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Correa in 2D: Can we expect more from those he left behind?

While reading a post on William Dalrymple’s Delhi farmhouse, I came across this tribute (or whatever) to architect Charles Correa. The first few lines have made me so angry that I had to change my decision to not write about Correa in a hurry:

Ode to Charles Correa, one of India’s most influential architects

Architect Abha Narain Lambah imagined Correa as the embodiment of Howard Roark from The Fountainhead—the bible for every student of architecture


I will come back and update the text, but this is frivoulous writing – and contradicts itself. He was no Roark, another character many architects think they understand and revere, and he personally would disapprove of words like Master Architect, Iconic Architectural Edifice, Reinvention of Indian Modernism, Quintessence, Bold Persona and such being loosely used.

Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, his first building, was in Ahmedabad, the very location where a good chunk of Indian ‘modernism’ was being attempted, without grand support from India’s Prime Minister or the resources of a national capital buoying it. If there is one thing people who have worked with him had to say, it was that he was humble, never angry on site, patiently resolved issues when something went wrong, and behaved professionally unlike some of his contemporaries.

The sense of humour that everyone thought fantastic (it was), came with a tinge of hidden anger at times but many failed to read it. He was a perfectionist, and it is frustrating for a perfectionist to create anything, let alone buildings. His attempts, of making buildings, townships, towns were often compromised by petty politics, and Mumbai and Delhi certainly failed to use his multifaceted (bold?) ideas. And he did see the end of respectful treatment that architects as professionals received when he began, and the advent of the present era where architects themselves are to blame for irreverent treatment they get.

And most influential? Unfortunately, there aren’t really many architects today who acknowledge to be influenced by him in any real sense, and are themselves doing work worth admiring. Abha, Crawford Market has turned out well, knowing the complexity of the project. But this ode, well, is mixed up with Page 3 words, architectural student jargon, superlatives that don’t contribute to the content, and is largely monodimensional.

Glad for someone doing it but I would expect more depth when one writes about Correa.

Note: Architectural Digest too shares the blame. Out of spite for their hunger for viewer traffic, I have reproduced all their keywods as tags, and added some.






Opens today: Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden at Philip Johnson’s Glass House


Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden at Glass House opens today…

YOUR NARCISSISM IS FOR SALE: The idea behind Kusuma’s work is more than allegorical of present times, but she saw it coming.

Kusuma Narcissus Garden

Set aside the politic and struggles of the client/ user of Glass House, this is still a work that brings us to question ourselves – if we want to.

Philip Johnson’s work, more in focus because of the discussion around closing of MoMA’s Architecture and Design galleries, in some way, curiously signalled more works like Glass House being celebrated and created at an ever larger scale.

More @

and @

And, if the famous debate around architectural plagiarism interests you,

(“I’m a plagiarist man — you see, you must take everything from everybody”
Philip Johnson)

then I recommend @


Massive Fire Destroys Natural History Museum In Delhi

Natural History Museum (National Museum of Natural History) at Delhi is destroyed by fire this morning: the fire safety system in the building was not working.

Even 35 fire engines couldn’t save it.


Architecture, or not architecture: this was a loss that could be prevented.

Nature, Ecology, the value of preservation, conservation and that of Memories, clashing with costs of adhering to Fire Safety and building by laws.

Massive Fire Destroys Natural History Museum In Delhi
News and photos @

Architects are never taught the right thing

Aravena has nailed it, and many have been feeling and saying the same thing: “Architects are never taught the right thing”

See his interview with Dezeen @

Further debate and discussion can come soon, now that you have found fame and more visibility, Aravena. Thank you for voicing this concern.

The confusion is apparent in new generation, only I feel that it relates to the entire education system, not just to architectural education. The disconnect is there, and I can see students desperately trying to figure things out, to know what is right for them, and for their times.

About a new generation of ‘Socially minded Architects’, I disagree, having recently met the older generation of socially minded architects, some of them even working in development sector against all temptations and with real passion.

More later.

RIP, Mohammad Shaheer

Rest in Peace Shaheer.

Mohammad Shaheer, landscape architect, former head of Landscape Department, School of Planning and Architecture Delhi, landscape designer of Asiad Village and other prestigious projects like Babur’s Garden at Kabul; owner, Shaheer Associates and partner, MSYK passed this morning.

SPA graduate from 70s batch, post graduate in Urban Design, Sheffield post graduate in Landscape, soul of SPA’s LA department, visiting faculty, guest lecturer and juror at various places, ISOLA fellow active in design till now… this is a good way to go, while still working.

