Friday, December 25, 2009

Paint Archaeology

(image of G Hay 100x UV, sourced from Arch Daily)
Among million odd ways to look, re-look, study, map, analyse and archive architecture, I believe this adds another truly remarkable milestone in how we understand history of architecture. I found this interview on Arch Daily Interviews section and the ingenuity of the field's logic and the absolutely beautiful images just convinced me of the numerous possible visions of the past that this newly discovered lens may be able to gaze at. The interview is with Natasha Loeblich by Sarah Wesseler. Natasha is introduced as "Architectural paint analyst Natasha Loeblich traces the histories of structures ranging from Revolutionary War-era buildings at Colonial Williamsburg to the Forbidden City in Beijing by studying what’s on their walls."

(image of Sample BRS14, visible light, 100x magnification, sourced from Arch Daily)
This method of analysing paint isn't new to Art History or Archaeology, but to do so for more contemporary buildings brings it into a different light, somehow acknowledging the status of modern artefacts and doing a conservative paint analysis of Villa Savoy, Chandigarh or even Kanchenjunga apartments. Or investigating the flooding patterns in Bombay through paint samples from numerous ground floor apartments.
To have professionals of Architectural History and Conservation peering down microscopes to investigate patterns of one of these mega-events,
wondering if like rings of a tree trunk, will we be able to understand revolutions, depressions, wars, famines and floods through a microscopic cross section of paint layers deposited on almost every building, elevation and interiors designed to last, will certainly be a sight to behold...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Death by Design

Andrea Palladio (1508 - 1580)

"Since a drawing in perspective necessarily involves distortion causing relationships between elements to be hidden, fifteenth-century architect and theorist Leon Battista Alberti and later Raphael in the sixteenth century drew distinctions between perspective depiction of architecture as pertaining to artists and orthogonal depictions as pertaining to architects. Acknowledging this distinction, Palladio later chose to redraw his earlier perspectives in the form of orthogonal elevations or facades."
-The Villas of Palladio By Kim Williams, Giovanni Giaconi

(First image: Photo of Palladio's Villa Rotonda, Veneto, Italy photographed by Stefan Bauer, second image: plan and section sourced from wikipedia)
So the story goes, that at the age of 70 and almost on his death bed Andrea Palladio started to redraw all his drawing, not only of buildings he was commissioned to build but the buildings that he had already built as well. Maybe he wanted to assert that the tool of drawing architecture goes beyond its obvious usage of facilitating construction...or maybe it was his personal struggle to re-conceptualize all his work within The Four Books of Architecture.He died in Maser in 1580, while he had just begun working on the fifth volume that his sons planned to expand after his death, but the project never completed.
Antoni Gaudi (1852 - 1926)

There can be no better example than Antoni Gaudi, of an architect who knew the materials he worked with, to their smallest behavioural property. This dust of construction materials within which he often worked hazed the boundary between art and architecture, with Gaudi till date being classified and reclassified somewhere between being an architect, artisan, artist etc. But it was exactly this construction dust and attire of an artisan that proved fatal.

(Photo of Casa Mila, Barcelona, Spain by David Iliff sourced from here)
On 7 June 1926 Gaudí was run over by a tram. Because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, many cab drivers refused to pick him up for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare. He was eventually taken to a paupers' hospital in Barcelona. Nobody recognized the injured artist until his friends found him the next day. When they tried to move him into a nicer hospital, Gaudí refused, reportedly saying "I belong here among the poor." He died three days later.
Carlo Scarpa (1906 - 1978)

In 1978, while in Sendai, Japan, Scarpa died after falling down a flight of concrete stairs. He survived for ten days in a hospital before succumbing to the injuries of his fall. We don't really know Scarpa's true purpose of his last journey to Japan and we dont even know what was he doing so far away from the traditional places of interest...some speculate he was following the itinerary of a journey by Basho, a 16th century Haiku poet.

