Too often, the magnificent buildings are forgotten. The spirit of the buildings and the places they made are covered under the dust of time only to be inhabited by those who do not understand their very purpose. Such is the irony of the genius of them: the architecture, its era, its splendour is allowed to dissipate into the dark ages of the present. The idea is not to get out in the distant past, but to see if the present is inspired enough.
The country, over a great period of time, has witnessed civilizations come and go. The relics, the ruins and the buildings which have withstood the test of time are expressions in the ambience of eternity. Time stood still in the silence of the hills, the horizon and the expanse of skies, all manifest in single isolated columns to arcades, walls, openings and avenues without roofs. The lessons are locked into these, inviting anyone with enough curiosity, ready to explore and understand a deeper meaning which may offer clues to their origins. Every architectural composition in the past has been a model of a greater world, finite but unbounded. Its manifestation embodies a tight framework of parts, each having its own identity.
The above statement comes with the realization that building is an intervention. The changes it brings about are both physical and psychological in nature. Any attempt to make a physical change in such a context of the climate and culture of a place would be a direct attempt to change the inner relationships within the culture itself. However, it would take a great effort and understanding to appropriate the scale of physical form, as the physical form itself is a direct intervention. The celebrative character and the sequence of spaces that evoked a tremendous desire to communicate, through the language of ornament, an aura of myths and symbols. This architecture is then a model of the underlying principles that govern the universe and the forces that give it order. At the root of it is something deeply conceptual; design has not entered into it. An abstract concept that finds its expression in plan. Its geometry – making the intangible into a tangible way, knowledge into experience – a way of knowing.
The architecture in India is one for ‘fair weather’, transparent, accessible, contiguous, one that makes connections and encloses a hierarchy of public spaces which themselves become important nodes of activities. The post-colonial work has no conceptual structure and it remains compositional with such contradictions as mass has no weight, enclosures don’t enclose, and light is considered for exterior modulations only. The structure dissipates in mid-air before it hits the ground and enclosures have no relationship with the volumes they enclose. The symbolism is without substance and presents meaningless monoliths.
New technology must realize forms that are compatible with the old patterns which are relevant both to the culture and climate of a given place. Such forms can generate new living traditions without snipping the lifeline between the old and the new.
Shastras need reinterpretation into contemporary language to show the connection between the forces that shape human behaviour and its mystical cover. The ideas of vastushastra must find their contemporary component, coming out of the need to discard out-dated technologies and the need to recognize emerging changes in the social and economic order. The reason for Architecture to be is the reason for recognizing a spirit beyond basic needs. The reason for shastras is to put an order to wild speculations and make runaway thoughts into a comprehensive whole, and elevate the intellect to spiritual levels.
I begin to formulate design elements which respond to both the inner needs and outer levels of measurable activities arising out of contextual circumstance. I sort out the spaces in plan that can respond to changes in time and are capable of adjusting themselves to the overall order that constitutes its framework. The spaces that are created outside the program of requirements are, architecturally, the most important spaces. They set up a rhythm and establish identities to the spaces that follow. The identity is stronger when the light characterizes the space along with the material that makes the enclosures. The order in plan must reflect the nature of space and the material with which the nature is defined. I believe that a close and compact plan not only ensures economy in space utilization, economy in structural design, economy in overall building expenditure, but a meaningful solution to a building in a hot and dry climate.
I use singular and complex horizons that offer changing vistas along with movement through spaces, bringing a number of spatial overlaps that are so vital to time–space concepts. There is a structural symmetry in nature at its cellular level and not ‘form symmetries’ in its external compositions. Conscious symmetry is different. It has idealized ‘form compositions’, transcending to the spiritual realm. A wheel must be symmetrical around its axis which is perpendicular to the direction of its movement. Symmetries have lead us to discover their inner source.
Breaking the programme down to identify spaces and formulate an order for the material chosen that is capable of meeting various scale of architectural elements ensures a certain continuity in projecting structural and spatial components, wilful but restricted within the framework of the general ordering principle. The details, however small or big, must respond to a scale. These are demonstrated beautifully in temple complexes, medieval cathedrals, mosques and madrasas, as well as in cities like Mandu and Jaisalmer. Here one observes that the parts of the buildings are responding to one another, building up the whole.
I see the scales and proportions of architectural elements as those that are directly related to the nature of material. Both concrete and brick as materials of construction have different strengths. Concrete is generous, but brick is not; space enclosed by concrete is not the same as enclosed by brick. The scales of buildings are directly related to the methods of fabrication. Most outdoor spaces, consciously or unconsciously designed, came through climatic considerations and social demand. The structures that enclose these spaces had an order. That order came out of the choice of material.
My colleagues are those who work with me on the project from the start. There is always a continuity and development of those concepts and ideas on which previously a substantial amount of work is done. The structural and mechanical engineering material inputs constantly test the architectural concepts and begin to become the mainstay in their own order. It is a happy moment when what to do meets the means of doing it.
The main critique comes from the structural engineer, to test the composition of plan in relation to the possibility of systems envisioned and in response to the basic material to be used either by choice or dictated by the demands made by the space which it serves. His discipline has to meet with the ordering principle on which the determinant elements of plan are established. The sense of light and the sense of space are to be strictly adhered to. Making models at various stages of design development is a method that leads to a better understanding of the spaces in plans and sections, surface delineations and their geometry, volumes and their proportions, and above all, those members of the structure so crucial to bring natural light into spaces. The construction site and the architect’s office are two inseparable parts of the work activity that direct the process of design. Within this process lies the ability to correct and modify circumstantial responses arising out of measurable situations and abstraction of thought and ideas developed in the office and tested on site.
There are two categories of projects. Those that are realized in all their forms of completion, and those that have remained unrealized even though they are ready to be built. The ones that are unrealized have as much impact on the history of architecture as the ones that got an opportunity to be built.