Urban or Retreat?


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Time Magazine recently published a list of places in Asia claimed to be the best for the Mind, Body and Soul. It was indeed very surprising to see Chandigarh to be named an example demonstrating Best Application of Corbusian Principles. The city is literally devoid of any neon and “numbered housing “sectors” are egalitarian, the setting almost too tranquil.” writes John Krich. Modernism perhaps at its best or I should say Corbusier’s best in terms of urban planning, Nehru decided to build his socialist vision by engaging the Swiss master builder for setting up the state capital of a divided Punjab. The concrete edifices although magnificent, are “in dire need of applied-for World Heritage protection”

Methodical and thought out…...is the spirit behind the entire scheme of the city. Set amidst gardens and parklands is the smooth flowing traffic.

It feels very ironic to see that the urban setting can be considered as a “retreat” site. Though Krish very aptly points out to the old vision of modernism is being substituted by a new vision of business-oriented growth, commercial spread and consumerist excess, however these concrete buildings are testament to a time and reason for Chandigarh to exist in the first place. I would say to critics who question Chandigarh’s “Indianness” should consider that India is becoming or has become an political (the biggest democracy in the world), economic, cultural (Slumdog millionaire..wink!) powerhouse, a force perhaps to reckon with. I agree with Krich when he says “the world still waits for that “era of harmony” Le Corbusier promised to advance here. There is still work to be done.

*Source: Time Magazine


Stairway to Creative Heaven

I was absolutely fascinated in the delicious nature of an architectural photography website stair porn. stair porn is laden with fantastic images of nothing but stairs. Justin Anthony, who specialises in residential restoration, is the website’s author/editor.

Some of my favourites in stair porn are the art nouveau stairs, steps made out of wooden skateboards , and lastly wooden bookcase stairs. I am not sure if bookcase stairs will work in the Indian context, with the religious connotations of books being a great source of knowledge. The very action of stepping upon books might be considered culturally unacceptable.

Look out for the Victor Horta’s staircase design for Hotel Tassel in Brussels, Belgium* To learn more about Victor Horta and the Art Nouveau movement in Belgium, please visit the Horta Museum website

*Good Karma teaches me not to pinch images.

Global Appreciation

Bringing along several superlative labels and creative brains of the world, under its bandwagon, is the World Architecture Festival 2008, which was held late October in Barcelona.

The WAF awards website claims (perhaps rightfully) itself to be the largest awards programme in the world, totalling 17 categories. The first annual World Architecture Festival Awards eventually attracted more than 700 entries from 63 countries worldwide.

The new faculty building for Luigi Bocconi University in Milan by Irish design firm Grafton Architects won the title of “Building of the Year.” Festival director Paul Finch described the building as ‘a totally 3d piece of design’ and praised it for its relationship with the city.

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Living it Up

Living Steel announced winners for its 3rd International Architecture Competition for Sustainable Housing, which called architects to design affordable housing in the wintry town of Cherepovets, Russia.

Australian design firm, Peter Stutchbury Architects, represented by Peter Stutchbury and Richard Smith, was selected as the winner who received the Jury Prize of 50,000 Euros. Two other firms received honourable mentions included Bligh Voller Nield Architecture (BVN), also from Australia and Toronto-based RVTR.

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Towering Great Heights

Sydney has the Opera House, Paris her Eiffel Tower and New York the Chrysler Tower, is India Tower going to be Mumbai’s iconic architectural piece.

Well Mumbai’s skyline has not looked so iconic and “green” until American architects FWFowle have decided to design the India Tower.

FWFOWLE’s design for the India Tower centers on creating an iconic residential mixed-use building within India’s emerging new economy. The 301-metre tower is informed by distinctive indoor/outdoor environments and the desire to optimise the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The towers rotated form emerges in response to the buildings functional requirements and its mixed-use program – which changes with each twist of the structure. This circulation pattern separates retail, 5-star Park Hyatt hotel and service apartments and long lease duplex penthouse condominium apartments within a sustainable network of green roofs and hanging gardens; creating a singular, extraordinary building that, when completed, will be the tallest and greenest – building in India.

Stepping into Tradition

Photography proves a fantastic tool to take us back into times and traditions which we may have forgotten and abandoned. British photographer Richard Cox is indeed a magician who brings a fantastic collection of images through a touring exhibition titled Subterranean Architecture, Stepwells in Western India. Due to open in September 2008 at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Wales, UK, the exhibition documents step wells and their significance and contribution to the subcontinent’s unique architectural heritage.

Known as vavs or baoris, these stepwells were built about twelve hundred years ago in the dry and arid western regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. According to Morna Livingston, author of Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India

“The grandest period of stepwell construction spanned half a millennium–from the late eleventh through the sixteenth century–dotting the countryside with exquisitely embellished public monuments, the most extravagant of which is the Rani ki Vav, or Queen’s Stepwell, at Patan, Gujarat.”

Featured in the above image is the Chand Baori located in Abhaneri, Rajasthan. One of the oldest and deepest wells in India; the Chand Baori sits next to Harshat Mata Temple, comprises of several hundred zigzagging steps steeply descending 11 storeys deep. The result is an impression of geometric friezes carved out of yellowish brown stone laid out against the horizon. On one side of the well, constructed are covered verandas supported by ornate pillars overlooking the steps.