(Photo of Scarpa's Castelvecchio Museum, Verona, Italy sourced from here which has some more nice photographs of his work)
Scarpa is buried standing up, in the outside corner (that was once a spot where dead flowers used to be thrown away) of his L-shaped Brion family cemetery.
"If there was an elegant way to die, it was his: he died in Japan in the land he had loved most, after Veneto where he first saw the light. He was wrapped in a great Kimono, an honour the people of that far off land reserve for their greatest sons and laid in a wooden box, a bed, a cradle, as the poet Ungaretti called it- not a coffin- sealed with flowing white ribbons. For five years there was only earth over his body..."
-Francesco Dal Co and Giuseppe Mazzariol - 1984, Carlo Scarpa, The complete works, Electa/Rizzoli
Project Cost
Louis Kahn (1901 - 1974)
Maybe it was him being a great architect that made him a bad businessman. His dislike to compromise his design ideas to satisfy his client's wishes and frequent change of design made him unpopular with the clients. For this reason Kahn did not make many buildings. His design company did not always have many jobs or much money.

(image of the Dhaka National Assembly building by Louis Kahn from Nathaniel Kahn's film My Architect sourced from here)
In the year 1974, Louis Kahn died of a heart attack in a men's restroom in Pennsylvania Station in New York City. He was not identified for three days, as he had crossed out the home address on his passport. He had just returned from a work trip, and despite his long career,spanning through design of some of the most beautiful buildings, he was deeply in debt ($500,000) when he died.
In today's context where architecture is not so much about design but management of it, where client satisfaction, timely completion, finishing specifications and budgeting precedes the need to design something that shall push the narrative of architectural history a little further, we don't commit the follies that the masters committed, but neither do we design buildings that form history.

...Architects no longer die by Design, but by the stress of Managing it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


(A topogeoid map showing the Topology of the moon through a spectrum of colours indicating the difference in heights. In this case the colour coded topography is overlaid on a shaded relief map to give rise to the above composite. sourced from: here)
Somewhere during the mid 14th century when Knowledge was laying down foundations for Modern Sciences through Nicolaus Copernicus, Andreas Vesalius, Rene Descartes and many others who liberated the human body and space from being private properties of religion to secular entities...little did she know that sometime down to the present the same sciences will become tools to reclaiming the same body and space as private properties, right from the Human Genome to the Moon!

(Moon map from the United States Geological Survey produced in partnership with NASA between 1971 and 1998, showing "the moon’s dark side, with colours correlating to geological materials and phenomena" sourced from Wired Magazine)
Few days back I came across this website called "Earth's Leading Lunar RealEstate Agency". Its tag line reads: Nothing could be Greater, than to own your own Crater, followed by: "It's not just a piece of paper. It's a ticket to the future. In much the same way that major corporations — such as IBM or General Electric — offer shares of stock to raise capital, we are offering a limited number of land claims ("shares") in lunar property in order to fund privatized exploration, settlement and development of the Moon. The value of lunar real estate claims are directly related to their location on the Moon, and the growth of their value is directly dependent upon successfully achieving our goal of permanently inhabiting the Moon by 2015. Officially authorized by the Lunar Republic Society, the leading advocacy group for private ownership of land on the Moon, and in accordance with the Lunar Settlement Initiative, your lunar land claim purchase benefits the Kennedy 2 Lunar Exploration Project and other public-private programs to return humans to the Moon."

(image from MoonBell site that illustrates how the Lunar terrain being mapped by Lunar orbiting satellite Kaguya (SELENE), launched from Tanegashima Space Center on September 14, 2007 is being used to generate coded sound in the orbital play mode! One can also listen to the noise/sound/voice of the Moon here)
...for now we can just listen to the Moon...sing its swansong...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Material World

(Generic building typologies in Bombay, First image is Raheja Universal Towers, Second image is of Ariisto Heaven I coming up at Mulund West. Image source:
Adolf Loos rolled in his grave and maybe dug deeper, while Mumbai Architects, Contractors and Builders actively participated in ornate material orgy at the ACE Architectural Materials Exhibition in the NSE Grounds, Goregaon. Except for a few technological innovations most stalls exhibited cladding, draping and tiling materials. Finishes of various textures, colours and ornaments to clad generic designs and make them true reflections of different individuals' equally generic identities.

