A panel discussion held at the annual National Association of Students of Architecture (India) event in Kochi on 31st January 2018.
The idea was to first have a closed-door workshop among a small group of architects, followed by an open panel discussion. The intent is to look at the challenges the profession of Architecture has faced recently. Right from the Amravati competition debacle to the Hall of Nations demolition, there are connections with the people in power and the people at large, which are somehow missing. This is an effort to try and create these bridges, which will benefit the large number of fraternity of young architects who are waiting to take the plunge into the real world.
The workshop culminated in a panel discussion, which the students attended. At this kick-start session we had come to some worthwhile thinking points that can lead further discussions over a period of time. Eventually, this will have to build into a larger movement over several such conferences in various parts of the country to mobilise support, which can galvanize action to be initiated.1
- 1. The National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA) consented to let Ar Nirmal Kulkarni be the knowledge partner for this event via Investigating Design (INDES) and provided the platform. The event is expected to reach out to thousands of students because of the venue. INDES also intends to serve as a continuity platform to keep the conversations going beyond this venue until appropriate action is initiated.[/fn
Explorations: will discuss demolition the Hall of Nations and Nehru Pavilion in Delhi and Amaravati Design Competitions, this session will try to understand two questions (a) what perceptions and implications of the term ‘heritage’ prevail, and (b) if the existing policies suffice to protect our modern heritage and foster an environment towards long-living built environments.
Research on Current Policy for Public Architecture: will discuss the questions concerning modern architecture in India, how it is defined, methods of data collection on current policies for the Protection of Important public buildings, and ask if we can we enable and strengthen our institutions to undertake this task with the government.
Government Attitude: On the one hand since the government in power is the choice of the people, it can take the call on the overall aesthetics of their projects. However, on the other hand when the government assigns aesthetics to movie directors as in the case with Amravati one wonders about the role of the architect. Could we have norms in place to assure best practices?
The program is given under:
|Session — 1.||10 am to 01 pm||Workshop matters
The Hall of Nations Debacle: Architecture and the State
|01 pm to 02 pm||Lunch|
|Session — 2.||02 pm to 04 pm||Workshop matters|
|04 pm to 05 pm||Conclusion and continuity agenda|
|Panel discussion||6.15 pm to 7.15 pm plus questions and answers for 30 minutes.|
Participants - Architects:
- Prem Chandavarkar
- Ravindra Punde
- Prasad Shetty
- Manish Gulati
- Biju Kuriakose
- Kunjan Garg
- Sabareesh Suresh (Student representative)
- Nirmal Kulkarni – Moderator
The following architects contributed for a couple of hours in the morning session:
- Madhu Pandit
- Arunav Dasgupta
- Rohan Shivkumar
The Hall of Nations Debacle: Architecture and the State
NIRMAL KULKARNI: “Unpacking Urbanism”, “Modern Heritage”, “Smart Cities” and other such terms in the current scenario seem to ring hollow as if spoken inside the Hall of Nations, the empty words ricocheting off the carefully crafted concrete structure opposite the Purana Quilla, now but a vague memory. Clearly this was an event which brings about painful memories of the fight for the lost cause in which INTACH, IIA and the professionals at large offered due obeisance, albeit after the tragedy was inevitable. If one were to move away from the anguished throes of self-pity and righteous condemnation, the only way forward would be to consciously resort to a deep soul-searching through a rigorous critical examination of the causes behind this calamity.
As an educator, in my view it was important for students of architecture to know about this building and its fate. In June 2017, I was invited to present a keynote lecture at Gwalior for the Zonal NASA. I took this as an opportunity to inform students through my lecture which revolved around the Hall of Nations and concentrated on several aspects of the conceptual design phases through to the building process to the demolition and invited the students to subject the building and the event to critical analysis.
My engagement with the event goaded me to understand more deeply the issues underlying such events through the insight of other fellow professionals. The conference, which I organized, curated, and moderated at Vagamon, is a first of such events.
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What were the loopholes because of which Hall of Nations got legal sanction for demolition? Should the Hall of Nations be rebuilt? What defines good architecture and are there any empirical measures, which can be stated? What are the perceptions and implications of the term ‘Heritage’? Can policy be enacted to earmark public buildings for posterity, even during its ‘just executed’ stage?
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: I think the decision about what to keep and what not to keep is a serious thing. Obviously the decisions for that are not happening through any of us. We might support any of the decisions, but the place where the decisions are being taken is beyond architects and professionals, especially so with Hall of Nations. I don’t think it was a decision only to make way for the project that is going to come up, but also to make sure that this is an act seen to be able to make another kind of nation-imaging, at least upon nation building, a possibility to be seen through clear and stated objective. This legacy was not necessarily important for the culture of the current Government, and it is clear that they don’t want that legacy to become the future. And it is one of those things that might become very important reasoning, at that level, that look; why not make this statement visible? And what best to do but, by removing one of the most important legacies that was available at that point of time in the National Capital of Delhi. This is not being talked about in any way, anywhere, but this also a discussion that was going on. We were like, how could this happen, and people were like, how could this not happen? The Government clearly wanted to send the message across. If that is the case, then there is a completely different discussion about architectural value versus nation building or nation imaging. I am very curious to know if the congress saw this as value or not because it was their legacy too as they were trying to build the National Capital and if they had a value about it then this should really have been a public discussion. So there is one kind of discussion happening there. This is not about the technical competence of the building. It is about popular connection.
MADHU PANDIT: In this case, it is a political connection.
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: Yes in this case yes, but also about populous connection.
MANISH GULATI: Do you have any factual data to support this?
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: There’s only hearsay.
MANISH GULATI: The factual data clearly suggests, as far as I can see, that this is a number game. Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan doesn’t fulfil the basic FAR to that area.
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: I understand that. See that’s technical. The decision that is made is not necessarily following technical objectives of why your decision should be taken. That front can’t be given to one single look we need much more. But when that decision happens at a political level, it is about the politics behind it.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I think what happened in the Nehruvian times was that the development discourse was suspended between the, and this happened because of post-colonial discontinuity, we didn’t recognize it as an authentic part of our culture so there was no smooth movement from past to present to future. So I think in the first five decades or so after Independence there was a development discourse which was in a state of suspension between the imagination of a glorious past which was distant and the anticipation of a technological mobility where there was a famous statement about the new temples of modernity…and what happened was that a few buildings that were constructed as a symbol of that…it was not a wide-spread infrastructure so there was still some hope. That state of suspension was broken in the 1990s with liberalization, globalization and with seeing the success of the Indian software industry, biotechnology, garments, etc. suddenly the Indian metropolis was anchored in global production. So there is a belief that we didn’t have to wait for modernity anymore that it was here and there was a simplistic solution that globalization equals modernity. And what we are seeing at many levels, not only with the Government sector but also among the middle class, is the aspiration to the global city, which is clean, modern, and efficient. So the point of making this new imagery of nation building with the advantage of globalization equals modernity is thanks to materials like ACP and structural glazing that give instant modernity. You don’t have to deal with all the messiness that the construction of a Hall of Nations involved.
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: In continuation with that, if we go the path where we join hands with the developer of what to keep and what not to keep, it is a path which will take some time. During that path many more such episodes will happen and one will have to figure out what next. Where is the axe going to fall the next time? If we go the faster route, this is subjective not objective. This is based on this idea of collective association. I associate with this…period. I don’t know whether I am liking it because of the structure or its beauty or its inherent things, whatever it stand for it, I am associated with it through memory in some way or with my participation in some way or technology know-how, but I am simply associated with it. I am associated with the Banaras Ghats, and millions of people are associated with it. Tomorrow if somebody wants to do something with the ghats, there will be millions of people who’ll be against it. But if I have this idea of collective association, and create a framework of making at least architecture students and institutions of such calibre disciplines say that this is an object of collective association. And all of us agree to it and all of us stand for it. It represents 1000s of academics and lakhs of students of architecture, it represents the entire profession of architects, designers and this is a building of “us”.
MANISH GULATI: But at a Government level nobody gives two hoots about “us”.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: If colleges of architecture can show that the Hall of Nations is a part of the syllabus of teaching the history of architecture then a case can be made. So can colleges in Bangalore that can be connected.
KUNJAN GARG: That is exactly what…was saying. It is not about institutionalization of what is architectural but there are existing institutions, which need to come together to put up a collective face of what this entire field is about. IIA is not that. It is a professional body. COA is something else altogether, like you said it stands for the client.
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MANISH GULATI: COA actually now is going into a lot more agendas than just standing for the client. There are new things that are happening at COA right from the category of architectural practice, what are the new subjects, how the education is going to be looked at, there is a lot that is happening at COA, right from copyright acts. They are working on an issue of copyright right act for the architect that doesn’t exist in this country. Corbusier was able to safeguard a lot of his buildings and put that kind of pressure, even at that time because he was one of the only architects who had copyrighted every smallest detail of what he’d done. Because the law exists internationally, in India it doesn’t exist. In India, if we go for copyrighting of our drawing, they don’t copyright a detail or a project or a portfolio, they would copyright a construction sheet. Now that sheet could carry a detail with a plan or a section, but the moment you change the layout, the copyright value goes completely. You spend 500 rupees per copyright. As an architect if you have to copyright a portfolio of literally 1200 drawings, you can calculate the cost; none of the architects can afford doing that. And there is also a risk, because the moment you change the layout of the drawing you cannot do that. COA is actually fighting now with the IP industry, with the court of law, to get an entire portfolio of architects; all the details copyrighted under one umbrella. So there is a lot more happening there, but to say that to form another institution…the point I am trying to make is that there is no objectivity, only subjectivity at every level, and the Indian Government understands only objectivity.
