Monthly Archives: July 2009

Height Restrictions Removed: A Boom for Skyscrapers ?

Scorpiogenius makes a compelling arguement for “Taller, Greener, Better”.

The Civil Aviation Ministry and the Airport Authority of India have trimmed down the height restrictions for constructions around our airports. This allows for buildings to sprout higher into the skies above our cities, almost double to what was permitted until yesterday.

I expect Kerala to significantly make use of this waive in the existing law. Kerala has been the only state outside the megapolis Mumbai, and to a lesser extent Gurgaon, to embrace the highrise culture. The trend which was kicked off in Cochin in the early 90s slowly spread to even the smaller Municipal towns of the state. Its become a fashion statement with even towns like Thiruvalla and Kottayam with just over 1 lakh population hosting 20+ structures.

Even though it may take some time for our local self Govts to adapt themselves to the law, it is certain that the Architects and builders would be licking their lips to make full use of it. Kerala is only second to West Bengal in population density; with 35 million inhabitants @ 825/sq km and severe scarcity of de-notified habitable land, it is common sense to understand that this model of urban development suits us best.

I’m a sucker for tallies, yo! I admire the style of urban development followed in North America and Australia which plots a highrise CBD, with suburbs harbouring midrises and housing estates. Each suburb is planned to be self-sufficient on its own for their shopping and entertainment needs, with residents travelling to city-center only for business and work. The CBD builds and rebuilds itself with major improvements necessary only in the transportation network.

Continue reading at Scorpiogenius.

Bumpy Rides: Redesigning Indian Transport

Darpana Sawant-Athale writes on transportation modes and the lack of ergonomics there in.

I slipped forward along with the seat, when the car braked. Then I adjusted myself, pushed the seat back in place and sat into an upright position, until the brakes were pressed again. By the end of the journey, I had a vague sense of my backbone and lower back becoming a single unit. The pain that followed left me with no sense of either in place.

Continue reading at Designology

Remembering the Howard Roark of India: Nari Gandhi

It was not his surname that prompted Nari Gandhi to wear khadi. He embraced the fabric because it was self-reliant, natural and allowed easy breathing. Just like the 30-odd structures built by a man who is often called the Howard Roark of India.

Gandhi–one of the four Indians to have appretinced under the legendary American Frank Lloyd Wright-was an iconic architect. He liked to work without an office and discarded conventions like floor-plan drawings and time-tables. Gandhi, who learnt pottery, would work with masons on each project, share his tiffin with them and use a wooden stick as his pencil. He sketched on the ground to explain his plan. If he wasn’t happy with a construction, he would immediately tear it down. Each of the homes Gandhi built, including actress Asha Parekh’s stone bungalow at Juhu, were products of a happy marriage between art and architecture.

Today, though, this marriage is being battered by builders, bulldozers and bahus. Fifteen years after this maverick Parsi architect died in a car accident, most of his built works (except for Jain House in Lonavla and the Bajaj House) have either been renovated or destroyed. One bungalow in Versova was used recently as the set for a saas-bahu soap. It is now a party venue, replete with a bar that glows in the beam of UV lights. Of course, none of these elements, including high-pitched melodrama and alcohol, is in tune with Gandhi’s organic philosophy.
Continue reading Remembering the Howard Roark of India: Nari Gandhi

Could India Become a Solar Leader?

By JAMES KANTER for The New York Times

India may be gearing to turn itself into the global leader in solar power generation, a sign that major developing nations could become renewable energy hubs to rival Germany and the United States.

solarindia Called the National Solar Mission, the Indian plan outlines a target for 20,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020, according to a draft copy obtained by Greenpeace and posted to the Web.

“This would be the most ambitious solar plan that any country has laid out so far,” said Siddharth Pathak, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace India.

India would generate 100,000 megawatts of solar power by 2030 and 200,000 megawatts by mid-century under the plan.

The plan acknowledges the high cost of solar compared with other sources of energy, and coal in particular. But it says costs could be driven down to between 4 and 5 rupees per kilowatt hour by the period 2017-2020, making solar cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Continue reading Could India Become a Solar Leader?

