Category Archives: Architects

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.

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Architectural Licensing in India: Time to upgrade ?

Architects are licensed professionals. They pass out from accredited schools and colleges and after due paperwork are licensed to practise by the Council of Architecture, India. This is a government agency set up by an Act of Parliament.

In that respect, the new move by the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority raises a few issues.

Architects, engineers and developers have strongly opposed the decision of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) making it compulsory to renew their registration and licences every year for projects within its limit.

According to them, the fiat issued this week is highly unwarranted and would not serve any purpose other than causing harassment and inconvenience to over 4,000 engineers and hundreds of builders, real estate developers.

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Kanvinde: Function With Feeling

Achyut Kanvinde passed away in 2002. He was in his time one of the giants of Indian architecture. As the principal architect of CISR he designed a vast body of institutional work over the decades.

Kanvinde studies under Walter Gropius at Harvard in the Functionalist style of design.

Himanshu Burte writes an interesting overview of Kanvinde’s work and thought philosophy in this article title “ Function with Feeling ”.

Function with feeling

Himanshu Burte / Business Standard.

Schooled in the dry Functionalist approach to architecture, Achyut Kanvinde created spaces that were ‘humane’, buildings where you felt welcome and comfortable.Achyut Kanvinde (1916-2002) was among the earliest Functionalist architects in modern India. He was a self-effacing person, but his work helped shape some of the things we automatically expect in buildings today — that they should function efficiently, should not waste space, and be elegant too.

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Developers to Benefit from Foreign University Influx

One thing that differs vastly between Indian and American educational institutions is the infrastructure. Most American universities are huge campuses with dozens of academic, sports, facilities and housing buildings. In India however, this is usually not the case barring a few institutions.

Hence the news that foreign educational institutions are coming to India, means that it could be an interesting time for developers and architects.

It will be interesting to see if these foreign institutions bring in their own architects to plan and design campuses or will they hire local talent.

The article below dwells into this issue and brings up some interesting arguments.

Developers hope to benefit from foreign univs’ entry

It is niche developers like HCC and SEZ Sri City who see an opportunity by roping in big institutions

By Ranju Sarkar / Business Standard

Construction companies and real estate developers smell an opportunity when foreign universities are allowed to set up campuses in India. Last Monday, the Union Cabinet okayed the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill. Once cleared by the Parliament, it will enable foreign universities to do so.

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Mario Botta in India

Swiss architect Mario Botta needs no introduction. His work around the world speaks volumes of the master architect. And his projects in India for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) are a continuation of his excellence in the field.

Mario Botta: Swiss architect who designed TCS offices

By Ishani Duttagupta & Neha Dewan, ET Bureau

For well-known Swiss architect and urban designer Mario Botta, India has definitely been among the shaping influences of his style. “The past is very important for my work and so is the environment and climate of a place. All this translates into a modern architectural genre,” says Botta who has worked on various urban architecture projects around the world. The past, he says, makes up 95% of the current place in which we stay.

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The Enigma of Hafeez Contractor

Amongst all professionals, no one gets his peers as riled up as does Architect Hafeez Contractor. And the reasons are many. Be it is “chutzpah” early in his career to go where no architect wanted to go in terms of fees. Be it his complete mastery and hence exploitation of the archaic Building Bye-Laws. And surely his dated designs that have sadly given Bombay much of its current image.

Rahul Bhatia at Open Magazine tries to bring the persona of Hafeez to life. This is a perspective of a non-architect looking at what an architect is doing to the urban fabric of the city we stay in and we all love.

Bhatia creates a fine balance in trying to bring out the issues without getting into any of the bias that clouds most architectural arguements concering Hafeez. And daresay I even agree with Hafeez on this one point

Hafeez believes the only reason people object to taller buildings is that builders lobby for permissions to build them, which means someone, somewhere, is making a lot of money. “Can you believe that?” he exclaims. He wants Mumbai to be taller so that there’s room for its inhabitants.

Hafeez Contractor is India’s starchitect, whether architects like it or not. It. At this stage in his professional career Hafeez could do a lot more to improve the overall urban quality of the cities he practises in. His clout with the developer, politician and his understanding of architecture and design should allow him to push a better agenda for our cities. Exploiting loopholes in the law is not one of them.

Rahul Bhatia / Open Magazine.

Deconstructing Hafeez Contractor

In Hafeez Contractor’s factory, hundreds of architects and draftsmen sit elbow to elbow to churn out buildings. From morning to night, their sole purpose is to draft and design the innumerable rough sketches that originate from Hafeez, who has a good view of the office exit. As a result, employees do not attempt to leave before dinner. When a project is over they immediately begin work on the next. There are no milestones, only more buildings to make. People here do not linger. They have been taught to respect time. The act of endless production has stripped them of most ideologies, bar one: the client’s happiness comes above all else. Here, the architect is as the dictionary defines him: a person who designs buildings. This is not about form follows function, or less is more, or envisioning habitats. The factory’s patrons know the worth of a buck, and they do not care much for architecture as art. Which is why they come here. They like their costs minimised, and design amplified.