Your expertise in Master Planning, Site Planning, Urban and Architectural Design, Landscape Architecture, and art brought out sensitive designs. Even if you were sometimes inflexible in your views, those are the very views that helped many of your students shape theirs.

Many of your generation are passing, leaving the baton into the hands of the next generation. Hope those you have nurtured and in turn those whom they have taught, will rise up.

More @

And @


Go in Faith, Pratyush

Go in Faith, Pratyush
Pratyush Shankar is leaving the School. For a more fulfilling life in a more organised system, where there will be more respect, more recognition and more self satisfaction, apart from more work.
That is how it is. The politics that he endured, that tires the new dean and that he was also part of, will be behind him. And we have to give it to him for trying to and achieving some degree of success in changing the School for better before leaving. For being open to new and fresh ideas that people were not ready to hear about. For work with some of the same people, and bringing in and steadying some new people as well. In comparison to the other schools in CEPT, SA has been more successful in attracting good faculty despite the problems of system, resources and academic rivalry being similar as in other schools. Some of the credit for this is shared by Pratyush, even if he was quite a pain at times. Love him, hate him, but don’t you ignore him.
There may be debate about how much of the curriculum that was so painstakingly revised by him and Chhaya has found its way in the present syllabus. But there is no denying that when other colleges are struggling just to teach a 40 year old syllabus, School of Architecture CEPT, Chhaya and Pratyush were long debating the relevance of education, of architectural education, and an appropriate way of teaching architecture. This guy, along with some others, had the sense to question it, and act on it.
To students who could relate to him, who were unable to relate to more senior or more rigid mindsets, this is a loss. And for school too, even if we are now used to it. It may be easy to say now that the old system should have been changed by anyone with a little sense. But during the in-between times, a new system is difficult to glean, specially when people are nostalgic and resistant to change. It was not easy to navigate the dark space left by stalwarts with strong viewpoints & highly individual teaching styles, and an informal and questioning teaching atmosphere. Transition to an education preparing fodder for new age offices may have sounded like death itself. Demise of architectural philosophy that formed the basis of School’s teaching is a big one. Something the profession, the academia and the students are all grappling with. No one dare say that you didn’t try to resolve this.
These are the churnings: Being trapped in a cross current of changing times. Battling with the biases against ‘outsiders’. Dealing with complaints all over the market that School graduates don’t have the skills to translate their grand concepts into reality/ are too loopy/ take too long to settle down. Representing SA at public forums, and in front of other institutions. Expanding own boundaries and dealing with personal crises. You win some, you lose some.
Somehow the farewell note from CEPT sounds like obituary, but neva mind! More good things to you, Pratyush. Without doubt, CEPT is a better place because you came along.

Garba 2015 starts today at CEPT

Time to turn a new leaf. Navratri celebrations are here again. Beauty. Joy. A little bit of devotion too.

The campus is so beautiful around this time...

The campus is so beautiful around this time…

Photo courtesy: CEPT University FB Page @

Celebrating World Architecture Day at Nirma University: 5 October 2015

Celebrate World Architecture Day today, with Manit Rastogi (Morphogenesis); Kevin Low (Small Projects), Greg Truen (Saota arrcc), 4.00 pm onwards.

World Architecture Day Celebration 5 October 2015 poster

Site plan of Nirma University, designed by Amin and Shah. Easy to see why so many people get confused and lost here. Hopefully it won’t be so difficult to find your way, at least for those who turned up the last time for Steven Holl’s presentation…


More details about the architects:

Invitation to World Architecture Day Celebration 5 October 2015

World Architecture Day Celebration 5 October 2015

World Architecture Day Celebration NIRMA 5 October 2015

World Architecture Day Celebration 5 October 2015

Corruption in Architecture, what’s eating us from within

Corruption in Architecture is eating us from within…

Practising architects show interest in Council of Architecture finally. The reason the CoA needs practitioners and not politicians is the way practices are shaping up. With more than 450 schools of Architecture churning out more than 20,000 architects a year, and a limited number of works coming up for design and execution, the competition is going to be cut throat.

And when when the battle gets bloody, all is fair. As the first step, corrupt practices are flourishing, tempting others.

Q: What about corruption?

A: The teachers are not teaching and the professional organisations are wary of bringing up the issue. In MES, in Corporate world, in Institutes, in Government, and in Industries – Wherever there is even a little bit of bureaucracy, the system of ‘cut’ is entrenched, and the percentage is on the rise.