(Image of NG Royal Heights at Andheri, image source:

(Flat Layout diagram of VS Group of builder's, image source: )
Interior design as a field here has become something that validates exploitative building trends like reduced ceiling heights, smaller rooms, bad construction quality etc. and works around these "challenges" to change finishes, break some walls, invent 'innovative' furniture (maybe cupboard during the day and your bed during the night kind of bullshit) and turn one generic space into another.
Modernists have died, instead what remain are petty contractors bickering over percentages of material costs, whose interiors are expensive, impressive to look at but still very very generic, sterile and with no formal imagination, and this exhibition reflected all that.

Or maybe it is just me...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bridges over Chronopolis

(Collage by artist Boris Bilinsky, City Art work for Metropolis c.1926-7, sourced from the Tate Liverpool website: here)

Like the Overload device from Surrogates (where every individual experiences the environment through a robotic surrogate), Bombay's density ensures that every facet of life is pickled with an overloaded complexity, sometimes irritatingly to an extent where everything is an abstraction of an abstraction, a post production of sorts that has completely forgotten its borrowed source. The combination of massive densities (12 million of us in 30 degree Celsius, shit, sweat and dust) and less resources turns the train stations into highly contested spots where concerned 'citizens' (local residents claiming authority/ ownership through their rights towards property), shopkeepers, hawkers, cops, eunuchs, beggars and commuters all stage a daily show of physical endurance, of Olympian proportions.

(Art work by Hugh Ferriss done for the Metropolis of Tomorrow. More images uploaded by Kosmograd here)

So in such a scenario the State Government attempting to untangle this complexity by distributing people in various levels through pedestrian bridges is hilarious and amazing at the same time. If the government goes as crazy with these pedestrian bridges as it went with the paver blocks, then we may even have an amazing cobweb of bridges crisscrossing above the city.
In case of Bombay I believe, various bridge typologies like the flyovers, sky-walks, highway pedestrian bridges etc are similar to Viktor Ramos's Bypass Urbanism project, where the urge to bypass the chaotic complexity below is more stronger than desire to bridge places.
It would be interesting to see what nocturnal activities find refuge in these bridges and would they turn into corridors of sleeping, homeless bodies or isolated echo-tubes reverberating with memories of the morning stampede.

(Photo by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar of Skywalk bridge at Borivali)
Contrary to the delicate, minimal almost invisible structures preferred in European context, I like these elephant foot, over-reinforced columned bridges (a "creative" response to a design challenge by a Municipal engineer no doubt) which in some odd way celebrate the half a million people-crowd marching to their jobs everyday, every year and rest of their lives, like some Soviet monuments.

(Photo by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar of Skywalk bridge at Borivali)
I also wonder if finally the pedestrian too, like the motorist has found a good vantage point to enjoy the city but from a comfortable distance without getting his feet dirty. Maybe in some more years we may witness the first ever pedestrian traffic jam on one of these bridges with people stuck for 4 - 5 hours due to someone walking in the wrong direction.

(Photo by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar of Skywalk bridge at Borivali)
Few years back I had also heard a proposal to deal with the train crowding during peak hours, where various government and private offices could be told to stagger their opening and closing hours by half an hour, thereby distributing densities in different time slots. What is amazing is this possibility where the city continues to accommodate higher densities but divides those densities through time and space, different populations of the same city living in different time zones staggered by half an hour and different levels that get built slowly one above the other, somewhat like a combination of J G Ballard's Chronopolis and Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City. The level and time occupied by a person would be based on the economic status.
The only question is at which level and time zone difference will the city be when Violence erupts...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Articles

2 very good articles by Arundhati Roy:
1) The Monster in the Mirror
Which is on the terrorist attack that took place in Bombay (hope the MNS isn't here)
2) The Greater Common Good
On the Narmada Dam project, forwarded to me by Aditya Sudhakar (Pottu).
update to the above post:
I found an article written by Ramachandra Guha reacting to Arundhati Roy's above article Greater Common Good...his article titled: The Arun Shourie of the Left which she reacts in the following interview: Scimitars in the Sun

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pixel contributions, Spectral Residues & Rome