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Kings of Xeroxia

infosys_gec2

It is no secret that a lot of contemporary architecture in India is a recycled pastiche of western historical styles. Many feel that its a result of the Western colonization of India that ended only 60+ years ago. And brought about the strong undercurrent of Western influences.

Shruti Ravindran at Outlook India writes a very interesting article of how a lot of architecture today is a photocopy (“Xerox”) of buildings and monuments that are from another civilization in another part of the world and dont even belong in the previous millenium, leave alone century. She poses a very valid question today

“Why are we still emulating colonial structures? Where are our starchitects??”

Contextualism seems to be a “foreign” word to man

y architects who ape Greek and Roman architecture that even the Greeks and Romans of today dont follow. Some places would make Asterix and Obelix feel at home if they landed up in India today.

Kings of Xeroxia

By Shruti Ravindran / Outlook India [ link to article]

Critic’s View

  • Greek architecture is an absurd reference for contemporary India Still, why Greek?
  • This structure belongs in a filmset, not a place of learning
  • Using an ancient kit of parts—a touch of the Parthenon here, a dab of Capitol Hill there—how is this a building for our times?
  • Students will feel dwarfed here This is not sustainable and out of sync with Infosys’s character, based on the ideals of knowledge economy .

Counterpoint

  • Mr Murthy wanted something that looked like the universities abroad
  • Greek classical architecture lasted for centuries as will this institution
  • The plaza, the crescent shape, the musical fountain: everything about the building shows the transformative power of education
  • It’ll inculcate a sense of pride in them We have all the green gizmos. This building saves 60 per cent of energy as compared to others.

This September, two supposed marvels of institutional architecture were unveiled before the public. The first, in honour of the fast-approaching Commonwealth Games, was a Lutyens-style makeover—large white pillars and incongruous purple-black glass—for the Ajmeri Gate side of New Delhi railway station. The second was the spanking-new addition to the Infosys Mysore campus: the classical Greek architecture-inspired Global Education Centre-2 (GEC-2).

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Balkrishna Doshi Rues Lack of Ideas

doshi Poverty of ideas and a lack of social commitment in many of India’s contemporary architects could leave us with no skyline we can call our own two decades from now, fears visionary architect-planner Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi.

“What will happen to our cities after 20 years? We have no public realm, no urban development, no museums, no civic spaces and no institutions to inspire us,” the Padmashri awardee lamented while speaking at an interactive session organised by Ambuja Realty at the CII Suresh Neotia Centre of Excellence for Leadership on Tuesday evening.

Doshi gave the city its first “large-format, socio-economically tiered” housing in the shape of Udayan, The Condoville. The architect, who had worked for four years (1951-54) with Le Corbusier as senior designer in Paris, and then in India to supervise Corbusier’s projects in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, felt modern India wasn’t creating any architectural heritage we could be proud of 20 years on.

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Bureaucracy and other spanners in India’s works

By DAVID LASCELLES / Business Day

THE world has become so accustomed to labelling India as one of the world’s great engines of growth — alongside China — that it comes as a bit of a shock to discover that the reality is a little less dazzling.

Concrete and chaos are the best words to describe India today, as I discovered from a visit earlier this month. The concrete is the building activity you see everywhere, the chaos is the sense you quickly get that things are barely under control.

A typical Indian scene is a large construction site, cement mixers grinding and cranes toiling, while sacred cows munch the grass alongside and a torrent of battered cars, rickshaws and filthy trucks crashes by on the pitted roads. The air is full of noise and grit, but out of it will rise the gleaming headquarters of some new Indian corporate giant.

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Council of Architecture India under investigation

Termites In The Woodwork

The government has accused top officers at the COA, India’s apex architectural body, of criminal misconduct. BRIJESH PANDEY tracks the issues as the CBI investigates

IN A move that could change the face of the study and practice of architecture in India, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) has recommended a CBI probe against the president, registrar and four members of the executive committee of the Council of Architecture (COA). The COA is a regulatory body constituted by the Architects Act of 1972, which accredits and licenses educational institutions to teach architecture in India. Moreover, every architect working in India has to be registered with the COA.

In a letter to the CBI dated August 27, 2009 (DO No. C-1301168/2009-Vig) — from the Joint Secretary and Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the MHRD, Sunil Kumar — requested the investigation of six top officials of the COA, namely, the President, Vijay Sohoni, the Registrar, Vinod Kumar and four members of the Executive Committee: KB Mohapatra, Uday C Godkari, IJS Bakhsi and Prakash Deshmukh. In the letter (a copy of which is with TEHELKA) the Joint Secretary alleges that:

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