A Monograph on the works of Nari Gandhi

We are very happy to inform you about the soon to be published Monograph on one of India’s foremost architects Nari Gandhi.

There is a personal connection here for us at UAI. The author of the monograph is Prof. H, Masud Taj my professor at Rizvi College of Architecture from 1992 to 1997,  and a dear friend.

This monograph is published and designed by Pranav Upasani, a fellow alumni from RCA and a good friend, and Prof. Y D Pitkar, a visiting faculty at RCA in the 90’s and a friend too.

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Received via email from Pranav Upasani …

An interesting book is being published on the works of late Architect Nari Gandhi’s works by the Art & Design Book Press at Foundation ForArchitecture.

This is the first-ever monograph of Nari, the talented apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin. I have just visited the foundation’s website at http://www.forarc.com Do visit the website to find out more information about the book. You can also see an online preview of the book in ‘About the book’ section and order your copy from the website.

More about Nari Gandhi

Nari Gandhi (1934-1993) was an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin from 1956 to 1961. He later worked with Architect Warren Weber and studied pottery at the Kent State University before returning to India. Through his early works, he introduced in India, Wright’s desert masonry and the Usonian grid. Nari worked without an office, without drawings, without formal associates, without a timetable, unencumbered by legal and financial constraints, retaining the trust of clients without entertaining their requests. He dispensed architecture that was intoxicatingly rich in materials and craftsmanship. He transformed architecture into a work of art and the client into a patron. [link]

More about the author Prof. H. Masud Taj.

H Masud Taj is an architect-poet-calligrapher (www.taj.ca). He was first featured as a poet by Jennifer Kapoor at her Prithvi Theatre Festival (Mumbai 1978). As a post-oral poet, his audiences vary from Officers of the Indian Navy at their Naval Base in Mumbai (architectural site of his War Memorial) to a single Bosnian refugee in Vienna. He is featured both as a contemporary Canadian poet (Atlas 2007) as well as a contemporary Indian poet (Penguin Books India 2008, 2005, 2002, Bloodaxe UK 2008, Wespennest Austria 2006, Fulcrum USA 2005) besides being aired on BBC, AIR and CFMTV Canada. His work has been translated into Arabic, Hebrew and German and interfaced with architecture (Graz Austria), landscape (Toronto Arts Council, Canada), calligraphy (Gallerie Jean concteau, Mumbai) dance (Dave Wilson’s Parahumans Dance Theatre, Toronto) and with paintings (Jehangir Art Gallery and National Centre of Performing Arts, Mumbai).

As an architect he was mentored by Hassan Fathy and as a calligrapher by David Hosbrough. He has held solo-exhibits in the English Italic-hand; his Arabic calligraphic-platonic-solid was shortlisted in Switzerland and his Hindi calligraphic-posters were exhibited in Scandinavia. His calligraphy is in the collection of Edward Said, Moshe Safdie, Arthur Erickson, etc. His favourite certificate remains his Kindergarten report card that graded his writing as “Bad.”  [link]

You can pre-order this book to receive their special discount.

Moshe Safdie to under take beautification of Golden Temple surroundings

CHANDIGARH: Internationally acclaimed US based architect Moshe Safdie, who had successfully accomplished the most prestigious project of Khalsa Heritage Centre (KHC), Sri Anandpur Sahib would soon undertake the beautification of the surroundings of Golden Temple (Sri Harimandir Sahib) along with the corridor project (Galiara) around the holy Golden Temple at Amritsar.

A decision to this effect was taken at a high level meeting by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal with the delegation of architects led by Safdie here at Chief Minister’s residence this morning. Safdie informed the Chief Minister that he would make a detailed presentation on the concept and lay out plan to under take the beautification of the surroundings of Sri Harimandir Sahib from historic Jallianwala Bagh Complex to the temple site shortly. He said that the existing approved plan of the beautification of corridor project around Golden Temple would also be an integral part of this composite plan. Safdie pointed out that since the Golden Temple was one of the most sacred amongst the religious places of the world where people of all faiths across the globe converge to pay obeisance and offer prayers, was also the most preferred destination of religious tourism. Safdie also informed that he would also utilize the services of world renowned Lebanese landscape Architect Vladimir Djurovic for planting rare species of trees and shrubs which would be brought from the different part of world to accentuate its mystic aura and serenity. Continue reading Moshe Safdie to under take beautification of Golden Temple surroundings

As Mumbai Spills Over, Floodwater Creeps Closer

By VIKAS BAJAJ for the New York Times.

