Architectural Voices of India by Ar. Apurva Bose Dutta

Apurva Bose Dutta
Bengaluru-based author and award-winning architectural journalist, Ar. Apurva Bose Dutta brings together luminaries of the architecture fraternity, for a discourse on architecture and planning in India, its evolution, and a sharing of their journey in the field. The diverse voices of architects Karan Grover, Brinda Somaya, Hafeez Contractor, Shiv Datt Sharma, Christopher Benninger, Ravindra Bhan, Parul Zaveri and Nimish Patel, Raj Rewal, Prem Nath, Sandeep Khosla, BV Doshi, Sanjay Puri, Sonali and Manit Rastogi, Jasbir Sawhney, Sanjay Mohe, CN Raghavendran and Kamal Malik celebrate the diversity and the spirit of architects and architecture in India.
Some excerpts from two chapters of the book:

In Pursuit of Nirvana: Christopher Benninger
Architecture in India


Apurva Bose Dutta (ABD): Are there any revelations of Indian architecture that are noteworthy and have caught everyone's attention?

Christopher Charles Benninger (CCB): I feel Indian architects have recently come to grips with the fact that there has been a gap in our history. There have been lost periods during the early invasions, colonial times, after Independence, and now with globalization. These times saw traumatic disruptions in our cultural continuity. Suddenly, India finds that it is the oldest civilization in the world, and simultaneously, the newest society. We have had to reinvent ourselves suddenly. But this loss has been a long process, and rediscovery is a long and continuous process. In fact, all societies need renewal and self-discovery. In that sense, we are path-setters.

Architectural Voices Of India
But ours is not a loss due to stagnation. Rather, it is a loss due to disruption; multiple disruptions over centuries. There is an innate search for meaning, and for identity, a desire to prove that we in the sub-continent are different-not only in India, but in the vast erstwhile colonial world. We all struggled against waves of disruption; against colonialism, government regulation and the abrupt invasion by globalization. All these disruptions displaced our primordial roots, which lurk within our spirits, and we are trying to reconnect with them. I feel that "reconnect'" is what Indian architecture today is all about. But it is not about kitsch or ethnic architecture or decorating buildings with religious motifs. It is deeper within the nature of our culture and the way we live.

Architectural Education: In Need of an Overhaul?

ABD:Your contribution to education has been immense-from establishing prestigious institutions, to being on the board of governors of several, to designing world-class campuses. What do you feel is missing in architectural education today?

CCB: What is missing in architecture, as a whole, is a grounding in the fundamental problems of urbanization and objective reality. There are no courses in the social sciences imparting a knowledge of and promoting sensitivity towards the Indian people and the real stresses they are under. We are not addressing the crises of the urban masses who have no hygienic and humane shelter. Our educational practices are deepening this gap.

Flash Forward

ABD: There are lots of intentions that can be realized through architecture. How do you want your practice to make a difference to Indian architecture in the coming years?

CCB: I feel that architecture remains the "mother art", and that it allows humanity to have a direct interaction with culture and what we call civilization. Architecture, in the larger sense of space-making, urban ordering and logical planning, is what brings people together to employ logical and rational decision-making as democratic groups. This is the essence of civilization. This is how societies have matured and evolved into higher and higher states of existence. One of our intentions must be to create public spaces that attract people to come together for peaceful, intellectual dialogues.

Another intention must be to create beauty in the putative sense; create a sense of wonder and a realization that human beings are evolved, logical, magical, rational and poetic creatures. If one visits Madurai and other Chola temples, one realizes that mankind has an intelligence and a degree of magnanimity that is a gift beyond the natural world. One realizes that people or humanity is special. At such times of realization, people experience existential moments of ecstasy, and know it is great to be alive, to be a human being and to work for other human beings. This is called being civilized.

Spiritual and Progressive: Kamal Malik
Of Inspirations, Ideologies and Determination


ABD:Your approach to architecture is scientific, spiritual, philosophical and ecologically oriented. Your design concepts are known to be strongly influenced by yogic ideologies and your early years in the Himalayas. Please elaborate on this inspiration and approach to design.

Kamal Malik (KM): My childhood in the pristine environment of the Himalayas, my wonderment at the miracle that is nature, and my introduction to the books and teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda had an indelible impact on my life and my thoughts. The deep connection that I have with nature was made possible because of this spiritual master.

I realized early that the frontiers of finite knowledge are reached very quickly, and then begins the journey of understanding and incorporating the intuitive and the infinite. This inner journey of self-realization culminates in the attainment of sanyama or balance-total inner silence, the absence of duality. It is beyond all theories and concepts and what we call conventional knowledge. Embarking on this journey leads to an inevitable re-analysis of one's beliefs. This creates a sense of detachment-not to be confused with insentience or apathy, but rather, the separation of the observer, the witness.

