All posts by arzan

Building Livable Cities: Urban Vision

Indian cities are increasingly becoming worse places to live in. Our cities are today marked with rising pollution, dwindling green spaces, dearth of basic amenities & services, shortage of affordable housing and a complete decay of public spaces and infrastructure.

logo-small-2Building Livable  Cities is a multi city investigation on ideas that can make Indian cities Livable . As part of the initiative , symposiums will take place across 5 cities – Bangalore , Mumbai , Delhi , Chennai ,and Ahmedabad between Oct 18-22.

The “Visioning“ Program titled the Blueprint showcases future urban visions and features a number of leading Indian architectss .The series will also be podcasts on The Urban Vision Portal. A book on Ecocities will also be Published in 2011.

More information at Urban Vision

Looking Westward for Design Talent?

Over the last decade, India has undergone change like no other period in its 60+ years of Independence. Besides the lifestyle changes, the transformation of the physical realm is going ahead at a shocking pace. Metros as becoming megalopolii and small mofussil towns are now competing for the title of regional hubs.

Infrastructure has not kept pace with this development in the way we would want it. A two hour commute from Gurgaon to NOIDA or Goregaon to Churchgate are the classic examples. However there seems to be a sense of urgency that is now creeping up….maybe a decade too late, to get things in order. Case in point, the new airport terminals in Bangalore, Hyderabad and New Delhi all opening in the span of 12 months.

Gautam Bhatia, a very well know architect and writer talks about this event in his recent article in the Times of India and touches upon a very “touchy” topic. Why does India invite foreign architects, planners, and designers to conceptualize things for them. Where is the homegrown talent and the pride in the same.

His reasoning for the most part follows a very predictable arguement that has been tossed around for a few years. However from whatever I have gathered, there is a dearth of the technical expertise to somehow figure out the logistical and programming challenges that come with mega projects. And with the need to get them built as of yesterday; there is a very small margin of error for experimentation and a trial  error exercise.

It is only a matter of time, if not already in place; that Indian firms will have the expertise that they have picked up working side by side with these foreign firms to have the confidence to deal with megastructures and projects. Till then there is no shortcut out. Or at least one without risks.

Continue reading Gautam Bhatia’s article

Pride of India ?

By Gautam Bhatia / Times of India

When questioned about the cultural and technological stagnation that came with socialism, a bureaucrat in Nehru’s time once remarked that all the best work had already been done in the West, and we merely had to pick ideas for our own use. At a time when Indian inventiveness and productivity were state-controlled and highly suspect, borrowing made a lot of sense.

Continue reading Looking Westward for Design Talent?

Missed Chances and Government Bureaucracy: Louis Kahn and Gandhinagar

Government intervention and babudom are nothing new to India. It has thrived for generations and continues to do so even today. Soon after Independance there was a massive movement to bring the country on par with the Westernised world. New cities and towns was part of that scheme and Nehru, India’s first prime minister took the initiative to invite Le Corbusier to plan Chandigarh. The rest, as they say is history.

Corbusier was not the only architectural giant to leave his stamp on India. Louis Kahn, his contemporary also worked in India around the same time and would design and influence future generations of architects in India.

While Corbusier got the opportunity to design the masterplan and the important architectural pieces of Chandigarh, Kahn, did not get to do it in India. He did design the capital complex of Bangladesh, which then was a new country taking birth.

Paul John writes a very interesting article “With Kahn magic Gandhinagar would have  rivalled Chandigarh” that speaks about the missed opportunity for India and Kahn to design Gandhinagar, the new capital of the new state of Guarat.

If Chandigarh is Le Corbusier’s city, Bhubaneswar bears the German Otto Koenigsberger’s signature, Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar could have had American yogi Louis Kahn’s imprint — a strong rival to Corbusier’s Chandigarh — had the Indian and Gujarat governments allowed Kahn to design the capitol buildings. Continue reading Missed Chances and Government Bureaucracy: Louis Kahn and Gandhinagar

My Building Tallest

The late 90’s and the first decade of the 21st century can be rightly called the glory years of the Skyscraper Race. Countries tried to outdo each other in claiming the tallest skyscraper status. Before this boom, the Sears Towers in Chicago, USA held the claim for nearly 3 decades.

All that went for a toss as Asian countries caught on to this craze. The Petronas became the tallest building for a few years, only to be eclipsed by Taipei 101 in Taiwan. And then came the big kahuna of tall buildings, the Burj Khalifa.

And this is just the race for the top position. Change it to the top ten and there are dozens of buildings all across Asia, North America, and Russia that try to reach for the skies.

In all this, India is prominently absent.

Monika Halan writes a very well-laid out article titled: Reaching for the Sky: How Tall is my country.

She concludes

… it does not look as if India or Indians are unduly worried about failing on another parameter of global ranking. The lack of interest or even public debate on getting India on the tall building map could mean several things. One, we are not at the stage of economic growth where having the tallest building becomes something to think about. Two, there is no massive speculative real estate bubble in the country and cheap money is certainly not an issue. Three, the argumentative Indian does not need the prop of an icon of American culture to define India’s identity or its place in the world. Or it could just be that we are so sure that a fire in the tallest building will end in disaster with the fire engines (that can reach all of 10 storeys) stuck in a traffic jam caused by a broken-down cycle on the main road. Nope, we don’t even want to go that way.

Tall buildings serve their purpose in urban areas. Contrary to popular thinking they can be more sustainable in all aspects than their height challenged counterparts. And if India takes that road and goes tall, all power to the builders. But if its just to get bragging rights, then its a waste of time, money and opportunity.

