Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Architectural Voices of India

Architectural Voices of India: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos
Apurva Bose Dutta
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2017

Paperback | 8 x 11-1/2 inches | 200 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1443891400 | £25.99

Publisher Description:
The field of architecture has gradually evolved from being a mere profession to becoming a representation of the society in which we live. Architects form the voice of this profession, and an in-depth discussion with them allows a greater understanding of their theories, visions for architecture, and contributions towards the field, and how they are managing the non-linear societal evolution in a comprehensive manner.

This volume brings together 17 iconic Indian architects across generations, and, through dialogues, probes into their lives, beliefs and philosophies, and candid thoughts and opinions. It offers a platform for discussions on the core issues of architecture, and serves as a reference for the state of architecture both in India and globally.

The book will appeal to architectural and building industry practitioners and students of architecture, as well as the general reader, as it speaks about architecture as an integral part of building a nation. It traverses the architecture journey in India, and bestows a clarity on the directions still to be taken.
dDAB Commentary:
My experience of architecture through books and websites has been conditioned by Western media. By this I mean that I'm used to particular types and levels of quality of photographs, renderings, drawings, and even writings when it comes to how buildings are presented. This means, for instance, that I am prey to professional photographs that present buildings in literally their best lights, as well as renderings that can sometimes even be confused as photographs. Such a bias, albeit an unintentional one, has evolved over time as publications and websites have demanded high-quality "eye candy" for pages and screens. I believe this bias is rooted in early/mid-20th century Modernist publishing in Western Europe in general and Switzerland in particular (where the "Swiss grid" of graphic design preferred parallel verticals in photographs of buildings, for instance). So now it's hard to not expect a certain level of quality in presentation and it's therefore too easy to dismiss projects that aren't depicted in a similar fashion.

I bring up this conditioning here because I've often found departures from today's "norm" in architecture from India, be it on the Indian-Architects platform of World-Architects or in books such as this one. In such places the polish of professional photos is rare; renderings come across as amateurish rather than realistic; and drawings, if included at all, have colors that make them distracting rather than clear. These characteristics obviously don't apply to all architects from India, but I've found, especially when speaking with people who know the Indian context more that me, that architects there are not so preoccupied with how their projects are documented and presented. Of course, those architects with international ambitions — the names one tends to see over and over in architecture awards — pay very close attention to photographs, renderings, and so on. I also make mention of the presentation of images, because I believe that there's a good deal of high-quality architecture coming out of India, but it needs to be "read" with an eye that needs to set aside its Western conditioning.

Even though the images in Apurva Bose Dutta's book on 17 Indian architecture offices is in-line with my comments above, her interviews with the architects get at the quality of their buildings, qualities that may not be evident in quick glances at photos of built work or renderings of future projects. Her selection of architects spans multiple generations, from Balkrishna Doshi (interviewed before he won the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize) and Raj Rewal on the older end of the spectrum to Sanjay Puri and Morphogenesis (Manit and Sonali Rastogi) on the younger end. Apurva Bose Dutta's questions are tailored to each architect, but they are presented in a consistent format, accompanied by b/w images of projects, an intimate portrait of their family lives, and the inclusion of "the project that redefined architecture" for them. Fifty pages of color plates, inserted into the middle of the book, provide "glimpses of projects," though due to my comments above I found myself gravitating to the words, where the architects are candid about their own work but also the state of Indian architecture today. Those interested in the country's architecture should find Apurva Bose Dutta's book rewarding.
Pages (from PDF excerpt):

Author Bio:
Apurva Bose Dutta is a Bengaluru-based architectural journalist. Her professional experience includes decade-long work and collaborations with multiple international and national design publications, publishing houses, building and design firms and organisations, and web portals.
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