There is a possibility that this inner journey will influence what we do. I have tried in my own way to bring that sense of silence, serenity and even joy (that is, my experience of this thought process) into the realm of the people whose habitat I am designing.

We are blessed to be born on hallowed soil with tremendous depth of philosophy and thought. Marrying this spiritual foundation with a robust assessment and incorporation of essential design elements, such as climate, environment, social factors, function, local building materials and techniques, sustainability and ecological sensitivity, results in architecture that is dynamic, transformative, yet contextual to the region that it has evolved from.

Architectural Education: In Need of an Overhaul?

ABD:How would you describe the present status of architectural education of India?

KM: Poor, miserable and thoroughly inadequate is what comes to mind when I think of architectural education in India today. The curriculum is fixed, fossilized and anachronistic, and only serves to stunt creativity of any kind. During my school and college years, educational content, as well as the vehicles for disseminating this content, were wonderful: it was natural, afforded more latitude of thought and expression, and was not stressful. It was also much less myopic; we were learning so many diverse things. At SPA, we had faculty from all fields-IIT professors, famous doctors, artists. Our learning was experiential and tactile, as well as didactic.

Architecture in Changing Times

ABD: Your works have been characterized by a fascination with local materials, local crafts and sustainability. If you compare the present to the past, how different is the interpretation of the concept of sustainability in architecture?

KM: Sustainability as a concept incorporates a lot of common sense. Let me give you the simple example of our ancestors: they used to cut trees, make their houses out of bamboo and thatch, and burn the wood in their houses to prepare meals. They built courts to allow the sun to penetrate, kept smaller fenestrations on the south-west side and made more windows on the northern side. The materials they used were the ones available to them-clay, laterite; they couldn't travel 500 miles to go to a cement plant. These are basic things, and this is absolute sustainability.

I can, however, count on my fingertips the number of people who can understand and appreciate Laurie Baker's works today. Centuries of spiritual and empirical knowledge documented by our ancestors languishes, while superficial ratings such as LEED have taken centre stage in the discussion on sustainability. Most of the LEED projects today are, in my opinion, inadequate because they lack a common-sense approach to the subject.

Note: 'Architectural Voices of India' is published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK. More information on the book is available on www.apurvabose.com/book/; the author can be reached at www.apurvabose.com.

Transforming Complexity of Form to Simple Functionality

Prof. Ar. Charanjit Singh Shah, Founding Principal, Creative Group & Chairman - Smart Habitat Foundation, in conversation with Ar. Kritika Juneja at Creative Group, discusses why it is important to take a holistic design approach when it comes to airports Read More ...

Ar. Parul Zaveri Abhikram

I believe that ‘architectural style’ should be a response to the various climatic zones in context of India, to be designed according to clients’ personalities and project needs. Each place has a plethora of creative solutions, that have evolved using local resources and techniques, which constitute the part of our architectural knowledge. It is necessary to achieve a balance between continuity and desirable change, without fossilizing the past, and without making the change incongruent with... Read More ...

Ar. Reza Kabul ARK Reza Kabul Architects

I believe in liberating spaces, not enclosing them. Every space needs to have a good optimum, be it a small sized apartment or large commercial offices. Every good designer analyses the plans from the client perspective, regarding practicality, functionality, and accessibility, before executing it. I don’t believe in confining spaces between four walls, on the contrary, I believe in open spaces, both for the interiors and exteriors.It takes exemplary quality to reach elusive heights. The... Read More ...

Ar. Lalichan Zacharias Atelier

My approach to design is simple and open. I start my design with two guiding factors: the requirements and the site. I would like to see the building grow from the site naturally while fulfilling the requirements. I try to keep it extremely simple and responding to the climate. Integration of nature in the built form is always given importance.  Round Chapel Kalamassery Ar. Geoffrey Bawa’s works have always inspired me. Another aspect which influence my design is the sociological aspect of it.... Read More ...

Ar. Sourabh Gupta Archohm

I believe that the language and vocabulary of architecture is not a question about style. Every building is built for a specific purpose, in a particular setting, for a set of audience, and it is therefore intentional that we don’t impose any pre-defined visual form onto a project, rather let things emerge as the project evolves. There is a deliberate attempt to not make specific choices in our design directions.As a philosophy, we try to work on projects that allow an element of... Read More ...