MADHU PANDIT: The collective move, which comes from the subjective opinion of individual architects or institutions but collective which the political institution may not look at it but when it comes to court, the court may. Because if Hall of Nations came down, believe me it came down because of these quick, clever moves and finally the court had to give in. I mean nobody can, it was finally the law at that point. So what he’s saying is let’s move with the law, rather than…
MANISH GULATI: It is the Indian law. We will be more informed. Which is what I come back with the point that we need to connect more with what’s happening in the real world, with public, with the law than be exclusive of it. We would have probably saved the Hall of Nations if it were there in the textbooks, somewhere, a mention, some line, mentioning it.
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: You know like, the change over…They might say that to create a platform for opinion building, about whatever, if there are 20 buildings in your city that you are associated with and just get it released first…Collective association building. 20-20 then the collective becomes 40 sometimes, 70 sometimes. Somebody starts with something. That is one platform. The other platform is to arrive at some of these buildings have a simple register that we do all the time, any visitor comes in and you say do you like this? And say yes or no. That itself becomes a document. That look so many people have said to the liking of this building. There are technical ways of trying to build up the scenario of a case. A technical case of what this building stands for and what its value is. And there’s this popular way of saying simply whether you want it to be there or not. When that question arises, we should have a popular mandate behind us. If it isn’t there then somebody will turn around and say that you’re an exclusive lot anyways, who’s listening to you? So we have to show that we have a mandate behind us.
KUNJAN GARG: Yes, and that’s totally true because there is existing infrastructure in this country as you were saying earlier, like for example either as institutions not institutionalized concerns, but as institutions or as individuals, there are already documented micro-histories. Like AGK Menon had done an entire listing of the Delhi buildings, Rupali Gupte has done something in Mumbai called Mumbai Moderns, there is somebody I know who has done an entire study in Trivandrum, we were working on something like that in Cochin. These are the few cases I know about. There are umpteen other number of cases. I know somebody in Calcutta who has done this something work like that. Now why aren’t these people in touch with each other because the concern is similar? And how do you create this popular opinion because it is really possible to create a popular opinion. People concerned with similar concerns are the ones who are going to form the “collective”. There is a network of 400 plus colleges in so many states and so many.
MANISH GULATI: So are we saying that they stand as force against the rest of the country? Is that what you’re saying? Why are you again excluding the public every time?
KUNJAN GARG: Because it is about architecture. Who else cares about it?
MANISH GULATI: We have to make sure that people start caring about it at the school level.
KUNJAN GARG: That’s not going to happen!
MANISH GULATI: And why not?
KUNJAN GARG: It is the same thing as a cultural activity. Please try and understand the difference between architecture and a doctor.
MANISH GULATI: What is the difference?
KUNJAN GARG: Oh God!
MANISH GULATI: No seriously, as a profession.
KUNJAN GARG: As a profession yes. If the whole lot of us is taken and shifted out of this planet, people will still build. If doctors go, we will be dead.
MANISH GULATI: We have to create that position of being as important as the doctor. And you’re saying that it is not possible to do that. Why don’t we start at the textbook level? I mean that was a valid point.
MADHU PANDIT: No I have a question. When we talked about this [petition on] change.org, it starts with institutions and architects; it can go to the public too. Online it can go to public too. So let’s be inclusive.
ARUNAV DASGUPTA: People have true agendas. We are not saying this or not that. Let’s have a quick agenda which we can quickly and need not take too much time by creating a web based platform, way of outreaching, soliciting opinions and bringing in any judgments or comments or whatever and then there is this larger framework of sensitizing, awareness, further outreach of what architecture stands for, what is its importance, how do we make ourselves much more externalized than what we are today, so we can make that the game-plan.
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NIRMAL KULKARNI: I can see this as an action point. We said about change.org. That’s a huge platform. We can start mobilizing opinion and create an opinion poll from whatever you’ve listed.
PRASAD SHETTY: Can I give one small dimension? In Mumbai we listed at the first go in 1995 some 300 buildings, and then again in 1998 some 600 buildings and in 2007 some 1700 buildings. These were legislated as buildings of certain value and there was an objective way of actually determining their value, and then everything was empirically determined and it was put in place and the whole thing worked for 20 years. There was a committee that was set up which would evaluate any changes on that like DUAC, there was a committee that was set up.
In those when the 1700 buildings were listed in 2007 a large number of sites were listed as ‘precincts’, which included domestic architecture like chawls etc. And then, this is around 2005-2006, there was a huge hue-and-cry amongst people residing over there, with the developers, and then it went to the high court and the whole criteria was evaluated and the qualification of the people who were listing those buildings was evaluated, etc. The whole thing was made into a techno-legal question. The lobby, which was trying to save it, lost, and a free run was kind of given where a number of these buildings were demolished. In the last 4 years something else has happened.
This is the point I am making. In the last 4 years, the real estate market has really kind of gone down and dipped. So no new business has come to Bombay in the last 15 years. In fact businesses are leaving the city. The population of the city has decreased in the last 10 years, negative population in the case of island cities. Today you have a situation, where 3 developers have committed suicide in the last 2 years, because they can’t handle it. It is happened for the first time when developers are coming and offering you the EMIs themselves saying that you take the house from us, and we will give you the loan. This is the kind of situation. What has happened is, in specific areas, what our dream was, that these old buildings would undergo reutilization and refurbishment and repair, that has started happening. You go to the fort area you have Juhu…and people are kind of moving like they’ve always moved, but the buildings are kind of getting saved. In fact the new developers who are able to sell their flats are the only ones who are building chawl-like tenements, which are 180-300 square feet.
The point I am making is there is a dimension of economy, which is kind of playing out in the whole situation. Architecture has been responsive as being kind of flirting with the understanding of this economy. Developers are doing what they can, wherever they could. Today it appears for many cities like Ahmedabad, Delhi and Bombay specifically; the culture economy is something which appears to be the next 20 years 30 years kind of economic base. Because Delhi kind of pushed off its industries and replaced it with 25 new universities. Bombay has lost its industries, the commerce and finance sector which was supposed to be the promise, is clearly not performing. What is performing is apparels, design, textile design and media. That’s what is performing in Bombay. You have an economy where culture seems to be the kind of driving factor and for culture you need an ecosystem of built form which will support the culture and naturally then you have the ‘saving’ of these buildings.
What has happened in Delhi is this kind of in between period at this moment actually. I think if you shift the focus and see how the architectural institutions, methods, practices and processes, public interaction, education can be realigned and retuned to become sensitive and responsive to the larger economy and cultural changes of cities rather than running after one building because they come anyways. So that means we need specific reforms at educational institutions, public collective methods and practices of architects, and those can come from within the educational institutions themselves. For example, if you see the Masters programs that are conducted in India, 99% are focusing on urban design and conservation. If you see the number of students going abroad, to European and American Universities, they are learning computational and parametric systems. There seems to be a disjunction, we are not responding quickly enough to the changes of culture and economy. I think that responsiveness has to come in. It is not expected from the market because that will be doing its own thing. But we will need to do it through educational responsiveness, institutional responsiveness and that is something which we require.
MANISH GULATI: We need to have probably a lecture or class by guys from KPMG and all in the architecture colleges on financial sustainability and management.
PRASAD SHETTY: See that is already happening. I think our institutions and I am speaking of Council of Architecture only, because IIA is an association. The institutions don’t appear to be responsive. I agree completely with the idea that we need a critical theory, and its presence in education and practice, with the public and there you can bring about the emergence of the kind of ecology that we are driving at. But we need to take steps for those specific things. Running after one building or listing may not yield the desired results. Regarding courts, I have been a part for several PILs on both sides actually and if you bring it in the form of a techno-legal question, then the court throws it to the Government, and the Government based on what is written in black-and-white takes the call. So I agree that you need to shift it from being a techno-legal question to a cultural question and figure out a way in which you can build the pressure to push the Government to create the policy.
MADHU PANDIT: The toughest thing about this discussion for us is going to be, as to how to structure it. If you start from the 80s and 90s and post millennium, goal posts have changed so quickly and so fast that a practice like ours which is 30 years old, we’ve had to reinvent ourselves. Otherwise we would have just been left behind. Similarly, when we talk about exclusive architectural discussions, we don’t keep in mind the changing real time scenario outside. In the 80s - and I come from an architecture college from a modernist time - that fact that you’re an architect, the attitude was, this is my product, take it or leave it. That’s how we started our architectural practice. Now it is reverse for people. Its out there. What is selling, okay I better put my foot in and then use my education to address the issue. A lot of people even today, are still living in that bubble, that it is the same, but it is not. Things have changed.
MANISH GULATI: Actually it is reinforced the bubble by inventing 80 more awards in this country into 50 more international awards run by every hardware company and magazine. So we are actually expanding the bubble. For example, Grohe, Kohler, Greenlam… are some of the companies in India, and so we are expanding the bubble.
