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Anjali Yagnik is the new Dean of Faculty of Architecture

Faculty of Architecture at CEPT welcomes Anjali Yagnik as new Dean. She is a School of Architecture, CEPT Ahmedabad, as well as UC Berkeley alumna.


Welcome Anjali, take this institution to new heights!

A book on unbuilt architectural projects in India

Why is unbuilt architecture better? [Para-titled: A book on unbuilt architectural projects in India points to the possibilities of structural forms and the ambition of limitless imagination]

Why is unbuilt architecture better?


This article brings us some POP questions (like the ones following), but so be it.

Why is un-built better? Clearly, most non-architects wouldn’t spare a minute on this thought. But architects will, and architects do. Both, those who can design build-able and, those who cannot. [“projects that were conceptualised but never got built, either because these were competition entries or due to issues of feasibility and logistics” is self explanatory]

Prem Chandavarkar equates the unbuilt to a photograph, and “what is revealed in this photograph will demonstrate whether architecture is captured by an ideology of arrogance or an ethic of idealistic aspiration”.

The book thus takes one away from the “hegemony of vision”, which usually plagues architectural projects and makes one think about the act of building. [I say: Vision, in fact, is missing from a majority of what passes as architectural design in today’s India, and few good examples buried among chaos are hard to locate and explain]

Rajesh Advani’s Architecture Live website has been around for a while, and some of his texts bring forth ideas which are still not discussed widely enough…. let us hope the same for the book as well.

Top hashtag for Architects is #Motivation, not #architect, #architecturaldesign!

Recently LinkedIn showed me insights on top hashtags followed by Architects/ People who are in Architecture and Planning industry:

#Motivation and #Construction far far surpass #architect or #architecturaldesign at 14.5 and 4.3 millions respectively.

A similar statistic gave me a shock when I searched for how the web categorizes professionals: Software architects outnumber architects by a huge margin in web presence and online activities. So the default result, by relevance and sheer numbers, highlights the world of software. According to GMAC (Get Me A Course) CEO, Networking, Java, Medicine, Health and Fitness, Cyber Security, Finance Management, Architecture, Web Development are the top searches currently.

But this is only in the beginning: Till the search engine figures out that you are, in fact, an AEC architect. Thereafter it covers you in an avalanche of nonsense that students get bombarded with, and come to think of as ‘Architecture’.

I can’t decide which is worse: Not finding recognition, or the bunch of greenhorn designs that are copies of ‘inspiring’ search results.

Often this blog deigns Design/ Architecture as a noir canvas, to paint with dark and darker shades. All creative professions are frustrating, but few take so long to create a product, and few rely so much on others to make it, while struggling to keep alive the art within. Therefore so many need motivation, comforting and pep talks even while going through it and creatively too.

Architecture will happen, and will not…

Making Dystopia: Modern Architecture and Planning ruined our cities and places

Para-paraphrasing this as it is already perfect:

Making Dystopia, the most gripping and complete account of how architecture and urban planning were corrupted in the 20th and 21st centuries leading to a catastrophic deterioration of the built environment, is a brilliant, thoroughly researched, and completely novel book… This book, surely the greatest of the many written by Professor Stevens Curl, should be read by staff and students in all schools of architecture who are still pursuing destructive, irrelevant, outdated paths, as well as by everyone concerned about the erosion of civilisation itself.” The late David Watkin, Emeritus Professor of the History of Architecture, University of Cambridge

Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism


Will come back and update.

The Best Mentors Think Like Michelangelo

Here is an article that I found useful while discussing the career path of a young female colleague. The discussion was especially difficult because it involved letting her go; putting the running projects in peril.

Mentoring young people in the field of Architecture can’t be easy, with the field of design being over-represented by one kind of thinking, and with so much stereotyping.

It is difficult to fight one’s own deep rooted biases and gendered socializing, specially when affirmed by one’s specific experiences. Of women who leave randomly, on short notice… with little regard for the chaos they leave behind. Without really thinking of a long term career, evidenced by how often they burn the bridges.

Young graduates hiding the fact that families will marry them off at any moment. Married ones citing marriage as the reason when choosing to leave. Mothers feeling guilty and second prioritizing work. Seniors leaving at the peak of their earning curve, with families and elders to care for.


Because the stakes are not high: They earn so little – their husbands or families typically earn much more in comparison. Tradition is for women to marry up and men to marry down.

Because the hours are unpredictable: They are expected to help with the house and family in evenings. Rare are good creches in office or outside.

Because sites are in remote locations, almost entirely masculine. Even when toilets exist, the doors don’t lock. They and their families have safety concerns while reaching a site and coming back, and are relieved only when they reach home.

