Monthly Archives: November 2009

Entrepreneurship in Public Infrastructure

It is no surprise that India has a booming communication infrastructure when it comes to mobile phones. The early problems of under-capacity all seem to have vanished and thousands jump on the mobile bandwagon everyday.

However, the exact opposite happens with physical infrastructure, especially intra city transportation. Traffic in most cities is nightmarish and it has only gotten worse every year. Every once in a while, a grandiose foolish scheme like the Bandra Worli Sea Link come to fruition but its more to inflate the politicians ego than to solve the problem for the long term.

Sarah Lacy in an article on TechCrunch.com makes a compelling case for the entrepreneurial spirit in the mobile sector, with Bangalore as a case-study. 

I completely agree with her reading of the lack of physical infrastructure having something to do with the fact that the government is in charge.

Entrepreneurs: Start. This. Company. Now.

By Sarah Lacy / Washington Post / TechCrunch.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009 1:29 AM

BANGALORE, INDIA ¿ It?s almost as if Russian cell phone carrier MTS has bought the naming rights to Bangalore. I half expected my immigration stamp to read ?BANGALORE! ? BROUGHT TO YOU BY MTS.? The carrier recently launched service in the uber-competitive Indian telecom market and has erected billboards every twenty feet or so. I have never seen so much advertising by one company in one space. They all sport an agro looking dude with his face twisted in some rebel-yell while he does inscrutable things with robots and mechanical arms holding different tech gadgets.

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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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Bandra Kurla Complex Height Restriction Raised to 73 Meters

A mini Manhattan at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) has been the dream of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). Now, almost two years after it doubled the developable floor space index (FSI) from 2 to 4 at the BKC, the MMRDA can hope to live that dream.

The Union ministry of civil aviation has started easing height restrictions on buildings at the BKC, one of the costliest business districts in the city. The first to get its nod was the seven-star Hotel Accor. Recently, the ministry also granted permission to Wadhwa Developers and Parini Developers to construct 73-metre tall(or up to 16-storey) buildings. Currently, the tallest buildings at the BKC — Platina, Naman Centre and two commercial buildings by Tata and Raheja developers — stand at 52 metres (or up to 12 storeys) each.

The ministry was opposed to the idea of highrises at the BKC as a major portion of it comes within the flight path of aeroplanes taking off from the Santa Cruz (domestic) and Sahar (international) airports. It has not eased the height restriction on all buildings; it has started considering cases individually.

The MMRDA, however, is not happy. It wants every building at the BKC to be allowed to rise "not just 73 metres, but 90 metres".

MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad said, "We are hoping that the aviation ministry will allow the building height to be raised to 90 metres. It will give a big boost to the property market."

Top corporate houses, such as Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, ING Vysya Bank, Raghuleela Leasing and Real Estate Pvt Ltd, Starlite Systems Pvt Ltd, Satnam Realtors, Parini Developers Pvt Ltd, Shri Naman Developers Pvt Ltd, Oriental Bank of Commerce and State Bank of India, have purchased additional FSIs.

Indian Cities Today: Cultural Desert of Tomorrow?

Akshay Chavan writes

Indian cities attempt to ape all the bad things about their western counterparts but none of their good things. What is striking about Indian cities is complete lack of public libraries or public parks. Unlike in the west, those who cannot afford to buy books have no access to them, and those can afford, do not want to buy books. Do we want to raise a generation which if completely cut off from books and literature? If want to ape the mall culture of the west, why can’t we ape its public library culture too? What about museums or art galleries?

In the west, every small town worth its salt has a museum, or a local cultural centre which services as a meeting point of the local community. These community centers serve a incubators of talent. A place where neighbors can meet, organize plays, listen to music etc. Do our cities have any such community cultural centers? Perhaps, museums and art galleries are very high brow but what about basic study centers, where children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds can come to study as they don’t get the right environment to study. We wish to have shopping malls like London and New York, then why don’t we want public parks like Hyde Park in London or Central Park in New York.

Continue reading here.