An editorial project by Matter in partnership with Şişecam Flat Glass, PRAXIS investigates the work and positions of diverse contemporary architecture practices in India. Mayuri Sisodia and Kalpit Ashar of Mad(e) in Mumbai talk about the significance of working in the public realm and the many small projects that contribute to the everyday experience of the city. The discussion focuses on their processes as an architect-citizen in the making of the city encouraging our ability to engage relentlessly with systems that influence our urban environments.
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?
D A Studios designs a crematorium that intuitively concentrates on the encounter of ritualistic orders of funeral obsequies for Hindus, appropriating individual and collective spatial layers, a subdued palette and a silent language of architectural gestures.
The architectural genre belonging to utilitarian buildings such as crematoria in India remains conventionally non-descript. It forms an invisible part of the built fabric, one that is not stitched into the aesthetic explorations of a city’s transforming viscidity. It may be read as a singularity in this space. The notion is perhaps of the bare and essential that need not be formally inscribed with ideas but which can be waylaid with smaller, agile solutions – neither necessarily artful nor thoughtful. In rare instances such as this, designers do get involved in the process. Continue reading Mahaprasthanam, a Crematorium: D A Studios→