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What is a teacher?


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



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.


Each chapter focuses on a different theme related to U.S. export architecture, and the opening spread features a timeline placing architectural events in a global historical context. Here, the oil boom of the 1970s attracted U.S. offices to build in the Middle East.

In many chapters, an infographic follows the chapter intro, illustrating the theme. Here, a diagram looks at the amout of building in the Middle East by U.S. firms in relation to the price of a barrel of oil.

In many chapters, an infographic follows the chapter intro, illustrating the theme. Here, a diagram looks at the amout of building in the Middle East by U.S. firms in relation to the price of a barrel of oil.

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

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

The book contains a wide range of scans of original articles from architecture publications, along with mainstream newspapers and magazines. Above: Architectural Record article about the Middle East as a new client.

The book contains a wide range of scans of original articles from architecture publications, along with mainstream newspapers and magazines. Above: Architectural Record article about the Middle East as a new client.

Profile of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world's largest and most influential firms.

Profile of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world’s largest and most influential firms.

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

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

Images Courtesy: Lars Muller Publishers

Modernism Rediscovered: Julius Shulman

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

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

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

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

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

Modernism Rediscovered by Julius Shulman

Images courtesy: Taschen

Carlo Scarpa

In Robert McCarter’s Carlo Scarpa monograph, Austrian architect Peter Noever tells an astonishing tale. In 1974, he and Scarpa toured the Adolf Loos made American Bar in Vienna. The moment they entered Scarpa started evaluating the space. He ordered champagne for the ladies……

who were present and a measuring tape for himself. Scarpa then continued to measure everything down to the exact millimeter. When completed he announced the space to be of “singular spiritual and emotional quality.”

This is precisely how I envision McCarter analyze the work of the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa—measuring tape in hand.  In this substantial volume, McCarter leads us by the hand through Scarpa’s achievements. He gives us a survey that is both vast, and in the spirit of Scarpa, meticulously detailed.

Olivetti Showroom, Piazza San Marco, Venice, 1957-1958, western facade

Carlo Scarpa is a mystery. He has never achieved the iconic status in this country reserved for Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, or Louis Kahn, yet Scarpa was revered by all of them. McCarter’s comprehensive tome has the capacity to change this. With over 350 drawings, photos and plans the monograph is an illuminating roadmap to Scarpa’s originality. McCarter, himself an architect and the Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture at Washington University, not only discusses Scarpa’s built work in solemn detail, he also delves in the unbuilt, exhibitions and Scarpa’s relationships with other craftsmen, architects and artists. The book is a historical breakthrough, not only for the extent of projects covered and the intricacy in which they are explained but for McCarter’s own acute observations like Scarpa’s floor pattern in the Torrisino Church in Padova. McCarter discovered a Scarpa anomaly, a mosaic floor, unlike all his others, that actually repeats.

McCarter considers Scarpa a master craftsman, yet chose only to include the innovative glasswork that Scarpa designed at the beginning of his career. It would have been instructive to include other objects Scarpa designed, the furniture for Simon (now owned by Cassina) and his work in sterling silver for Cleto Munari. The functional items that Scarpa produced were extensions of his explorations in craft and material and in the context of his architecture become more coherent.

Born in Venice in 1906, at age two Scarpa’s family moved to Vicenza. His childhood was spent playing amongst the Palladian porticos. After the death of his fashion designer mother when he was 13 his family moved back to Venice. Scarpa considered himself  “A man of Byzantium who came to Venice by way of Greece.” It is Venice where he studied, taught, rediscovered traditional Venetian crafts, restored, and built. Even when working in other places, such as Verona and Bologna, the qualities of Venice permeated his architecture. At 14, he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Art and while there shifted from the study of art to architectural drawing. He graduated at age 20 with a degree to teach architectural drawing but not practice architecture. His refusal to become an officially licensed architect plagued him for years, but after successfully defending himself in a lawsuit (at the same time he was restoring the Manlio Capitolo courtroom where he was on trial) the issue became immaterial. The irony is permanent.

