“The most intuitive examples of general topological transformations are the deformations”

Richard Courant

I guess ‘Plan must rule’ is taken with same tenacity as an ancient treatise - A sensible way to approach campus planning, a legacy of modern masters or rather a culture of Architectural practice in India.

There have been numerous examples where the recurring subject of identity and modernism is brought out evidently resulting into a pile of bric-a-brac of “symbolic expressions”1, like a labyrinth of modern day parking grids. Much of celebrated architecture in India with reference to campus planning or institution building, for long has been closely associated with the inverse order of things, much like reverse engineering. The mix was comparatively straightforward: to outline the program, to superpose the site with relevant grids from directory of modern architects and town planners and, finally, to apply visibly ‘contextual’ layer. This simple mix has sustained the interest of Architectural fraternity for over few decades. The challenge of interpreting archaic sutras and the courage of even discarding them in the light of current milieu is completely absent. Apart from all the humour within the subject matter, there is also a great loss. The loss of how unrivalled interpretations have become new benchmarks.

To conceive a scheme where the micro and macro references are fundamental to its making is challenging and even more if the resultant is expected to be a close approximation of canonical diagrams. There is a huge difference, almost ideological, between ‘scheme is to have same underpinnings’ and ‘scheme happens to have similar underpinnings’.2 Maybe the genesis of this lies in a way almost all the architectural practices use this ever-forbidding word called ‘SITE’, as the limits allow the imaginations to be asserted to its last detail but also devoid it of being part of a larger footprint. Eventually, ‘Site’ might be antithetical to the idea of Institutional building mindful of its landscape3 – as the institution would eventually fragment rather than consolidate. The idea of site is also closely associated with territorial safe limits. The way of seeing campus as an entity with limits and various discrete components laid on a maze of axes and layers of services is well set not only with patrons of Architecture in India but also with Indian Architects. There is not any perceivable issue with this approach unless purpose of building is significant enough and has to go ‘beyond the built’.

The subject of this review was indeed about this entry that stood out and for obvious reasons; it was like a pure gamble (if one was cunningly aware of the laws of the jungle).4 The scheme in focus which ‘happens to have similar underpinnings’ as geometries of the cloisters5 is a well-gauged architectural intervention. The Toric shape encapsulates not only the historic arguments of learning through concentration’,6 but also sociological issues of dealing with fringes.7 Not high on grids the scheme takes advantage of this by justifying the edges8 and tunnelling the streets that would eventually become seamless part of the context rather than imposing a monumental alienation.9

Maybe the scheme posed a straightforward argument of whether to understand the history in a way that has long been dictated and documented or to revisit it through ‘common sense’.10

What has been long neglected is to read into geometric formation that superpose than distinguish various built forms?11

  • 1. If a dogmatic ever made true scholarly sense it would be in case of Jawahar kala Kendra, Jaipur. If not for tilted ‘Shukra’, would scheme have lost its premise?
  • 2. NIFT New Delhi, is an apt example for this, whether the geometries of congregation space have juxtaposed with the way they are currently used? The tea stall outside NIFT has surely replaced the kund in a more informal way.
  • 3. If one justifies the logic in selection of institutional sites
  • 4. Yes! We haven’t gotten over iron grid, hierarchy, zoning, monumentality and other usual suspects of a master-planning extravaganza.
  • 5. These geometries have long evolved - almost like intersections of pressures that dictate the form, typologies of viharas and cloisters
  • 6. As Vivekananda described the ultimate key to attain knowledge was through concentration.
  • 7. As refuge is often a reason for most of the kids to be in government schools
  • 8. The density and elevation of the built mass
  • 9. Footprint of villages surrounding the scheme
  • 10. A regionalist approach makes much of the post liberalization ‘Architecture’ in India. Ironically very less is derived out of painfully documented ancient structures than few dash dot lines not coinciding with sanctum sanctorum where display of power balances and cosmic bargains become the underpinnings of elaborate appendices. Formation of geometries and their extended formulae have little but no physical resultants. In the context of Plato and Descartes with there huge influence on perception (hopefully still a part of equation for bread and butter for Architects) what has been long neglected is to read into geometric formation that superpose than distinguish various built forms (May be the plan of temple carried a code of how to build houses or institutions)
  • 11. May be the plan of temple carried a code of how to build houses or institutions.