Editors’ Note: The discussions wove a crazy, yet coherent carpet, of weaves. From the romantic to the sedentary, from the idealistic to the realistic, all hues freely interspersed with each other to make the debate lively, vibrant and meaningful. The conversation has begun in real earnest to deal with issues in a comprehensive manner. The curated bunch of architects are people who, because of their vast experience and deep insight, are able to provide a pragmatic perspective, and are able to articulate their thinking in a seemingly theoretical framework. These perceptions fuelled by the freedom of thought and expression, afforded by the atmosphere and spurred by the inspiration of belonging to the same professional milieu and being in the same boat at the same time. So, through discussions, through argument, through confrontation and through general camaraderie, the energy sustained itself throughout the day.
It is the aim of this exercise to create over time, a substantial collection of ideas which becomes a compendium of documentation organized subject-wise. As expressed by many here, one needs to push the Government into enacting policy to conserve what is legitimate, rebuild what can be, and create new institutions to assure a culturally strong and sustainable diversity.
Session – 2.
Editors’ Note: As we bore on to the second session of the conference, clear theories and actions of collaborations started emerging. Actions which had been taken or were in formulation, actions which brought into light processes which had been put into place in other parts of India, at various stages in the development of the city. The narrative became rife with who is proactive about the city, and who is not. Various possibilities surfaced, ideas started glimmering, and the intent of this conference was beginning to be validated.
About Listing of Buildings
KUNJAN GARG: Regarding listing of buildings in Mumbai, how were you able to form a matrix for objective evaluation?
PRASAD SHETTY: It was under the umbrella of what was called Heritage Movement. It was basically started somewhere in ‘92-‘93 and it is basically happened because some old buildings were getting demolished and so architects were concerned. INTACH gets into the scene and decides to put together a list of valuable buildings and to do that they set up a kind of criteria where there are values - like architectural value, technological value, value of historic importance etc. So they identify the first list, give it to the Government and say that this building is important for this reason, and why don’t you start legislation. At that time they worked with a politician and a bureaucrat and then they got a list out which is embedded inside the Development Regulations of Mumbai. And that listing process got more and more refined and became a techno-legal document. By 2007 it is became a proper value criterion. For example, Shivaji Park in central Mumbai is a town-planning scheme, which was built in the ‘30s. It has lot of G+2 art-deco buildings. In 2005-2006, there is huge pressure to demolish some and build new high-rises over there. The heritage committee files a PIL against this. The court is asking the value for it and they try to put forth an aesthetic argument.
KUNJAN GARG: Is that an age related argument?
PRASAD SHETTY: The age in case of the heritage regulations of Mumbai is not an issue but many buildings are more than 60 years old anyways. But the argument is kind of changed and brought into the whole idea of infrastructure. If you bring down these buildings and build ad-hoc, it will have its implications on the infrastructure of the space. This scheme was designed for a certain optimum density. It had changed the way people lived in cities, because they were first kind of apartments that came to the city, so it is also changed the way in which people lived in the city. So such arguments were started and the court sent it back to the heritage committee to think about what should be done. But meanwhile what had happened was, the economy has kind of bottomed so it is pending.
Empirical Analysis of Buildings
PRASAD SHETTY: My argument is, as architects, if we stick to SPACE and FORM, how to validate SPACE and FORM and figure out ways and create an analytical framework to do that, I think that is a good enough way to build up internal theory as well as to make arguments. Otherwise, we will get into a very muddy terrain.
KUNJAN GARG: I was trying to ask about the interiority of architecture. What is it about the discipline itself, which can be quantifiable?
PRASAD SHETTY: It is possible to do that. There are many methods that courts accept. When the Mumbai high court ruled on the mill lands issue, it spoke about many values, which are otherwise not feasible within the techno-legal argument. Like the amount of air required for good living conditions. It quoted from 19th century planners. Of course when it goes to the Supreme Court it gets demolished on a techno-legal basis. In fact the Supreme Court recently brought in light and ventilation, which is again a very critical issue, and it referred back to the British parameter of 66.5 %. These can become valid arguments in the court of law. We need to figure out a way in which we can analyse space within our internal theory of schools. We need to bring in that aspect. How does one speak of space, its connection with behavioural life? Why is the Chawl important? It provides social security because the whole building works as one house. If you’re old it is the best place to be at. In the absence of state security, this open-door social system provides it adequately. We need to deliberate analytically about space.
MANISH GULATI: You can also do post occupancy analysis of buildings that have been constructed. Suppose there is a certain brief on which a building or institution is designed, I’ll take the example of NIFT Delhi designed by Doshi. At a certain point in time, there was a certain program, when NIFT started as an institute, they grew, they added more branches the building has kind of not catered to what that whole thing is, it expands, which is why in most of the cases these kind of buildings start breaking down, because the classroom is insufficient, library is insufficient for the expanding needs etc. Post occupancy analysis for every such building is an important factor which one should do. We usually deliver a building and then it is forgotten.
PRASAD SHETTY: We are developing a term called ‘transaction capacity’. It is a very useful term because what we propose is that built form has a transaction capacity. The amount of transactions it is able to afford. This is very important for streets and urbanscapes. You think of a building where you have a built form and you have a boundary wall as against buildings where the building is on the edge and it stops at the bottom. Now what we say the transaction capacity for this higher than the one which is within. It kind of allows for more diversity and also things like security and safety, which are worked out. Transactional capacity becomes an interesting basis to validate and evaluate a built form. Internally as institutions and educational endeavours we need to strengthen that theoretical dimension, how do you validate form as specific context?
On Education and Institution Building
Editors’ Note: For the profession to change, the academy has to change first. A radical thought, but very true. Often times we are so mired in our own current challenges that it is difficult to make sense of the state of affairs and a status quo seems to be the easiest way out.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: There was a point in time when educational institutions were supposed to be centres of knowledge. And today, for some reason, nobody is really producing KNOWLEDGE. That has changed, which is why we don’t have what was once a ‘school of thought’. The schools don’t even have a concept of leading a school of thought in any particular direction. We are all running on the minimum standards and the mandate of the COA. Why don’t you bring that back into place? Of course, looking at 500 institutions, how many institutions do you think would have the intellectual capacity to take that issue up? But having said that we can’t just lie down and say no, let’s not do it.
PRASAD SHETTY: I think if we think of it as a network practice of activating some nodes across the geography of the country, one person in one state, two in another, something like that, it becomes a network. One of things that we are thinking of are how do you connect to other institutions? Like today, COA defines earthquake. We have no means and methods to think of earthquake resistant architecture. It is possible to connect with institutions, which have these resources. For instance, Bamboo technology, it is impossible for every institution to have testing facilities, so there needs to be a shared network of resources.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: The form of the school then becomes more like a hub from where you can connect. It is not possible for us to equip ourselves to build our own capacity in everything so a network is the answer. We are thinking of looking at these institutions as a place where you come back to and put together you’re experience and have a shared resource.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I have a very specific proposal. This is something I’ve worked on some years ago. It started with a conversation with B V Doshi. The second thing is, there are a lot of interesting conversations happening all over the country with a lot of interesting people. It is just that those people are isolated and not connected to the system. The third thing is if you want to aim for fundamental institutional reform, change the COA Act or curriculum, it is a very long-term battle and it’ll be too long before it has effect. So one has to use a sort of guerrilla tactic to raise that. This is also something I started thinking of after going to the Kurula Varkey Forum where you see some dialogue and there are students from other colleges coming in to sit and participating in that dialogue. So what if you could just have these kinds of events which just raise the level of dialogue and students will become aware that these kinds of dialogues exist.
The proposal is you select 30 schools who are interested but should be evenly spread across the country. The proposal was called ‘Ambassadors of Excellence’. You select 100 ambassadors across the country, they may be practicing architects, and it should be possible to aim for a number bigger than that. We make a commitment with each ambassador that once every six months they will give two days to a school. So they go twice a year so including travel they’ll come for a week a year for giving for a cause. So each of these schools runs at least one annual event which attracts schools from the region of that school but bring people together. So people are exposed to that. Across the two days, maybe the first morning could be a review of student work, the afternoon could be a dialogue on education and what could be done and the event could be a sort of lecture critique. So if 3 architects come, one architect can present his work and the other two can respond to it, critique it and it could be a panel discussion.
On the second day, let’s say I have a workshop on some issue of history, heritage theory or something like that and you end with the public engagement to it, a discussion on architecture which is not just for the school constituency but is open to the public, it might be just the parents of the students. And they come twice a year to do this. Basically we need to raise the funding and organization to run a small secretariat to run this. The secretariat will look at the scheduling and logistics organization; will do things that start building a network because many architects will be interested in participating in this because they become part of a network of dialogue. So maintaining that exchange of the network will curate the events.
They’ll do post event analysis of connecting the dots what were the lessons, how to take it forward and will also organize stand-alone events which are exhibitions or symposiums, some which might be internally reflective for the profession, some like an exhibition which is more of a public event like the State of Housing exhibition which is opening day after tomorrow in Mumbai which aims at the public and not just for architects. Eventually perhaps aim at publication also. But the goal is if you say what is the right theory or right criteria for listing something, I think it is going in the wrong direction. We are on a problematic ground and we are creating a new elitism We have the basis to make…So what we are just trying to do is construct a space that I will work towards sheltering because the word is important in today’s day and age because of a specific kind of discussion…and because it is network based and its impact will be larger than just us sitting here in a closed room.