Q: Why can’t architects can’t focus on Design?

A: Those who focus on design lag behind because of or are blocked by these other aspects of ‘practice’

Will come back to update this or follow with a post on Corruption in Architecture – Roots and Remedies.

Lilavati Lalbhai Library: New CEPT Library in the making

Update (second edit 03.09.2015): on Rahul Mehrotra’s presentation about his proposal for the new library

It is a very subjective design. Or it was presented subjectively. The link to the recording is now gone, and the debate continues…

The architect, a star and never really considered to be a person who cared for others’ opinion, is now subject to intense scrutiny from a small group of people who care. Funny how the lens has changed. He is the same person whose first design in Ahmedabad (Bandhej showroom), based on Old City street experience, was hailed as a big achievement – a tribute to Ahmedabad’s culture and context. The design that simultaneously offered an exclusive experience with introduction of new materials (actually, textures).

So, at least he was considered good at removing a theme from it’s historic context to create a rarefied design out of it, while still leaving behind a sense of the original.

IIM’s new campus is a lesson in conformity and in deft avoidance of scrutiny by Ahmedabad’s architectural community. I expected the same to happen when a new building is proposed in CEPT. But through the hands of a person who could have taken a stand against the old-crumbling-difficult to maintain and even if great but expensive past, but who chose to conform, it is rather a surprise project to have gone to a non conformist. Most architects seem to have accepted the need to have a library building. Many architects designing universities around India are going ballistic with the symbolic or formal aspects of a library… It is surprising that no critic is asking basic questions: How many students today read? And how will they read in future?

A little nostalgia, a library with no identity

Recently visited the campus with an alumni who came after many years, and we went to every space, corner and floor, and (together) realised that a lot of what past users remember about the campus is mere nostalgia, when in reality a whole new life is happening there…

A memory of past floats up: A dingy space on the first floor of the awkwardly operating administration block… To recall, the original library was accessed by a stair that was a really poor solution – almost everyone was uncomfortable climbing up or down it, no one enjoyed standing anywhere close to it. There was hardly any space at the entrance. Inside was dark, small, without requisite reading spaces. So when the library moved to a new location in the middle of the long flank of L block – variously an open space, a studio, a lab – many users welcomed it. It is a glamourless attachment, always above something, or below something – It shakes when people walk, echoes, and is still overcrowded; rainwater once damaged books that librarians ran to save but couldn’t accomplish. It was, and is, a sorry sight.

A lot of nostalgia

The campus wasn’t always like this: It was young and vibrant, with some 300 souls or less for many years. Small but green. Scale just right for a pint sized, close knit community; part of it literally lived there. The studios were no doubt beautiful. Simplicity of parallel walls, great. North light was a delight to all users; the terrace ideal to sleep or party on. That building and its corners were owned by users in so many ways – Personalised tack boards, painted stools, dog shelters. The red bricks – hugged, felt, drawn, photographed – loved in all aspects.

But getting the short end of the stick was that the beauty was not uniform. There were not enough toilets. Not enough plug points, and people were hanging aluminum reflectors in single height spaces just to be able to see. The campus gradually started changing… There was frequent theft, and even occasional assault. Wars for display space, storage, and persistent, universally hated problems like leaky loos, or that echoing, claustrophobic auditorium.

Fast forward to 15 years ago: After a long and rather sluggish period in which CEPT campus mainly dealt with siting of new buildings and site development issues when the inside spaces where mostly ignored. A lot of spaces subverted the dictum ‘form follows function’ that the academia and students lovingly espoused. So when small, functional additions occurred, users breathed relief. Generally an intervention was so delayed that people didn’t have the strength to question what came about. Right, the little changes during this phase were sensitive. Because matching was easier than making a drastic statement. Those making it were also the last modernist bunch who could relate to the language and the structures in any deep and meaningful sense.

Then came up the unwanted but celebrated gift: Gufa. Sitting right next to campus, the land under it is donated to campus, its price paid by CEPT by renaming the campus. Without contributing even a little bit to the form, structure or activities of the campus. Although the beautiful Herwitz gallery tries to make up for Gufa’s non-functionality, in terms of language and their relation with surrounding context, both buildings are aliens.

This phase of changes was followed by all the divisions and marking of turfs that spawned more ugliness in form of boundaries and completely random structures popping up without any scrutiny that this proposal will face. There are those who are lamenting the loss of ‘natural’ identity: The campus already has a lot of edges and is formalised at so many places. And then those who feel that South Lawns’ importance is diminished by the boxy library building. Well, South Lawn already is a doormat.