Glass Designs, Murano, 1926-47, Vaso Transparente, 1926, globe-shaped clear vase with blue truncated cone base, M.V.M Cappellin & C

Scarpa was dedicated to the process of discovery, to the artisan crafts of Venice, and to the “relentless analysis of detail.”  A man who immersed himself in culture, history and art, his personal library contained 4,052 volumes. At the beginning of his career, Scarpa worked on Murano, initially at MVM Cappellin and then at Venini, exploring and expanding the vocabulary of Venetian glass.  These “marks of torn color” as Scarpa referred to his glass creations, were the result of both a deep respect and fascination with the alchemy of glass. The first material to be subjected to Scarpa’s brilliant mind, he invented startling new textures and opacities that were exhibited in the Venice Art Biennale.

Glass blowing, metalworking, plaster, mosaics, terrazzo, wood working – the artisan crafts of Venice were all resurrected by Scarpa. He found the divine in the precious details of construction. Once Scarpa started building, he created glazing solutions that had never been used before.  He framed windows independent of the original stone apertures in restorations, and he was the first to create windows that turned the corner from the wall to the ceiling. Glass was used for reflective color in modern mosaics and in terrazzo floors. McCarter admits to the sensuous nature of materials chosen by Scarpa, but he doesn’t afford the same adjective to the man. I’m not sure they can be separated

For the 24th Venice Biennale, Scarpa designed an exhibit of works by Paul Klee. The process of creating the installation allowed Scarpa intimate access to the paintings. McCarter delves into the philosophies of Paul Klee and Scarpa, drawing the parallels that informed their work. Both men believed in the act of drawing to understand the world before them. Scarpa considered his drawings  (done with both hands, often simultaneously) only completed when construction was complete. McCarter feels that their mutual theories about material, emotion, time and symbolism had the strongest influence on Scarpa, more than Klee’s visual patterns. And yet, the terrazzo floor in the Olivetti showroom, which Scarpa designed in 1956, uses a grid pattern that mirrors the brushstrokes in Klee’s 1932 Emacht painting.  Had I not witnessed the Klee painting and the Scarpa floor in the same monograph, I would never have understood this correlation.

Fondazione Querini Stampalia renovations, Venice, 1961-63, view across water entry room from entrance hall, with the water gates (l) and radiator enclosure and glass wall (r)

McCarter presents 15 projects in reverential detail. Roaming through the predominantly interior spaces (ordered somewhat chronologically and by poetic themes), we begin to understand Scarpa’s philosophies: his conviction that building museums was more rewarding than skyscrapers, it was easier to work with fixed limitations, art was best viewed in natural light, layers of history were not be demolished but revealed, material transitions were to be celebrated and Verum Ipsum Factum – we only know what we make.  Beams, joints, apertures, seams, edges, the functional should be beautiful.In 1978, Scarpa was visiting Japan and fell down a flight of stairs. He died 11 days later.  People have claimed he tripped because he was studying an architectural detail.

Scarpa said the “path of the eyes differs from the path of the body,” and this may have been the most tragic example.

There is more to the myth of Scarpa not included in McCarter’s book. How Scarpa wrote backward on his drawings, how he refused to ask for payment for fear he’d have to do what the client asked, how he astonished friends with absurd pranks… how he took 6 years to design a fork because he would be using it to eat his beloved Venetian cuisine.  Even if these are stories that can’t really be measured, they remain the lexicon of Scarpa legends.

Banca Popolare, Verona, 1973-8, detail of the square brass joint in the inner corner of the violet-coloured upper wall

McCarter explains repeatedly that the only way to truly understand the work of Scarpa is through “experiential engagement.” This monograph is the catalyst to get us to go.  Maybe when in Italy, being seduced by the saturated jewel colors of the Venetian plaster at Banca Popolare, or perhaps standing on the first floor of Querini Stampalia surrounded by an interior moat of splashing water during aqua alta, or sensing the intimate love between husband and wife as their sarcophagi incline together at the Brion Cemetery, we will feel what Scarpa saw.

