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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

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

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

 

Josep Lluis Sert The Architect of Urban Design

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.

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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