A new computer algorithm developed at the University of Washington, using millions of online photographs from Flickr is able to construct a 3d model of various popular tourist sites. They are presently using the cities of Rome, Venice and Dubrovnik as examples to demonstrate and test the application that could allow a direct conversion of images to 3d models. The program is said to work based on its ability to calculate exact spots from where photographs were taken and then arranging various pixels to construct the 3d model (I am sure it isn't as simple as it sounds).
The 3d models somehow seem to embody the fragile translucent membrane quality, result of borrowing, selecting and careful arranging of pixels from an archive of images that are a result of a combination of eye, machine and experience, of the Colosseum, Trevi fountain, St. Peter's Basilica etc. by multiple visitors. To me it is like programming a flash mob with paint brushes carrying specific colours and co-ordinates on a canvas coming together to contribute a dot each and making Water Lilies (which too isn't as simple as it looks, but with some help from an ever growing community of Managers equipped with Excel, iPhones and Twitter, I don't think it should be a problem).

In one of the photographs of the Trevi fountain, one can also see a crowd that forms a pixel cloud/ghost that works like a contribution of remnant reverberation or rather spectral residues of different users who photographed themselves at various spots. Also, based on the popularity the city's visual modeling changes pixel density, and in some places dissolving completely in thin air.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


my past two years have been some of the most beautiful and fun times I had in my life. I made some great friends, visited magical places, learned some cooking, travelled and most importantly enjoyed living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world-London.
I shall miss living in a city with a meandering river, the underground with its multilingual silence, the musical of sirens, the crisp dry English humour as it competes with the constantly drizzling humidity, public spaces dotted with children, dogs & tourists, long discussions with friends at various pubs, a regular nourishment of events, talks, screenings, exhibitions, carnivals and other festivities big and small that occupied my life here. My experiences of different spaces in this city from Brick lane, china town, Covent Garden, parks, theatres, universities, offices to homes were intertwined with friends who offered familiarity to this geography.
I shall miss my friends who too like me studied, struggled, worked, lived and loved in this city under the CCTVs, through the winters, under the rains, along the sirens, dispersed in various zones as strangers, migrants, musicians, researchers, philosophers, guerillas and other self proclaimed titles that we lovingly conferred upon each other in customary processions more sillier than the graduation day. I shall miss London, my friends and most dearest of them all Nora who made this city even more beautiful than what it is.
Hope to see all of you soon, sometime, someplace beautiful!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Industrial Artefacts

(A photograph by Angela Inglis, of King's Cross Gas Holders also called the Siamese triplets. the photograph has been sourced from Angela Inglis's website which has some more photographs of the King's Cross and other railway/industrial artefacts)
I came across a very good interview with Photographer Herald Finster by Tommy Manuel. what struck me most can be summed up where Herald Finster (whose work involves photographing industrial ruins) explains: "In most cases I do some research in order to answer the “how did it work” question, but the “who did the work” question remains unanswered in most cases and remains open to imagination." With number of city governments (London-Lea Valley, Bombay-Eastern Waterfronts, Athens-Gazi, Bilbao-port area etc) feeling an urgent need to regenerate their industrial past it becomes even more important to be aware of the nature of transformation.

(image sourced from AJ, showing Feix and Merlin's proposal for Gas holder number 8)

(image sourced from AJ, showing proposal by Hakes Associates for Gas holder number 8. These 2 are of the five short listed entries selected from 80 entries for a competition, you can find the complete article and other entries here on the AJ website)
In context to these transformations or rather conservation of industrial ruins through injecting hybrid programmes as some architects prefer describing it, Herald Finster explains "Essen and the Ruhr area will be “Kulturhauptstadt Europa 2010? (Capital of Culture 2010). The official pamphlet says “Die Identität dieser Metropole ist nicht mehr geprägt von Arbeit, sondern von Kultur” (the identity of this metropolis is no longer characterized by work, but by culture). This statement declares an antagonism between work and culture. It expresses the arrogance of the authorities and the powerful who feel themselves superior to the working class, if you permit me to use this old-fashioned term. They deny the merits of millions of people, who laid the ground for our welfare. These are the sorts of people who abuse industrial installations as vehicles. They cannot deny the existence of industrial architecture (although they do the best to wipe out as much of it as possible), but they try to pervert the original meaning of the installations. They add futuristic architectural elements, they pull out historic machinery to make the interior look “nice and modern” and they turn former work places into meaningless Disney Land like amusement parks."