KUNJAN GARG: Absolutely. So, what INTACH has done for conservation, another kind of an NGO needs to do for architecture.
Critique of Architecture
KUNJAN GARG: There should be a critique to bring out the morality of good practices and call it out in public. If there is a bad practice somewhere then it should be called out too. I don’t mean to advocate activism. This collective is a judge for that. Even if does come down to judging but if the judgment involved, if it comes from a collective of these concerned individuals, institutions, ambassadors, and thereby percolates into the larger professional and academic group, the it has a basis. It is not an individual thing of like or dislike.
MANISH GULATI: Again when you say critiquing, it turns into a personal ego ground for a lot people. A lot of people are not secure about their practice even if they are old time practices, which are literally 50-60 years old in Delhi, where the critiquing is not really understood, it is taken as a criticism. It is a closed bubble, which most practices are living in. But many of those things ideally should happen at the academic level.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: There perhaps might be need to provide some guideline on which the discussion needs to be but having said that we can’t avoid this problem. I think we will have to manage it and persist through it because what we are trying to build is a culture of tolerance.
KUNJAN GARG: The whole thing started by saying that how could you develop a voice that makes a difference to the public opinion, like the issue of the Hall of Nations, how does it come out into the public? Because when it remains within architectural institutions, it remains within a closed loop.
MANISH GULATI: I am all for critiquing of a design or project, perhaps that needs to be done by the public and not by the architect. Rather than three ambassadors, I do understand that architects would have a better understanding of the building and critiquing it but from a public point of view; it’ll be just a mass.
KUNJAN GARG: We began with saying that the only way you can validate a building as good architecture is by validating space and form. How do you expect the public to do it and to translate the public’s reaction into spatial and formal issues?
MANISH GULATI: I’ll give you an example, let’s take IIM Bangalore for instance, you get the Dean to critique the building, the bureaucrat in charge of the project to critique the building, they have used the building, been a part of that. That’s what I am talking about. The critique should happen in realistic terms and not on theoretical terms. My only request is to engage the public as much as possible, in as many areas and avenues, get non-architects to be a part of it. That’s the main agenda. We cannot close ourselves in a bubble every time.
KUNJAN GARG: Yes but then the critique has to translate into formal issues.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: Architect is an academic too. They should continuously write about public buildings every week. They should be called and questioned. We probably won’t get it right initially. This is just something we need to persist. I don’t think we will have all the answers so we will need to test the waters. We have the base; we have the people to have interesting dialogues. We have a few institutions that would be willing to host it, so let’s just get the two together and spread the word.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: I don’t think we need to be afraid of this. It’ll have to grow and become more sophisticated in its ways of doing things. I don’t think we can escape this.
Independent Architectural Forums
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Biju is talking about some interesting forums, so can you just tell us something about it? Can you begin with what is the Chennai Architecture Foundation (CAF)?
BIJU KURIAKOSE: The Chennai Architecture Foundation was started about 10 years back primarily because there was no meaningful content-based discussion happening, so it just started as a series of talks. So the 6 who started it are Edifice, KSM, MOAD, Threshold Architects, Varsha and Pradeep Architects and ArchitectureRed i.e. us. It picked up steam and then we were funding it ourselves. It picked up because the internship became one year, a lot of students came out and didn’t have any direction, and so we started first with the interns in our office. We created an internship module; so every month there is one module. We invited not just architects but different kind of people talking about creative and related fields, not necessarily directly about architecture. Then we opened up to any interns who could come in. These were 50-60 students who come once a month, creating a lot of discussion and that is how it kind of started.
This year we reached out to a lot of schools and told them you’re not really creating any impact and to the larger public. So we said we would like to host an exhibition of students work. We will host it in Lalit Kala, but no curating, just come and pin up, we will give you the space, we just want to see how it is for first 3-4 years and then we will start curating. And only some 8 schools responded because the others were scared that they’d be judged though we’d made it very clear that there’s no judgment. Eventually 11 schools across Tamil Nadu participated. It was conducted over 3 days. Every day each college gets one hour to talk about their work, where the students or faculty can talk, it is called “College in Focus”, where other faculty and students from other schools come and they started engaging with each other on how they are teaching each other. There was a lot of discussion generated through this. At the end of the day, we had a thing, which was primarily focused on students, if I were to learn architecture myself, how would I learn it? So we had 4 students one teacher and one professional on the panel. We focused more on the students. On the second day, it was if I had to teach architecture, how do I teach you? So there were 4 faculty, one student and one professional. And the last day was Innovations in Institutions where we got Surya and Vijay to come and talk on institutions and how these are generally institutions where there is meaningful discussion happening. And the idea was to expose them to the other institutions. And these institutions that participated were really young because they knew that they really needed to generate content for meaningful discussion to sustain. And they started a lot of interaction. And the wonderful part is that we reached out to FM to media and there were lot of school kids who were just coming in, general public walking in, trying to understand. There was an 80-year-old guy who walked in and said he wanted to be an architect but his father didn’t allow at the time, now he got the chance to see. It was just wonderful.
So, unless we bring ourselves out to the lifestyles of the people, and that’s what happened with the Hall of Nations. Eventually it was an object, which was not connected with you and me. This world that we are living in is very impatient. You can’t expect the world to survive by itself. It won’t survive because these are objects. The reason why the fort area in Mumbai is protected is, because there is culture and life around it. Unless we reach out and engage with the people, ownership will not happen. So, if someone wants to demolish it, someone should challenge it. That only people can do, you and I can’t do.
MANISH GULATI: If everybody is connected somehow with that object or building in some story that guy is going to stand against. Nobody stood for the Hall of Nations because nobody could connect with it.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Hall of Nations was very disconnected. We are living in a world where everything is governed by economics. Culture is pushed on the side; we are ourselves getting away from it. That is where our challenge is. In some ways it is measurable about what we need to do. You can’t measure Culture per se. We are convinced with the CAF events; we realized there’s a lot more we can do by reaching out to the people. It was interesting that The Hindu called and said they want to cover it. The FM Radio guys are doing a series of interviews with architects, because they got a lot of positive reviews from the general public.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So has the forum grown from these 6 core architecture firms, and have other firms connected now?
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Yes. It was just about giving a structure to it. Lot of other firms are tied to it. Obviously there is a resistance to it from the traditional IIA core, they feel it is a challenge, our view is, if it motivates them to do something, it is quite brilliant.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: But it seems to be a pretty good model.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Abin Chaudhuri is trying to do this in Calcutta now and it is called KAF.
KUNJAN GARG: Actually 2-3 years ago, we had proposed a program to the IIA, because that’s where the fund is, we had done a bit of research and proposed a program which was called the ‘Living Monsoon’ which was an identification of regions which was based on the climatic map. It identifies Kerala not with the rest of India, but with Sri Lanka, some parts of the Sundarbans, Malaysia, Indonesia, some parts of Africa, South America, because there is an entire belt of similar climate, vegetation, soil, etc. Then we had done an entire series of talks, workshops and travel shows, where students were taken, and now there is an entire group of colleges which have started to transform their academic exercises due to these inspirations. The program studied where the students are getting the case studies from, what kind of references are they developing, what is the kind Public Space they should look at, what issues are specific to these cities, flooding, etc. But we shouldn’t have done this with IIA because eventually we had an issue of curatorship.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: Right now the Karnataka chapter, I am on the committee and there’s a decent bunch of people, we are able to a kind of NatCon, not in a typical format, but that is not consistent across the country.
Connecting with the Younger Generation
BIJU KURIAKOSE: IIA is not connecting with the younger generation because they don’t find relevant content. I can’t go to an event where the speaker speaks for 30 minutes and the rest goes on for 4 hours. You don’t connect with the younger crowd anymore.
MANISH GULATI: You know interestingly with the coding and parametric one is able to start connecting with the younger generation much more now because since they’re already into coding and C++ and going into IT, if you start speaking architectural parametric, they straight away connect with it and want to start making Google sketch up models. Our connection is only through Instagram and Facebook and it is mainly students and young graduates.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So over here let me see if we can connect two things. One is where you have a forum like this going, wherein you have the connectivity and through media you’re kind of proliferating that kind of a culture throughout Chennai and maybe two years down the line it’ll be better than what it is today. On the other hand we have Prasad, who was instrumental in seeing that certain buildings get listed. If can we merge the two, we can see that a forum like this is capable of doing that. This kind of forum will definitely give you the people connect, the student connect, the profession connect. We will have to bring in some kind of specificity and that specificity I could see in Mumbai where they’ve listed 1700 buildings under the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee.
PRASAD SHETTY: It gives you an edge to kind of work through your legalities.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Correct. So ultimately we will have to go to that legal point because only the forum won’t help. So these are 2 things in the conversation that I could figure out which is if we can merge these two things and they can come together, this forum idea can come to Mumbai. Perhaps architecture schools may have to take the lead in Maharashtra to form this kind of a forum?
