Structural narrative of Indian Modernity as an oeuvre of Mahendra Raj

Rohit Raj Mehndiratta and Vandini Mehta

A Recorded Lecture from FRAME Conclave 2019: Modern Heritage

In this lecture, Rohit and Vandini talk about Mahendra Raj’s journey as a Structural Designer. They also provide an in-depth insight into the structural expressiveness, innovations and elements that allowed for new spatial possibilities in his illustrious body of work.


Edited Transcript

To talk about the works of Mahendra Raj, we have titled the work, “Structural narrative of Indian Modernity as an oeuvre of Mahendra Raj” as you will see, inflects and contributes, and helped create many artefacts that pioneer the narrative of Indian Architectural Modernism post-independence.

In this presentation, we will discuss only a few of Raj’s most important projects from over 250 projects that he has realised in the last six decades. Each project that we have chosen shows a visionary and pioneering engineering solution, exemplifying the bold and adventurous innovations his practice engaged in. As we discuss these works, the underlying story that emerges is of transnational exposures and exchanges of brilliant architectural and engineering minds, Le Corbusier and Louis Khan experimenting in India, Indian architects and engineers travelling West and coming back to engage with each other and local systems, we feel, created a fertile environment and incubator of sorts for new ideas that defined Indian Modernism.

Raj’s interest in structure started in 1951 when he was appointed as the Assistant Design Engineer for the construction of Chandigarh’s High Court. The geometric parasol roof consisting of shells presented the engineers with bold structural and functional hurdles. Working with other engineers, he, with his senior Gulzar Singh proposed modifications, that of a balanced cantilever, that supported on two columns, the fins that we now see which made the construction possible. This is what Corbusier wanted, and this is what finally came about from there.

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STUDIO: Nataraj and Venkat Architects

Studio culture – as with all manifestations of the human intellect – is the embodiment of a pattern of work that nurtures the craft of building. Architecture workspaces are especially readable in this context as architects are, in this case, designing for themselves. With every workplace as distinct and specific as the work it produces, the people who design and work in these environments reveal their ideas in the space.

In this edition of the STUDIO series, we enquire about the early beginnings and work ethics of a long standing studio-culture of the Chennai-based practice Nataraj and Venkat Architects, founded by V S Nataraj and A Venkat in 1984.

Entryway: Studio NVA

A quiet pathway trails into the studio space, where dappled sunlight gently wraps its facade forming an interplay of shadows, materials and textures. Chennai-based  Nataraj & Venkat Architects [NVA] is a 30-year-old design practice, and is among the city’s pioneering firms renowned for their contemporary vernacular architecture. In a brief conversation with ThinkMatter, Principal Architect A Venkat discusses the making of a successful practice with a philosophy rooted in collaboration, competition and consciousness. Continue reading STUDIO: Nataraj and Venkat Architects

THE MERIT LIST 2019: PANEL DISCUSSION

A Recorded Discussion with The Merit List 2018-19 Jury Panel at Goa.


The jury for The Merit List 2018-19 cycle in a conversation moderated by Mahesh Radhakrishnan of MOAD, discusses projects in the context of issues that concern practice, pedagogy and built environment that emerged in the evaluation process.

The Jury (2018-19 Cycle)
Brinda Somaya, Somaya and Kalappa Consultants, Mumbai.
Dean D’Cruz, Mozaic, Goa.
Riyaz Tayyibji, Anthill Design Studio, Ahmedabad.
Rajiv Soni, Communications Expert and Photographer, Kolkata.
Vijay Narnapatti, mayaPRAXIS, Bengaluru.


The following text is an edited transcript from the panel discussion recorded on August 18th, 2019.  Continue reading THE MERIT LIST 2019: PANEL DISCUSSION

In Memoriam: Kamu Iyer; A Tribute by Mary N. Woods

A Tribute by Prof Mary Norman Woods


Mary Norman Woods pens a tribute to Kamu Iyer – one of Mumbai’s most cherished architects and a much respected member of the design community in India. With his passing, we lose one of the last few keepers of the conscience of our profession – a citizen-architect who loved Mumbai and was perpetually engaged with the fate of the city through his work, his writings and his activism.

The tribute is followed by a reproduced dialogue between Kamu Iyer, Brinda Somaya and Mary Woods titled ‘Working from Mumbai‘ originally published in Brinda Somaya’s monograph titled ‘Works & Continuities’. 


Kamu Iyer (1932-2020)
Mourning and Celebrating a Friend and Mentor

Albert Mayer, American architect and planner who worked in post-Independence India, wrote about his excitement at being present at the birth of a nation. Throughout his seven decades of practice, teaching, writing, and mentoring, Kamu Iyer sustained and nurtured the “tingling atmosphere of plans and expectation” envisioned by Indians of “ability, outlook, energy, and devotion” that so impressed and inspired Mayer. Kamu embodied the ideals of the Independence struggle and hopes for a free India in his life and work. He was a mahatma, a great soul who touched so many and whose like we will not see again. Continue reading In Memoriam: Kamu Iyer; A Tribute by Mary N. Woods

An Ephemeral Lab in a City of Fixity

In a series on archival texts, views, discussions and comments on the state of architecture and design education in India,  Architect and Academic Krishnapriya Rajshekar shares from her experience as Assistant Professor at Wadiyar Centre for Architecture (WCFA), the significance of context in a studio culture, ‘making’ of a campus experience, and the intrinsic pedagogical framework embedded in an architectural education. For the curated short series, a prologue by Suprio Bhattacharjee.


PROLOGUE

BY SUPRIO BHATTACHARJEE

When I had set out to write the first essay that in many ways I had thought of as an ‘anchor’ to this series – though not a definitive, dogmatic or instructive one – as points of view, definitions, what can be determined as radical or not, etc. – all of this tends to alter and transform over time – I had never thought it could be seen as a set of ‘implied’ questions or loosely framed inquiries to which one can directly respond.

In many ways, I am indebted to Krishnapriya Rajshekar, Assistant Professor at the Wadiyar Centre for Architecture [WCFA], Mysore, for breaking this aforementioned perception I have had of my one piece of text. Continue reading An Ephemeral Lab in a City of Fixity