MUMBAI, India — As this city prepared recently to inaugurate a shiny new bridge that officials promise will ease Mumbai’s chronic traffic jams, Dilip da Cunha was peering at the underbelly of the city’s waterways and drainage systems.
Taking two visitors on a tour of the busy causeway where the city’s befouled Mithi River meets the Arabian Sea near the new bridge, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, he pointed out a small clump of trees nearby under which several men were defecating.

The trees represented one of the last remaining species of the mangroves that once dominated the ecology of Mumbai, India’s financial capital and its most populous city. Over the decades, most of the wetlands of the Mithi River estuary that were home to such trees have given way to highways, slums, office buildings and apartment towers.

While the mangroves’ retreat has provided valuable acreage for Mumbai’s growth, Mr. da Cunha, who is one half of a husband-and-wife team that recently finished an exhaustive study of the city’s landscape, said their disappearance, along with the degradation of the city’s waterways, has made the city increasingly vulnerable to flooding during the monsoons. Continue reading As Mumbai Spills Over, Floodwater Creeps Closer

India in My Rear-View Mirror

By PETER WONACOTT in the Wall Street Journal

In China’s Southwest Sichuan province, the road to enlightenment is a superhighway.

In about 90 minutes, the highway zips travelers 180 kilometers from the provincial capital of Chengdu to the former farming hamlet of Leshan, home to a sitting Buddha that is more than 230-feet tall and 1,200 years old. Luxury busses, new model Buicks and Toyota sedans disgorge Chinese and foreign tourists into a city that has popped up in a matter of years, thanks largely to a road system that links Leshan to refurbished rail stations and international airports now just hours away.

Two decades ago, on my first visit to Leshan, the Big Buddha looked out across a river to rice paddies. The same view today is glass, steel and concrete of high rise buildings. Leshan’s economy is now both light and heavy industry, in addition to tourism.Not as idyllic as it once was, to be sure. But Leshan represents a small part of what has been Chinese government’s ambitious road build-out, a bet that massive state spending will yield greater returns in private investment, new jobs and stronger consumer demand. The bet has paid off so far.

Continue reading India in My Rear-View Mirror

Indian heritage architecture is ‘nobody’s baby’

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By Phil Hazlewood

MUMBAI (AFP) — In the days of the British Raj, Watson’s Hotel in Bombay was the place to stay and be seen, its sweeping staircases, plush bars, restaurants and grand ballroom a symbol of colonial splendour.

But with the British long gone from India and the 150-room hotel closed, renamed and taken over by a ragbag of shops, offices and tenants, the distinctive building in the city now called Mumbai faces an uncertain future.

Despite the 138-year-old building being protected by law, years of neglect have seen it placed on the local municipal authority’s "most dilapidated" list of dangerous structures at risk of collapse during the monsoon rains.

Continue reading Indian heritage architecture is ‘nobody’s baby’

Celebrating Heritage

A successful exploration of the distinctly Indianised Art Deco buildings of Bombay.

Bombay Deco — by the now-famous duo of Sharada Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra — is one more collaborative offering on the architectural wonders of Bombay/ Mumbai. The pair is known for consistently bringing out books on Bombay landmarks such as the High Court, the Reclamation and the Oval as well as a book on the walks in Bombay and the Banganga tank. Dwivedi, who writes also on the arts and royalty, children’s book and fashion, has a comprehensive overview of architecture and conservation issues while Mehrotra is the star of the Bombay conservation movement, having been the principal force behind the Kala Ghoda area rejuvenation movement in Mumbai.

The arrival of this book as one more addition to a deeply felt need for books on Indian architecture is truly welcome. It starts with introducing the arrival of the Art Deco movement into Bombay from the West in the 1920s and 30s and its surreptious coiling with the Modern movement entering India, especially Bombay with the princely States, businessmen as well as expatriate Westerners who stayed and worked on building and interior design.

Continue reading Celebrating Heritage