Saturday, November 26, 2011


(Elevation of the Asian side of Istanbul as seen from the Bosphorus)
Few weeks back in India some of my friends (who are planners) and me were involved in a debate around possible development trajectory for cities with large percentage of informal housing, multiple tenancies, incremental development etc. Our discussion was mostly around Bombay and how 67% of it is informal with an additional 20% old city housing and so acknowledging it to be a 'slum city' or 'informal city' could be a first step towards finding the right solutions. Seeing the role of the designer under threat and not really believing in 'people / community knows best' I tried to defend otherwise, but after my recent visit to Istanbul, I believe maybe there is a possibility of developing multiple decentralised solutions that incorporate the presence of the informal and at the same time have a diversity of design intervention that plug into such a landscape...
...its all up to our favourite underpaid intern sitting in some basement to crack this now....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Windows to the city

The image of the window travelling across the room as the headlights from passing traffic projected a pattern of light and shadow, splicing the air in the room into thin slices, is a memory that I carry of the place I lived for the first 8-10 years of my life. Since then there have been many windows of many houses that framed my hopes, inspired new desires and provided voyeuristic vantage points of the places I inhabited.

The window becomes a plane on which our eyes often come to rest, framing the outside environment, superimposed by the reflections of the inside and all this further abstracted by our own contemplations, like Casper David Friedrich's 'Wanderer above the Sea of Fog' (1818) we look out towards the city taking pride in our vantage point and nurturing ambitions to understand and live the city, yet another day. No wonder the scene of Danny Boyle's Jamal Malik looking over Hiranandani landscape becomes an image that summarizes the scale of ambition.
And while we watch, the city too invades our most personal spaces like Umberto Boccioni's painting 'The Street Enters the House' (1911). It is this plane of the window that becomes the Wayang kulit stage for the different dialectics of inside/outside, private/public, us/them, etc to be shaped/narrated out by the dalang who sits behind the screen. 
It is no coincidence that the window is an important element in many surrealist paintings like Magritte's 'Promenades of Euclid' or Salvador Dali's 'Figure at the Window'.
From Nora's student accommodation window (2008)
While moving into a new home, the concern for what one sees outside through its windows is as important as what is seen inside, and maybe it is these imaginary lines/axes/angles that connect our microcosms to heavenly bodies that move across the skies and anchor them to the ground. 
It very often is not as heroic a view or as picture perfect an angle as I am making it out to be, but that is one framed view that we see day in and day out for a span of as long as we stay in that place designated as home. Having blessed with friends who come from different cities of the world who were kind enough to share their windows to their cities to which they come back to at the end of their day, here is what we see..during different times of the day/season/festivals/events...

Chomchon's window in Sheffield, UK
Hardik's window in Ahmedabad, India
Outside Hiroshi's window in Hirao, Yamaguchi, Japan
Hiroyuki's window NY, US
Kiavash's window Vancouver, Canada
Michelle's window in Hong Kong
Namrata's window in UC Berkeley, US
Panayiota's window in Nikosia, Cyprus
Ranjit's window during monsoon in Bombay, India
Sahil's window during Diwali in Bombay, India.
My window in Bombay, India
My window in London in 2009 during winter, UK
Dominyka's window in Vilnius, Lithuania