PRASAD SHETTY: The openness of this forum, which Biju is describing, is very different.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Every year Kohler gives CAF as a patron 10 lakhs to cover for our expenses. And that’s what we need right now. They take care of it. No advertisements, no incentives, nothing. And they said after 2 years we will stop this, you may have to find some other patron because they are not really getting any value out of it but that’s all you need right now.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Is there an organization through which they’re paying?
Biju Kuriakose Yes we have a trust. We have Chennai Architectural Trust.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So that means there has to be an organization that needs to be created which is capable of doing this and CSR funding only go to organizations that have 80G. So you must be having that. That’s one of the basic requirements. Now connecting the 3 ideas with the kind of framework that Prem has put across, and seeing what are the values in that which are perhaps missing in your model, and similar kinds of things. If we can kind of experiment and see what works and what doesn’t, and also what may work in a particular place, may work in one place and not in another because of a specific social structure.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: I would say every city should one of this, very local interventions. Like what…is doing in…
NIRMAL KULKARNI: But it has to connect to the larger network of Tamil Nadu as a state also.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Yes, starting with the city and then move to the State.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: All these 3 things are wonderful things but should we begin this in our region. And at some point maybe we can have the Chennai Architecture Foundation coming to Delhi for a forum talk about what they are doing and getting people inspired to do a similar kind of an experiment in Delhi, NCR. Ultimately it’ll have to be spread in that kind of a way. And then perhaps there may have to be an organization that networks these organizations also.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: I just want to add one thing. We also need to understand that it is very important to tie it to a very small scale at the local level in the sense that the discussion much larger. It is like classic globalization. Then the discussion generates better content and becomes more interesting when it connects at the local level.
SABAREESH SURESH: If you look at CAF they organized this thing in Besant Nagar. After a point in time it became a meeting ground for all students of 4th 5th year students of Chennai. So people used to come.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Sadanand place is a wonderful space in Besant Nagar. It gives us a space for free because we have no money.
KUNJAN GARG: It used to be a sort of performance space with a roof and the roof flew away so now it is like an open-air auditorium.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: We have wonderful support. In Chennai you have access to Mani Ratnam. These people come and give talks to a smaller crowd. It is not a very fan thing. Its not advertised much. Get people to come through Facebook. But I think when you keep it at that level it becomes more meaningful. That’s the challenge.
MANISH GULATI: You don’t need all that. That’s the thing. Most of the fanfare is already being done by a lot of corporate companies with their awards and perks. These can be simpler. Idea is that you have a content-based talk series rather than a name based one.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: We should have someone who documents these things and archives the material.
VOICE 4: Like come out with a publication.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Exactly. He’s very right when he says that there has to be a certain secretariat, which does all this because till that particular element is there, we will not be able to tie it together.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: If there are 30 institutions that come together then it won’t be a problem.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: The secretariat and funding of that is important because we used to have an organization in Banglore. It was actually a bunch of us that used to get together to discuss share slides of travel and all that. And then we said let’s do something for education. The official name was Bangalore Architects Society for Education and once we gave it a description we became enormously successful. In fact many of the young practices in Bangalore are successful today because of the workshops, saying they made a lot of difference in their lives. Eventually success became the problem because we didn’t look at professional life. And when it sustains on volunteer effort that runs into a problem people feel that doing over falls apart. So it is necessary to professionalize it to a certain point. It’ll do very well for the first two three years, after that it runs very dry.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: So our aim is also to open up like a boutique store. Have a little library there and then have mentors, like each one of us goes there and spend one hour and the kids keep coming back. Architects who want to mentor students can go dedicate one or two hours a week.
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NIRMAL KULKARNI: We also have a foundation, I am also running it but the problem is the funding. We call it Investigating Design, in short known as INDES. We have certain agendas. One of the principle visions of the organization is we want to get everyone design-abled, and by everyone we mean people at the bottom of the pyramid because in terms of numbers that is where everything lies. One of the programs which we engaged was we would go to the municipal schools or schools in the informal sector.
We would take architecture students as volunteers to engage with 20-25 students per workshop and come up with design exercises for them and introduce design thinking actually. The main themes in this whole thing were their awareness and engagement with their city. So it used to start with simple things like what they see on their way from home to school. Then there are these elements on the street so they become aware and put in their maps. What we realized is with these kinds of things is there are a wonderful things which occurred.
One is students of architecture learn how to engage with this part of society (and I am telling you anybody who has worked with us on this, they love it!). They want to engage with those children and work with them. The children come up with excellent results like wonderful master plans of cities. And then we would give fruties, which becomes a building in their plans. And we ran this whole thing from idea, inception, to sketches, to painted things, coloured things, to 3-D models and that’s how the workshop typically ran. What happened was now we have 15-20 workshops that we’ve done. Every workshop was done on a similar theme but it turned out to be different because of various other design inputs. Now we want to document this. Ultimately we want to see, if there is some kind of, (it is a bad word) but I’d call it curriculum and take it to NCERT or some other organisation. So two things are going to happen here right now, there is no designing happening in schools. Design is different from art and craft. Right now its only art and craft specific.
If it becomes design thinking and design oriented, it goes up to a different level. Once that happens, there has to be some specific methodology for these workshops where we can elicit it. Number two is if we have to really let everybody get the impact of this whole kind of education, then we have to see that we do this feature thing, because this featured thing can proliferate to a much larger audience. Now the problem is I don’t have a secretariat because they we don’t have the money for it. I don’t have anyone to do the documentation. So it is just lying there. Funding is very important so I am trying to see if I can get funding from other sources.
KUNJAN GARG: I think what happens in their case is that since there are 6 architecture firms involved with these patrons; they have some amount of stake involved.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: You can generate that money. All you need is maximum 7-10 lakhs to run some workshops in a year. And that’s if you think local. If you think national then it becomes 2-3 crores.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: One of things we discussed is why our cities don’t have a tourist bus to do architecture tours. If Delhi Had a tourist bus tour, showing them the Hall of Nations, it wouldn’t have been demolished so easily. We need to create those kinds of values. That can’t come from within a discussion between architects.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Basically a building doesn’t create value on its own.
KUNJAN GARG: All said and done it was never a public building to that extent. Well it is not a public space.
MANISH GULATI: Behind close boundary walls…
BIJU KURIAKOSE: But that’s the difficulty. As we progress more and more, we are within compound walls. Fort area in Mumbai is surviving because it is open. Most of our good buildings are within compound walls.
KUNJAN GARG: There are several buildings, which are trying to do public spaces within the compound walls.
MANISH GULATI: That’s a very valid point you brought in. Doshi was fighting for CEPT never to become a part of the boundary wall thing and be open. This was a point, which Jaimini Mehta had pointed out once. The CEPT problem is happening because there is a certain cultural habit of the city that when it was an open campus, people used to go jog or walk used to cross over, have their morning tea from the canteen and walk out. So there was a lot of public engagement in CEPT at one point in time. The whole problem started when the boundary wall was built in the new master plan. The moment that happened, the public engagement stopped and everything went berserk after that. Then nobody cared about what was happening in CEPT.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Objects can come in and they can be beautiful but there’s no relationship to anything and there’s no meaning because one loses the people connect.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So we need to start these kinds of foundations all over the place, but how are we going to go about doing it?
RAVINDRA PUNDE: You’ll have to let it emerge.
KUNJAN GARG: You can’t force it.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Because if you begin to push it then it’ll become an agenda like the IIA.
KUNJAN GARG: There has to be a like-mindedness, there has to be camaraderie otherwise it doesn’t work.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So let us try to see if we can build up something like this.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: You identify 3-4 practices or institutions.
MANISH GULATI: It also has to be very context specific, the agendas of every foundation. In Chennai, maybe the context, people awareness and knowledge is very different. What you started with when you said architecture students going to government schools, I think that needs to be extended to RWAs. Pick up public issues, creating something like Architects for Delhi and pick up these projects. These could be small and simple, college level projects of improving a public park, where you actually engage people from that public area and build something at grass root level. Don’t intellectualize them. We will have to get our hands dirty. Calcutta, Chennai, Mumbai are all very different. The level of education there is very high. You talk to any south Delhi person, go down to Malviya Nagar and speak to them about architecture; they have no clue of what architecture is. So we can’t intellectualize this level. We have to solve the problems of the city. I am for it.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: I think Ashok Lall did something like that in Khirki region, but I don’t know what the level of success was.
MANISH GULATI: No we did it. Our office is in Kalkaji. For a long time it was this engagement problem of his architects office, who comes and who goes. Then we started engaging people them and problem solving of the public park. What is your issue? We have a road network problem, drainage problem, footpath, pavements, and seating problems. So using our services you sort out these problems. From the RWA funds were going in the right direction. Suddenly we started garnering support from RWAs saying that this is a firm that’s doing something sensitive. And then we became friends.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Look at collaborators. We collaborate with Kairath, which is doing greening of the city, and they’re a lot of NGOs in Chennai. We actually collaborate with…which look at parks and creating shades. So we are helping them document their stuff because they don’t have the capability. We are actually mapping cities for them.
