Hannes Meyer’s New World

In the years after the war, Germany and Austria were boycotted by both the League of Nations and more importantly by the international scientific and humanities institutions formed in the wake of the League and affiliated to it, hence, questioning the apparent neutrality projected by these institutions. The ‘boycott’ was rooted in a stand against the German scientific communities’ sanction of its study for unmeasured brutality during the Great War. While, it is unclear if the boycott debilitated scientific development in Germany, it is however, clear that it fractured relations between the central powers and the allied powers. Till 1924, it appeared absolute – German and Austrians scientists were rarely published in international papers, were rarely invited to international congresses, and Germany lost its position as a leading host of scientific conferences. It included a rejection of the German language, which was the preeminent scientific language of the day, in an effort to reduce the country’s influence in the sciences. The ‘Boycott’ was reciprocated by a ‘Reaction’ enacted by the German scientists, supported by the public, who felt that they were being unjustly ostracised. In the years of the thaw, from 1924, they were reluctant to resume active participation in the international scientific community, despite the pressure exerted by German foreign policy which, by this time, was keen on resuming international relations. [1] Germany joined the League of Nations in 1926; Hannes Meyer’s manifesto calling for a ‘New World’ was published in 1926 and within this context his urge – ‘a ruthless denial of the past’ – acquires a poignancy that was not limited to the architectural orders. Continue reading “Hannes Meyer’s New World”

Glasarkitektur reflected in War

“German Expressionist writer Paul Scheerbart (1863–1914) articulated his convictions on the power of architectural construction and its relationship to the modern world in his final fictional narrative of 1914 entitled Das graue Tuch und zehn Prozent Weiß. Ein Damenroman [The GrayCloth and Ten Percent White. A Ladies Novel].” ([1])

In September 1909 spectators at the first International Aviation Exhibition (ILA) in Frankfurt, were enraptured by a display of the German version of an aircraft by the Wright brothers, the rights of which were bought by the German Flugmaschine Wright GMBH.[2] This event roused Paul Scheerbart and it resulted in his ‘pacifist tract’: The Development of Aerial Militarism and the Demobilisation of European Ground Forces, Fortresses and Naval Fleets.[3] Scheerbart’s disposition was hardly surprising in light of the umpteen peace conferences hosted in the first half of nineteenth century, which temporarily revved public passions.[4] Rosemarie Haag Bletter underlines Scheerbart’s concerns about war[5] as discernible in his  short stories, for example, ‘Transportable Cities’, and ‘Dynamite War’, writing: Continue reading “Glasarkitektur reflected in War”

Many A Slip

Act I, Scene I:  It is a small room but it has many openings connecting it with other similar rooms. It is seen from the top view. All the rooms are empty but the walls pulsate, sometimes faster and sometimes slower. The set is alive to the rhythm of breath. 

“If it is quite the same to you, I would prefer not being a supporting character in my own story.”

As she screams those words to herself, she sees herself for the first time. A new journey begins which, at least initially, is characterised by loneliness and doubt. Slowly, she sheds off all those people who took her to be a minor character. She stops herself; she catches herself as a player in someone else’s stage directions. Continue reading “Many A Slip”

Seeing Through Light

Summarising: Alice Barnaby, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination, 1800-1900

Barnaby departs from Jonathan Crary’s ‘landmark study’ Techniques of the Observer: On Visions and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. She states that Crary’s description of the changes in techniques of viewing from the Renaissance to the nineteenth-century propounds that as optics developed, it constructed and rationalised vision as something that was ‘calculable and exchangeable’ and that ‘from these practices the modern, fragmented, alien subject is born’. While she finds his argument persuasive, she disagrees with it: she argues that the instruments of optics, with their focus on light did not construct a passive observer who was controlled by predetermined visual effects. On the contrary, she argues, that light, embodied vision. She faults Cracy’s singularly-focused Foucauldian method that views all objects and systems as an interconnected network of power relations that negates the role and agency of the subject and instead, she studies optical devices for the pleasure and the playfulness they elicited, to augment an understanding of the nature of subjection and the role and agency of the subject in it.