Because they are perceived as non-technical. They may be preparing drawings – but making a building is different. Most people have a hard time trusting a young woman on a site with foundations and slabs if not selection of tiles. Everything is addressed to the male in the team irrespective of age and role.

Because because.

And this is when work is not easy for any architect, of any age, gender, or capability. For the 5% sparkling successes, the rest barely get recognition for their contribution to society, get meaningful employment, and any power to make decisions. Architecture is a gloomy business from the inside, despite the glamour (and the occasional highs). World over.

Already most are self critical and give themselves a hard time about aesthetics. It takes 50 years to know how to build, and build well – something that makes both the designer and the client happy. The struggle in creative fields is real. Many creatives quit, diverge, settle for less than their potential.

Also, it takes resources and contacts to get commissions in a country where the field is still maturing – not everyone has the wherewithal, not everyone’s dad ‘knows someone’. Most architecture offices are principal architect driven, work is not possible to scale up, commissions remain personality driven. There are no big, stable employers. Therefore, very few jobs and most of them in small offices that are themselves struggling.

Design Time is drowned in the time to take care of other aspects of work. Free work in the name of giving opportunity, rampant non payment, very few fair contracts. No laws to protect an architect, no strong professional bodies (Read about CoA and IIA elsewhere on this site) to argue for them.

Why read this article? Why mentor architects?

That too, when the results are more than discouraging… Why did I take the trouble?

It is a grim choice, career in architecture. But this article tells the mentor to paint a picture bigger and brighter, and, it tells the mentor to accept the mentee’s self first.

Although the article does not mention the corpses that Michelangelo opened up, every so often, to learn, making him able to discover/ uncover/ sculpt the perfect sculpture. But that is the burden of a mentor: To go through the dead unsightly innards of systems, in order to refine one’s vision to sculpt a beauty so effortlessly, almost as if ‘releasing’ it.

It is still worth, for sculpting an architect is sculpting the future of Architecture, and the better the mentoring, the better the future!





P.S. And then there are amazing peaks of experiences, sometimes, that make all that struggle worth.


On: Harvard Business Review

By: W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith

2020 Architectural Education Awards by ACSA

Award for Vikramaditya Prakash

‘The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) announced the recipients of the 2020 Architectural Education Awards honoring architectural educators for exemplary work in areas such as building design, community collaborations, scholarship, and service. The award-winning professors inspire and challenge students, contribute to the profession’s knowledge base, and extend their work beyond the borders of academia into practice and the public sector.’ Among this year’s recipients is Vikramaditya Prakash, professor of Architecture (also one of the applicants who might have led CEPT as President).


Distinguished Professor Award “recognizes individuals that have had a positive, stimulating, and nurturing influence upon students over an extended period of time and/or teaching which inspired a generation of students who themselves have contributed to the advancement of architecture.”

For the other three laureates, see 2020 ACSA ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION AWARDS Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Architectural Education @

There are also other awards: for best article from a journal; for collaborative practice, where community, faculty and students have worked on projects of community relevance; for ‘education in housing design to produce architects ready for practice in a wide range of areas and able to be capable leaders and contributors to their communities‘; for combining teaching, scholarship and outreach for leadership; for school based design-build projects, and such.

Many of these activities are already taking place all over Design Schools’ campuses. But most are unacknowledged beyond their own boundaries. Gatherings at IIA Award are dominated by sponsor presentations and random dance performances. NASA Trophies and Awards are sophisticated but sometimes actual events a mix of trivial and substantial. There is nothing like a prize rewarding a teacher nor the variety of ways of teaching possible in architecture.

This may be untimely to ask for when the number of colleges of architecture has become 10 fold recently without a proportionate growth of quality of teaching.

Where a huge number of colleges rely on visiting faculties to do the teaching as right teachers are not easy to find. These include retired professionals; young practitioners looking for a steady income to keep their nascent offices going; young parents who do not want pressures of a full time architecture practice/ job.

Design professors are frequently fresh graduates from the same institute, lured on by slightly better money than they would get if they relied on profession. Or career seniors who have long accepted the fact that their love for Architecture keeps them going, but their students/ community may not have any formal acknowledgement of their contribution except, perhaps, a lifetime achievement award of some sort. 

But yet, may be CEPT and/ or other leading universities would take a leaf out of ACSA’s book, and see how many types of teaching and collaborative practices can be acknowledged by Awards. 

Congratulations Vikramaditya!

