DIALOGUES with Indian Master Architects: Narendra Dengle

Conceived, conducted and edited by Narendra Dengle

Encompassing a staggering 50 years of architectural practice across seven Indian Master Architects, the book engages in profound discussions that one can go back to as learnings. Presenting them as multi-faceted personalities, it captures each of their intriguing journeys – as aspiring students of architecture to inspiring architects who laid the architectural touchstone of an Independent India.

The book is a rare compilation of intimate conversations conducted over a period of seven years with seven of India’s most senior Architects – Achyut Kanvinde, Raj Rewal, Anant Raje, Hasmukh Patel, B V Doshi, Uttam C Jain and Charles Correa. Each of these dialogues is curated by author – conductor Narendra Dengle with a live audience to facilitate participation from students, practitioners, and academics from architecture and other diverse disciplines. This he intended would commence discussions on a number of aspects – social, historical, and interdisciplinary.

Front Cover design based on a sketch by Charles Correa

In the opening dialogue, referring to the context of Independent India’s first ever encounter with the architecture of the West inspired by the Bauhaus school of thought, Kanvinde points out – “We are different today because we are not isolated as a country. The whole world is coming so close together“. Speculating the need for a collective ideology in order to interject the set building practices as a reaction to the times we live in, the book progressively moves on to the impact of globalization on Indian architecture.

From Raj Rewal’s tryst with structuralism to Anant Raje’s lesser – known architectural repertoire and Uttam Jain’s keen interest in the building crafts of India – the book revels in a lifetime of observations and questions on traditions, internationalism, and context by discussing some of India’s most acclaimed ‘modernist’ works substantiated with inspirational anecdotal recounts of the Architect’s own struggle.

Scan of a spread from the book.

Introspectively, every dialogue tries to address some seemingly fundamental questions such as, “How does one learn this most ancient craft of architecture?” In places, Dengle prompts the ‘teacher’ in each of the Master Architects to inspire students of architecture with questions such as, “What methodologies or what kind of attitudes can be passed on to students by teachers, which are universally applicable, to which each individual responds?” In retrospection, within each of the cited experiences in the words of the Masters themselves, the book opens up several apparent points of contemplation:  the state of architectural academia and urban planning in India, among others. As stressed upon by Correa, “ Gradually, we are coming to realise that the most important quality a city must have is: SYNERGY” and several other pertinent issues such as urbanization and its implications such as the need for a true democracy in our administrative systems, urban policies, and regulations – hold stronger relevance today.

Scan of a spread from the book.

Reflecting on all the wisdom gained from invaluable personal experiences and professional encounters with Masters of their time, these dialogues evoke a sense of timelessness in the pursuit of architecture.

Transcribed, rewritten and edited by Dengle, the dialogues have been reduced considerably in length to respect a clean, handy format. In the process, certain fluidity is lost in parts of some of these dialogues but this does not impede a refreshing narrative from surfacing. Elaborate accounts of their careers as practitioners are supported with requisite photographs and sketches that provide a glimpse of some of their most significant projects and ideologies that have helped mould the respective practices over the years.

Discernably across all the dialogues, Narendra Dengle‘s book provides a critical insight into that rare subconscious journey of the minds of these Master Architects.

Title: DIALOGUES with Indian Master Architects
Author: Narendra Dengle
Publisher: The Marg Foundation
Language: English
ISBN: 978-93-83243-06-8
Year of Publication: 2015
Reviewed by: Hrushita Davey

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