Architects Architecture

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.

Architects Events News

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.


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 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 ( 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.

Architects Architecture Cities Events News Profession Public Realm

Notes from the Emerging Architecture of India Conference in New York City

The Emerging Exchanges: New Architectute of India conference was held last Thursday and Friday at the New School Campus here in NYC. Jointly hosted by the New School, India China Institute, and The Architecture League it brought together a great mix of practitioners from India.

Thursday’s first session was an introduction to the theme. Kazi Ashraf gave an overview of the current state of Indian architecture which was basically paraphrasing his article for the “Made In India” AD Issue of 2007. In showing a lot of proposals for projects he tried to cover ground about the typologies of emergent Indian architecture. However as Rahul Mehrotra pointed out later in the conference, most of them were just proposals and never ever left the drawing board. And sadly this would be a constant criticism of the conference over the next two days. More of that later in the article.

Some of the outstanding presentations were:


Hafeez Contractor may offload 74% for $150 mn

Hafeez Contractor, involved with several landmark real estate developments, is looking at offloading a majority stake in his eponymous and India’s largest architectural design firm, sources said. The Mumbai-based architect is discussing the possibility of divesting up to 74% stake with private equity funds at an enterprise valuation topping $150 million.

The earliest foreign investor in the domestic real estate sector, India Real Estate Opportunities (IREO) fund, is among the potential suitors that have had discussions with the architectural design firm, sources added. The firm has been in talks with potential suitors for a while, but the deal time-line may get stretched following the ongoing market turmoil as private equity industry is seen with-holding investments amidst unprecedented developments in the financial sector.

When contacted, Hafeez Contractor declined to comment saying he would not confirm or deny it. An email query pertaining to a possible stake sale in the company remained unanswered.
The 58-year-old Contractor is not working on a family succession to take forward the professionally-run firm, and his plans to divest a significant stake must be seen in the context, sources added. The 25-year-old firm has around 350 staff including 26 senior associates, and annualized revenue reportedly in the region of Rs 200 crore.

Architects Architecture Urban Transportation

Charles Correa: Cities as agents of change

Charles Correa is arguably India’s most renowned architect and urban planner. From the Mahatma Gandhi Museum in Ahmedabad to the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Centre in Boston, his buildings have covered a wide spectrum. On the 50th anniversary of setting up his office in Mumbai, Rahul Singh spoke to Correa about his career and concerns:

Everybody who watched the Beijing Olympics was enthralled by the Bird’s Nest stadium. Why doesn’t India have such iconic buildings?

Chinese artist was the inspiration. Then, a Danish structural engineer, Ove Arup, who lives in England, did the actual interweaving structure (he also did the Sydney Opera House). For great buildings, you need a client with imagination, whose objective is excellence. In the 1960s and 1970s we had a lot of good buildings through government patronage of architects like Le Corbussier, Raj Rewal and Balkrishna Doshi. We need to find a way for public agencies to involve more private architects.

Tell us something about your career and your success.

I returned from the US when I was 25, became a partner in a firm. Then, at 28, I started on my own. I did not imagine I would last so long! I believe that if you enjoy what you do, you will do it well. After the Gandhi museum, I won a competition for low-cost housing. I was also invited to teach at MIT and the president of Peru, who was an architect, asked me to design some housing for them.

Architects Events

Volume Zero: The Work of Charles Correa

September 04: If only Charles Correa were Mumbai’s chief architect. The city might have scored higher on aesthetics and urban planning . Even though the architect works out of Mumbai, the city has little of his work. To see what we’re missing, head to the NCPA today to watch Arun Khopkar’s Volume Zero: The Work of Charles Correa, an hour-long film on Correa’s architecture.

Khopkar’s documentary is a cinematic tour of some of Correa’s best work. “I’m interested in the relationship between architecture and cinema,” says the film-maker who has previously documented Jehangir Sabavala’s art and Alarmel Valli’s Bharatanatyam. “With each location there is a specific problem with how to make the location come alive.” The first Correa building he came across was the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya in Ahmedabad 20 years ago. It’s a large airy structure built around a courtyard, a feature that Correa repeats in many of his later buildings. In the film, Khopkar recalls feeling “the rhythms of its spaces’ ‘ and noting how “it responded to changing lights” .


Le Corbusier Center to open in Chandigarh

The Indian Express reports

The Sector 19 office of Le Corbusier, the place where the architect sat and drew plans for the City Beautiful, will be converted into the Le Corbusier Centre this October. The centre will preserve, interpret, research and display Corbusier’s works and maintain his legacy.

The centre will have six sections displayed in the six rooms of the building, while three rooms will serve as reception and information centres, reference and digital library with Internet facilities. The open verandah will be used for temporary exhibitions to promote the ancient, medieval and contemporary art and architecture around the region.

Architects Education

Sorry State of Architectural Education Legislation

Architectural education in India has transformed beyond recognition since the early 90’s. Today there are dozens of schools in the big metros, where a few years ago a couple existed.

However in most things that are unplanned, there is a danger of the whole education system going haywire. Some of the issues have to do with recognition of professional educational institutions by government bodies. What happens if you dont agree with these government bodies or do not want to follow their sometimes lopsided regulations.

Read On..

Architect of disaster: Council of Architecture (COA).

Created by a Parliamentary Act, COA is at loggerheads with many architecture schools, giving sleepless nights to hundreds of enrolled students and making one wonder if it’s under anyone’s control.

Armed with its statutory powers to regulate the education and practice of profession throughout India and maintain the register of architects, COA has been insisting that architecture schools introduce its National Aptitude Test in Architecture (NATA) or face de-recognition. COA website lists many schools of architecture (including IIT-Kharagpur and Chandigarh College of Architecture), where intake of students has been withdrawn or frozen for not submitting NATA undertaking .

COA has also recommended withdrawal of recognition for the reputed School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, as also several others, alleging several sins of omission and commission.

Architects Profession

Lack Of Professional Architects Causes Dismay And Concern

The article below speaks about the state of the profession of architecture in India. Some of the statistics are very startling and portray a very sad state of the profession. However a glimmer of hope for me personally is the mention of my alma mater Rizvi College of Architecture.

RCA has been mentioned as one of the three institutions in the country that are imparting a quality of education that is way higher that the generally dropping conditions nationwide.