Images Courtesy: Phaidon

Brion Cemetery Meditation Pavilion – Carlo Scarpa

Brion Cemetery Meditation Pavilion – Carlo Scarpa
Carlo Scarpa was one of the second generation of Modern architects – however, as a son of Venice, he was sensitive to that city’s old-fashioned culture (unlike most modernists), and made his reputation through a number of commissions and renovations in which he used Modern methods and spatial concepts to transform Venice, rather than crudely eliminate its ancient identity. He understood that the past is not dead and that we in the present must engage and intertwine with it.

Brion Cemetery Water Pavilion – Carlo Scarpa
Scarpa did not restrict himself to Venice, however. Indeed, perhaps his most visited and well-known work was the last he completed in his lifetime – the Brion Cemetery at San Vito D’Altivole, a small village not far from the Dolomite Mountains. This was the country of Giuseppe Brion, founder of the prestigious Brionvega electronics company, who Scarpa admired as a man of the people, who had “started from the bottom”, as well as for the design quality of his products, many of which are museum pieces today.

Brion Cemetery Propylaeum Corridor – Carlo Scarpa

When Brion died in 1968, his family bought a large, L-shaped portion of land around the actual village cemetery in which to house his tomb. It was Scarpa’s responsibility to devise an inspiring memorial, with multiple traits  in the Modern style that were nevertheless respectful rather than dictatorial. Between 1969 and 1977, he created a setting that was not only a fitting memorial but in its deployment of light, form and space, also a place for the living to engage in contemplation. This is particularly evident in the magnificent meditation pavilion, set in a large square pool surrounded by a concrete wall and a band of coloured tiles. It is meticulously conceived to direct our eye around its perfectly juxtaposed features – the ideal salute from one ingenious craftsman to another.



Are you a trivia whiz who knows his Alto from his Ando? Which bespectacled architect set the trend, nay stereotype, for round eyewear across the profession? Whose eyebrows are on fleek?

The Distinguishing Features Game, is one of more than 60 infographics featured in Archi-Graphic, a book from publisher Laurence King. Author Frank Jacobus, an associate professor at the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, dreamed it up as part of his goal to bring data visualization to his field—along with a much-needed dose of levity.

“I love the humor in the book and that’s part of what we’re after,” Jacobus says. “There’s a tendency to take things too seriously in architecture. We’re trying to make things a bit lighter. Part of my interest is in data visualization and I thought, what a great way to bring architecture to a bigger audience.”

Jacobus sketched out all of the infographics and worked with a group of about 20 architecture students to research and digitize them. The whole process took about a year and a half and sounds a heck of a lot more fun than your typical course of study. “It was its own class, so to speak, and we started asking questions that aren’t asked in lectures, like who had affairs with whom?” Jacobus says.

The book covers topics like rising skylines; a comparison of how much work an architect actually produces to how much buzz he or she generates (as measured by Google hits); and what building styles dictators prefer. It also tackles tough facts like the lack of diversity in the profession, which Jacobus says are the most impactful infographics in the book. “One of them called ‘Ladies and Gents’ talks about a discipline that’s slowly becoming equal but not anywhere close to where it needs to be,” Jacobus says. [Editor’s note: it’s about 17% female and 83% male.] “‘AIAn’t Ethnic’ deals with ethnicity in the discipline. It’s a play on words and references a Suprematist painting style that evokes the whiteness of our discipline. [Editor’s note: it’s about 72% caucasian.] We have some things to do in remedying a male-dominated, mostly caucasian profession.”

Very important and worthwhile issues and ones where seeing a graphic certainly hits the message home more so than abstract figures.

Images courtesy: Laurence King publishing