Monday, March 31, 2008

in between two terrains

final jury of the second year project today. i was very pleased with the result. the students had done a terrific job and according to us the growth rate in so many of them was great. the project had asked them to develop projects for themselves in between two terrains- the first that they measured and drew- a monastery, a palace, a market and a village; and the second a conceptual terrain that we built loosely around the themes of history and memory. some of the projects developed fairly sophisticated approaches, others at least had interesting architectural ideas. the load bearing question was pushed to the extreme that it could. next year they make working drawings for these. some images below.

devika's sound box for chants

vishal's graveyard of princely states

apurva and her model of the museum that changes every minute of the day

maitri's mad models of the monks' rooms of their own

nikhar's exhibition space/ landmark

nupoor choreographing a confrontation between the memorabilia of the tourist and the memories of the locals.

kairav housing the monks

vyoma revealing the palace

samarth widens the stair into an amphitheater

sifa contracts and expands space in a spiral

Sunday, March 30, 2008

a trick of the light

a tribute, and a moving one at that, to the medium of cinema and the people who invented it, the movie follows the story of the skladonovsy brothers who invented the bioscope- a method for the projection of cinema in the late 19th century. genres are reused as much for the sake of reference as narrative device. black and white scratched footage (fictional) slips into staged documentary with the film makers themselves in front of the camera (and behind it) and archival footage (sometimes original, sometimes reconstructed). these images form bridges between times and spaces backwards and forwards as cinema ( and the film) allows confrontations between disparate spaces otherwise impossible. the dancing uncle trapped in the box gets out only when a trick of light projects him true to life on the bedroom wall- much to the delight of the niece who misses him. these uncanny reincarnations when the present and the past are juxtaposed over one another are only possible in cinema. even as a sense of nostalgia in the images evoke the berlin of the past, when characters step out of the frame into the present they watch awestruck the city being reconstructed- cranes turn in arcs over potsdamer platz.. it is 1996 and the berlin wall has collapsed. the present informs the past – suddenly the images take on new meanings. towards the end when the italian dance of two young girls is played in loop for 4 minutes straight, first to music and then in silence, you marvel at the magic of the moving image as doubtless many had a century ago.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

gym day 1

after 10 years, give or take a year or two, i stepped unwillingly into a gym again today. skinny as i was then and incredibly self conscious about it, i was terrified of the intense machismo and embarrassed by the unabashed narcissism that the space indulges and encourages. at that time, my shyness , and i must admit- laziness, kept me going for less than a month. my company being rohit and john – off and on. but now, with my back absolutely killing me with all the driving and a general feeling of anxiety regarding my health ( i might be getting prone to the habitual hypochondria of an old man), i took the plunge into the testosterone heavy air of the local gym) and today was different. perhaps i have grown so much older than the instructors that they don’t threaten me anymore. their jokiness extends the relationship to an odd sort of camaraderie, their winks and pats border on an amused flirtation. middle aged women sweat away in between the black foam clad machines, black rubber and plastic move in arcs and circles, tough young men wince in front of the mirrors at their bodies- pulling in their stomachs and pumping iron, older potbellied bodies sweat profusely making dark stains on t-shirts, legs move in rhythms reflected and re-reflected in an endless corridor. a skinny young boy with gold dyed hair and a earring wearing blue rexene sweatpants and a black and yellow striped t-shirt looked adoringly around at the bodies of the men, each of whom he yearned to become. today was cardio day. as i walked on a rolling rubber mat heading nowhere i looked out at the parked motorcycles and two wheelers leaning against the trees and the evening walkers- hand in hand or shopping bags in tow.

4 months 3 weeks and 2 days

all the airbrushed and admittedly rather enjoyable sweetness of teenage pregnancy in juno fades really fast and hard 5 minutes into 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. in the film an illegal abortion is being sought by a girl along with the help of her roommate in a romania where permits and identification dictate every movement. the movie follows their journey with a hand held camera through dorm rooms, tram rides and hotel rooms. there is something about the long hand held static shots that i found very disorienting. its like trying to stay afloat in air while listening to a conversation. somehow your gaze is disengaged from the stability of the ground plane. the movie was disturbing as hell and pretty much unwatchable in portions. brilliantly made and completely traumatizing. after the film sonal and me walked out numbed. shweta could not sit through the film and walked out with mukul for company. even the part that she did manage to be inside the theater she spent with her head buried in her knees.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

