A Recorded Lecture from FRAME Conclave 2019: Modern Heritage
In this lecture, Dr Himanshu Burte speaks on the nature of Laurie Baker’s human-centric architectural practice; as an empiricist, environmentalist and extremely critical and creative practitioner.
So it is going to take a while for me to recover from one hour of Geoffrey Bawa and after this lush serenity, especially because I have to follow it up with an argument. But, I will go ahead and I am going to be talking about Laurie Baker. I have kept what I am saying fairly narrow and it is mainly in the form of a straight-on argument I am offering, and I am hoping that we can have a discussion afterwards, whenever we are scheduled. I have actually changed the title from what is published or what was originally given to it, because I actually took the title of my obituary for Baker, written just after he passed away and because of the resonance with yesterday’s discussion around Gandhi and Architecture.
I will begin by looking at the context, the objectives and the premises of what I have to say. To begin with, since this is about heritage and we are talking about Modern Heritage particularly, I approach heritage with the understanding that every map is really a plan. It just does not show you what is there, but it is a project. Heritage in that sense, I see as an exercise in constructing the future. By constructing the past in certain ways, by preserving certain memories and ascribing certain meanings to it, we are really constructing and doing the work of creating a future that we want. That I think extends to some extent to Prem‘s point, though I am sure he would not necessarily disagree with this. So, given that this is what is involved in thinking about heritage, it becomes very important to be conscious of our value positions and especially about the ethic of architecture, its politics, economics, the aesthetics and of course, the actual processes and practices that go into making the practice or the product itself.
Through his art and architecture, Martand Khosla has created a niche that lies at the intersection of the two fields. His installations embody philosophies from this undefinable space, as he extracts questions using art as a voice, and architecture as principles, to raise concerns about humanitarian aspects of societal and political systems.
The practice of Martand Khosla inhabits a transitional space between art and architecture, which enables him a platform to address concerns that transgress architecture as independent habitable spaces. He co-founded, and is a partner of the architectural practiceRKDS (Romi Khosla Design Associates), which has obtained both national and international recognition through its award-winning designs.
A Recorded Lecture from FRAME Conclave 2019: Modern Heritage
In this lecture, Kazi Khaleed Ashraf discusses the works of two prominent contemporary architects – Muzharul Islam and Louis Kahn as counterpoints to modernism in the Indian subcontinent. He also speaks about understanding modernity, modernism and the positions either took in the way they practised architecture.
In the pursuit of framing and reframing modernism, perhaps we might have to rethink the various ways we described modernism, tropical modernism, we might have to call it – monsoon modernism. Monsoon in the subcontinent is what sank European modernism; that is something to think about. I have been tasked to talk about two architects – Muzharul Islam and Louis Kahn. Muzharul Islam is from Bangladesh. He is what one could describe as the kind of a father figure of modern architecture. That term, ‘father figure’, is how Ranjit Hoskote described Charles Correa. If you replace Charles Correa with Muzharul Islam and other specific details, that is Muzharul Islam in Bangladesh. He was an architect, teacher, activist and most importantly, he was openly engaged in politics. He was a hardcore Marxist, a politically engaged persona. So I think among all the pioneering architects we are discussing here today, this is an interesting moment to think about an architect, who is both – an architect professionally engaged with the larger cultural milieu, and also devotedly engaged in politics. And the other person whom you are more familiar with, especially I am thinking about the younger architects and students. I am not sure how much you are familiar with Muzharul Islam so I will be taking up the task of talking about him in the next fifteen-twenty minutes, but you are surely familiar with the other person, Louis Kahn, who was invited to Bangladesh, and Muzharul Islam was involved in that invitation.
In conversation with photographer Randhir Singh, we discuss the critical aspects behind the cognisance of capturing a pertinent architectural photograph, as well as the methods which assist the process.
The following text is the edited transcript from the conversation with Randhir Singh, conducted on February 10th, 2021
Chapter 01: ORIGINS [00:20]
Part I – Education [00:27]
I studied architecture – in the US – and I worked as an architect for fifteen years, in New York. While I was working there, I started photographing the projects that our office was doing, (and) I photographed projects that my friends were doing, and it built that way. In college, I did a semester abroad in Italy, and that was actually the first time I really made pictures with any sort of seriousness. I had a little Cannon film camera, and we traveled all over the country and spent a lot of time in Rome.
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.