by Ruturaj Parikh
I have grown up with modern architecture. As a child in Ahmedabad, my father used to take me to climb trees in CEPT campus and play cricket in IIM (which then had no compound wall) while vultures lined the water tank with the fake arch. I have known the Sanskar Kendra to host some nice exhibitions although as a child I never used to like the space. I was taught in architecture to consider it sacred. I am not a fan.
I am not very sure on the definition of heritage in Europe but I know that we do not agree on that. I live in a country where I live in condensed continuities of our past very much in the same milieu but as a citizen of a new layer. I don’t see architecture – of the past and present – as an entity independent of this continuity. And that is why I don’t see a use for a museum for architecture of India. The immovability of architecture ensures that it cannot be de-contextualized.
I am not disturbed by the recent rhetoric in India on development. I believe that my nation is coming to age. I also believe that India has many cushions that have come from India’s civilization that will help mitigate the forces of impatient capital and rash development.
I think it was a mistake to make Chandigarh – a capitol designed by an architect who had no control on planning – a symbol of new India. I cannot understand why a civilization which was capable of imagining Jaipur two centuries ago needs to seek ‘modern’ beyond its borders. I also cannot understand why after all Edwin Lutyens represented, the President of India still lives in the Viceroy’s House. But that is the greatness of India – its architecture cannot be understood in isolation. And I don’t know what is to be achieved by isolating heritage from living continuities.
For me, heritage in India lies in the space for transition. Like the Ghats of Pushkar and the Streets of Mandavi, heritage is always in the making . . . yet always complete. I do not believe that the buildings of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn permit this continuity. There are no open ends. No space for change. No tolerance. And it is for this exact reason, they will not last. It is sad that they cannot change places like paintings that can change walls.
Again, the immovability of architecture will ensure that pieces like the Mill Owners’ Association Building cannot be acquired by Sotheby’s to go under the hammer. There are no immortal architects and no permanent heritage. I think heritage is only that which is very much present and living. Imagine the Jama Masjid without its prayers. Imagine Varanasi without is bathers. I don’t see a use for either one of them. I am not sure what is sacred to architecture but if architecture is not sacred to people, it has a little chance of surviving change. And everything that is sacred in India is a part of my living heritage – all that has permeated to the layer in which I live.
The immovability of architecture will ensure that there is no museum for it. Imagine the contradiction the day we have one !
About the Author:
After graduating from Institute of Environmental Design with Bachelors’ degree in Architecture, he worked with INTACH as a consultant on the Jaiselmer Heritage Project for eight months. He has worked with an Auroville – based studio ‘Dustudio’ (formerly Buildaur) on small projects that make use of alternative technologies, local materials and craft.
Ruturaj was involved in curation of 3 editions of the 361 Degrees Conference – ‘New Spirit in Architecture’, ‘Architecture of Purpose’ and ‘Architecture & Identity’
Ruturaj has lectured at CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning & Technology), KRVIA (Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture). He lives and works in Goa.