Prof Rahul Mehrotra delivers 17th Mavlankar Memorial Oration

“Does permanence matter?” 

With this question, Prof Rahul Mehrotra got the audience comprising architects and architecture students in Chitnavis Centre thinking. He asked more questions and guided the thought process towards a definite direction. Everyone realised that it was beyond the mundane. When the oration came to an end, everyone gave a standing ovation to Prof Mehrotra, as if thanking him for providing a new stimulus


Human beings make a city, not only the structures dotting its skyline. The buildings encode memories of time. Various events and festivals leave ephemeral memories. This, makes the task of an architect complex. For, unless the architect sets himself or herself free of the trap of thinking of permanent solutions to temporary problems, he or she cannot put creativity to the best use for humanity, said Prof Mehrotra.


Prof Mehrotra analysed the process of India’s urbanisation. According to him, it was in a state of ‘flux’. Even the markets changed their form periodically. “The ephemeral urbanism needs to be understood to realise that we are designing permanent solutions for temporary problems,” he suggested. Architects were engaging more and more with real estate sector and townships with multiple dwelling units were mushrooming. The single-unit dwellings were fast disappearing. Similarly, transformation was being given more importance than making transition smoother.

The situation was hurling several questions at architects, beyond those pertaining merely to design of structures, observed Prof Mehrotra. The tall and swanky structures were creating ‘hard’ thresholds that were giving rise to questions of equity and accessibility for many. Presenting some of his works including the design of holiday homes in countryside, campus for a software firm, a building for an infrastructure firm, he explained how ‘soft’ thresholds could be created even while coming up with contemporary structures in local settings. “Soft thresholds allow co-existence, pluralism, and create illusion of equity if not more,” he remarked.


Prof Mehrotra advised the students that they should think more about ‘architecture of practise’ than ‘practise of architecture’.