Tuesday, July 05, 2005

architecture and the search for the authentic man

this is a stream of consciousness tirade emerging out of a general sense of frustration with ideas regarding architectural thought. i need to think this through.. but here goes the first stab..

the regionalism debate is dead. it died of its own hand when a search for ‘roots’ found them in the aestheticised sepia tinted villages of rajasthan and the light and shadow that dappled the step wells of gujarat. it was here that the real india lay- so it would seem.. waiting to be discovered by the connoisseur- the true spiritual center of a nation where men rise up into poetic trances finding their true selves. the regionalism debate has run its ground with its dismissal of everyday life and its systems of creating meaning in favour for a more ‘real’ authentic man.

this may seem a throwback to the drug addled sixties manufactured “india” that was so hungrily consumed by a western youth hungry for some neatly packed spirituality. it was this that we gave them.. beads, turbans, mantras, yoga and more sanskrit words in italics. great old men in flowing white beards spoke in hushed whispers riddles that were so profound. this version of india gave us pride, made our identity and made us some money.

it is this india that i consumed as a student of architecture looking at the works of the apprentices of great masters. an architecture that was to be learnt firmly in the guru shishya parampara- another throwback to our ‘indian culture’ that would seem to be right wing regressive if only the proponents did not claim it to have read marx.

it is an architecture that believes in essences. true light on truer material and a master to show you its life changing beauty. in these spaces man is supposed to leave their bodies behind and connect with a deeper more whole non-human experience. the urge of the work is to uplift- not to root. it is this universal light on surface that has become the norm for architecture around the world searching deeper for what unites us and distrustful of what makes us unique.

this distrust has even found its way into a general suspicion of language. words are considered to be dissimulators- obstacles in the journey for us to find our true selves- as if that self is removed from our everyday experience as human beings. this is an architecture in the service of the spiritual and the religious. churches, temples of learning indulge themselves in the urge to lift us beyond ourselves. the ordinary has no place in this discourse. great men shall show us the real way- away from our real selves.

it is no wonder then than the blank empty spaces of minimalism have turned out to be so evocative for architects with their emphasis on pure texture, light and shadow. they transcend the complicated everyday and bring universal essences alive. but do we live in universal essences? do we desire to live in them? if either of these were true perhaps architectural discourse would not be as meaningless as it seems today.

i remember the sarcasm of ‘punjabi baroque’ when i had first read it and mistaken it for a case for everyday people and their desires as being relevant for architecture. that was until i got to the high moral posturing towards the end that scoffed at everybody who attempted to create ‘dream homes’ inspired by the vague assembly of images that constitutes the popular imagination of being “classy”. i was so disappointed by that. disappointed by the cultural snobbishness that was inherent in the position so evangelically anti-image.

to this culture images are evil.. they are not ‘true’. there is a deeper self to be explored (“beautiful from the inside”) . that is where a cultural gap exists. a generational gap.. madhushree said- "for us images are grammar- for the young they are language”

with images being the new language of world culture, and their ability to be a completely new trans-national system of communication, our denial of the language of image leaves us on the outside screaming as the world spirals out of our control.

i don’t know what- but something is missing.. i need a new lens to see.. a framework to understand.. i need to be able to formulate my thoughts.. i need to know why i currently prefer alvar aalto over louis kahn, ralph erskine over tadao ando, rem koolhas over peter eisenman, christopher alexander over rob krier.

i need a new manifesto.


Anonymous said...

Quite confused Id say. There seems to be a tendency to put all the unhatched eggs in one basket and microwave them to produce superior chickens. But to link minimalism and regionalism by their goal of 'lifting' the spirit rather than 'rooting' the body is quite original. though, as you yourself later say, the spirit and body are indistinguishable.

Rohan Shivkumar said...

the fact is that all the eggs were unhatched.. i love omlettes..