Monday, April 30, 2007

elective affinities / the 6th day

'elective affinities' was a film by taviani brothers set in italy. it was a goethe story about how an idyllic marriage falls apart when both individuals in the marriage develop a destructive attraction for other people – the first the husbands childhood friend, the second the wife’s adoptive daughter. for a story whose title refers to a scientific concept the movie does take some strange turns into the mystical, like when a child is born with the hair of one lover and mole of the other to the married couple; or when each character chooses suffering and guilt over a happiness that lies just around the corner; maybe, not everything can be explained by science – especially human behavior.

on the other hand in the 6th day the arnold action film about cloning, science has finally given humanity the power to make human life eternal- and arnolds too. an arnold clone has taken over his life and arnold 1 is pissed off. he wants his life back and will do anything to get it. robert duvall plays a scientist in a thankless cameo; and arnold adds 'genetically constructed' to his repertoire of 'artificial human' roles. isn’t it strange that it is so rare that he gets cast as a normal human being in his films. in the stories there is always something odd about the way he comes to be. something to do with the accent – or the body- i assume.

Friday, April 27, 2007

image post – external shots

the bandra reclamation park from where you can see the skyline of the city and the bridge over the water being built.

kaifi azmi park closer to the college which regulates movement of people using one way signs. a park even more restrictive than a prison. the soup outside in the mornings is divine.

flyover reinforcement

goodbye south, goodbye

in hsiao-hsien hou’s ‘goodbye south, goodbye’ i was thankful that for a change we got to see a more contemporary chinese landscape. aimlessly wandering through taiwan, from the periphery of the city to the hinterlands, the film follows a loose plot line concerning two businessmen / hoodlums and their circle of friends and colleagues. constantly living from day to day they seem to think only about their next moment. somewhere in the distance there is a blurry vision of where they want to be instead- heading a restaurant in shanghai, but they do not seem to know how to get out of the endless cycle of everyday issues to be able to make a move. in the movie the plot line constantly seems to dovetail into itself, moving from one incident to another, making moving seem like standing still. and in the middle of these in long shot sequences from a car or a train down the landscapes of the city make us lose our way along with them.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

jury day 3 and 4 of 4 / 'Russian Ark'

after two continuous days of slogging my way through tedious and mundane design projects- first municipal markets in Bombay and villages in kerala and then rural hospitals in panvel and malls in mahim; i needed a shot of some esoteric art. i was feeling particularly ambitious when i picked sokurovs ‘russian ark’. the last film i had seen of his was ‘mother and son’ whose distorted images had almost put me to sleep.

‘russian ark’ is a high wire act as a film. a single shot over 90 minutes long that traces the whole of russian cultural history through the ‘hermitage’- a museum in st petersburg. we enter as the narrator accompanied by a strange french marquis into exquisite room after exquisite room in the museum, each door leading to a shift in time. historical figures float in and out of the frame providing some reference; and the discussion centers around the russian contribution to european art and europe’s dismissal of it.

somewhere between nationalistic propaganda and a promotional video tour of the museum the film neatly sidesteps, or only off-hand mentions 80 years of communist history. the attempt seems to be stake claim to cultural equivalence to europes finest by exhuming the golden age of a classical past- so much like our own urge to recreate an idealized past to deny the humiliations of colonialism.

it is unfortunate that because of this all the great art and cultural production of the avant-garde like the russian constructivists are left out of the picture. the time slot chosen is such that the controversial recent past is denied, making the films formal gymnastics merely diverting- a surface for us to feast on so that we believe that technical virtuosity is cutting edge art cinema. if it is ‘the hermitage’ that is the eponymous ark saving russian culture from the storms of the soviet era, it seems to be an extraordinarily reactionary position to adopt for a film maker who sees himself as a revolutionary auteur.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

mayuri tara namrata

i am delighted to be reporting this on the blog. mayuri sisodia's thesis on reconfiguring the relationship of a police station to its community has been presented to the maharashtra state police as a 'real' alternative possibility for the deign of those buildings. i am very proud of her. here is a link to her blog and her post on the presentation.

and this is only one of the many crazy thesis successes this year. the first being of course namrata's win of the national thesis competition for her old peoples home; and tara's mahim nature park project winning the international conference for humane habitat competition. mayuri came third in that competition.

jury day 2 of 4

this time on the 7th floor in bandra with projects that numbed my brain. the only thing i could see in the projects were toilets. a rural hospital in dahanu and a cultural center in jaipur. all the kids drew tree like circulation diagrams and then went ahead and made them one storied buildings. no matter what the context was these projects were completely self referential. it was not even as if they were particularly well resolved as far as bubble diagrams went. and after the organisation was set roof shapes (read as pitched in dahanu) and fa├žade treatment (read as arches in jaipur) paid lip service element design contextualism towards the sites. and when the projects ended up being this uninspiring the only thing i could do was make sure that the student at least knew how to make toilets.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

