Aug 12, 2011

the landscape of pluralism - an overview

An Overview: the landscape of pluralism
Last night was without any question an intriguing night in a long time when I look at it from a young architect’s point of view. All the credit goes to the stimulating talk by Ar. Prof. Rahul Mehrothra at the IISc auditorium for the launch of his book ‘the landscape of pluralism’ that triggered a lot questions in us, the practicing architects. More than questions I would say it was more of an opportunity for us to take dig into our own understanding of the practice and architecture in particular.
You know you’ve been to a fantastic talk when in the middle of the following week you are still wondering what you draw out of it for your own self. Taking no credit away from Rahul mehrothra’s own analysis of the contemporary architectural scenario in India I will now try to gauge my perception of my understanding of a practice and architecture as a by-product of the same.
Rahul being a practicing architect himself did what most architects would hesitate to even think of, especially when it comes to authoring a book which has no place for one of his own. Well after having a sneak peek into the contents of the book you’d only wonder why he chose not have any of his works for you’d see that He had a work that would find a place in every category that he broadly categorized in the context of Indian contemporary[1990-2010] architecture. He’s done it all. May be he wanted to be unbiased and remain true in forming his opinions of what is propelling the by-product of a practice in India.
One of the striking features of the talk was that for the first time there was an importance that was given to the patrons who drive the design above the concepts and the different schools of thought in architecture that took a backseat. And another was that He looked at everything from a layman’s point of view when he picked what is featured in the book and the only time he becomes an architect is while analysing the nexus between an architect and the patron.
In one of the categories he points out to the patrons as ‘Impatient capitalists’ who seem to hold the key to the kind of architecture that surface. He was also quick to note that as the patience of the patron builds, it makes way for better spaces to live. After all practice is, to meet the demand of the client but also not to succumb to it. Well, as a young practicing architect I can only wonder how not to succumb to the impatience of the client but to cater to meet his demand, while in that small gap between surviving a practice and meeting the demand of the patron, you see an opportunity.
In rest of the categories it is the primary interest of the patron which becomes the platform for a practice and gives way to architecture as it evolves, be it – a conservationist or a sustainable or a practice that resists the advent of modern or contemporary architecture. On the other hand he also stands still and takes note of the impact of architecture that is based on popular influence of Vastu, which is a booming market for the non architects who stand a better chance of surviving the competition from a qualified architect, while holding the client to ransom to faith. Or even the barefoot architecture of the masses. In all, while we [as architects only] debate of what is the essence of space as we understand, which is an influence to the way we live, there’s a driving force that catapults us in a direction we can’t ignore but think!!!
And when we return to the table to draw that line to define the space that we believe has its heart in the right place, the patron who inhibits the space is always there, playing his part in our minds. The concepts, the ideologies and the Isms of architecture to follow, build on this very foundation that is laid by the patrons. Well, we all knew it but Rahul Mehrothra, a master in his own right[], made that all visible and available at the tip of our fingers. He raised the issue that has never been touched upon, in my limited knowledge, which triggered a lot of questions. Questions that seek to know where you want to belong. You’ll also find an answer that only makes you believe that it’s a long and continuous struggle to belong where you want to be and this is just the beginning.