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.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Wanted a Competent, Experienced, Professional Designer

FQDP Associates are looking for a competent enthusiastic RIBA, ARB qualified, LEEDS certified professional architect with 8 years of experience in International building guidelines, project management, Sustainable designing, construction details and facade structural analysis, with expertise in Vectorworks, Autocad, 3dMax, Microstation, Sketchup, GIS, V-Ray, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Having fluency in English & Dutch is a must, but also knowing Chinese, Arabic or Spanish will be an advantage. Experience in Middle East, Hong Kong and China would be great! But you must also know local design guidelines up to date. We shall provide you with preliminary 2 months unpaid Internship training period after which you shall be employed on minimum wages providing you with valuable experience in our highly reputable design office. If you believe you satisfy all our above requirements, please send your CV, letter of Interest, Portfolio and Reference letters to Mrs Silverwoodsidebottam. We do not accept application by email! Please post printed application to the office address.
(Fumihiko Maki, left, Larry A. Silverstein, Gov. George E. Pataki, Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers. Image source: The New York Times)
Nothing has ever given me a bigger inferior complex than these design office advertisements expecting all knowing pure perfection not necessarily efficient in design but 'professionalism', in return for which one is said to be working for valuable experience and love of the profession. I don't have a problem with the best design offices having high expectations but when small, stupid, inconsequential dim wits ranting about fake sustainability and rendering views with green grass and happy people frolicking start talking about professionalism and design it is just hilarious.
Never before have I hated the design profession more...