New Delhi, Dec 20 (PTI) There was a need to liberate city planning of the “tyranny of images”, noted architect Rahul Mehrotra asserted, while lamenting that urban planners want metro cities such as Delhi and Mumbai to look like Singapore or Shanghai.
He was speaking at the second Jhabvala memorial lecture here yesterday, the series instituted by the School of Planning and Architecture and the Jhabvala family.
It was organised in memory of the legendary architect and professor CSH Jhabvala who had also authored the book, ‘Old Delhi, New York’.
“It is about time that planning for our cities is liberated of the tyranny of images,” Mehrotra said.
“Planners want Delhi or Mumbai to look like Singapore or Shanghai; then, Nasik wants to look like Mumbai; and, this tyranny perpetuates itself in planners’ imagination– irrespective of the needs, environment, capacities and resources,” he said.
The 1959-born architect, urbanist and educator, is also Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and part of the urban conservation movement in the country, particularly Mumbai.
Mehrotra, also rued that 99 percent of the professional narrative was devoted to catering to the “fancies and preferences” of “one per cent” affluent clients.
According to him, this bias was producing “an architecture of indulgence” ignoring the issues of inequality, pluralism, conservation and ecology.
Sharing fascinating details of his iconic work on the planning and architecture at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Mehrotra suggested that conservation did not mean “status quo” and argued it was possible for a sensitive architect to “conserve, preserve, and yet innovate and improvise”.
At the time of Independence, there was only one school of architecture and now India could boast of 426 accredited schools, he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the organisers.
This proliferation in the professional schools and architects was “reinforcing the indulgence bias”, he claimed.
Mehrotra also talked of the profession’s “protocols and practices” which, he said, needed a “rethink”.
The Council of Architecture needs to encourage young architects to learn about the needs and practices in smaller towns. Internships of architectural students need to be in these towns, and the Council should facilitate this, he said.
He urged younger practitioners to learn to make a distinction among “patrons, clients and users” and their different needs.
Asserting that there were no “absolute solutions,” Mehrotra argued that it was imperative for the architects and planners to think of “transition” before working for “transformation”.
The first lecture in the series, was delivered last year by eminent architect Raj Rewal.
Iconic Hall of Industries and Hall of Nations buildings at Pragati Maidan in Delhi, which were demolished earlier this year, were designed by Rewal.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.