(music notes) – new music inventory

the arcade fire – neon bible
muddy thumping vast rock songs with propelling drums and guitars about city life, religion and disenchantment.

amy winehouse – back to black
a young woman with a lovely voice who sings about love, independence and loss like she has had years of experience in all three.

el-p – i’ll sleep when i am dead
hip-hop with layers and layers to sift through, most rather grubby and the reason why i can listen to it over and over again is the sudden beauty in between the twisted lyrics and hooks. an exception to my hip hop phobia.

lcd soundsystem - sound of silver
when new age dance music meets the rock of the eighties the beats do not stop- and nor do the feet. welcome to the party.

sondre lerche - two way monologue
pretty sad boy songs, sung in a half spoken half sung accented drawl that breaks into gorgeous melodies at the choruses.

tom waits - orphans: brawlers, bawlers and bastards
three cd set of a jaw dropping range of genre from standard folk tunes to rock and country; even to the dangerous territory of spoken word ditties; a house of horrors of sorts, with waits spitting, moaning, drawling and wailing out images of dark strange places and people. rarely have i seen a nightmare this wonderful.

the beach

the basic design exercises this year have been incredible. yesterday was the day of the final jury of the last project and all the work was absolutely brilliant. beginning with ideas emerging from and observation/experience of juhu beach the kids made some incredible installations in the school and on the beach. what that meant was that the day was a whirlwind of moving from the beach in the morning to the school and back to the beach in the evening and for the final installations to the school again. and in all those trips there was no way to avoid the abhi ash obsessed media created traffic jams outside jalsa or prateeksha. it was like being on a roller coaster holiday with sightseeing trips planned out for you of the most surreal places in the city.

on the beach rollers and stamps made intricate patterns of garbage only to be washed away with the tide,

ping pong balls scampered out of the ground when the water came rushing in,

people popped their heads into a periscope like box to experience the vastness of the ocean,

and strange objects blew bubbles and popped out of the sand (almost).

in the school the entire workshop became an ocean sound making machine through the manipulation of the motors there,

the av room was turned into a night sky with a cloud of delicate and pretty lights from the beach,

a game of light and shadows made ghosts out of men

in the darkness of a lecture room you found fans, lights and bubbles enveloping you.

it was a lovely day whose perpetual movement was only disturbed by another child’s mother pleading for us to forgive her sons lies and laziness by throwing medical certificates and tears.

as if it were not enough for us to spend the whole day thinking and talking about the beach; after the jury we sat at sea view for beer before ninad me got us a beach massage with fireworks exploding above our heads.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

jury at panvel . tanays birthday party

The first of the four university juries that I have been assigned was the furthest. All the way to panvel to look at a class of 38 of which we did 30. our fellow jurors seemed to not want to take the long ride to the southernmost point of new Bombay. The range of the work was incredible. From incredible models and beautiful 1.50 sections with lettering in the traditional sense to rough tracing paper and absolutely no models. 5 students were fantastic, most all right and some awful. The projects themselves were better than those I have otherwise seen. the ‘urban’ project was a redesign of ‘center one’ the only mall in vashi to make it ‘sustainable’. As in most cases the concept of sustainability was itself never really analysed. Merely by making the building fragmented it was assumed that the projects will be eco-friendly. Which I assume they will be – more than the current glass boxes for sure. But how are they better environments was the question left unanswered- because most of them were not. Why would I give up inorbit artificial smooth glistening cool of the dusty grimy and sweaty courtyards that so many of the students had made. landscape, such an important element to address was left completely disregarded. The ‘rural’ project was a series of 4 programmes in a village in tamil nadu- a panchayat, a weaving center and two kinds of education centers. While one or two kids in particular were able to break the trap of the sloping roof hut, and do something interesting only one was able to do so much more within the type. His skill in taking an existing language and making it so much more was jaw-dropping. Extraordinarily sophisticated.

It was along day and we finally got done at around 5 and I drove back in a rush all the way to Andheri for tanays birthday celebrations opposite infiniti mall. the ‘party hall’- essentially a slightly larger room than most with a toilet attached and some fancy lighting was decorated with balloons- black, white and red. A lisping emcee propelled us all willingly and unwillingly to make complete asses of ourselves playing silly party games. ping pang pong / make your group into a circle, square, z/ lower and lower the bar / divorce, marriage/ proposal... and in the middle of it all the emcee goes "i will make you.................OUT!".. the silliness went on and on. it was great fun as we relinquished the responsibility of being sensible and made complete asses of ourselves. he made us do it. he gave us a license to be ridiculous.. by being slightly ridiculous himself. fun.