Do not cry murder upon seeing a new proposal, the mauling started long ago.

Original post:


From the mishmash of random buildings and sub-divisions that the CEPT campus now is, one is going to go, for good:

NBO Hall, arguably the hottest (literally) building on the campus, is making way for the new library. From the time when we heard of it being designed (, to when the first images surfaced, to now, when Rahul Mehrotra is going to present it to everyone.

Tomorrow, at CEPT auditorium – ironically under the existing library – or rather purposely so.

New CEPT Library Rahul Mehrotra

Can’t resist comparing it to other library buildings (@ But also with all the buildings crumbling on the campus at present… (Will those who are against changes please deposit a penny for every good thought they have in the fund for making this library. May be then the practice of attaching ghastly person-al names to new buildings will stop.

Poster – Presentation on the new CEPT Library by Rahul Mehrotra – 19th August

Reference, verbatim from CEPT’s message:

Dear All,

You are invited to a presentation by Rahul Mehrotra on the design of the new Lilavati Lalbhai Library at CEPT University.

Please see enclosed poster for the event.​
​Rahul Mehrotra
Lilavati Lalbhai Library at CEPT University

19 Aug at 5.30 pm
At Auditorium, CEPT University

The new Lilavati Lalbhai Library at CEPT University will address the growing needs of the University. Centrally located, in place of the exiting NBO block, it will act as an academic hub for the campus. Apart from creating space for larger collections, the new technologically proficient library will have specialized reading areas, exhibition and presentation spaces.

The new building is being designed by prominent architect & CEPT alumnus, Rahul Mehrotra. The design for the library has evolved over several meetings with a team of people including director of library services, senior library staff, campus office staff, and senior administration and  faculty members. The location and bulk of the building was first designed by Christopher Benninger, CCBA, who is responsible for the overall master plan of the University. Construction is expected to begin soon and the building is expected to be completed by Jan 2017.

Rahul Mehrotra is a professor of urban design and planning and former chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). His practice, RMA Architects, is based in Mumbai and Boston.

​Look forward to seeing you at the event.​​

RIP Prabhakar Bhagwat

We have lost PBB. There are no words that will do justice to all his work and all our emotions.

Last rites: Today at Vadilal Sarabhai Crematorium, 7.45 pm.

Prayer meeting at Residence, Monday, 8.00 am.

Rest in Peace, dear Prabhakar Bhagwat.

From past:

Invitation to Prabhakar B Bhagwat lecture

For this lecture, my notes didn’t come out right.

For their studio notes, see:

Arrived: CEPT Archives: for Built Environment, Design & Culture in India

This is great news.

Painstakingly. Lovingly. Mindfully compiled architectural archives are here. Madhusudan Dhaky recently inaugurated CEPT Archives, a treasure trove of material that piled up with CEPT library, with more added on by an enthusiastic team, supported by architects, teachers, students and Alumni of Faculty of Architecture.

CEPT and School of Architecture are few of the places to always maintain a broad view of design, imbibing the ideology that built environment-culture-design are related and should be treated as part of one big whole. 

CEPT Archives: for Built Environment, Design & Culture in India

The bottle is new but the wine is old. The label is new though the love is old. The documentation, worth it’s weight in gold… The CEPT Archives will surely be a great resource centre, and make it easier to access the archival material, even with the scare it gave everyone during last monsoon. It was long in coming and a lot of pain in coming, but finally it’s here. Open, for all, at a time when 27 other schools of Architecture in Gujarat are admitting young minds interested and looking forward to more on Architecture and built environment.

Find more @

Some more information@

The Gujarat Model of Corruption: Better than other states?

This is all hear-say, but its shocking how many people are saying it, and how openly it is being accepted as bearing truth without much doubt (even if with disgust).

Heard that the present PM, by leaving, has ruined the semblance of governance that existed in the year before he left. From people who, at one point, were so blind in their hope that they wouldn’t hear one word of advice. So what happened? Let’s go over a bit of history:

Long before national election

Gujarat had a good feeling about it’s new CM because of the efficiency he showed in dealing with Earthquake of 2001 since his arrival in October*. Initially, many officers were heard mentioning that they had received instructions from the CM to process the files before papers turn yellow… seen as a good sign by many if not all.

A clean CM?

There was no mention of him or any channel leading to him when discussing kickbacks. Even as that was surprising, it lasted long enough to begin sounding credible.

Time and again people wondered if it was possible to go on like that, not taking, and not letting anyone else take, any money.