VIJAYKUMAR SENGOTTUVELAN, Director, C.A.R.E School of Architecture: In the smaller cities it is a lot easier. When it becomes a centre, then we look at local problems. Then the IIA Trichi centre has a talk with people and we go to them. We’ve recently taken up the Revitalization of a 1000-year-old canal, which passes through the city. We’ve got all permissions and are working with the people. So I think the smaller cities it is a lot easier because there you have institutions that are also interested. Between the institutions and us, we’ve taken them up as final year Urban Design problem. We deal only with the issues of this city. In Trichi we have about 6 institutions. So I think we can work together. I think in smaller towns its better and the IIA centres, they are much more concerned about local issues.
KUNJAN GARG: Yes. Because it is a very similar situation to content generation that you said. Smaller colleges have a hunger for content generation. It is the same thing about these IIAs. The smaller centres are a lot more serious about work, about getting people together.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: You go to Calicut IIA, they are all young people. It is excellent and they’re doing wonderful things. Most of them are in their 30s. They’re maximum 40 years. Tony is probably the oldest of the lot.
MANISH GULATI: [ ... ]
BIJU KURIAKOSE: But imagine if each one of us keep local and try to generate this kind of information, the kind of documents that will be generated will be good.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Should we review what we’ve done till now? Because it is already 3 o clock and we have time till 5, to see what we are going to talk to the students about.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: But do you think all this connects to the students?
MANISH GULATI: We are trying to simplify our language.
KUNJAN GARG: Not simplify our language but in a way actually that’s the reason why I got into this conversation about what kind of objectives can be told to the students, in public.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: You can’t put into so many issues into their head.
KUNJAN GARG: Exactly. Especially in a crowd that we don’t even know personally.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: There are 3 constituencies that we need to address. The first is the general public and that’s where we got to promote a dialogue on issue of heritage, culture and relevance and values of architecture, and look up for means of doing that. The second is, amongst the practicing fraternity, we need to build the critical and analytical infrastructure. The third is the young, which also includes education. One of the dialogues is on education and educational reforms, because that’s a long-term goal. But a short-term goal of raising the dialogue, that’s what you’re talking about.
There are specific areas where we need to deal with the young. The first is, tension which all of them have. I actually did this with a very young guy in a workshop. He was from the 9th standard in a residential school. They feel this tussle from two directions. One is saying be creative be yourself based on the creative side. The other is saying be realistic, because there’s a real world out there. There’s a tension between the two. So they think it is either or which one. There is no one offering them, even some of the so-called good schools, which are offering them means to guide their way through the structure.
MANISH GULATI: True. To keep that balance.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: The second is her question of planning. There’s no infrastructure for that. And the third is, we need to address the elephant in the room. Most colleges are 55% women, probably more than that. So there is a gender issue there. There are 3 aspects to that. One is as a practice in Bangalore we find that in colleges here when we visit them there are 55% women because the applications that we get are only 25%. So there seems to be some kind of social system that filters them out. And I don’t know. The second thing is some kind of discrimination in glass-ceiling issues. The other is even when rising to the top level of a firm. There’s a very good article written by a young architect from Bangalore who has a partner who is a male and everyone seems to think we need a male for taking important decisions.
The third issue, which is very real, which no one addresses, is the issue of harassment in the firms. There was a case where there was a thing going around in WhatsApp or Facebook that someone, a young female intern with an established architect with threats of what he would do to her if she didn’t give in, really vehement threats. She quit and couldn’t deal with it. This was a post not by her but by her male friend. He was really upset about it. He even named the architect. Now I didn’t want to get into trial by WhatsApp, which is also a problem at the other extreme. I am asking around people who knew him better that this is a really sorry story. And I felt that if I as a senior in the profession I stayed silent, it was wrong. So I sent out feelers that if you want backing from seniors from the profession on the issue but that is nothing that can be done unless a formal complaint is registered. Social media tries it. Unfortunately nothing materialized on that. Even that guy who had posted the issue left for Delhi. In fact when this Harvey Weinstein story broke, I was talking with my wife who’s a landscape architect and I said we don’t seem to hear these kinds of stories from architecture firms. I said might be architecture firms tend to be smaller where everybody knows everybody so it is not so easy to know. It is easier to know in larger practices. Then the story broke and came; it is just as prevalent in architecture as it is anywhere else. So I think the issue of gender is also something that needs to come up in discussion. I think it is a very real issue among students.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: But are they having that kind of issues in colleges?
KUNJAN GARG: I am sorry but I sound politically incorrect here. It is just the high number of girl students in architectural colleges. In my understanding it also has to do with the sudden boom in the number of institutions that have happened in the last 10 years. They have skyrocketed. And it is given this kind of avenue to kids who didn’t maybe want to do engineering and didn’t know where to go. I am good at drawing and this looks like a soft course and you know interiors designing etc.
MANISH GULATI: To tell you the bitter truth, the parents think it is a vocational course. It is not a serious profession.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: And in South it is considered good for marriage.
KUNJAN GARG: It is a pathetic state of affairs. Amongst the 50% of the girl students, half of them are not even interested, they are not even registering.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I spent two years as a Director of a design school in Bangalore and I realized this from interacting with the parents that a lot of them find this as a nice balance. When their daughters have career aspirations but the parents want them to get married, so this is seen as a safe soft degree. You can do this you can bring up kids but also do projects.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: And easily doable, because the mandate of the colleges nowadays is that you pass everyone.
MANISH GULATI: We dealt with this issue in Sushant where there are colleges charging 5 lakhs rupees a year and parents coming and saying that it is your job to make him an architect, I am paying you for it for making 25 lakhs rupees for 5 years. It is your job. And half of the students don’t even want to be architects. One wanted to be a photographer. He’s a major developers’ son in Delhi. His father wanted him to become an architect because the family business has to be run. We were fighting the system of Sushant School. These people are not interested. You can’t push them to become architects.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: We face the same thing in office studios.
KUNJAN GARG: If you want to speak to architects this evening this is something we can discuss. We can, if they can find a direction within this. All said and done architecture is a mother of force for a lot of things and if they can find a direction from within this, it would be great.
MANISH GULATI: CEPT had less than 50% people actually practicing architecture.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: I don’t think you need to become an architect once you come out of an architecture school.
MANISH GULATI: But they don’t even want to complete because 5 years is a gruesome process for them. One guy from my office has moved onto photography. They don’t want to be architects.
MANISH GULATI: Because Prem by the end of it, we are an isolated entity again; from students also, they don’t know what happens in the practice. I think we love isolation, we love our bubbles. I am trying to break these bubbles for a long time between various categories, for students, public, architects. We don’t critique architects. Now the CEPT issue is there. Nobody has actually spoken up against [the architect] because half of them are friends. Not on a larger forum.
SABAREESH SURESH: Nobody was actually there during the presentation.
MANISH GULATI: That website was set up when we were working, but on a larger perspective people are still not.
SABAREESH SURESH: It doesn’t come out during that presentation.
VOICE 4: Why isn’t it being talked about in the student forums? These kinds of things have to come out.
SABAREESH SURESH: They’ve killed the entire CEPT ideology, which used to be there. It is not the same case today.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: I think the perception is that that is CEPTs’ problem. This is also another thing, that as India, again it becomes only a regions’ problem. Not for the entire country.
MANISH GULATI: I have nothing personal against the guy but there is still some critiquing that should happen.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So today then from this particular discussion, what is the continuity or are we going back to our local things and trying to interact or rather activate? It is for the continuity for this kind of a conversation to carry on and all of us would be interested in knowing what is happening. We need to also create a kind of platform where things can get posted.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: I suggest you anchor this. Somebody had to anchor this whole progress beyond this meet.
MANISH GULATI: Let people post their issues and architects speak up and come out with a solution for it.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: One particular thing here is, how do we protect our buildings, our built form, and our spaces?
MANISH GULATI: This is an evolutionary process. When you kick-start something like this, you won’t need to stand for its protection. You actually need to activate people to do it for you. Architects can’t do it.
Editors’ Note: Narratives are being constructed out of actions taken by people. It is much like how history is constructed. Several seemingly unconnected pieces suddenly fall in place once information starts flowing from different sources previously unconnected. The dialogue gets a richer meaning and suddenly the impact of what actually transpired in a given event becomes clear. Myths become histories, rumours become realities and the veil of mist lifts to reveal the truth. It is fascinating, really!
MANISH GULATI: Would you like to discuss the War Museum? Because there are a lot of myths floating around about what exactly happened.
[… … ]
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Yes. There appeared to be an issue of complaints against the first prize winners. The controversy engulfed everyone from the client to the jurors to the participants etc. Then they came to the issue of trees. Somewhere in the presentation they said we would be cutting 30 trees. So then they the decision turned into a tree match. So, let me tell you the background, I had also sent in an entry from our office, in that initial selection process. So we had kind of done the study, I had gone to the field, and so we developed those maps based on Google earth, going on site and putting that whole thing together. But in my opinion it was not a match about saving trees. If there were 30 trees and then 31, then you don’t lose the game. So it was this issue about trees. Then it went to DUAC, asking almost a leading question to say, does this fit the environment? DUAC is a five-member thing. However if you go through the minutes of the meeting, which is in the public domain, they say that what was taken to them were a model and a perspective, some very elementary drawings. The normal procedure is something else, when you present. The entire proposal is supposed to be put up by NDMC, in this case. They said that you need to go to through the heritage committee first. Long and short of the story is that due to self-induced controversies the project is stalled.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Ok, now what about Amravati?
