Friday, July 31, 2009

Mallikarjun House, Bangalore India, BS Bhooshan and Associates, world architecture news, architecture jobs

Mallikarjun House, Bangalore India, BS Bhooshan and Associates, world architecture news, architecture jobs

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

on top of chitradurga fort: "minimalism"

This beautiful masterstroke of a creation has some how missed to be celebrated. This struck to me more original than the complex Hampi archtecture at Vijayanagara, nearby. The artistic genius just sculpted a small shikhara on top of a naturally formed rock. The shikhara sits snugly and prettily there; adding to the beauty of nature and not distroying it. If this is not 'minimalism', what else is?

Friday, July 10, 2009

A sense of angst: a force of creation

Architecture always has been a search. A search for many things. Search of a core competance of the profession which will define architecture, a search for a philosophical justification for its existence distinct from some other related activities. a search for the intellectual content beyond the routine, a search to be different, a search for a point of departure, an ideology- low cost, green, energy, ecology, or USPs for the commercial world, etc. Extended to the professionals, it always ended up as a search for excitement, a search for name, fame and success and ofcourse, money.

In 70s when many of my generation started out, India was in a heroic stage yet in confusion. Trying to find an architectural identity - from the past and for the future. That is why the heroism, that we are setting out to be great again. There has been many an effort. But then we were trying establish as a nation. Perhaps, more a diffident nation coming to terms with the world after centuries of feifdom. One wanted to asert that we are a nation, a force, a cultural entity of note. Naturally many tried to look at our glorious past, even if it meant digging up too distant a past. More than looking at the past, we always showed impatience with the alien or assumed to be alien, more specifically, so called western ideas and architecture. In all our pusuits, we somehow detested the west as something terribly intruding into our legitimate glory. May be true or may be not, it also provided a platform for a search for alternatives. That in fact took us to many directions in architecture. Some scenographic excitements and some diatribes of social pathology too. Very little which provided a thrust forward.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

urban revitalisation: reinventing our urban spaces

I am working on a talk to some engineers on a requested topic on urban beautification. This is my reaction:

Reinventing urban spaces

BS Bhooshan

The concept of urban beauty has been an elitist pastime. I see problem in a talk about urban beautification. It is that it begs further questions. And it suggests cosmetic skin deep action.

Beautification suggests something to be done to something which is potentially ugly or not in order. Is it not a way of looking at it. What is ideal beauty? Beauty as a concept comes from perfect ideals. Are they elusive. And never reachable as the parameters we are dealing with are innumerable. Perfect ideals are like unreacheable “ perfect justice” as told by Amarthya Sen. More over a city is not a thing of beauty. It may be enjoyeable place and a workable place. But not an object of beauty by itself.

We can’t start on clean slate. The question is how our spaces could be made workable and enjoyable.

Our urban history is like our general history: truncated bits and pieces and never continuous. So is our architecture of cities. We are always at crossroads. Never find a direction. And we raise wrong questions and get unsuitable answers. May be I too am raising wrong questions. You decide.

First let us not talk about the big cities. They are beyond my comprehension. Many will agree with me. They are humongous and sometimes, no always, very vital: full of energy and synergy. lots of potential. Good in many ways: opportunities. engines of growth. But their spaces are getting torn apart. There is identity crisis in all. Being too big is not the only problem, neither being too complex. They did not evolve from their roots: they jumped and leaped: Some from to colonial beginning and some from pastoral beginnings through British and/or royal legacies to Western ideals, American dreams and many more dominant influences.

Second, we always wanted models. Provided by desi as well as alien dreamers. We wanted to leapfrog into modern scientific era and represent it in our cities like we did in Chandigarh. And for some time it seem to hold out a panacea for all cities' problems. We forgot about Fateh pur Sikri or Jaipur or Srirangam. All new extensions since pre independence embodied contonement ideals or later, Chandigarh's legacy or American dreams of Clarence Perry or Runcorn or the garden city and satellite town prescriptions of UK . All towns seemed to dream of the grandeur of Champs Elysses of Paris. We all marvelled at Connaught place, at Rajpath and Raisisna Hills and thought of cosmetic surgeries in other towns much of which went awry. And still we lament about the cities and towns problems. We think the grand beautiful plans somehow offer a model for India. But I would rather look at more simpler solutions and local opportunities. Seemingly simpler lives and simpler urban spaces of less complex communities, perhaps, offer up a model, hidden in the muck. But one must look at the right places with right eyes. That will be the challenge. And how to make and modify them to suit current needs a place demands and opportunities it provides. Architecture plays a big part, for sure. Architects only a small part. We, meaning all, not just professionals alone, together should search.

I will show some examples and try to learn from them.

