Designed in 1986 by Charles Correa, the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur is of critical significance for the Post-Independence architecture of India. Imagined as a metaphysical echo of the city of Jaipur itself, the building represents Correa’s interest in the abstract, mythical dimensions of architecture and the power of their manifestation in a civic building.
Programmed and built as a National Cultural Institution, the Jawahar Kala Kendra is a testament of the everyday in the City of Jaipur. Reinterpreted from Jai Singh’s plan for the Jaipur City, Correa’s manifestation allows for interpretation of the form and programme – inviting the people and the city to a familial occurring.
An editorial project by Matter in partnership with Şişecam Flat Glass, PRAXIS investigates the work and positions of diverse contemporary architecture practices in India. Based out of Goa, Playgroup Studio represents a pragmatic yet experimental spirit of working across multiple scales and typologies. The discussion touches upon the foundational principles of Playgroup Studio and the personal narratives of the founders, Harsh Patel and Bhavana Hameed.
‘NUDE MODELS’ by Nuru Karim explores the structure within natural systems using technology and processes.
Evolutionary tools in model-making have enabled the translation of concepts of abstraction and coexistence from nature to built environments. NUDES, a Mumbai-based contemporary practice thrives on this process of model-making, while acknowledging the extent of design articulation that is possible with the implementation of these tools.
Architectural models, historically, are approached as tools that guide design thinking. Apart from their role in the essential act of communicating design, they have evolved over time to represent conceptual underlays in the design process. The fascination of Nuru Karim, Founder and Principal, NUDES, with model-making processes goes back to his undergraduate years. The practice of creating three-dimensional objects at NUDES is intrinsically connected to the design processes that generate buildings and ideas. The studio, that spans their practice across diverse spectrum of architecture, urbanism and public art, employs the idea of evaluating design through perceptions and imaginations at the human scale through these models.
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?
A Recorded Lecture from FRAME Conclave 2019: Modern Heritage
In this lecture, Mary Norman Woods talks about women architects in post-independent India, and their role in Indian society. She also speaks at length about two prominent women architects from two different generations, and their illustrated body of work.
Exploring the different forms that architectural practice might take beyond the usual metrics of originality and innovation can complicate our understanding of modern heritage and its implications for contemporary practice.
Peggy Deamer, US architect, educator, and activist has argued that how architects practice is as important as what they design and build. Writing in 2018, Deamer put forth the proposition that “architecture cannot produce spaces of freedom — public spaces, healthy spaces, accessible spaces, affordable spaces, sensually liberating spaces — for the society architects presume to serve if they are produced in unfree circumstances such as unpaid labour, gender inequality, generational hegemony, unsustainable work hours, non-existence work-life balance, lack of collegiality or discipline, [and] crippling competition.” Her words remind me of a question that Ellen Perry Berkeley, another American architectural critic, writer, and educator, posed exactly four decades ago. Then, Berkeley wrote: “the real problem for a thoughtful woman is not whether she is accepted into the profession, but whether she wants to be accepted into the profession as it is now.”