A decade or more back, I had clients walking into my studio in Hyderabad wanting a ‘Laurie Baker’ house. Given that Baker was considered an architect for the poor, my clients were not in any way economically challenged – in fact they were quite well off. For them a ‘Laurie Baker’ house was one that had exposed rat trap bond walls, filler slabs and brick arches. Forgetting the extra cost and inappropriateness of these in Hyderabad, given the poor quality of local brick and masonry skills, it was the distinctive look that enticed them. The sensual trumped the practical and poor LB (pun intended) was reduced to a brand like Louise Phillipe or Van Huesen! Despite the superficiality of it, there was a visual appeal of the ‘Low-cost’ aesthetic. The material ascetism had a powerful pull and seemed to say to the not so well off, albeit notionally, that ‘we are with you’. But now, even that fig leaf is gone. Houses today of the well-to-do i.e. those that can still afford to buy a plot and build an independent house, are a collage of glass, white walls and floors, atrociously expensive toilets and gypsum false ceilings.
The re-mastered book and film from the iconic travelling exhibition on Indian Architecture curated by Charles Correa.
The document was a part of the seminal ‘Vistara: The Architecture of India’ exhibition, 1986 that travelled the world. This is an attempt to resurrect and preserve one of the most crucial and complex comments on the Architecture of India. The exhibition was accompanied by this book and the Vistara film – a projection system – chronicling powerful ideas, elements and epochs that represented our architecture and the practice of habitat-making.
A Conversation between William J.R. Curtis and an Unknown Indian.
UI You are known around the world as a historian and critic of architecture who defends quality against mediocrity, and who maintains a long view of events. In a recent article, ‘Nothing is Sacred: Threats to Modern Masterpieces in India’, (Architectural Review, April 2014)*, you have sounded the alert about the vulnerability of major works in India such as those by Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn in Ahmedabad, and of course those by Le Corbusier in Chandigarh. Subsequently in the Times of India you have argued in favour of the legal definition and defence of modern architectural heritage. What are these threats and what can be done to protect these universal masterpieces of modern architecture? Continue reading Protecting Modern Masterpieces in India