Category Archives: Urbanism

The city observed: Notes from an unfolding India: Pallavi Shrivastava

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The City Observed by Pallavi Shrivastava reads like dispatches from a battlefront by a seasoned war correspondent. Each chapter is a stimulating vignette of some memorable place, or recently contrived artifact, through which Pallavi unravels counter intuitive conclusions. Pallavi has two eyes and many voices. Those two eyes see things often unnoticed, bringing into focus a collage of real life issues and human circumstances. She has an uncanny ability to conceive of the metropolis as an everyday person would, yet to catalyze unique understandings and conclusions from her choreographies! She navigates the metropolis building narratives out of keen insights, speaking for those without voices; giving eyes to people who have eyes, but no vision. Pallavi’s most provocative ability is to reveal contradictions between the emerging urban form and the critical needs of the everyday Mumbaikar, who emerges forgotten in the unfolding scenario. Her written landscapes reveal disturbing images of the bad within the good, and of poverty within plenty. From bright images emerge a sense of charm, tinged by nostalgia for the city’s past, yet a warning of pathos in times to come.

Christopher Charles Benninger Continue reading The city observed: Notes from an unfolding India: Pallavi Shrivastava

Cities: Between Metaphor & Reality

How the empirical and the scientific can sustain together. – By Narendra Dengle.

Narendra Dengle talks about the inherent contradictions in the much discussed ‘Smart-City’ idea that has captured political imagination by inclining the argument in favour of a city which has a place for all and not just the economy which builds it.

Once a client of mine discussed at length the requirements of an institutional project and stressed the importance of being rational, functional, economic, and energy conscious in approach. We agreed. The next day he called up to say, “Please make it Eco-friendly.” We said, ‘Oh yes’. Then he dropped by to insist that the Continue reading Cities: Between Metaphor & Reality

The Forgotten Case of Low-cost Housing: G Shankar Narayan

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.

Continue reading The Forgotten Case of Low-cost Housing: G Shankar Narayan