Friday, August 14, 2009

future of architecture

I spent the last two days at TKM Engineering College Kollam, in Kerala. yesterday and today. Looking at the thesis projects of final year architecture students. They all have finished the five years at college and are getting ready to go out in the world. A mixture of joy that one has completed the burning of midnite oil and the sadness that one has to now face the outside world squarely. All of them did not seem ready for it yet. They will in a mattter of time.

I was struck at the vastly differing competence the 24 of them developed. There was difference in attitudes and approaches too. Diversity is not bad by itself. But the lack of confidence and competance in many is disturbing. So is the lack of attitude towards the enjoyment of good work. The work itself doesnt seemed to be enjoyed by many beyond the passing in examinations. Like monetory considerations and profit making alone tilts one's attitude to work, (especially creative work) and makes it a drudgery, the marks in the examination alone make study and project work routine and the result less than the ordinary. I dont believe that there is so much difference in the basic material these young boys and girls are made of. But the out comes are so varied. It can be seen in the efforts they put in as well. Some have put in great efforts; some too less. Some of them had referred a lot, explored new areas, tried to understand and worked deligently, while many others has done too shoddy a job. Even application of simple common sense was woefully lacking in some.

Is the system at fault or the teachers or the way we teach architecture? How is it that we take children of impressionable age group and churn most of them out into closed minds with a cynical attitude to design? and may be to work and life too.

There was gender equality in numbers. But obvious difference in design efforts and exploration. The boys generally are more adventurous and seem to explore more, though not successfully or with great finish- some do; the girls generally play from safer grounds. Some girls do pretty well some with great apathy to somehow complete course. Obviously, the social conditioning might have taken away a lot of initiatives from them. An obvious and ready submission to the possible future as a housewife or second fiddle to a partner in life later, perhaps. This inspite of the fact that however good you do in studies and work. Some could even have the safety feeling too that however bad they do they will be provided or arranged for a good and seemingly easy life. Either way a lot of initaitive seemed stolen from them. However, it was heartening to see determined effort from some girls to prove they are no less.

This apart, there appears a general confusion as to what good design is in the present context of India. Greater and visible orientation is futuristic and towards absorbing global trends. Inspirations are from neo-modern or post-modern global architects who build from a place in Europe in any culture around the world. Human beings are taken as same anywhere. This flambouyant posture attracts more competent as well as less competant ones. But most of the best efforts are seen in this area. On the other hand, there are many who espouse current ideas like sustainability and green, and some take in the themes of "cultural continuity" as well ( boiling down to repeat of simple past forms with out question) but I found none doing with as much vigour as the neomodernists and seemed to put up a green or cultural front as an apology for poor efforts and design. This line doesn't appear to attract better efforts and perhaps, talent too. On the whole the inspiration stops more or less at the skin deep formal level. No spark of criticalism. Is it too much to ask at this level? Perhaps, yes.

Are we witnessing a new generation who are not questioning any of the broad ideas which circluate in different guises? Is the slogan: Follow those which sells? Is it a charecteristics of the educational context or social context? I wonder.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

look at me: i am listing, but safely


Instability is a risk, but exciting - in business as well as in life and also in architecture. Controlled instability is to try to defy nature of things, perhaps. That is to defy gravity in architecture. A seemingly falling building looks unstable, (like leaning tower of Pisa), but makes it intriguingly attractive. The props make it appear stable. Stabilty is desirable, but some times boring and less exciting. This is so in business as well. Business thrives on risk. Insteabilty is risky, but attractive and interesting when risk is taken calculatedly. A show room has to be attracting the attention of passers by for sure. And then as architecture, perhaps, it should make one to think as well. This building tries to do that, particularly symbolising the time; the collapsing modern economies, which require propping.

( see also )