Monday, November 26, 2007

Amsterdam & Rotterdam trip

Both the cities are extremely beautiful and very interesting. With manmade land that reclaims the sea, the cities are like a labyrinth of concentric canals and built form that float like rafts on water that have lost anchorage with reality and have floated far away with their coffee shops, red light areas and trams & tourists to become absolute global heterotopias (especially for Europe). The canals constantly cut through a fairly dense and ornate urban fabric consisting of different urban design and planning experiments carried out during various times by a state that has complete control over the land. This land fluctuates between being natural and artificial, frequently reminding its inhabitants of the pact with Mother Nature through quite amusing sustainability policies and principles.

Amsterdam: The area of the old city (Amsterdam Central Station) has narrow old ornate buildings that mange to stand delicately, along canals. Each building standing gracefully along the canal like a beautiful aging starlet in front of the mirror looking for signs of age to be brushed off with some paint and maintenance, to win a precious glance of appreciation from a transient admirer.

Further out of the old city one sees experiments that have failed and succeeded, with the Dutch ceaselessly attempting big and small utopias through design and planning strategies that respond to nature, locals and the market.

Almere: Almere is one such Dutch experiment in the modern times, which in creation of a new city centre with shopping malls and retail designed by well known architects to create according to me a highly nauseous environment. While most of my classmates were cribbing about coming to a place like this, Kostas and me were discussing how it was extremely important to come to this place and take up the role of silent witnesses to one such experiment that attempts to ask the age old question of do cities create jobs or jobs create cities, so that our recordings will be useful in the future when we would be called to the stands, of our disciplines.

Rotterdam: I absolutely loved the city, probably the most of all the places I had seen. It seemed to me like the absolute urban laboratory where numerous experiments were attempted with different results that had collaged an urban fabric of exquisite success and failures but both contributing to a knowledge base. It was very interesting, and most importantly I felt at home as I could sleep peacefully while hearing sounds of bells, people, traffic , the street and the city....

Besides all of the above I and my friends enthusiastically discussed about the Kunsthal, Le Corbusier, Global capital, prime minister of Iran, Thai food and very marvellously designed Dutch women.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bernard Tschumi

Few days back I had the opportunity of attending a lecture by Bernard Tschumi at the AA. As he started his presentation with saying ‘Architecture is not knowledge of Form... but a form of Knowledge, and its role is not to just make buildings... but to raise questions’... (especially within the space of an institution that has quite skilfully reduced the entire field of architecture into an orgy of form making exercises) he was an instant hit with me and my Greek friend Kostas. He went ahead with explaining the context within architectural scenario and each of his project right from Parc de la Villette to the more recent ones like his museum in Athens responding to those contexts. What was interesting was when he spoke about the project he was able to talk about THE project (and not how it was built and how was it managed and how many agencies worked)...But as Colin, our course director and his then partner during Parc de la Villette, observed that he had successfully for the sake of the presentation had forged every project into the ‘Context & Concept’ framework leaving out all the Joker cards, all the aberrations, all the unexpected skews and scratches....On the whole it was a very interesting lecture followed by an equally interesting question and answer session wherein Mr. Tschumi was able to provide quite intelligent answers to some of the most stupid questions I had ever heard of. Very interesting and very inspiring.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

My Room

I stay at Swiss Cottage, a tube station that lies in privileged zone 2 of London on the Jubilee line, which is the grey line on the ‘transport for London (TFL)’ map. It being a student’s accommodation I have the leisure of one small-cozy-tiny-but-still-cozy-room, one window and shared kitchen that I use very rarely. My room has a blue-green carpet on the floor, pale yellow walls and light brown laminated furniture. The main door to my room is wooden and is painted in apple green. It is a clean room and all the signs of someone having lived here before me have been successfully erased, moped, dried and painted. The absence of traffic sounds, mixers, pressure cookers, bells, radio etc is further amplified by the silence here, it gets too quite sometimes...but fortunately the refrigerator in my room has started making some sound that reassures me of the world’s existence on very quite nights. The first model I have made after coming here sits on the bookshelf along with wooden Ganapati (lovingly named Gumpoo) guarded by some members of Justice League of America and CCTVs downstairs. Most of my room is still in default mode but every weekend it blooms in all its glory, with a carnival of the entire week’s laundry. Great weather, Amazing Brit cuisine and a very accommodating city....what can I say people.....I miss home.