These stepwells provided water storage facilities for drinking, irrigation, washing and bathing purposes. Apart from these primary facilities, these stepwells became areas where passers by could cool. Stepwells also became places where people worshipped the Hindu Gods.

Richard Cox describes their use, “During their heyday, they were a place of gathering, of leisure, of relaxation and of worship for villages of all but the lowest castes. Men gained respite from the heat in the covered pavilions, while the women had a rare chance to chat amongst themselves while drawing water for their families.”

Morna Livingston explains about stepwells in a socio-architectural context, “Owing to its delightful qualities and lucid design, the stone stepwell remained the state of the art in Indian water management for more than a thousand years.”


Bookly Treasure

I happened to stumble upon this wonderful oddly titled book Eckart Muthesius 1930. Der Palast des Maharadschas in Indore. Architektur und Interieur / the Maharaja’s Palace in Indore. Architecture and Interior that recently made its way into the racks of RMIT University Library. The book is a fantastic collection of images and drawings by German architect Eckart Muthesius (1904-1989) for the royal commission of the Holkars’ Residence in Indore (Manik Baugh).

Exterior of Palace









The Palace is an outstanding early example of experimental International Style architecture and interior design in India. Commissioned by the keen Maharajah of Indaur (Indore), Yeshwant Rao Holkar II to German-English architect Eckart Muthesius, the building today stands as the office of the Chief Commissioner, Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax.

Eckart Muthesius’ designs drew inspiration from various influences, which included his father Hermann Muthesius, an architect, diplomat, writer and deep admirer of the “English house” as an architectural genre. Secondly, Muthesius’ godparent and one of the principal propagators of the English Arts and Crafts movement, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who also was an early stimulus for the young Muthesius.

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A Graphic Avatar

Seahorse (Warehouse A), Mumbai, India – © Planet 3 Studios Architecture Pvt. Ltd

Planet 3 Studios have done their bit by injecting a new life into the abandoned cotton mills of Mumbai with their playful textile-motif inspired retail warehouse designs.

These derelict mills lay spread in the central part of the burgeoning metropolis and exist as the stark reminders of colonial and pre-independent India. Nevertheless they provide a great opportunity for creating adaptive re-use spaces.

Interestingly enough Planet 3 Studios, as contemporary representatives of Indian architecture, seek inspiration from India’s rich variety of motifs and textile designs and work with an intuition to use bold colours.

A marriage of graphic design and architecture is clearly demonstrated in the Seahorse Warehouse. The interiors are a splash of all the brand colours – bright reds, white and blue with the wall featuring embroidery patterns cut-out in plywood. These designs are mapped onto the façades of both the warehouses, thus bringing the playfulness all throughout the buildings and in line with the aesthetics of Planet 3 Studios. They dub their aesthetics as “designs that promote energy, vitality, communication and help improve work or living environment.”

According to the designers, their “solution defers to the historical context by retaining and revitalizing intricate metal and woodwork.” They recall their design process during which they wanted to retain a tree that sat on the site. The tree in all tragedy was cut down by the contractor. As a result, the designers invoke the tree by affixed plywood cutouts on the ceiling and the walls. Having liked the “graphic quality of the tree stencil blocks in ACAD,” they simply replicated the designs onto the elevation and the plan. The design of these warehouses’ makes great use of natural light with its numerous skylights, while artificial lighting is judicially utilised for retail displaying purposes.

Design Team: Santha Gour Mattoo, Hina Parmar, Kalhan Mattoo, Kanwaldeep Kapoor.

Via World Architecture News

A Glassy Debut

Copyright of BDS

Indian architectural firm Building Design Studios have made their debut into their first ever private residential experiment with the Glass House in the southern city of Chennai. Located in Adyar, an affluent suburb of Chennai, the glass and steel structure will generously house four bedrooms, living/dining and service spaces.  A separate building contains a club house which incorporates a gym, pool, steam and games room. According to the architects, the house is built with a “very minimalist approach to the design while respecting the principles of Vaastu Shastra.”




नये साल की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें

Happy New Year

Feliz Año Nuevo

শুভ নববর্ষ

سنة جديدة سعيدة

Bonne année

Glückliches neues Jahr

Nuovo anno felice


새해 복 많이 받으세요

Ano novo feliz

a Canty Hogmanay

С Новым Годом

Godt Nytår

Godt Nyttår

Gelukkig nieuwjaar

Aide shoma mobarak

Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mise duit

Hauoli Makahiki Hou

La Multi Ani

Gott Nytt År

Szczesliwego Nowego roku

Nyob zoo xyoo tshiab

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun

Maligayang Bagong Taon

Elamat Tahun Baru

Gelukkige Nuwe Jaar

Mahigugmaon nga Bag-ong Dag-on kinyo tanan!

Gëzuar Krishtlindjet e Vitin e Ri

Kamgan Ukudigaa

Շնորհավոր Ամանոր և Սուրբ Ծնունդ

shi ti multsã-anji Anlu Nàù!

Gayoleru añu nuevu!

नवीन वर्षच्या हार्दिक शुभेच्छा

ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ


بڑدا دنمبارک هو

შობა-ახალ წელს

חג מולד שמח

boldog új évet

Gleðileg jól og farsælt nýtt ár

Here’s wishing the design world and of course everybody a very happy and prosperous new year in 50 worldwide languages…..!!!