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Amravati has been taken by Bahubali!
MANISH GULATI: That was an urban scenograph. It was a different story, because there it was about deliverance …
RAVINDRA PUNDE: In Amravati, There was a completely different thing operating. Here is a jury that sits for one full day with one presentation, we sat there for three days and I was in that Maki presentation.
MANISH GULATI: And those presentations were long. I’ve seen all those presentations.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: But the judgment on Facebook was made in 3 minutes because that was the length of the video. And people make a judgment and professionals too. I think it is also a reflection of us as architects.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: I do a lot of competitions. The amount of energy one puts through mentally and physically is tremendous. I won a competition in this National Law School for the new auditorium. We went to stage two, and we were told by the jury that we won and we were asked to present it to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who was retired. I presented it to him and he raised a question, which should have been asked much earlier. And this is after going through one and a half years of the process!
MANISH GULATI: My question is not that. All competitions I respect the jury, when it comes down to the brief given and you start working on it, you have one or two months. Something like this now, about the museum. You’re sitting at the India Gate precinct, maximum trees are 60 to 80 years old, how can a competition brief not have a site plan, which is a survey plan with all the trees and everything out there!
RAVI: It is a survey plan, which doesn’t give you the girth of the trees.
MANISH GULATI: Which is very important. I did Rajaswa Bhawan competition some six years ago, which is in the same area. That building has not come up. We got a site plan with each and every tree and girth marked out as a survey plan. This project I believe is a 1500 crore-rupee project? The war Museum? It is a huge project. That’s the real story where the War starts. The point is that such an important project, protocols on the brief, site plan is not questioned by the architects. We just take it as it comes to us.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I have another story. Ambedkar University has floated a competition. Someone sent us a notice. It sounded interesting so we thought let’s take part. I looked at the eligibility and it said, one project 600 crores or two projects of 300 crores. So I said we are not qualified to take part. And I am now being invited to be the jury, (people laughing) and I am going to say this when I go there.
MANISH GULATI: Coming back to architecture or any other profession, when you get a competition brief, you can’t just take it as it is. You have to question it.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: See when a competition is being evolved, there are two primary motives: one was to give an architect a free reign without the politics of negotiating with the client and develop a standalone idea, to really push for cutting edge design and the second was to give young firms an opportunity to do big projects. Typically a lot of international competitions and even some of the early Indian ones said, they didn’t have. They said that if the firm wins and shows they don’t have the capacity to implement the project, they will be asked to associate with another firm and share the fee with it. They will have control over the design though because it is theirs. So that was the intention. Because that was the intention, therefore care was taken to choose a sensitive jury that could understand what was really of value.
I am not saying a perfect jury was chosen but that was the intention. Now competitions are done just as a means of selection so no one can question that I gave it to my friend who is an architect. And the only thing is that there has to be a public advertisement. There are certain processes but nothing is mentioned about the demand for a jury. In fact a lot of the institutional design competitions, you will not even get an architect on the jury. But like there’s a competition we won it. There were two architects on the jury. One was a full-time faculty who had never practiced and the other was the retired head of the Nuclear Power Commission. These were the two architects. I don’t think they were in a position to judge an institutional campus. The rest were the members from the board and some faculty. And the main question they ask is which your iconic building is. We want an iconic building.
MANISH GULATI: My only point is that as Indian architects a lot of times we get so overwhelmed by taking part in a competition or the jury that we tend to stop questioning the overall thing. I mean there is a lot of effort that goes into working on a competition and you’re right, it takes a lot of energy out. But when you know something is not complete in information, on the brief or jury side, you have the time to sort of question that.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Let me sort of clarify that. Prem I don’t know whether you’ve read the brief or not, this museum as well as the memorial which is now being built at the India gate were both open competitions. In fact for the War Memorial there were a bunch of 5 to 6 young guys from Chennai who won the first and second prize.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Second and third. First and third is by the same firm. Second is from Chennai.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: This was the first occasion in many years that I’d seen this. Number two; it was basically to conceptualize an idea. DUAC comes up and says that this project is useless because there were minor problems. But that’s something that can be changed. The competition entry is not the finality of things.
MANISH GULATI: That’s where the problem is. If you’re making a building of that scale and size.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Boss, you forget anything. That museum didn’t have a programme. What are you talking?
MANISH GULATI: That’s what needs to be questioned at the right stage and time. When you’re doing a project this large, it can’t just be taken as an idea.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: That may be a way of putting it.
MANISH GULATI: You can’t present a design as an idea and say tomorrow I’ll change it and make it better, after I win it.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: You know Hall of Nations was precisely that. The kind of design which was presented at the time of the competition was very different from what was built. Mr. Raj Rewal told me when I interviewed him. Stein was on the jury and he had commented that this design couldn’t be built.
MANISH GULATI: Times were different. People didn’t question then.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: The architecture doesn’t contain the museum the architecture is the museum. And if there had been a specified brief done by a Museum director, that museum would never have been designed.
MANISH GULATI: No no. You’re getting me wrong. All I am trying to say is that the building needs to be more realistically designed even in a competition. I am going to the extent of saying, the jury once it decides, should put out to the public forum for the second decision to be taken. Put it up for 30 days. Let there be a certain kind of public opinion. The building is standing there for the next 100 years. It is a large public project. A group of 5 people cannot decide that this is to way it has to come up just based on an idea. You know the problems. I know what you’re saying that when Sydney Opera House came up, because it was selected on a sketch, literally on a sketch. But is that the right way, is what my question is. I think there are a lot of firms that are doing realistic but creative work.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Why do you believe that it can’t be a realistic but creative kind of project? How do you describe that idea?
MANISH GULATI: In most of the cases, the design changes and becomes more realistic.
KUNJAN GARG: That happens with all projects. Projects evolve. They have a life of their own.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: You’re mixing issues here. All projects are different.
KUNJAN GARG: No. But evolution of a project…
MANISH GULATI: But changing of an idea is different.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I’ve been to a competition jury once, the jury said this design deserves to win, it is a deserving design, much better than the rest, and however there is this specific problem which the winner must address after the project is awarded.
KUNJAN GARG: That’s what he was saying. A minor issue of the bridge or whatever.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Firstly the brief doesn’t provide you information and then there is an argument about the precision of the tree. How can you do that? It is not a part of the brief right?
MANISH GULATI: We’ve done that in a public competition project. We didn’t get the site plan. Before the competition we sent our surveyor to get the site plan with trees because we knew that there were a lot of trees on the site. As an architectural firm, before you enter a competition. You did that too.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: We did. We didn’t have technical team to do it.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: The larger question over here is can the Jury’s decision be questioned?
RAVINDRA PUNDE: The jury’s decision can be questioned number one, and if it needs to be questioned, is this back-door approach acceptable or not.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: That back-door approach is clearly wrong. I don’t think anybody here is supporting that. My only question was, COA has a certain set of rules under which architectural competitions can be held and for some reason the Government institutions don’t respect that. Fees are a separate part but even the way the competitions are to be conducted. Is there a way in which this can be addressed since this is also an issue?
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: In the COA when you dedicate yourself to protecting the title of architect or the service of an architect, without a critical dialogue on the value of an architect then that protection degenerates into a mere protectionism or cartelization.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: I am not able to understand what you’re saying.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: You see a lot of people getting upset seeing someone practice in a private limited company etc. but, are the reputed architects threatened by it? They’re not. They don’t bother. You actually find the most mediocre architects getting the most worked up about this. So, because the reputed architects are secure in their critical view of architecture, they don’t bother about these kinds of things.
So if the protection of architect can go together with this critical investigation of architecture, then it has some value, but if it is just protection of the title of architect without this, then its mere protectionism, and nothing more. It is creating a cartel. So they’re saying you have to have a majority of architects on the jury. But they’re not saying why. And if the Council is asked to run a competition can you trust the quality of the architects on the jury?
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Now can we as groups evolve a framework for that and take it to the Council, saying that you’re conditions don’t meet these conditions and that these here are much better for conducting competitions. Can we do that? Because we are again criticizing the terms of the Council and I don’t think any of the presidents or members of the Council have given even a shred of a moment’s thought to those terms, which is why these things are happening. But if we within ourselves feel that we have a better knowledge of this whole thing and how this thing can work better, the profession at large, can we draw a set of terms which is more relevant in today’s times and let us take that as a mandate to CoA.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I think we need to create a dialogue about it. And it might go to council but the main event should be public.
MANISH GULATI: It should be a public dialogue.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: It should be a public dialogue and also between the professionals. If I say as an activist that all architectural competitions have to come under these terms of the CoA otherwise the competition is redundant and unacceptable. Can we say something like that?
KUNJAN GARG: Yes. If it were an invited participant they would still go ahead and do it.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: People require an architect. So there is a legal sanction to an architect’s sign on the drawing.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Would they actually sign the municipal drawings?
BIJU KURIAKOSE: In Chennai you don’t need to be an architect.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So that means then there’s something very very critically wrong with us man.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: It is not.
KUNJAN GARG: Also Nirmal see if I have like an acre of land and pots of money and I want to invite architects in a closed competition, and they do.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: I am talking about public projects.
