life in relation to death and vice versa. Affirmation is affirmation in relation to negation and vice versa”. It is this very moment when stone and feather fuse together. As per Eastern philosophy,:

Truth is an experience, and everyone must attempt to it on their own.

Learning cannot be just accumulation of knowledge or facts, but it is the attuning of body and spirit. Meditation teach us to let go of things, to unburden ourselves of the knowledge. To think is to breathe as thoughts and life are not separate entities but the same communicating vessel.  The ultimate quest for identity remains between man and the world, consciousness and being, being and existence. All our endeavors remain to rediscover the old path between magic and poetry, science and religion; the forgotten way of communication between the two worlds.

In principle, Tantric systems consider body as an image of cosmos. Sense centers are knots of energy. Triple rhythm of sap, blood and light rules each posture of the embracing bodies.  

In Eastern thought, truth is a personal experience and cannot be communicated. Who knows does not speak and who speaks does not know. Hence the Sage preaches without words. The condemnation of words come from the inability of language to transcend the world of this and that.

The words point to meanings which in turn shows to objects. Objects are beyond the grasp of language. The wordless preaching the Chinese philosophers refer to a language that is more than a language, a word that expresses the inexpressible.

Image and Language:

Each word has a certain number of meanings. When they are used in a sentence, they make a coherent sense. This time, the other meanings of the word disappears. In the case of Image, the multiple meanings remain present. For a poet, meanings of images dwell on different levels. The first one is the authentic one- the poet has seen or heard them. In second case the images are objective reality- the landscape painting by a painter and the actual landscape are not the same. They are two different parallels of the same order. Poetic images have their own logic.

Finally, the poet’s images tell us something about the world and about ourselves, and this something reveals to us what we are in this world.

All things that we represent through syllogism, descriptions, scientific formulas limit themselves to representing or describing it. They do not re-create what they are trying to express. If we see a chair, we would try to analyse its material, color, texture, shape etc. In poem, the chair is present in its totality. The poet does not describe the chair. He puts it in front of the reader.

“The poem does not represent, it presents” says Machado.

The meaning of the image is image itself. It is self explanatory. It can’t be said with other words. Commentaries, explanations and analysis are superfluous. The poet does not try to say. He just says. Unlike sentences and phrases, images are not means. In a similar vein, the sense of poem is in poem itself. Image causes words to lose their mobility and interchangeability. When Language is touched by poetry, it ceases to be a language. Poem transcends the language.  The poetic experience cannot be reduced to words though only word expresses it. Truth of poem relies on the poetic experience. This experience is unutterable. Poetry puts man outside himself as well as makes him return to his original being.

The Poetic Revelation

Poetic experience, like religious experience is a mortal leap. It makes us forget where we are, who we are, only to be rediscovered later. Man reveals to himself though poetry. Religion on the contrary, aims to reveal a mystery alien to us.

According to Rudolf Otto, Sacred is a priori category. But Paz questions, the idea of perfection as a prerequisite of the priori category. The super powerful God must rely on sacrifices of human blood to keep the cosmos in order. God moves the world, but the blood moves the God! Religion is terra incognita for reason.

Paz insists, the experience of sacred does not lie outside to us – but in the opening of heart so that the hidden Other may merge. Religion allures us to an eternal life. It promises to redeem s from death, but it makes the earthly life a punishment.

“In killing death”, Paz says, “religion de-lifes life”.

As life and death is inseparable, death is present in life and we live dying. Each moment that we live, we die. Religion offers death of this life by promising eternal truth. To live is to die. Death is not something that is created in the void of life, but it completes it.

Heidegger pointed out joy in the presence of the beloved is a mean of access to reveal ourselves. He says what is all know with our prior obscure knowledge is love, the joy of love which is a revelation of being.

When man suddenly realizes, there is no meaning other than dying, the fall I the chaos is inexpressible. In the face of the world we are reduced to nothing– but at the same time the nothingness illuminates us to the light of being. “We ourselves annihilate ourselves in creating ourselves”, Paz goes on “we create ourselves in annihilating ourselves”.

Poetic word is a rhythm and being in rhythm is to embrace life and death in a single utterance. Poetry is not a judgment or interpretation of our existence  but it is a revelation of our original condition.

Being is born of nothing. The same rhythm moves us, the same silence surrounds us.

Japanese poet Buson puts it:

Before the white chrysanthemums
the scissors hesitate
for an instant.


True poetry recreates man and makes him assume the true condition, that is not being in dilemma, but understanding the totality of life and death at a single instance.

Before the white chrysanthemums

the scissors hesitate

for an instant.

True poetry recreates man and makes him assume the true condition, that is not being in dilemma, but understanding the totality of life and death at a single instance.

Signs in Rotation

What is the place of poetry in Society? There is no poetry without society- poetry simultaneously affirms and denies speech which is very social at its root. Also there is no society without poetry as it will lack a language – where everyone will say the same thing or nobody will understand anyone.

In a universal society as it was envisioned that every human’s radical difference, singularity and freedom of thought will be celebrated, similarly at one time or the other, all the great poets believed that poem would cease to bring the contradiction of the human society that simultaneously affirms and denies history. In the new vision, it was expected that poetry would be at least practical. However, some traits of contemporary society are : degrading standard of life yet improving standard of living , evaporation of sympathy for fellow men, annihilation of personal communication but raising standard of communication system.

Technology is not an image nor a vision of the world. It is not an image because it cannot reproduce the world and it is not vision because it is unable to conceive the world as shape and its occurrence is more or less shaped by human will. Disappearance of the image is making technology possible.  A mosque or a roman cathedral are impregnated with so many meanings. They endure not only because of the material property, but the significance of the meanings they produce. On the other hand, technological apparatus ceases to function and loses its significance when a higher efficient system is put in its place. Technology has not given us new world image and instead made it impossible to return to old mythologies. Technology’s philosophical virtue contains in the absence of philosophy itself. In absence of thousands of years of history and philosophy, Paz notes sarcastically that human being can find its own way with technology.

For Heidegger, we were too late for the Gods and too early for the being, whose poem already begun is being. Our historical situation is defined by too late and too early. We are lost in things; our thoughts are circular, and we hardly perceive anything.

Poetry, music and dance were originally perceived as a whole. Poetry reading is now a private activity. We don’t hear poetry but see it. We read poetry for ourselves. The transition of reading poetry from a public act to a private act has made the experience solitary. Now thanks to the technology of making sound from the word, we are hearing the world again.

If man is transcendence, poem is a sign of that transcendence- going beyond himself to discover through the otherness. If Man wants to be himself, without losing a key to this world, to unite with the other, then Poem is the key to it.

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

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E Ink has gotten much better over the years which become even more evident when you do side-by-side comparison between (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

xray_kindle

When you purchase a Kindle e-book, Amazon includes some pre-installed details about specific person, locations, fictional 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.

 

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.

28

Professor Christopher Benninger with Ar. Fumihiko Maki in Mumbai, 2012

03

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

What is a teacher?

 

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”- William Arthur Ward

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