Projects in the public domain are not ordinarily facilitated by a direct dialogue between the architect and the end-user. Instead, they deal with multiple agencies or a singular representative body, depending on the nature of the work. Operating within two distinct frameworks but catering to a public at large, the GKD Crematorium and the Railway Station in Coimbatore designed by Chennai-based Mancini Enterprises Pvt Ltd explore the possibilities in the many constraints and contradictions of privately-funded public projects, where the resulting architecture is an informed alternative that is both, applied and strategic.
Architecture in post-independence India played a critical role in the task of nation-building, a project supported by the State and a significant number of goodwill citizens. Since the wave of a largely ‘privatised’ global economy, the profession like many other service sectors, is inevitably sustained by an industrial commerce. However, this notion has witnessed a change of perception in the recent years with several professionals collaborating with not-for-profit organisations and other institutions operating in the public-private interface, as a means to initiate a design dialogue that holds significant value for a society.
With the dawn of a different kind of architecture in the public domain that is unassumingly responsive to set-requirements by virtue of a diligent design process, it appears that the “fundamental difference between public and private projects is not just defined by the agencies involved but also the amount of trust that is bestowed on the collective vision of the private donors and the architects, by the authorities representing the public. Once this trust is established, the process of design is not really compromised as opposed to the general perception”, clarifies Niels Schoenfelder, Principal Architect.
Addressing the practice of architecture in the public realm, it must be acknowledged that there exists a fundamental difference between ‘architecture in the public domain’ and ‘public architecture’- the distinction primarily being one of the involved agencies, depending on the ownership and monetary source. Set within an intricate web of dynamics, architecture today has resurfaced as an effective design aid in the public realm adopting a different approach to practice by way of collaboration across diverse specialisations. In this new equation where the current economic, ecological and political climates provoke architecture to confront its own priorities and assumptions, how could these broader relationships help to redefine the role of patronage in architecture?
Afflicted with bureaucratic hurdles and unsettling realities, the condition of living heritage in the country is grave. At a time when the practice of urban heritage conservation has seen a paradigm shift to ‘beautification’, the meticulous restoration of St John the Baptist Church by Mumbai-based Vikas Dilawari Architects resurfaces the need for patronage in conservation.
Blueprint is a narrative of Gautam Bhatia’s work juxtaposed on his larger cultural projects, and his experiments with complexity and context.
The Building as a Metaphor
A chronicle of work can be many things – a catalogue, a celebration and a critique. This one is an uncanny montage of ideas and images: a personal retrospective into the architectural journey of one of the sharpest spatial thinkers in India.
The architecture of Gautam Bhatia is difficult to reconcile for a casual observer. What are his concerns? What is he trying to achieve? The work itself – as evidenced by the book – is eclectic, diverse and seemingly inconsistent. The projects themselves deal with an array of scales, programmes and situations moving from historic preservation and rejuvenation projects to urban design; From the ‘Palace’ to the ‘Mountain House’.
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.
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 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.