(photo sourced from official website for Zollverein coke plant and colliery. The industrial site is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, to which Herald Finster is refering to while talking about Essen- the city in which it is located. One can also find more sites like this on the European Route of Industrial Heritage website.)
The interview is very good and very well articulated using simple language, it raises important questions like..
1) how do we as architects/designers acknowledge our industrial past not just for the empty shells and aesthetics but for the history and people? or

2) how can we really avoid this "pervert" commodification of history? or

3) Is museum-ification the only response to conserving the industrial relic?

4) What does turning an industrial ruins into a public space achieve?

I believe these questions become even more difficult to deal with if one is from the design profession. It questions our contentment at transforming an old industrial shed into a plush restaurant or an art gallery.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Normandy Bunkers

(image sourced from: here)
With the nature and sheer volume of history behind every artefact of war, especially the architecture produced during a state of absolute war that blurs the distinction between civilian and military resource, I believe it would be unfair to adopt (only) phenomenology as a lens of understanding and representing these building. A personal experiential narrative of these built forms is meaningless given the complex collective history that has sculpted them. To further appropriate these artefacts of war along imaginations of science fiction writings (even if it is someone as good as J.G. Ballard) would be like making a comedy (Life is Beautiful) around the holocaust. The tourist and media both seemed to have turned history into something that we feel about rather than think about, but I guess the notion of collective memory does provide that overlap between history and experience.

(images sourced from: here)
Maybe due to the collective memory that we accumulate of these events it may be possible to have similar reactions of awe and wonder on seeing the Bunkers of Normandy or the sea forts of Maunsell mentioned recently on the BldgBlog (the post also has some very beautiful images of the sea forts from the outside and some interior spaces).

(images sourced from: here)
But one such person who is able to manage writing about this architecture carefully balancing between the two dialectics is Paul Virilio. Here is a very good interview I came across called 'The Kosovo War took Place in Orbital Space'. Throughout his works Virilio's combination of military conception of history and use of theory of perception, I believe allows one to truly appreciate the architecture of Normandy Bunkers.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Burning Man City

(image source: Telegraph. More images here)
The Burning Man annual event in the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada this year witnessed approximately 50,000 participants coming together and forming a temporary 8 day settlement with the wooden effigy of the burning man being the focus of the event and the settlement.

(image source: Telegraph)
The event is organized by Black Rock City LLC. With valid entry ticket being the only strand that facilitates the formation of this 'city' (the temporary settlement is named The Black Rock City, also one cant help but draw comparisons to Masdar city proposal which will be in the middle of the desert and is projected to have same population), in the absence of collective history, common aspirations and various other things that form a community, the result is an array of images with a Mad Max like post apocalyptic flavour.

The plan of the settlement is equally dystopian with street names of Hysteria, Fetish, Ego, Catharsia, Amnesia etc. The satellite images shows the settlement forming concentric circles like garden-city-dream-gone-sour in the middle of a a desert landscape and the Burning man as the centre.

(image source: wikipedia)

(image source:
it also has some more images of the event)

50,000 Strangers brought together by an event managing company, The Burning Man festival according to me is a prime example of a festivity with no history, a carnival with no reason and ritual with no tribe, somewhat similar to contemporary City design proposals that attempt to form communities through a valid entry ticket of property ownership.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rumination of Utopias

As Ian Macleod one of the speakers during the Thrilling Wonder Stories syposium had pointed out, that in the present context there are no trajectories left of a future that can promise designs of utopia. With strong global authoritarian systems in place it allows very little flexibility to imagine either the utopias of social hierarchy or technological revolutions to purge problems, on the contrary newer innovations in social networking and lab-made glowing mice only encourage an image of a dystopian future. The only way by which science fiction writers are able to circumvent the existing condition is to start with a clean slate, an apocalyptic event with strong gravitational force to bend light and future, one of the indicators being a string of Hollywood movies of floods, doomsday, diseases, meteors and other last-days-of-man-on-earth genre.
I don't know if such an event could trigger a formation of a real community or some sort of collective that is a fundamental backbone of all utopias right from Thomas Moore's Utopia island, William Morris's News from Nowhere to more contemporary Garden City masterplans, but Dutch artist Rob Voerman works around such an assumption.

