I feel greatly honoured in accepting the IIA Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for 1993 for Architectural contribution and feel grateful to the President of the Indian Institute of Architects and the Council members for having recognised my efforts in sorting out some of the issues in “Architecture-Man” relationship that confronts us today.
There was a major concern for most Architects of the twenties in Europe. That concern was the development of new forms and patterns of the city, influenced by the Industrial Revolution and Industrial methods of building construction. Mass production of building components which lead to standardization and directed the awareness towards a new aesthetic. A new order. A moral position from which the architectural tenets were re-examined and restated with the hope that the social values become responsive to Architectural values. To make the city reflect the scale of its spaces and structures directly related to man on the street and man on the roof. The plan addressed these two positions and called technology to serve it. Both Corbusier & Kahn created a broader context at city level within which their buildings and complex of buildings could find the right fit. The generative spirit of their architecture had found its roots in archaic buildings of Greek and Renaissance architecture. Both architects elevated the mundane aspects to a level within which the architectural spirit could be found eternally present. Control over the elements of plan through geometrical order leading to manipulations of the spatial and structural characterised by natural light. Natural light was brought in to reveal the character of both the space and enclosure. There was a search in the direction of archaic beginnings, integrating architectural elements with structural needs to enable the spaces to be free and belong in the realm of the unmeasurable.
The idea of dimensioning and designing identical components for fabrication and their assembly is not modern at all. Fabrication methods have changed for efficiency and production on a mass scale. But today its use and assembly into the main framework of design is deplorable. Character of the building has become subservient to efficiency. Mass production and standardization is inevitable. The important question is “what needs to be standardized” and what needs can be retained to meet the unpredictable nature of man and his environment.
The substance (material) and the light that manifest this substance are two inseparable parts of Architecture.
Ours is a fairweather country. We are not a culture to hermetically seal ourselves within four walls. The best part of our activities are out in the open: Streets, Pavements, Promenades, Terraces, Courts, Squares, Walls without roofs, Openings in to weave into a fullsome Architecture enhancing the environment with it and enriching the quality of life of the people dwelling in it.
I have been trying to find for the last twenty five years in my works, the spaces that are indispensible to the nature of buildings at various scales from single family houses to a complex of buildings housing Institutions of Education, Administration, Commerce, Markets and Bazars, Industrial units and State funded Housing Projects, built with very basic methods of construction prevalent over decades in the past using materials that have proved their use and place in the life of the people. Working in a Hot & Dry climate I have realized that a very 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 building in such a climate and also realized that solutions that make sense within a given aulture and climate are affordable.
We are ever learning from the past. The lessons are all around us. These are the very lessons that are showing us a way to handle situations in the present context. The meaning of the “present” I find in what Mies Van der Rohe said : “The structure. of a civilization is not easy to define because it is part in the past, part in the present and part in the future. The past by its very nature we cannot change. The present we have to accept and should master. But the future is open, for creative thought and action and I believe that real acceptance of the “present” .will be the Basis for the Future.