Continue reading “Seeing Through Light”

In Bed

It rained non-stop last Saturday in London. This in itself is neither impressive nor surprising. It is not uncommon for it to rain in September, or for that matter in any month in this city. However, on that Saturday, Beatriz Colomina was hosting a bed-in at the Serpentine Pavilion, which, this year is designed by Frida Escobeda. Escobeda’s design is reminiscent of a wicker-basket and is made up of numerous charcoal-grey tiles. It is roofed by a swoop of a scaled-up profile of the tile where, the ceiling is clad by a reflective surface. The reflections on the ceiling, already distorted by its curvature,  ripples along one of its edges pulsating like a poked blob of mercury salvaged from a broken thermometer, where it mirrors the shallow open-air pool. The falling rain would have been a spectacular and pervasive in the ambience of the pavilion, not least due to the reflections on the ceiling as it impacts and disturbs the surface of the pool, but also because the building is porous – in the design of its skin and in the materiality of the tiles.  Continue reading “In Bed”

Through the Looking Glass

It is an autumn evening I walk into my flat. It is still early, but I am tired. It is unusual for me to return home before seven in the evening. The day in the office was not unproductive – I got what needed to be done, done, albeit mechanically; however, I was restless. I don’t believe that any one at work noticed – the minute the lipstick slid on as I gazed into the mirror in the tiny foyer by my front door, just before I left home this morning, had conditioned by face to smile. In fact, a number of people commented on how happy and even how calm I looked – my laughter even while It was tinged with incredulity was not fake – honestly, more surprised at my successful deception. I dwelled on how the comment altered my mood; how reflections in another’s eyes controls and even forms one. On entering my apartment, the restlessness that I had quietened, resurfaced with additional vigour. I took a deep breath as I allowed the memories of the previous evening to engulf me. All day, I had wanted to quiet all the voices around me and allow myself the luxury of my private thoughts.

Continue reading “Through the Looking Glass”

‘The Future’ by Nick Montfort

While I was living in Singapore in 2008, I lost my job. While on most days I would optimistically cart my large portfolio from one office to another in the clammy Singapore humidity; however, every once in a while I would stay-in, in my beautiful condiminium in the centre, and wallow in self-pity. On one such day, my Chinese -Dutch flat-mate with his customary sense of humour thought it would be fun to have me watch a Korean film to raise my spirits, which was called ‘A Sad Story’. I did not dwell on its name – a rose by any other name is apparently just as sweet. It surpassed the level of sadness indicated in its name. To be fair, it began in a mild unpleasant sadness but ended in heart-wrenching hopelessness. For relief, somewhere towards the middle of the film there was a sliver of hope, which was brutally and unequivocally quashed.

It in inconceivable for us to believe that the future could be much worse than the present or the past. It would make living pointless. Progress, Potential and Possibilities are the prerequisites of our modern era. Since the Enlightenment, the future is imagined as a designable object backed by technological, legal, and scientific advancements. The future is synonymous with progress, civilisation, growth, development…

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Imaginary Wars: Benjamin and Scheerbart

“It will surely appear self-evident that the furniture in the glass house may not be placed against the precious, ornamentally-coloured glass walls. Pictures on the walls are, of course, totally impossible. Given the highest intentions, this revolution in the environment is inevitable. Glass architecture will have a tough fight on its hands, but force of habit must be overcome.” – Paul Scheerbart, Chapter 8, Glasarkitektur

Continue reading “Imaginary Wars: Benjamin and Scheerbart”

The Areopagus and the International Criminal Court

I. Law as a performative mode of practice

 In July, I went to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. After a series of security, passport and baggage checks, I seated myself on the audience balcony in courtroom 1. At 12.30 the judge called for recess and we rose to mark respect. As the judges left the room, I too turned to leave, but just then, curtains snaked across the glass fronted balcony. Heavy pale green velvet, slowly cloaked the courtroom and it was then that realised that sometime in the last few hours the line between reality and play, trial and performance was not so crisp anymore.

Continue reading “The Areopagus and the International Criminal Court”

Shakespeare on Love

In Shakespeare: Love Across the Racial Divide, Mohini Patel supported by numerous Shakespeare scholars and theatre personalities, talks about interracial love in Shakespearean drama and their relevance to British society today which, allegedly, records the highest number of interracial marriages in the world. Patel strings across Othello, Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Anthony and Cleopatra bringing forth issues centring racial identity and ‘betrayal’. The questions that stood out and that were asked are: does the woman, in an interracial relationship, inevitably forsake a piece of herself – her identity, when she marries outside her race? Does the man, feel guilty of betraying his heritage when he marries outside his race? Continue reading “Shakespeare on Love”

Palaces Without a People

My M.Phil dissertation which was done with ‘Projective Cities’ at the Architectural Association school of Architecture in London. The project looks at The Hague after the advent of the International Criminal Court and projects a post-national forum constituted by NGOs as part of the political fabric of the city.

Read the complete thesis here.

Mind the Gap!