More on Faculty Awards by BE:


Surat Municipality Building – Past and Present


Surat Municipality, popularly called Mugali Sara, was a Mughal Caravan Serai later converted into Municipal Council Building. Many mindless modifications have changed its interiors, and as it is no one is really bothered about heritage in Surat.

[Will come back and add more]



Just for fun, see the recent news about Surat’s civic past:

Surat Municipality Liquor Revenue 1.jpg


Surat Municipality Liquor Revenue 2.jpg

CEPT Summer Exhibition 2019

CEPT Summer Exhibition 2019


The Bald Eagle of SA has landed.

Tremors after the falling of proverbial big tree seem to have subsided, and a new way of doing things is emerging, of course with contingent pains of labor.

The Semester End Exhibition is both a good and a bad idea. On the painful side – Students and Faculties have extra work load and are toiling to put up the show long after the semester is supposedly finished. Working hard on weekends, with 30% marks at stake when they are not even present to explain their work. Laying bare their work for criticism, judgement (typical to architects at least), scorn, and misinterpretations. Both the teachers and students are reeling under this extra pressure (Sheets, Report, Poster AND Panels) all along getting advice about how they should have prepared for this during the semester itself. It is a pain.

But for outsiders, it is all good stuff. People coming and pointing at drawings, models, studies, and saying: ‘we should do it like this ourselves’. SID designers placing their business cards where their work is on display, giving people an opportunity to hire them. Offices coming and figuring out whether the courses are of their liking, finding potential fields of interest. Also judging where they themselves stand, or noting down names of bright students. Future students coming and drinking on the elixir of a semester’s work, proud parents posing in front of their ward’s work.

So the exhibition is catalyzing, both within and outside the campus, interaction and learning that a University with varied courses is supposed to provide. What good is having these many interrelated specializations in the same small campus when students don’t learn from what the others have done? It is also preparing the students for the life that is waiting for them outside. Many will thank the institution for teaching them the art of succinctly presenting their work, in a way that it speaks for them even in their absence.


A few observations

The realm of design is moving from making to interpreting. In CEPT it was always important to see the wider scope, larger picture, other aspects, of making a building/ object/ even area. It was always the Concept that brought upon a student the best kind of attention. So site and case studies always formed a significant part of the process, and judging by how frivolously some of the design schools treat this aspect of design, CEPT was always strong on study, analysis and ideas rather than on a direct, measurable result in form of drawings, models and presentations. But from small scale to big, even as it is refreshing to see sincere attempts to ‘root’ and construct, the students all seem to be exploring ‘why’ much more than ‘how’.

Even as there are some really engaging studies, so many of the works have mere formal excellence, and there is not enough thought going into sustainability (Yes it is a cliched word) or materials and techniques appropriate for the needs of this poor nation. It is as if this lot is going to be absorbed by large corporations/ wealthy clients in big cities. May be this is a sign of a young and enthusiastic pool of teachers unmarred by the real world. Also of not having the maturity (read cynicism) and practicality that teachers experienced in ‘making’ bring on board. Ideas, but devoid of solid foundation that was the leitmotif of CEPT earlier. Especially in case of Post-graduate studies. This could be the result of restructuring that has taken place in recent years. Changes in those who teach, and the directives about what and how the teaching should happen.

Aware that this is a grievance of a privileged teacher and most schools are years away from achieving even this much. These are the typical trappings of an elitist institution, giving the insiders a false sense of security along with an air of superiority. This is where the step needs watching.


All in all, the exhibition transforms the campus into a vibrant display of capabilities as well as aspirations of its habit-ants. I say keep up the good work CEPT!



I only wish the new buildings and the walkways were not so insensitively put up, killing the original spirit of the place. About that mess, another time.


Arata Isozaki Wins Pritzker 2019

Arata Isozaki: The Pritzker Architecture Prize

For his contribution to the world of architecture, an old favourite of architects and an old world master, gets Pritzker.

To deal with pain to heal, and to build something new that was like the old, both for symbolic and utilitarian reasons.

But without taking away from his achievement: Conrad, take a bow! Yet another Japanese architect wins (Shigeru Ban and Pritzker explained by Conrad Newel) (It is Ito) – this is as much an ode to the evolved nature of the Japaneses’ architectural sensibilities, as the prevalence and predictability of their winning.


Death of Architecture- Exhibition and Dialogues

Death of Architecture, Exhibition, Talks, Events, Dialogue

29 January – 03 February 2019, Ahmedabad

Creating Feeling with Frank Gehry: Fondation Louis Vuitton

Gehry does it again! This film reveals the good side of Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.


This film will let you decide whether it is worth visiting a building because it is art. Some of his other buildings are. If not in Spain, at least in Los Angeles. This building is in the class of Walt Disney Concert Hall, in my humble opinion.