Ar. Jay Shah Access Architects

Architectural style is characterized by the feature that makes a building structure notable and visibly identifiable. Every architect has a specific style and I would call mine “form follows function” as was the thought of Architect Louis Sullivan. However, my style of architecture is not confined to one kind since every client is different, every project is unique, every plot is diverse, and every functionality brief is exclusive. So, any one style of architecture doesn’t work as the design... Read More ...

Ar. Dinesh Verma Ace Group Architects

My style is versatile. In today’s context, where pace and universal availability of materials supported by technology is the base, it is but imperative to develop designs that are adaptable and go with the times. Around 30 years back, when I started my design practice, local and natural materials were in use, Granite was not less than 75mm thick, walls were minimum 112mm and wood was available in plenty. We did a lot of work in natural brick, stone and wood. Even today, the Mysore Haat... Read More ...

Ar. Alfaz Miller & Aahana Miller ABM Architects

The designs by our firm have not changed the skyline of cities, but our smaller architectural projects of commercial buildings and bungalows have made a significant design impact, producing architecture that is site specific, sensible and timeless.We believe in architecture that is simple and controlled and lacks stylised decoration. With large exposure to interior design, the buildings we design are practical with emphasis on function rather than just form. The designs are constructive, with... Read More ...

Ar. Ahmed Shaikh Ahmed & Associates

Architecture is an ever-evolving process and depending on the lifestyle, material availability, weather conditions, and geographical location, we can apply various types of styles. In Mumbai, for instance, we can see contemporary architecture along with classical typology.I believe that there is no single style to work on as we try to give multiple options depending on the clients’ requirements. Our style includes contemporary, classical, art deco, and minimalistic, which we can identify by... Read More ...

Ar. Shobhan Kothari & Ar. Anand Menon ADND & KdnD Studio

We constantly strive for simplicity of form and design. Our architectural style is a minimalistic interplay of lines, planes and volumes. We believe that beauty lies in the ability of a design to be explained through a few lines. We constantly explore the power of lines and their ability to shape space. We work intuitively to create spaces that are episodal and spatially engaging. The core aspects of scale and proportion in design are constantly debated upon to arrive at spaces that balance... Read More ...

Ar. Arpan Johari AW Design

We believe that an architect’s signature style should serve more than just being a set of features to identify ‘the architect’. At AW Design, climatic and site response are the essential guides to evolution of our building’s aesthetic language. In case of interiors, it is the purpose, services and available internal volume around which proportions, openings, systems are designed.Given that most of our work is in the hotter regions of the country, we have developed an unsaid affinity towards... Read More ...

Ar. Monish Siripurapu ANT Studio

The nature around us consists of divergent facets that can be aptly fabricated to alter the paradigm of Architecture and Design. Not only is it inspiring in terms of its organic forms but is also helpful in imparting us with a natural know-how of functionality. So, when Ant Studio came into being, I was convinced that we had to create designs that not only celebrated nature but blurred the lines between the built and the un-built. As a result, ‘Biomimicry’ emerged as a style that I wanted to... Read More ...

Ar. (Dr.) Harish Tripathi & ID. Jyoti D Tripathi Architect Harish Tripathi & Associates

Over the years, we have positioned our efforts around the belief that the best objects of nature are simple, not complicated. Consequently, we try to create buildings with simple forms and facades. This is often achieved, in our case, through the case of sunken windows wherein the building is double skinned and neat. This way, unwanted protrusions get negated and the double layer of the façade provides a better response to climatic extremities.We have always been fascinated by the virtues of... Read More ...

Ar. Babu Cherian Babu Cherian Architects

I believe good architecture is one wherein functionality and aesthetics form a harmonious conglomeration in a way that successfully follows the context of the land and its traditions while exuberating its rich culture. With an unceasing love for Kerala and a thirst for reviving the past, I believe my architecture is in essence a contribution to the future through a tribute to the past. While my professional portfolio consists of a mixture of architectural styles, a majority of my projects are... Read More ...

Prof. (Ar) Charanjit Shah Creative Group

For an architect, the primary function is to create usable spaces for the masses; only with a true understanding of humanity can he or she create the kind of human settlement which is required for a common man.Since the inception of my career in 1970, I have believed that a built form should not be treated as a dead mass of brick and concrete, but as a living organism, allowing it to breathe with nature. Only when one respects the site conditions and existing natural resources, one can build... Read More ...

Ar. Iqbal Chaney Chaney Architects

Architectural design is an expression of an individual’s understanding and comprehension of the client’s need and demand, translating it into design and thereby establishing an individualistic style. This style, over the years, gets imprinted so strongly into the personality of the individual and the team that it gets hard to distinguish the two. The individualistic designs evolve into a statement and are marked as a style. The style of many great architects in the modern era has become the... Read More ...
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