Design Prose

On Urbanism and Architecture

Posted in Uncategorized by designprose on May 17, 2013

There is much more to urban design than a plot plan. Diagrams do not resolve the integration of culture and commerce, the relationship of the public realm and private enterprise, the balance of new building and open space; they do not create the kind of places that combine memory with a vital and active urbanity.

And if I may add to what Ada Louise Huxtable said in her book, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change (2008) that there is more to urban design and architecture than a plan and drawings which do not capture the quintessential human presence and how they may organically grow or wither in that space in sum or its parts. The enterprise, the human spirit, the experiential relationship, sometimes detached and sometimes intimate, that we carry with place and space is beyond the plan and that is the real process in making of a place which is never really complete like a place is made but its continuously evolving, placemaking.

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Modern Architecture by Vincent Scully

Posted in Architecture, Books, Built Environment by designprose on January 10, 2013

51JPAtx5GLL._SL500_SS500_To understand architecture, it is important to understand forces that define and shape them. Contemporary and modern architecture of today was evolved from historical style which no longer could serve the changing times brought on by massive human movement across geographies and onset of industrialization. Modern Architecture by Professor Vincent Scully works as a thoughtful primer towards understanding what we have come to inhabit. He looks at the metaphysical force as well that humanity has never tried to explore fully quite like the modern times. Expression through architecture also encompasses this, this overthrowing of stabilities of thinking, of communities and settlements.

In all these ways, the old stabilities have been overset, and human beings, in the mass have been given an architectural environment which is an image of modern world itself, in which they do not know exactly who or where they are.

He has therefore vacillated between a frantic desire to find something comprehensible to belong to and an equally consuming passion to express his own individuality and to act on his own. He has become at once a tiny atom in a vast sea of humanity and an individual who recognizes himself as being utterly alone.

And thus, modern architecture has embedded these tensions of belonging and unbelonging at the same time and pursuit, the quest of anchoring and exploring, both at one time. Quest to find answers where have we come from and where are we going and how to express stable architecture in this impermanent state of mind.

And since, of all the cultural divisions of Western civilization, America was the one to which the future seemed most open and in which the sense of actual uprootedness was most strong, it was in America that the polarities were first swept away in terms of a new, continuous architecture order.

Naipaul on Indian Architecture

Posted in Architecture, Books, Built Environment by designprose on December 15, 2012

Another extract from Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now. Indian architecture through his eyes.

But the years race on; new ways of feeling and looking can come to one. Indians have been building in free India for 40 years, and what has been put up in that time makes it easier to look at what went before. In free India, Indians have built like people without a tradition; they have for the most part done mechanical, surface imitations of the international style. What is not easy to understand is that unlike British, Indians have not really built for the Indian climate. They have been too obsessed with imitating the modern; and much of what has been done in this way- the dull, four square towers of Bombay, packed far too close together, the concrete nonentity of Lucknow and Madras and the residential colonies of New Delhi- can only make hard tropical lives harder and hotter.

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Far from extending people’s idea of beauty and grandeur and human possibility- uplifting ideas which very poor people may need more than rich people- much of the architecture of free India has become part of the ugliness and crowd and increasing physical oppression of India. Bad architecture in a poor tropical city is more than an aesthetic matter. It spoils people’s day-to-day lives; it wears down their nerves; it generates rages that can flow into many different channels.

India: A Million Mutinies Now

Posted in Books, Urban Planning, Urbanism by designprose on November 30, 2012

Level or fully made footpaths are not a general Indian need, and the Indian city road is often like a wavering, bumpy, much mended asphalt path between drifts of dust and dirt and the things that get dumped on Indian city roads and then stay there. Things like sand gravel, wet rubbish, dry rubbish, nothing were looking finished, no curbstone, no wall, everything in a half-and half way, half way to being or ceasing to be.

This was in 1990, India through the eyes of Naipaul. Not much has changed 20 years later. Those words can be used as is, for current description of those same roads. Same wretchedness, same intermingling of roads to sidewalks and curbs, same undefined segregation of  people to rubbish, same unfinishedness to urban scapes.

Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger

Posted in Architecture, Books, City, City Scapes, Urbanism by designprose on June 26, 2012

From Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger:

“This is not the place to delve fully into the homogenization of culture. But it is impossible to think about the meaning of architecture in our time without this fact, for its impact on architecture is tremendous. In an age in which American architects design skyscrapers for Singapore and Shanghai, when Swiss architects design museums in San Francisco and stadiums in Beijing, when McDonald’s restaurants are to be found in Tokyo and Paris, when expressways create a similar automobile landscape almost everywhere, and an age in which suburban sprawl had made the outskirts of London look not so different from the outskirts of Dallas- is the very concept of sense of place now a frivolous luxury? If every city is truly going to look more and more like every other city, and every suburban node more and more like every other suburban node, then what is the point of special architectural expression at all?”

Work and the City by Frank Duffy

Posted in Architecture, Built Environment, Research and Analysis, Uncategorized, Urbanism by designprose on March 13, 2011

“Nevertheless the physical fabric of our buildings and cities, not least workplaces, will change: to paraphrase a famous remark on Architecture by Winston Churchill, we use technology and then technology uses us.[…]

The ways in which the physical fabric of buildings and cities are being changed by information technology. However, equally important, if not more so, are the ways in which information technology is making it possible for us to reinvent the dimension of time by dissolving temporal conventions that have been taken for granted for centuries.”

Above words are quoted from Duffy’s introductory passages in Work and the City where he takes a contemplative look at future of workspace, nature of work itself and how it impacts the office development and eventually affects the fabric of life and cities, both culturally and ecologically. Technological connectivity has  enabled us with an alternate model of work and advancement is here to modulate our workspace such that we maximize its offerings. In reality, how are we responding to these changes and how much cultural shift will be viable and sustainable is yet to be seen. Although brief in his writings, Duffy touches the surface of the issues that will be forthcoming as the city turn more urban and technologically advanced. He says,

Even more imagination will be required to envision what the new world of universal connectivity will be like. However, one thing is certain: new temporal and social conventions must be invented that will be strong enough to take advantage of the enormous potential freedoms offered by the new technology as well as equally capable to avoiding the destructive effects of the hugely invasive power of information technology.

This will make study of human ecology even more critical with respect to culture, local or global and it manifests itself in the fabric of city striving towards modernity yet remaining sustainable to environment and societies. Such that hidden costs are incorporated in the business solutions. This will impact the way the construction industries campaign their development model which is rarely inclusive and present only an artificial side of demands to real estate and hence the supply side is highly lop-sided while maximizing their benefits.

That said, forms for the buildings and cities of the future will demand more secured environments which will have to be fluid as well as organic while responding to interactive knowledge economy where buildings are not merely in response to symptoms of industrial model of working. There is a need to figure out how efficiently cities can be designed keeping in mind adjacencies, scales of spaces and their complimentary functions. Such a model is planned but it also allows adaptability to the forces of organic human behaviors and their individual needs to adjust perform and leverage potential.

In Duffy’s words,

My vision of the future city is almost exactly opposite. It is essentially urban. The vision depends upon social logic of the knowledge economy which will thrive on open ended discourse much of which will be aided by technology but that will also continue to be social, plural and face to face.

In essence, we will modify our mode of working from time to time and may call it advancement but it will not essentially eradicate human interaction and proximity of face to face meeting value. It will continue to be highly social and technology will be its background only and not the foreground.