KUNJAN GARG: Ok. Then.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: I am not talking about individual houses or even corporate buildings. I am talking about public projects because public money is to be treated with some kind of respect.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: There’s nothing called public anymore. It is all public-private partnership. That’s one way of killing public access to information. At 26% stake of the government you cannot question. Now it becomes a private entity.
KUNJAN GARG: That’s true.
MANISH GULATI: It becomes the developers’ prerogative. And the developers protected on the grounds of financial closure which are clearly made for the profit that comes in. It is a BOT project by the end of the day then. There is nothing public about it anymore. The part that is given to the public is social housing done on PPP mode. In that social housing they say this much component for relocation of slum dwellers you have to do. A developer puts up one small tower in some corner, which is probably 5% of the entire area brief, and the rest of the area is cordoned off and sold off as high-end apartments.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: That’s what is happening in Mumbai also.
MANISH GULATI: That’s PPP. It is a government plan developed by a private developer.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Coming back to our system of competitions. Let’s say we forget about it and whatever is happening is fine, there are regulations which the COA has. Somebody sees it; somebody doesn’t see it, and who the hell cares?
MANISH GULATI: What I don’t understand is we are living in this age of social media, everybody has access to it, everybody has an opinion about it, everybody comments today, pretty much all of us are there. When it comes to selection of a jury for a competition, why can’t it be done through a voting? Who decides the five members of the jury?
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Fine. That is one thing. Prem can I understand why you would say we can’t tell the council to mandate public building competitions in a certain way or that it has to be enforced through every Government agency?
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I am saying that is no assurance. If I look at the council code of conduct for competitions, the council will say we’ve written the code so we should run it. It might be at the core that the majority of the juries are but I do not trust the council to put together a quality job. I don’t even trust the integrity of the council.
MANISH GULATI: Exactly. That’s where I have a problem. So the moment you say 5 members of this are the jurors, I don’t have any faith in it anymore.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: Remember that chief architects of the states dominate the council; it is not representative of the profession.
MANISH GULATI: Yes. So its friends of friends of friends.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: Well what are we doing here then?
MANISH GULATI: No. This whole thing can start on a public platform.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: This is part of the crossing between the Council and Indian Institute of Architects. The Council is a regulator and how it should stick to that and do nothing else. In fact I put up a paper to the Council when PR Mehta was the president and I said you shouldn’t have a single body doing regulation of the profession as well as education. Regulation of the profession is about maintaining minimum standards. Once you put it under the same body the minimum standards approach is carried into education, whereas education is really about provoking research. In fact the standard of the council is called minimum standards.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: They say it in as many words!
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: He said agreed. I’ll put this on the agenda for the Council meeting but his term ended before he could do it. Then, much later, I asked Vijay Sohoni when he’d taken over that I’d given this document to B.R. and what happened to it. He said it was rejected. He’s asking that the body undermine itself. Actually what I suggest is you don’t even need to separate it, just create two arms like the Chinese wall between them.
MANISH GULATI: I’ll give you a very ridiculous example of how it is silly how Filmfare chooses awards for actors and movies. It is done through a public voting now. There are 5 people eligible for a single award. Same thing for the jury. You have 5 people from different backgrounds suggested, shortlisted. Choose one out of them and then they form the jury and that can be done on social media as an open forum for one month. After that nobody should question.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I don’t agree with that. It then goes to the lowest common denominator.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: This majoritarianism can only have a limit up to which it can go. I don’t think you can carry it much.
MANISH GULATI: Why don’t we have trust on the minds of people?
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: There’s a wonderful book called A MATHEMATICIAN’S LAMENT. One of his chapters is on how decisions get taken in a democracy. And we tend to believe that in a democracy majority remains. He takes the example of gun control in America. He says 80% of the American public supports gun control in some form or the other only 20% are against. But if 20% are against it then three quarters of them are members of the NRA or some such organization who will take a voting decision because of their fanaticism. So ¾Th of 20% is about 7%. The 80% support it on the spectrum of ethical issues, and 5% who have been victims of violent crime, will make a working decision just on this. 5% of 80% is 4%. We have 15% versus 4% the 11% differential is enough to sweep an election and the politicians know that and they won’t touch gun control even though the majority supports it. So, democracies don’t work on diffused majority. They rather prefer fanatical minorities. Eventually what it descends into is you create a certain base and see constitutes.
MANISH GULATI: But I am not talking about the general public here. I am talking about the architecture fraternity.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: Even the general public or architectural fraternity. We are very selective about who we invited to this gathering right? We didn’t make it in an open one. We didn’t ask the president of the IIT to come.
MANISH GULATI: It would have probably been more meaningful. It needs to get into a confrontational one.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: See the thing is if we come to consensus between us that after this discussion of a day, there are certain issues and they can be dealt in ways. We have not come to finality here. At least is it true that if competitions need to be run, then they have to be run in a particular way? We can invite architects from all over India to make a further critique of these ideas and see what else needs to come under it and then take it to the Council?
RAVI: I think it is not the council. You will have to invoke a completely different thought process and generate opportunities for younger people and therefore competitions need to be open. All things like Law, regulations, Council is not going to work.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: I think if we can become a platform and form a counter-narrative to what is happening a discussion, very subtly, not really going into this idea of imposing certain regulations, like classically what Michael Sorkin did with that benign competition. He simply competition was launched; he along with certain people offered a counter competition. Because it was a critique of how Guggenheim was going into Helsinki. If we can create a platform where there is a counter-narrative, there is a discussion happening and eventually it gets caught up with social media and that will catch the imagination of the young. Then change will come in.
KUNJAN GARG: Where do you pinpoint the fault in Amravati? Was it the jury’s fault? Even the war museum?
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Juries have no power. As much as we’d like to think that, Amravati was the Government’s decision.
KUNJAN GARG: It is just the backstage working.
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RAVINDRA PUNDE: Actually I am given to believe, he’s playing a game. He doesn’t have money at all. He just wants to keep the subject alive, to use it again as a propaganda for the next election. I think his aspiration is to see something like Bahubali coupled with his minister who is a close friend of Hafeez so the whole network worked very well. You should see the second ad that came for application/invitation for competition. It was like matrimonial sized newspaper advertisement, small one, and based on that Norman Foster came in. Can you imagine? That was all cooked and worked out.
KUNJAN GARG: Norman Foster was at the rock bottom of the whole thing.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: I asked KT Ravindran who was on the jury and KT said the jury was unanimous about it. They didn’t want to nominate a second and third prize. Period. Because they felt the other two schemes were completely out of control in terms of their scale and all. Basically, Fumihiko Maki (the first award winner in the Amravati competition) being a Japanese or whatever, he was stuck to the competition brief like a gun. That’s how he won.
MANISH GULATI: Maki is like that. Even for the Bihar museum it was the same.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: He had an answer for every question.
NIRMAL KULKARNI: But the brief also would’ve been a very much-evolved one for him to stick to it like that - right?
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Yes.
Architecture Tenders – Procedure and Outcomes
NIRMAL KULKARNI: So what about this other agenda of addressing things like architecture tenders, fees. Anything you can do about it?
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: I think there’s a wider dilemma to that. The issue, the dialogue on what is the value of architecture. If we are successful in doing that, then other issues will be sorted out.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: There are architects who charge 4-5%. I think it eventually comes down to how we add value.
PREM CHANDAVARKAR: We won a competition for a university in Bangalore. We went afterwards and we were told by the Managing trustee, that the entire trust agreed your design as the best, but you quoted 3% the other architect quoted 0.9%. I asked them then why did you hold the competition? You could’ve just asked for the quotations. We worked unnecessarily for this.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Only in India it is like the bigger you are the cheaper you are. It is very strange. Firms in Chennai which are very very large charge only 0.5%.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: We are doing some 5 universities, which are 500 acres. So there was this gang, 11-12 people from the country. They’re the ones who get called for these campus competitions. So everybody knows the game. And then it’ll become like a little thing of who makes the best last move.
MANISH GULATI: They spend most of their money to win lawyers for arbitration for later on to increase their fee. It is a very clear game, you can get the project at 0.4% but you’ll end up making money equal to 3%.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: There’s a lot of money in it. Architecturally there’s nothing in it.
MANISH GULATI: I am not even going that route. I am saying in a legal route also, there is a right way of making more than 0.4% at a later stage of the project which most of these architects that you’re telling have cracked. That money is spent on legal teams in order to get into these arbitrations. L and T as a company makes more money through arbitration than through construction in their company, so they say.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: I say let’s start in a small way. We have to grow.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: The fundamental question here is can we create a culture and a certain baseline on which we conduct a certain kind of decision.
RAVINDRA PUNDE: Ultimately, the community has to begin to see value in this. This is one of the biggest crises. I remember when I moved to Mumbai when I was heading the Academy of Architecture; I went to the Yashwantrao Chavan auditorium for a conference discussion about Mumbai 2030. On the panel there was not a single architect. There were 3 bankers one environmentalist. No architect on the stage, no architect in the public! We are somewhere in our own realm. We are so cut off. And actually the image of architecture in front of the students that is generated is what real estate throws at them every morning, in the newspaper on the street. To dismantle that sense is such a harrowing task for us in the school.
BIJU KURIAKOSE: Same as for the Smart Cities conferences. No architects invited!