(Image by Rob Voerman called The Epicentre, which reminds me of the nuclear explosion shot from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Image sourced from Rob Voerman's website)
His website describes: "Some years ago, I started a body of work in which I try to create the architecture of fictive communities living in remote areas or occupying existing city-landscapes. The communities will consist of a mixture of utopia, destruction and beauty, a symbiosis of hippie-communities from the seventies, with their often highly decorated self-build structures, the cabin of the Uni-bomber hidden in the Montana forests, art-deco and other influences.

(untitled 2004, by Rob Voerman has some very good details)
Romanticism combined with the grim qualities of terror. It is often a direct translation of destruction in a purely aesthetic form..."

(sculpture works by Rob Voerman. The sculpture to the left is Annex#4 and was displayed at Bedford Square, London as part of the show at the Architectural Association. Images sourced from Rob Voermans site)
It reminded me of work that I and Kostas had done almost a year back on utopias and imagined communities, as we attempted to put together a Rubik's cube of different utopian ideas.

(the model of the cube done by me and Kostas for our final Masters thesis project titled ABBAU+, that presently lies at my house which soon will be sacrificed to recycling for something new to take its place...)
More photos and description of the project can be found on Kostas's blog here.
While I am on the topic of utopia, I came across:
1) Ananya Roy's lecture video (which also was her acceptance speech for the Golden Apple Award) where she elaborates on utopias.
2) The Self Sufficient City Competition (3rd Advanced Architecture Contest) organized by the IAAC, which sounds like an interesting competition to take part in.
This competition could be a good opportunity for people interested in different ideas of ideal cities and societies to test their schemes, constructing not only the inhabited but also the inhabitant.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


(Padstow fishing town port)
If you are around UK (or are privileged enough to travel here from anywhere else) and are looking to rejuvenate your nature-mana and reinstate faith in sustainability then Cornwall is the place to be. Thanks to Sarathi and Neha (the nature-loving couple) who invited me and Nora along on a road trip, we had the opportunity to explore the country side of Cornwall.

(Mevagissey port and town)
Our drive took us along small-sleepy fishing village-towns, the Carnglaze slate Caverns, tiny fishing ports of Padstow, Mevagissey, the beaches of Charlestown with its shipwreck centre, the Minack Theatre near Land's End, the Eden Garden project, St. Michael's Mount, St. Ives town & beach and finally on our way back a glimpse of the Stonehenge.

(Houses on a cliff at Mevagissey)

(Minack theatre built by Rowena Cade set within the cliffs next to the Porthcurno beach)
Cornwall does not have many densely populated areas, but has clusters of small towns and fishing villages linked to different local tourist attractions providing the local population some more opportunities. As Prajna told me later, Conservation here is a part of the Economic model for the area that not only facilitates opportunities for the local population but also contributes to a proper upkeep and maintenance of these heritage sites. Through different towns that we travelled I felt the local population had a strong sense of community with a consciousness of the importance of these heritage sites to their livelihood.

(Inside the tropical dome in the Eden Garden project designed by Nicholas Grimshaw)

This is definitely one of the places that can entice one's faith in working on a model which can be a mix of William Morris's (overtly) romantic utopian world of News from Nowhere and Gandhian model of self sufficient rural sustainability.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Paper Architecture: Urban Utopias exhibition @ The Royal Academy of Arts

I had been to the Royal Academy of Arts recently with my friend Neha (Gupta-Chatterjee) to see the ongoing Paper City: Urban Utopias exhibition. My present readings of The Faber book of Utopias (edited by John Carey), Utopias Deferred: Writings from Utopie by Jean Baudrillard and Ruth Eaton's Ideal Cities had greatly increased my expectations from people who generally like to imagine and represent ideal conditions for human existence.
But quite contrary to my expectations and the impression that the larger than life and quite explicit name the exhibition labels itself with, it turned out to be an extremely ordinary exhibition tucked somewhere in the corridor between the ladies toilet and the restaurant. The drawings were done by a range of people from different backgrounds, from the C-grade student with a D-grade imagination, a house wife to Peter Cook(who according to me had successfully created one of the worst images in his career) and James Wines. The drawing by James Wines was quite beautiful, but the rest seemed personal graffiti oblivious of any historical or theoretical context of utopias or architecture or technology.