The complaints from traders, trade associations and businesses about BJP decreased. (That under Congress, at least work got done after paying a bribe, whereas when BJP came to power, they got so busy in amassing money that work came to a standstill in government)

Then came noises that the power was so centralised that the local level politicians had stopped mattering. All the power went to Babus, and local political structures were left shaken.

The work of centralising power at Gandhinagar was gaining momentum. And fewer people were actually heard praising the work than those organising/ noticing the propaganda events. But still a handful were talking about how the CM understands the need for professionals and quick decision making, and how he doesn’t tolerate nonsense.

Before National Elections

That number went down gradually and nothing of the sort was heard in the year leading up to national elections.

Before that year, and during that year, more and more people started complaining about their discomfort and about the need to know someone in Gandhinagar. Things slowed down, as they do in the run up of national elections. Even when not many anticipated the present government to get a clear majority, there were discussions about collectors being given quotas to collect and to send money up to Gandhinagar.

There were references to all norms and standards evaporating, and all those in positions of power doing pretty much as they pleased. The government that prided itself in putting capable (and often honest) people in key positions when push came to shove faltered, or was perhaps beyond caring, knowing this was a do or die.

New Government… and a year of placidity

Then came the new, majority, BJP government. And Gujarat was to have a new CM in over a decade. From the first day, there was anxiety over what would become of the state amidst a turf war between the supporters of two of the most steadfast deputies of the new PM.

Now, after a little over a year, there are complaints from all quarters about corruption and inability of the new structure to act, or reign in the rampant greed.

All the CMs like Jaylalitha, Vasundhara Raje, Pawar, Yadav and Mayawati were heard (long before the scandals erupted publicly) to have routes and channels. But nothing is heard about Gujarat.

Is Gujarat ahead of others, again?

*(The recovery after Earthquake needs to be compared to the pre-October scenario under Keshubhai Patel, and the way the Tamil Nadu government dealt with offers of help post Tsunami of 2004.)

US firm paid $976,000 bribe to win water project in Goa and Guwahati: What did you expect?

What did you expect?

US firm paid $976,000 bribe to win water project in Goa and Guwahati

Quoting verbatim from the article @

A New Jersey-based construction management firm has been charged with bribing Indian officials several crores of rupees to win two major water developmental projects in Goa and in Guwahati.

The bribery of USD 976,630 for a Goa project by Louis Berger included that to a minister, the details of which have not been disclosed by the Department of Justice.

Yesterday, the company agreed to pay USD 17.1 million criminal fine to resolve charges that it bribed officials in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Kuwait to secure government construction management contracts.

Two of its former executives – Richard Hirsch (61) of Philippines, and James McClung (59) of the UAE – pleaded guilty to the bribery charges.

McClung previously served as senior vice president responsible for the firm’s operations in India and in Vietnam.

Sentencing hearings for Hirsch and McClung are scheduled for November 5, 2015.

The Indian government, assisted by Japanese government, initiated the five-year Goa Water Supply and Sewerage Project to expand, rehabilitate and build water and sewerage facilities.

Louis Berger was part of a consortium for the project in Goa. The consortium included two Japanese firms and an Indian partner.

The team developed a project management information system and plan, evaluated bids, reviewed design and construction plans, and ensured quality work was done on time and within budget, the company says on its website.

Louis Berger maintained a detailed diary and account of bribery made to Indian officials. On August 26, 2010, “a consortium partner prepared a payment tracking schedule stating that the company had paid USD 976,630 in bribes in connection with the Goa Project to date,” federal prosecutors told a court in New Jersey.

(This is only the tip of the iceberg…. So more will keep coming.)

IIA Elections, much ado about nothing?

Dear IIA,

Kudos to you about the strong follow up for the elections this time, even as there are too many mails telling everyone to put the profession first, or to get it right. Whatever. All the recent initiatives are progressive, but technology, however advanced, can’t repair the haemorrhage that some old brains have. Was it possible to find a way to communicate with people without waving everyone’s email addresses and cell numbers all over the place? Next time, find representation from all ‘kinds’ of architects, including the shy ones, the non-conforming ones, those who don’t own a smartphone yet, those who work for non profits, and some women… Panels, except for their stated views, are similar in appearance, and somehow don’t look like representing the diverse community of Indian Architects. But well, a good start is a good start.

With over 200 schools of Architecture popping up in recent times, some of them without a single real faculty, please help CoA in making good decisions about students’ future. And architects’.

Hoping for a good end result.

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