Friday, April 20, 2007

image post - town buildings / marine drive

bmc building

asiatic from the side


two new (relatively) multiplexes

the first being the cinemax at the growels mall with the landmark glass globe just off the highway at kandivili. the best space must be the sunken courtyard from where we can see cars on the highway above you; and the strange empty silence that’s all around you. one tree wrapped in strips of light gives you company. the food court is largely vegetarian unfortunately except for the frankie joint, and the lobby of the theater has this gorgeous green glass cladding. the details are not as tacky as they could be. they largely seem to follow the logic of the plan unlike the random shapes of lets say raghuleela.

the second, the refurbished metro theater does not completely annihilate the art deco detailing, but rather replicates most of it in the lobby in stainless steel and italian marble. the chandeliers are still the same and the food counter is in back lighted onyx marble. its all very posh and very expensive.

of the two i must say i preferred the kandivili multiplex, only because the theater hall itself was spectacularly large, and the sound at metro was awful.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

'city of gods' - young men and violence

in the ‘city of gods’ in a whirl of frenetic camerawork and episodic storytelling we enter the world of a favela in rio de janeiro. here unemployment and poverty, coupled with a culture of testosterone fuelled and peer pressure fostered aggression, ensnare young men in an unending cycle of violence. is this the result of a particular form of urban renewal, shifting the poor to the periphery, making the relationship in between them and the rest of the city strained and strange? as weapons and ammunition are easily at hand for young men to cling to as crutches in a disintegrating society, they provide them with token symbols of self-worth.

simultaneous to this is the middle class denial of the violence within and the great retreat into thicker and more impenetrable shells. when a korean kid runs riot in an american university the big push in not towards ridding the streets of guns but towards making higher compound walls. maybe it’s a male thing. in the photographs that cho sends nbc, making himself into a freely distributable media image he dons military fatigues, a crew cut and stares into the camera like the hero of an action film. his glare towards the camera, the symmetrical frames, the gun pointing directly at you are carefully (re)constructed from remembered fragments of a heavily loaded visual culture. real life is dictated by the mythologies of live televised wars, computer games and film.

plan / design

after a long meeting- from 11.30 to 5.30 discussing the finer points of the policy recommendations to be sent to the government regarding cess and slum areas the schism between urban planning and urban design was apparent. the fundamental premise of the pilot studies was that a ‘precinct wise development could consolidate infrastructure and open spaces, making sense of the staccato and fragmented development currently in full swing in the city. somehow it could bridge the gap between the ‘good’ for the city and private interests. and as a design strategy it worked. when that had to be translated into policy we came to a serious roadblock. how can the varied strategies that emerged for the redevelopment/ renewal / protection of areas become generalisable in some way?

policy seems to be framed in a non-geographical space. it knows no specifics and therefore refuses to make exceptions, except through long winded amendments. i kept thinking that if on the other hand geography or space became the framework for the framing of policy as against the exceptions to the rule, there might be a way to resolve this conflict.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

bheja fry

it is a relief to see a mutiplex hinglish film that does not try so hard to be ‘edgy’ that it makes its characters out to be horrible. even when the sophisticated elite invites the ‘idiot’ over for his weekly dinner party neither of them are ridiculed or demonized. on the other hand all the characters, though caricaturish, still seem like they could be some of us. it could have been easy to make pathaks flat singing into a grotesque joke, but keeping him earnest and eager like an ‘indian idol’ contestant, or like that uncle we all know who sings at parties to entertain, the film manages to be even funnier. and sweeter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

kb surprise party, killing time driving and walking

last night at napeansea road, george, surabhi, jabeen, girish, hansa, neeraj, sanaa, shubho, bela suprised kuntal at his place for his birthday. some photos..

and before that, since i was early, i drove around in town and then walked about for a while in hanging gardens and kamla nehru park. it was an overcast and muggy evening.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

truck photo

with dancing rural women around the village well

Friday, April 13, 2007

building typology study - random facade treatments

on sv road the new malls near the station. calling them 'malls' is pushing it, really. more like shopping centers whose flat facades change the scale of the shopping street completely.

thakur cinema, kandivili - where aluminum composite cladding makes aztec or is it egyptian references- or maybe art deco?

the new oberoi mall and office complex on the highway. frosted glass facade and a white hulk and behind it the skeletal frame for i assume an all glass prism

the first large shopping complex on link road- sub kucch- built when mind space was still a stinking dump. no alucobond here

inorbit mall whose massive facade is broken up into what i assume is imagined to be 'human' scale with a variety of alucobond volumes- all in grey. very austere. :)

housing at lokhandwala. massive frame within frame. white to a dark green inside. rounded edges making a chasm in between

from shoppers stop juhu the new sra scheme across the naala

watsons hotel in kalaghoda whose heritage iron frame has been taken over by the tenants whims and fancies

on d n road the grand entranceway above the arcade is being formed by the skirts of these stern sword bearing guards

stock exchange catches the evening light on the glass edge