(music notes) – purple rain

revisiting one of my favorite albums from the 80’s i am still stunned by its brilliance. mired in smutty sultriness that is not so velveteen that it does not collect grime, prince indulges himself by playing a version of his own past, complete with freudian allusions and hot women in underwear. the songs are electrifying- ‘lets go crazy’ with its scorching guitar and with prince as priest (what kind of church is this?), ‘when doves cry’ which has to be one of the best choruses written, ‘purple rain’ and its epic ambitions; and my favorite couple of songs ‘ the beautiful ones’ (“will hurt you every time") in which he takes the beauty of sadness and tears it opens with the terror and anxiety inside; and ‘darling nikki’ – a one night stand featuring a hotel lobby, aphone number on the stairs and some serious grinding. even what can be seen as filler is great - ‘baby i’m a star’, ‘i would die 4 u’, ‘computer blue’ and ‘take me with you’- are funky and fabulous. and what’s the music without the presence of prince himself- his royal sexiness himself.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Elastic Mind - Natural / Unnatural

‘Design and the Elastic Mind‘ - an exhibition on at moma where the line between real and the artificial blur and our lives change irrevocably- and naturally so do the possibilities of design.

complicated questions are raised when looking at the work. while the exhibition consists of such jaw dropping oddnesses like 'what is the form of artificial meat? how can we imagine the new toys for children with artificial skin?'; there also more complicated ethical issues being debated. is there romanticism possible in the when the natural exists only as a simulacra we participate in constructing willingly?

the answer to questions regarding sustainability lie in a return to unpolluted nature? or an idealized past? were the futurists right? does the salvation of humankind's relationship lie not in de-technologizing ourselves like flower children but on the other in an active participation in the world of artifice (what is that anyway). isn't any cultural form artificial anyways? is there an answer to all al gore complains about in these new technologies- learning from biology- artificial life forms - that might disturb our sensibilities now, but might be the road to a sustainable future?

in 'never let me go', ishiguro gently sucks us into a world where we identify with the artificial and frightens us to death. a real horror story.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

image post - lavasa / pune farmhouse

lavasa from a nearby hill. three buildings in a valley and roads. an international school for rich bombay brats is under construction and a university affiliated to oxford- far away from protesting left wingers in london

on the other side of the lush is the red mud of the receding lake

held back by the dam that allows a trickle into the agricultural fields of the village

waiting for the hosts while napping in the verandah

the house at dusk

sun set in the hills

two aajis in the rotunda windows

laughter in the verandah

and my mother sings

morning walk

morning tree

morning house

Friday, March 21, 2008

the recombinant blog

in another attempt to be able to talk to each other about architecture, art, urbanity, pop culture, high art, and anything else that might catch our fancy, there is a new blog being considered by a bunch of us. an on-line space because its easy to access and its tone can vary from the profound to the casual. "the recombinant" is its name. for further elaboration on the rather obscure name, there is a definition on the sidebar. would you guys like to join? let me know.

mumbai darshan (again)

it was better than expected, the two days rupali, rohit and me spent tripping across the city doing one of our many mumbai darshans. it must be admitted first of all that it had been a long time since we last had taken this tour since the school had consciously decided to forego ‘exchange’ programmes that are mere fronts for foreign exotic india tourists where the idea of exchange is to have cheap reliable tour guides in maximum city. this is much better. our kids also are going to switzerland later this year and the swiss are very nice.

dadar parsi colony

five gardens

old tdr extensions as cages above buildings

a mansion in the city

so monday and tuesday were spent driving around. every time you go around the city you discover something new. driving through dharavi (no stop this time) our first stop was dadar parsi colony- five gardens, where the old fabric is being replaced with high rises but the gardens are still some of the most accessible and beautiful in the city. bawa men stand and peer curiously from first floor windows as we trooped past and children sang old english songs from a school.

perpetual construction around phoenix

chawls below the flyover

community based women's organization making and selling marathi snacks below flyover

the beedi making chawl

opposite peninsula

we had lunch at phoenix- gorging ourselves in the very spaces that we decry very happily and then to banganga. but before that we took a walk to one of the chawls still left in the mill district. directly opposite the blue glass cube of the peninsula center a line of shops opens out into the courtyard filled with a low rise community. women sat on the thresholds making beedis and a passing local commented “now these are only interesting to foreigners”. a simmering discontent. but moving on to more tourist friendly waters – banganga.