But the highlight of the exhibition was exactly that! Anyone and everyone had quite quickly contributed to this exercise of imagining their individual utopias, someone got them printed on A4 stacks of paper pads and hung them within an exhibition space for people to admire and tear off a copy of the ones they liked and take it home. I am sure its not an Avante Garde idea and is generously used in departmental stores but to have it in the Royal Academy with Pre-Raphaelite artist, John William Waterhouse RA (1849-1917) in the neighbouring hall is quite impressive. I guess one could even measure the popularity of each art work within the exhibition based on the number of copies. It could be a market survey for utopia!
This exercise somehow reminded me of some photographs I had seen on facebook of students from my Architectural school, painting a wall that was worked out like an event. Unaware of the impact an image can have within the public domain and the privilege of being in a position to design a more meaningful drawing in such a space (i don't mean painting a Monet but it could definitely had been a Banksy), most seemed to take pleasure in painting mediocre images of guitarists, flowers, cartoons and other things that seemed to fail in front of the pan splatters which did a better job of occupying the wall. But I guess one is allowed to do such things as a student and it is after all only a wall and maybe I am over reacting.

But any ways back to the topic, the exhibition also has a small competition as an extension which invites people to contribute their ideas for Paper Cities and will be judged by architect Peter Cook, illustrator Sara Fenelli, Blueprint editor Vicky Richardson and the RA’s Architecture Programme Curator Kate Goodwin.

(will be posting some images from the exhibition soon...)

Monday, August 10, 2009


I came across this article, which talks about the trials and tribulations of a new city like Almere which is around 30 years old (7 - 8 years younger than New Bombay). My previous post on Almere was during my Master's trip to Netherlands. There is something disturbing about these new young cities, especially when they are spaces with no history, like airports where different strangers come together in a sterile generic environment with well oiled mechanisms of circuilation, surveillance and other scary instruments of planning. Or maybe given enough time these geographies may gather layers of history, the only problem will be that it will start with the opening of a new Burger King designed by a Starchitect with underpaid interns.
Maybe the sterility of these spaces is actually the revenge of the underpaid interns! Anyways here is a fantastic blog I found on Archidose, its called Architects who eat their young, I am sure we all have more than enough names to contribute, so do contribute.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


(image of origami works by artist Ingrid Siliakus from his website)
With a growing technological progress in construction industry, easy access to exploitable labour and economic surges that allow for baroque extravagance, gone are the days of "Rome was not built in a day". Cities are no longer fixed geographies that will accumulate palimpsests of history, culture, people, flora and everything else to slowly form sediments of experience, memory and history, flourishing, thriving and decaying; But on the contrary the new Archigram cities are designed products, passed, made, sold and resold all in a day with deliciously pop-plastic-flavoured history of genuine intent to embody sustainability (imagine surgically beautified Gaia in D&G). With climate and economy following patterns of extremities, high property values that reduce life span of buildings to as little as 30 years, the process of urbanization is played in fast forward from conception on a tabula rasa site to its demise like the redundant empty American suburbs or some cities in the Middle East.

(image of origami works by artist Ingrid Siliakus from his website)
As people who from time to time envision ideas with regards to great design and save the world schemes, we may actually need to entertain the nightmare of designing single serving (say for a brief period of 50 years or in accordance to the bank loan schemes for housing) use and throw cities. Cities with no history, only props and people!

(image of origami works by artist Ingrid Siliakus from his website)
Cities made of paper that open and fold and disappear or get recycled (to be politically correct). When I came across works of Ingrid Siliakus, I was happy to find that origami, art and architecture had folded together so well to create complex spaces and forms through just cuts and folds.

(image of origami works by artist Ingrid Siliakus from his website)
This single- serving (Rem Koolhas: Generic city) city opens up ideas of temporal nature of architecture and cities, as Bruno-designers catwalk their styles along the flavour of the season (dainty designer proclaiming, “oh! Sustainability is so in! I laaav grass”). But the works of Ingrid Siliakus certainly provide some hope to have beauty in these single-serving difficult times and a regular supply of work for architects. We may even see the ephemeral nature of design reflected in design drawings somewhat similar to these images by another artist Simon Schubert whose folded paper space drawings are one of the most beautiful works I have come across, subtle, delicate and precise.