We will have to move from hardware to software solutions; meaning looking for spaces not big constructions. For example; mobility is important, not the roads. Education is aim, not schools. Health is the priority, hospitals are only one of the means to it. We may need adhoc and small tickles against grand physical plans. Aesthetics of a different kind, than the ones we have been admiring from the images of other cultures.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Joberg nite

Went to a night club in joberg on 20 may09. Four of us. That was an adventure. The rumour is that Joberg is not a safe city especially after dark. There were many who wanted to go to a night club. But were advised not to without guide. So someone found a guide, Some black guy arranged by a hotel employee. He would take us and drop us back to hotel. By 9 pm we were taken in a limousine driven by the guy to a night club. It was half an hour drive from hotel. The place was called Grand place.

The idea of insecurity starts from the entrance. A dimly lighted place where one pays to enter. You enter though a revolving door of strong horizontal bars. One at a time. No one can rush in or rush out. Then you are frisked by gentlemen thugs. And you see people sitting in twos and fours around round tables. All spread out around a circular podium and bar below. Two girls up topless dancing. And then you pass around to find a place, you see more. Naked girls sitting on laps of fully dressed men and gyrating their bodies as if dancing. This is no Disco or anything. It is something different. No boy or man is dancing. Of course, there some women customers who came with their men. Too few.

It was my first encounter of the decadence of licensed organized and very decent (!) way of fleecing. Of course only from those who volunteer to go and experience the excitement. This fleecing is also part of the experience. As in casinos. Wonderful spread of food, ( something like more than 50 varieties), noisy music and bare bodied girls dancing all the time. Dancing and soliciting for a massage or private, dance in side rooms. Bare means totally bare at times, not even thongs. Some girls are blacks and more of whites, Russians, Poles, Chinese, hardly any Indian. All in 18-25 age. The guys moving around make it secure, are all black thug looking gentlemen in suites. Smiling friendly and very soft spoken. The customers were largely white, but a fair amount of blacks and Asians.
Even if you are not tempted enough for anything more, you will be tempted to spend on alcohol. Food is on the house as part of the entrance fee.

There is continuous din of music. Weird strobe lights and generally dim and reddish ambient light. The girls go up to raised circular podium below which is a circular bar. Two to three girly go up at a time. Half dressed. The dance around two shiny circular stainless steel vertical bars fixed form bottom to ceiling. The shiny poles are phallic symbols. The girls use them and gesticulate holding to it to dance and do high acrobatics. They have bodies highly pliable and extremely attractive figuratively. Very thin, hardly any flab, naturally with is kind of gyration! Some are accomplished acrobats; climbing uup the shiny poles rotating horizontally around with legs holding on to it and sliding down. They could climb the poles upside down as well.

Music is recorded and is bits of pop rock songs of yester years, some current too. Girls go up in twos and fours for a song. Fairly but thinly dressed. As the music changes rhythm half way through, they throw away the top and mostly have only thongs. The they do the acrobatics on the pole. Once the music stops, they pick up the clothes and climb down and another twosome climb up for another number. Then they go round the tables talking touching cajoling urging and tempting and dancing privately in front for a negotiable price. They go topless and bottom less. They solicit you for as dance in private rooms too, if you are inclined. Of course for a price. I see people vanishing and reappearing. There are massage girls, and men mostly Chinese looking.

Once we come out after eating. They don’t allow you to get out unless in a taxi. Or own cars. The number of upscale limousines parked out gives an idea what kind of people vist the place. There are many other joints around that place, I think. That perhaps, is for safety. We had our man waiting. It was 12 when we reached the hotel to catch a nap before getting up for next day’s meeting and conference at the hotel.

The eerie, uncertain, out of certain wild western Hollywood movies- uncensored, bordering on pornography, is revolting for the first timers, but people seem to get addicted. It is surreal. I only wonder, how much of it legal and how much illegal. Sure there are border cases with the connivance of authorities. I am sure there are places similar around the world, in Bangkok, London, Las Vegas, may be Mumbai too, with some variance. It was new to me. And therefore eerie and revolting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

first rains

It seams it will rain. Since yeaterday the ambience is rainy. but yet to rain really. It is already too late. by almost a month. Severe droughts and power cuts are beginning to stare. When it rains, some people will be sad. As it will affect their livelyhood and their roofs will leak. Yet no one can wish no rain. But no rain is good business for some.

Getting used to a pattern is an addiction and when it breaks, it disturbs most.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What is Indian culture

A well known columnist and an economist, Gurumurthy, made a statement yesterday at Mysore that Indians are aping the west and that is not good. We should not, according to him, forget our culture. globalisation and opening up of culture and following the west will be doom for us, according to him. He suggests us to emulate Korea, Japan and Italy.

I know, some of you also may, that this Gurumurthy was advocating the good things gloabalisation can bring to India. And he made a public statement at Chennai four years ago on a IIA meet on globalisation that we should not worry unnecessarily about the bad things it may be pointed at. Now I am confused.

How to embrace gloabalisation and be part of the west dominated globla economy and still preserve ones culture. Have those countries really preserved their culture intact? And what is real core of Indian Culture. Saris for women andsuites for men? Puja in the morning and drinks in the evening?