Indian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 Disappoints

On May 01, 2010 the World Expo 2010 opened in Shanghai, China. Besides other things, its a venerable feast of architecture

Countries have come out with their best architectural foot forward and some of the national pavilions are stunning examples of the contemporary architectural vocabulary of those countries. However all attempts to get a better look at the Indian Pavilion at the Expo has been a disappointing task.

Indian-Pavilion-Shanghai-World_Expo_2010

The above picture is one of the few official ones that have been released by the Chinese Expo Authority. And the Director of the Indian Pavilion Rajesh Kumar, can be seen here talking about the design.

Continue reading Indian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 Disappoints

The Need for Design Schools in India

India is fast becoming one of the world’s leading consumer of manufactured goods. Be it cellphones, sneakers, cars or home furnishings; Indians are lapping it all up. And the manufacturers of the world cannot ignore the fact that there needs to be a new design sensibility for this new client base.

Jayashree Bhosale at Economic Times writes about this need for an “Indianised” design and by extension the Indian designers.

In the whole post-secondary education boom, pure design schools have not been at the forefront. And that is a niche waiting to be filled. The article below discusses the pros and cons of that.

India is now a potential design pool

There’s a whole new talent dimension that India has yet to cash in on: design. The demand for professionals in this field is going up by the day, as international brands call in on one of the world’s key manufacturing and consumption centres. But with just a handful design schools in the country, it’s an opportunity waiting to be tapped.

Continue reading The Need for Design Schools in India

The Mumbai CBD Exodus

The following news article about the impending exodus of finance powerhouses from Nariman Point, the CBD of Mumbai; is not surprising. Infact, some would wonder why it took so long.

Since the 90’s we have had proclamations from politicians wanting to make Mumbai the next  Shanghai, Singapore or Dubai; depending on the flavor of the month.

What most people dont realize is that Nariman Point is over 40 years old in the present form. And its buildings are crumbling or in poor shape. And the rents are double that of Midtown Manhattan.

Infrastructure wise, its not as bad as other parts of Mumbai. However it would serve some owners well to demolish and build more efficient buildings, in terms of space, design and sustainability. Then the sky-high rents are justified.

Inevitably it may happen. As more and more businesses move away, owners might do just that. I’d rather they be proctive about it, than doing it as a reaction to market forces alone.

UBS, JP Morgan lead Nariman Point exodus

By Pooja Thakur, for Bloomberg

MUMBAI: UBS AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are leading an exodus of finance companies from Mumbai’s Nariman Point financial district as they balk at paying double midtown-Manhattan rents for crumbling four-decade-old buildings.

UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, moved to a new complex on the site of a drive-in cinema about nine miles north. JPMorgan, the second-biggest US lender, shifted to an adjacent suburb, while private-equity firm KKR & Co. went about three miles north of Nariman Point. Axis Bank and broker Motilal Oswal Financial Services are moving in the next year.

Continue reading The Mumbai CBD Exodus

McKinsey and Company on India’s Urbanization

McKinsey & Company recently came up with a comprehensive report titled “India’s Urban Awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth”. The executive summary of the report is below. The entire report in PDF format can be read here.

India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth

 

India has a young and rapidly growing population—a potential demographic dividend. But India needs thriving cities if that dividend is to pay out. New MGI research estimates that cities could generate 70 percent of net new jobs created to 2030, produce around 70 percent of Indian GDP, and drive a near fourfold increase in per capita incomes across the nation.

Handled well, India can reap significant benefits from urbanization. MGI offers a range of recommendations, the vast majority of which India could implement within five to ten years. If India were to follow the recommendations, it could add 1 to 1.5 percent to annual GDP growth, bringing the economy near to the double-digit growth to which the government aspires.

Continue reading McKinsey and Company on India’s Urbanization

India’s Urban Awakening

Warren Karlenzig at Green Flow makes some very valid points for India cities as they grow both in number and size. Some of the comparisons with China are pretty interesting, especially the one about planned phases of growth in national cities.

Making the Cities of India More Sustainable

Article by Warren Karlenzig at Green Flow

With Mumbai, one of the largest cities of the world, treating only 30-40 percent of its sewage, experiencing five-hour traffic delays and hosting massively expanding unplanned slums, urban sustainability needs to be viewed through a different lens than elsewhere.

India will add an additional 26 cities of one million or more by 2030 to its 42 one million+ cities today. The 2008 population in cities of 340 million in 2008 will soar to 590 million by 2030. The need for much improved urban housing and health services, let alone better planning, governance and carbon management, threatens the nation’s and thus the world’s economic stability: India’s population by 2030 is forecast to overtake China’s

Continue reading India’s Urban Awakening

Welsh Architect to Design Ancient Indian Temple

India abounds in ancient architecture. A lot of it is living, preserved and used by society in daily life. And not all of it is converted to museums and monuments.

Adam_Hardy Now what happens when you want to build a new temple in a style that has gone defunct centuries ago? Well you try to find the top researcher in that style and see if something can be designed.

The smart folks at Shree Kalyana Venkateshwara Hoysala Art Foundation did just that when they decided that they wanted to build a new temple in the Hoysala Dynasty style.

A British architect has been commissioned to design a Hindu temple in India in a style not used for more than 700 years.

Adam Hardy, from Cardiff’s Welsh School of Architecture, believes he is the only person in the world with the knowledge to design in the style of the 12th century Hoysala dynasty.

Unlike other regional architectural traditions which are still practised by Hindu architects in India, this particular complex and ornate style from the south died out seven centuries ago. [ link to article ]

temple_hoysala

Continue reading Welsh Architect to Design Ancient Indian Temple