Now compare it with the young guns: ORB as imagined by BIG: Bjarke Ingels And Jakob Lange At Burning Man, and Other Assorted Architects At Kochi Biennale


Bjarke Ingels And Jakob Lange At Burning Man, and Other Assorted Architects At Kochi Biennale

Bjarke Ingels And Jakob Lange Launch Crowdfunding To Install A Mirrored Sphere At Burning Man

Bjarke Ingels And Jakob Lange Launch Crowdfunding To Install A Mirrored Sphere At Burning Man

Mirrored Sphere at Burning Man 2018.jpg


Burning Man, as an event, and as a community, are extremely popular now, and sold out as soon as the expensive tickets go on sale. The spots get filled in a hurry, and the expenditure on installations is increasing. Ingles has pulled a leaf out of Anish Kapoor, Jef Koontz, Kusuma’s books, and half the science fiction movies to come up with a hanging ORB, a sphere representing Earth.

Architecture of ephemeralilty

On architecture side, new materials and technologies in last 3 decades have made possible mirrored buildings. Since every half decent architect has grown up defending and describing how their design fits into the context, and when the context is too stunning, or historic, how their building merges in the surroundings or even vanishes!

Foster, Herzog, Zumthor, Gehry, Sanaa and countless others have used reflective surfaces to achieve the same aim. From Concert hall to laptop roof, (Apple store, actually) to hiding modernity in an old European town, starting in late 80’s, inventions in glass and polishing techniques for steel and aluminium have made it possible to realise the dream of vanishing materiality for architects.

For Burning Man, both the aims of ‘Leave no trace’ and ‘Reflect the whole City’ come together with the idea of ORB. Let us hope it gets the crowd to fund it’s creation out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere… As Jean Nouvel says, “Light is matter, and Light is a basic material”

Architects and their installations at Kochi Biennale

Kochi Biennale, the art festival using city as its venue has now gained much popularity. Something similar to the Burning Man although not in the same league. The city, already popular with tourists, and with it’s historic part (read venue for biennale) taken over by businesses and hotels catering to tourism attracts artists and art minded folks from domestic and international locations during the Kochi Muziris (Muziris being the name of the old port Kochi), a bi annual art event that has art displays, installations at various locations, and associated activities.

Architects, and teams of architects led by architects have been a part of this, starting with Bijoy Jain’s brick sculpture and melted tar monoliths. In the latest round, three others from architect community had presence in Cochin, including Sankalpa and team, on behalf of CEPT. But except for Anish Kapoor’s liquid artwork, every installation has been very tactile, and holds it’s three dimensions, very unapologetic. Or may be Indian architects still can’t escape the idea that everything they make has to ‘stand’ solid.



Anish Kapoor

Bijoy Jain - Kochi 2014.jpg

Bijoy Jain


Even the new one by Tony Joseph is in the same league. As opposed to using the ‘non materiality/ reflectiveness’ to represent Earth, the installations at Kochi, for both art and buildings use Brick, Wood and Bamboo and other ‘vanishing over time’ materials, and remain of Earth, rooted in ground.

Discover Ray Eames and other unsung heroes on BBC Arts


Go to BBC Arts and find a mention of Ray Eames’ work, and read her partner’s opinion about her that most interviews did not bother to note. About Ray and Charles it says “As designers they were inseparable, but for a long time Charles got all the credit. ‘Anything I can do, Ray can do better,’ he said, but the media ignored his pleas.”

The headline does a little injustice to the male counterparts, but since it tries to right a much bigger wrong done (-sic) to the artists by countless biased individuals, I will link it verbatim:

Five female artists whose male partners hogged the limelight

@ (When their mates got the limelight)

Too many muses and apprentices who get written about as passing matters in great artists’ lives and not enough of those who grew into their own women (like Gilot who left Picasso because of his abusive behaviour and affairs, and married Dr. Jonas Salk, in who’s name we now have the Salk Institute)

Frieda now enjoys much better love than many others who were in her situation. Yes, Kandinsky would not have been the same without Gabriele Münter, and the names of Lee Miller and Dorothea Tanning are known only to avid museum visitors.

This is the same in many co-driving architectural practices – even for those not as counter-balanced as Sanaa. The shift is in that many of today’s generation are giving conceptual directions and reversing the earlier sequence of being detailers and managers, roles beautifully elevated-played by Rajes and Ghoshs. Yet, not enough narratives are identifying a person for ideas, shying away from asking who did what when interviewing a team of two. This is worth noting and investigating about than shallow attempts to give awards to women for being architects.