Or corruption at all levels. or something else?

Is there an original Indian culture ? I am at a loss to understand. If any body knows, please tell me.

What is aping? Really. Is jeanswearing aping? Learning to use americanism aping? consumerism aping? liberalism aping? homosexuality aping? bride burning a worthy cause? modern medicine aping? spirituality and god men preservation of culture?

Changes always happen, aping are no aping. It is upto us to decide what is good? why blame others?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Significance of Laurie Baker

Dr. B. Shashi Bhooshan,

Who was Laurie baker? It is difficult to put him in the category of just an architect as most people do. Neither had he lived like just an architect. He was admired by people of many walks of life. But still architectural fraternity claimed him as one among them though many did not know him enough or his ideas enough. What makes Baker an important phenomenon of recent Kerala? It is not the fact that he started work as a missionary and did everything in that zeal, not even that he touched many lives and influenced the opinions of policy makers and ordinary people, nor that he could create dream houses for many who could not even dream; all that is known and written about by media. His significance is that he was an agent of change in architecture at a turning point in Kerala. But still I feel that he was most misunderstood architect.

History will remember Baker for making a generation of architects of Kerala think of their past in whatever little way and make them understand the relevance of building materials as well as appreciate the texture and aesthetics of ordinary materials. It is more significant to note that modern architecture came to Kerala too late, or may be it is true to say, it never came. All we have seen before the 60s were the insipid PWD stuff and the occasional works of Bombay or Madras architects. And Baker created some thing new in this vacuum. Though with the single minded idea of cost reduction. That was first ridiculed and then accepted and then was eulogized and even worshipped and followed. His kind of architecture was slowly kept aside today or if followed, done so only in form, like Gandhian ideas are today. Yet Baker will remain a turning point in Kerala’s architectural history; the history of modern Kerala and Indian architecture.

To eulogise is to forget the real content and keep only the form. Baker’s also might follow the same pattern. The ideas will get corrupted if not already by the followers who may not understand the spirit of enquiry Baker started with in architecture.
Baker’s architecture is largely misunderstood. People have used his ideas to suite their ends. Some followed his brickwork and some his tracing of tile roof shapes in concrete, some his jallis and some his cost cutting measures and a few followed him to make ecological sense of his works, which, in my opinion, was the most sustainable of his teachings.

Baker’s architecture is read erroneously and simplistically as “ Kerala style”. I think it was not that simple. The so called “ Kerala style” is itself a questionable notion. (this is not a place to write about it). But the irony is that by labeling it that way, the critics and followers in Kerala as well as outside have belittled the importance of his work. His works, - homes or institutions or religious buildings-, had an idiosyncratic stamp typical of his and were molded by the firm belief in Gandhian frugalism and the conscious attempt at eliminating the unnecessary, may be of cost cutting. To do so it was inevitable to build climatically suited structures and use skills locally available. When this was a philosophy, it was inevitable to result in an architecture that we now know as that of Baker’s. But we, took it as vernacular and labeled as an adaptation of “Kerala style”. He never claimed so.

Baker did question the logic of plastered makeup as an unnecessary paste on unlike anybody before in Kerala. He bared his walls of beautiful brick works or stone masonry and made us admire the beauty of materials. None did that in Kerala before except Architect Chisholm and his ilk in the 19c or early 20c. He used plans and sequence of spaces, which were contemporary and modern (least the way Kerala planned traditionally). He used openings and windows which were simplified modern. None of these could be called Kerala Style. His jallis were neither an adaptation of the past. Baker rejected past’s follies and adapted relevant and significant ones from anywhere

But true, he made tiled roof and sloped concrete roofs resembling the roofs of traditional Kerala as well as some wood joinery details, railings, etc. more like the “post modernist” way, yet very ingeniously and beautifully. And to that extend he was using an easily recognizable architectural vocabulary and signifying certain accepted meanings of forms. He was thus rebelling against the accepted principles of modern architecture as well. I think, that to him was just a way to get more latent ideas of architecture, - of lower cost and frugal living and ecological building - acceptable to people, more like the way Mahatma Gandhi clothed his ideas in simple mass appeal. Baker’s architecture will be and is significant beyond these scenographic formalisms. At the techtonic level and in technological innovation and spatial creativity, his architecture was universal, modern and had the significant spirit of adventure and objectivity. Modern scientific spirit of enquiry was the basis of his architecture. And it happened at a significant point in Kerala’s architectural and political history.

Let us remember not to reduce this significance of Baker to that of a mere technician (even if a masterly one) or just a low cost architect. Let us not disgrace his masterly adaptations with cheap imitations as seen in Kerala’s recent scenography of questionable and insipid adaptation of sloping roofs. A serious study of Baker’s architecture is required. I hope some one will do it. May be that only a European will be destined to do that!

Baker was admittedly a Gandhian in ideas and yet like Gandhi he is understood more superficially and because of his eminence, would be followed more in form than in real spirit and content of ideas.