A Recorded Lecture from FRAME Conclave 2019: Modern Heritage
In this lecture, Kazi Khaleed Ashraf discusses the works of two prominent contemporary architects – Muzharul Islam and Louis Kahn as counterpoints to modernism in the Indian subcontinent. He also speaks about understanding modernity, modernism and the positions either took in the way they practised architecture.
In the pursuit of framing and reframing modernism, perhaps we might have to rethink the various ways we described modernism, tropical modernism, we might have to call it – monsoon modernism. Monsoon in the subcontinent is what sank European modernism; that is something to think about. I have been tasked to talk about two architects – Muzharul Islam and Louis Kahn. Muzharul Islam is from Bangladesh. He is what one could describe as the kind of a father figure of modern architecture. That term, ‘father figure’, is how Ranjit Hoskote described Charles Correa. If you replace Charles Correa with Muzharul Islam and other specific details, that is Muzharul Islam in Bangladesh. He was an architect, teacher, activist and most importantly, he was openly engaged in politics. He was a hardcore Marxist, a politically engaged persona. So I think among all the pioneering architects we are discussing here today, this is an interesting moment to think about an architect, who is both – an architect professionally engaged with the larger cultural milieu, and also devotedly engaged in politics. And the other person whom you are more familiar with, especially I am thinking about the younger architects and students. I am not sure how much you are familiar with Muzharul Islam so I will be taking up the task of talking about him in the next fifteen-twenty minutes, but you are surely familiar with the other person, Louis Kahn, who was invited to Bangladesh, and Muzharul Islam was involved in that invitation.
In conversation with Prem Nath of Mumbai-based Architect Prem Nath and Associates, we discuss the numerous obstacles traversed in his architectural journey, as well as some of the landmark projects that brought him to the forefront of contemporary architecture in India.
The following text is the edited transcript of the interview conducted with Prem Nath at his Mumbai office, on the 14th of October, 2021
Everybody always asks me this question – “Mister Prem Nath, how did you become an architect?” It seems almost like a miracle, that I became an architect.
Back in my time, in the 1950s, pre-independence – people did not know what an ‘architect’ was. Engineers, overseers and mistris (labourers), were common terms known to people, but they had never heard of the term, ‘architect’. I myself had no idea what architecture was. I became an architect by fluke, you may call it. Maybe fate had determined I was to become an architect through a series of random events, and I had no idea at the time.
Dean D’Cruz, co-Founder and Principal Architect of Mozaic writes about his learnings from a three-decade long tryst with the landscape of Goa, and the way in which its biodiverse terrain became the foreground of a practice in environmentally responsible architecture.
It has been 32 years since I came to Goa. In the beginning, I worked for Gerard D’Cunha and in time entered into a partnership with him which was then called Natural Architecture. This was interesting and a change for me; since my college days, I was intrigued by technology, which I loved. Earlier, as a student of architecture, I was inspired by Mies, and Corbusier for their mastery of forms. But then slowly, I began to appreciate the level of detailing in the work of architects like Gaudi. Gerard had worked closely with Laurie Baker who was always very hands-on, maintained a down-to earth approach to architecture where one actually builds oneself! So, it was a very interesting learning – this integration of technology and the Baker-approach to architecture. As I grew, I was influenced more by the humanistic approach to architecture rather than the final sculptural form.
Bengaluru-based firm M9 Design Studio led by Nischal Abhaykumar and Jesal Pathak, explored the concepts of modularity, temporality and versatility of steel in the Admin and Academic block of the renowned CMR University’s new campus. Adapting to the challenges of time, efficiency and extensibility, M9 outline a possible precedent for the future blocks in the campus with a comprehensive design approach.
Nischal Abhaykumar discusses the processes, interests and ethos of the practice. The conversation dwells on the design and making of the project – CMR University Admin & Academic Block.
Within the hilly context of peri-urban Bengaluru, is located CMR University‘s newly developed 60-acre campus. In 2015, M9 Design Studio was approached to design the first building, initially to be purposed as an administration and academic block. The proposed block was programmed to be an ever-evolving space, and to be completed within a short timeline without compromising the quality of construction. This challenge prompted the architects to employ a design partly focusing on efficiency and flexibility to delineate the various learning spaces. A modular system derived from prefabricated steel emerged which follows a grid to achieve an idea of dismantling or expansion and speed of construction that was essential.
In a dialogue with Nashik-based architects, CAUSE – an initiative, author Rama Raghavan poses questions and explores themes on practice, conservation, publicness, ambition of a programme, perceptions of constraints and challenges through the lens of their project – Shanti-Krishna Museum of Money & History.
A conversation with the architects on the nuances of their practice and the project.
The Coin Museum and Numismatic Centre in Anjaneri is a building that has been an integral part of the city of Nashik. The institute founded in 1980 by the Indian Numismatic, Historical and Cultural Research Foundation has been a landmark of the city. Earlier constituting a research centre and a library relating to numismatic studies, it was also home to an impressive privately owned collection of coins and artefacts. The museum known locally as ‘Nane Sangrahalaya’ (Coin Museum) flourished for a while but gradually began losing ties with the community over a period of time.
Recognising this fading dialogue, the trustees, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Government of India, decided to establish a renewed identity for the museum. The new extension spanning nearly 9000sqft was thus conceived and rechristened the ‘Shanti-Krishna Museum of Money & History’. A product of thoughtful, responsive processes emerging from context, the extension to the coin museum was conceptualised and completed in 2018 by a Nashik-based architectural firm, ‘CAUSE – an initiative’ co-founded by architects, Ali Kaderi, Purva Shah, Nandan Malani and Amol Suryawanshi.