While you are at BBC Arts, also discover this delightful piece of information:

The amazing animation genius you’ve (probably) never heard of

Lotte Reiniger, early Animator who used shadow puppetry techniques long before Disney, and animated children’s fairy tales beautifully. In times when all three vocations – Fairy Tales, Shadow Puppetry,  and lighthearted storytelling – are fading.

Find her @

(Amazing genius of Lotte)

National War Museum Battle Lingers On

Is an original design better than an inspired one?

Should you fight for what is right if you are wrong?

Designer of Teg Bahadur Smarak, FA Alumni and owner of Aakar design, Gurpreet Singh challenged the selection of sP+a, oft awarded and winner of other competitions, on the grounds that the design is not original (but it was supposed to be). And supposedly, none of the entries fit the context – State Houses and Axis. For added measure, the Jury accuses Gurpreet of pushing too hard in an attempt to influence.

Thank gods of architecture for the scanty architectural journalism that India now has, and see the story about design of National War Museum


India’s planned National War Museum in limbo (Scroll Article by Shreya Roy Chowdhury)

A design competition that has recently been in news (If only in Architects’ groups), and that generated some debate, various articles and petition challenging the selection of a designer other than the winner, is the design of Andhra’s new capital, Amaravati.

My post is @ Mahishmati, Amaravati, Culture and Cult: Symbols are important in Architecture (Amaravati: Another controversial architectural competition)

In both, the winners are not commissioned the project. In Delhi, there is the problem of invalidating a decision made by a Jury, and in Andhra, of an opaque process that followed the competition, to commission the work to architects other than the winning team. And of course, the new architects were sent to Bahubali film’s director to learn about Seemandhra cultural context. In this scenario, Bihar seems to be doing well. They seem to have their selection process in place, and have international firms working on prestigious projects…. I am looking forward to Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Science City and hope it will progress faster than Bihar Museum and Nalanda University!


How to use a celebrity in advertising: BeMyGuest ads of Dubai Tourism

Be My Guest!

Why am I talking about BeMyGuest#1 when BeMyGuest#2 is already released? Frankly, at this point I would welcome any distractions that take my mind off the horrible ads trying to pull Amitabh Bacchan in selling Lloyd Air Conditioners.

THIS is how you do celebrity adverts! ‘Shah Rukh’s Personal Invitation’ is a good example of how to marry the star value of a celebrity with the usual tourism advert elements!

Shah Rukh Khan’s Dubai advert from late 2016 is easy to relate to. It is well executed, and shows the agency team had a good grasp of Dubai Tourism’s core demand too! It is not usual for the maker of a movie or ad film to not be awed by his personality, and ask him to play ‘Shah Rukh’. Most of the time people write a script where the star is playing a character, like my pet peeve of the moment, Lloyd Air Conditioners. But this is a Catch 22 situation – the tremendous face value because of which the big star is selected, actually works at counter purposes: the viewer relates to the star and not the character! In comparison, I’d any day take straight forward endorsements like Hema Malini’s ‘Buy Kent Water Purifier!’

Very aware of the power of his film star status and persona, however, BeMyGuest ad is smart with Shah Rukh – showing off his popularity and instant recognition by other people’s reactions. A star playing himself AND being just a regular character.

In January 2018, the ‘Making of BeMyGuest’ was released, and was well watched. As expected. Who doesn’t love Shah Rukh? The part about him conquering his fear because ‘It needed to be done’ is highlighted precisely keeping the young travelling audience in mind. And the lady who ends up mouthing ‘Dubai is the most beautiful place’ is the perfect other end of target audience. Well balanced in terms of generating interest…

And then the second part came out; in the comment section of which someone calls SRK her big brother, and some young fellow (or, perhaps a paid watcher) claims this to be the best ad he has ever seen! For me, however, it is disappointing.

I get the logic: International flight from most parts of India to Dubai is easier than Kerala, easier than even Kolkata, and this destination is far better packaged than Singapore. So I can see why the second part tries to project Dubai as the place for family celebrations and a romantic getaway.

But in terms of execution, it lacks crispness and punch. It also relies too much on shots of others, though some of them are familiar faces, and so are not easy to imagine as the characters they are playing. If Shah Rukh is playing Shah Rukh, others should be playing themselves too! Only the Footballer Boy, Indian origin but from London, is a nice touch. The Second Inning unfortunately can’t deal with the problem that every sequel faces – the burden of expectations! It fails to carry on or supersede the surprise that the first one created.

Watch it if you are a big SRK fan (or, like me, are bored out of your wits watching inane ads using other celebrities). At any rate, it demonstrates how a celebrity should be used in making ads.

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