the first time we took one of our foreign tourists there always avoiding it to steer clear of the sepia tint with naked children in water cliché. this time was nice though and the flirting between the krvia girls and the swiss boys started there on and continued to zaveri bazaar where blue and pink transparent pichkaris were bought and squirting and giggling followed.

steps to banganga

the tank

a temple

around the tank

fluorescent temple

at zaveri bazaar we walked through an old megastructure market- rem koolhaas pay attention. the lk market and the cloth market. woven deep into the city, they are both sprawling interior cities complete with courtyards, avenues and alleyways. with a roof that soars there is always a cool breeze within. white cotton sheets line both sides as heavy mattresses invite you to sit. warehouses are accessed by narrow stairs within each shop. incredible.

crawford market

pretty plastic things

shiny furry things

the street of toys and things

mosque and mangaldas market

mangaldas market

streets and shops in lk and mangaldas market

right behind mumbadevi was another incredible street. parathas were being roasted in a stall and chai sold across it. religious knickknacks and garlands along with plastic toys on a pedestrian street.

mumbadevi and the street behind it

we ended the day at the gateway of india where the new plaza is almost complete. it si a relief to see the ridiculously gated garden removed. i think his might be the first example of the decordoning off of public space. the seats on the opposite side are nice enough but badly made. shivaji still stands surrounded by green though. in the proposal i had worked o for the udri this garden was also removed and a pedestrian street led up to it.

the gateway plaza and the seats opposite

horniman circle from the bus

evening at juhu beach. street children like pebbles

the second day was navi mumbai day but not before a stop at mankhurd to look at some crimes against humanity committed by the state. rehousing for project affected people. slabs of 8 storied buildings crowd against one another with slivers of space in between. slightly better but not by much are the buildings further down the street where verandah run the length of the buildings- a little more friendly- and overlook vast tracts of barren land. shops have been allocated away from all of this in a plaza where no one seems to have moved. why would anyone come to this god forsaken end to buy anything. disastrous and frightening.

housing and the market - mankhurd

right beside that monstrosity is the older avatar of low income housing- pleasant single storied buildings around a courtyard.

in navi mumbai, the cbd is slightly less desolate than it used to be when i was surveying it almost 9 years back. with the city slowly filling up, a few luxury stores and offices seem to have finally moved into the skeleton like behemoths in that ghost town. even now, though, the upper floors still seem abandoned and dusty.

palm beach drive

belapur station, cbd

rohit rupali framed in bus door

the experience of driving in new bombay is strange. while in mumbai the scale and speed never seems to change that much in mew bombay it seems like the distance between the intimate and the vast is always too quick. from racing along the relatively empty streets, barren and desolate to plunging suddenly into the dense fabrics imagined as places to live by the architects chosen to design the ideal way of life in the new city. the obsession of the 80s to create and ‘inidan’ way of living through learning from the traditional villages and towns has so many avatars here- most notably at the artists village- correa’s ideal of living for the city he was part of proposing- and raj rewals horrific red stone monstrosity in nerul. while correas fractal organisaion leading from court to court seems to have worked with the inhabitants completely taking over the architecture itself- someties to a point where the original core is no longer visible (thankfully- i was never one for the annoyingly cloy cuteness of the original buildings) rewals project lies almost completely abandoned. while one part of it has been occupied after the residents have completely ridden themselves of the rough red plaster and the agra stone cladding that is ‘inspired from north indian desert towns’, the other part of the site is overrun with cobwebs and dust. i doubt anyone would want to live in what when new looked like a ruin. and like a ruin it photographs well, but walk into the apartments and the hovel like rooms are incredibly oppressive. the narrow openings that make the tasteful proportions of the exterior don’t help at all.

artists village - how did the right house become the left house?

the nallah in artists village. the original home is almost unseen

artists village - a play area

artists village - old home

rewal at nerul - red rough plaster and stone around cute courtyards
to live in it one has to completely plaster and repaint the whole building

subodh and hema’s housing at sanpada is thankfully miles away from all that romanticism. with interesting apartment typologies around a street and a eccentric little play pavilion in a garden at least it acknowledges the urban. to the rear the low rise low income housing still evokes the rural like the correa project, but while correas project weaves the fabric tight the project leaves many loose ends.

mig housing at sanpada. a street and buildings on both sides. the rear is a green swath of land.

lig housing where the courtyards are informal meeting places and two wheeler parking

sleeping in front of the play pavillion in the garden at sanpada
the road back- at govandi