In the Eternal Evidence, René Magritte portrays the idealised nude as an assemblage of body parts rather than a whole. Undeniably, at a distance it is still possible to read the image as a single subject; however, as one gets closer to the work the fragmentary nature of the object dominates the vision. The fragments are constructed by a gap that is composed of two distinct elements –the emptiness between the framed canvases that is suggestive of the missing parts of the painting, and the frame around the canvas which defines and articulates the part. The disposition of the canvases on the wall surface in their deliberate misalignment ensures that they appear as if they do not quite fit with each other. Magritte was known as an artist who ‘rendered thought visible’.[1] I would like to suggest that in this particular piece of work, the design of the gap is as much a part of the painting as the fragments itself, and allows the provocations fundamental to his work to reveal themselves – the ideal nude as a set of perfectly formed parts that do not necessarily fit perfectly together. Continue reading “Mind the Gap!”

BCBS: an academic type

February 2013

As designed for Vivek Shankar Design Practice (VSDP) as employed on contract as lead project designer. The project was awarded to the practice and has been changed in the execution. Here are the initial diagrams that were used to argue and pitch for one wing of the an academic building within the Bishop Cottons Boys School premises in Bangalore India.

Continue reading “BCBS: an academic type”

The Monograph as a project

August 2012

I was commissioned by a practice in Bangalore, India, Vivek Shankar Design Practice (VSDP) to conceptualise a monograph that not only documents the last decade of the work done by the practice but also, paves a way to project the practice in the future. After discussions with Vivek, we agreed to use the existing monograph format as seen in the El Croquis magazine with clear drawings and photographic evidence that displays the built work of the practice and augment it with essays, interviews, debates and round-tables to re-situate the work within the city and the work of other similar architectural practices in the city.

Continue reading “The Monograph as a project”

The Architecture of The Trial

The Trial by Franz Kafka is often commented upon for its commentary on bureaucracy and its insidious effects on society and man. My reading on the other hand, while not in disagreement with this view, looks at the manner in which Kafka uses space to display the relationship between the state apparatus and modern man. This relationship is intricate and displays both, the entrapment of the bureaucrat and of the modern man within the system where, as in many power relationships, it ceases to be clear who  has a greater leverage. Continue reading “The Architecture of The Trial”

Black Box- White Box- Light Box?

“In the disposition of the Greek theatre, the audience was closely related to the chorus. It almost entirely surrounded them, and the auditorium was an extension of the orchestra circle…”

“…Although the chorus is still physically present the orchestra is no longer the focus of the action. That role has been transferred to the skene. The orchestra is now a void, looking forward to the time, not far distant, when the chorus has only a vestigial presence; when the orchestra circle, impinged upon on one side by the enlarged stage area and the other by seats of honour for the dignitaries in the audience, has been reduced to half its original extent; and what was once the centre of the action has become a gulf, with the spectators on one side and the performers on the other.”

Continue reading “Black Box- White Box- Light Box?”

The Pink Veil: Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

In April, earlier this year, Wes Anderson’s movie Isle of Dogs was released. I read an article in The Guardian that discussed Anderson’s aesthetics and how it was a look that was easy to copy poorly and without body. Embedded within the writing was a link to a website ‘Accidently WesAnderson’ where Instagram followers uploaded and shared, cropped squares of buildings around the world that could be attributed to  Andersonism. A number of these images included images from Jaipur, which in of itself is hardly surprising. The beautiful Mahals or palaces, symmetrical, rendered in pastel marble and sandstone with contrasting saturated coloured inlays of a variety of geometric and floral patterns, a beautiful composite of Rajput and Islamic architecture make quite the perfect set piece.

Continue reading “The Pink Veil: Hawa Mahal in Jaipur”

Architecture of the Magazine

Spring 2016

Fabio Gigone and I conducted a 21 day elective workshop for the students of the 3rd year at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark. The students were given 10 magazines to study and analyse and following their analysis were to constitute a new editorial board to re-design the magazine, in consideration of their legacy, history and future. The results were discussed as a round table with the protagonists from SOCKS.

Electrified!

Electrified! Transport Beyond Oil and Gas

A research project while a fellow at the Strelka institute of Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow in Russia, 2010-2011 under the tutelage of OMA.

The project asks : What does minimisation of enery in Russia entail in light of the fact that Russia is economically dependent on selling oil and gas? The project argues that the electric car, an innocuous and relatively recent consumer and industrial object in the ex-communist country could hold the key to repositioning the attitude of the country as regards to being both, an exporter and a consumer of fossil fuels thus, propelling a wave of energy minimisation globally.

Click here to read the project.

4 Books

Autumn 2016 Unit F

While I was teaching at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Aarhus in Denmark with Fabio Gigone and Joel Letkemann, we embarked on a research project with the students in the unit called (in)voluntary Intimacies that re-drew, analysed and documented (relevant) housing projects from the 19th century till recently. These were collected in 4 Books.