Architecture

Gujarat celebrates Narmada Dam

narmda_dam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his 67 birthday on September 17 dedicating the Sardar Sarovar Dam to the nation, almost 56 years after stone was laid by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961.
With construction beginning 26 years later in 1987, it was a proud prime minister who inaugurated the dam by unveiling the plaque and performing puja at the site in Kevadia in the Narmada district.
The project has a long history of struggle before it reached its completion. It one of the biggest human endeavours for water transport with billion units of hydropower expected to be generated annually (having produced so far 4,141 crore units).
Sardar Sarovar Dam brings a sense of national pride for all those who relentlessly pursued it for decades. Built at a cost of Rs 47,202 crore, it is one of the largest water resources projects of India covering four major states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The Dam’s spillway discharging capacity (30.7 lakhs cusecs) would be third highest in the world. With 1,133 cumecs (40000 cusecs) capacity at the head regulator, the 532 km long Narmada Main Canal is the largest irrigation canal in the world.
This gravity dam is third highest (163 m) in India, after Bhakra (226 m) in Himachal Pradesh and Lakhwar (192 m) in Uttar Pradesh. In terms of the volume of concrete involved in building gravity dams, this dam ranks second largest in the world with aggregate volume of 6.82 million cu.m. The first is Grand Coule Dam in USA with a total volume of 8 million cu.m. With its spillway discharging capacity of 85,000 cumecs (30 lakh cusec), it is third in the world after Gazenba (1.13 lakh cumecs) in China and Tucurri (1 lakh cumecs) in Brazil.
It provides irrigation to 18.45 lakh hectares covering 3,112 villages of 73 talukas in 16 districts of Gujarat and 2,46,000 hectares in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore in Rajasthan and 37,500 hectares in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra through lift.
And drinking water reaches 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages (53% of total 18144 villages of Gujarat). Most beneficial are the villages in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat where many of them are “no source” villages or affected by salinity and fluoride. Several industries too have been given a new lease of life.
Electricity from The River Bed Power House and the Canal Head Power House has an installed capacity of 1200 MW and 250 MW respectively. The power is shared by three states — Madhya Pradesh 57%, Maharashtra 27% and Gujarat 16%. This also provides peaking power to western grid of the country. A series of micro hydel power stations are also planned on the branch canals.
A 10 MW Canal Top Solar Photovoltaic Grid Connected Power Plant on Vadodara Branch Canal was successfully commissioned in November-2014 with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dedicating it to the nation on 11th January, 2015.
In terms of concrete used it sets a record as it is enough to build a road from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The Sardar Sarovar Dam showcases India as an emerging power.

pti9_17_2017_000072b

STATUE OF UNITY

The world’s tallest statue, the Statue of Unity, would stand 182-metre tall when completed and is a tribute to the Iron Man of India. Being built at the Sadhu-Bet Island, approximately 3.5kms south of Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in the Narmada district of Gujarat, this grand monument will be enhanced by a picturesque backdrop. The observation deck, situated at a height of 500 ft from river bed, will accommodate up to 200 people at a time. It will provide visitors a panoramic view of the beautiful Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, the 212 km long Sardar Sarovar Reservoir, and the 12 km long Garudeshwar Reservoir. Visitors can walk into a viewing gallery at a height of 400ft and enjoy an astounding panoramic view of the Sardar Sarovar Nigam project. Its unique location is beneficial for eco-tourism and regional development. The Statue of Unity Project will also include a unique museum and audio-visual department depicting the life and times of Sardar Vallabhbai Patel.

statue-of-unity
SARDAR SAROVAR PROJECT TIMELINE
Sardar Sarovar project was a vision of the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who initiated work on it in 1946
 The foundation stone was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961.
 In 1964, to resolve the dispute about sharing of Narmada Waters between Gujarat and
Madhya Pradesh, an expert committee was appointed under the Chairmanship of late Dr
Khosla.
 A Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) too was created in 1969.
 NWDT verdict in 1979 accorded Madhya Pradesh 65 % and Gujarat 32% share of water.
Rajasthan and Maharashtra would get the remaining 3%.
 In 1985 Medha Patkar led social activists under the banner of Narmada Bachao Andolan
launched protest against the project. Other notable figures against the project were
Baba Amte, Arundhati Roy and Aamir Khan.
 Planning Commission approved it in 1988.
 Medha Patkar agitation forced the World Bank withdraw from the project on March 31,
1993. It also cancelled the loan.
 In 2000, the Supreme Court allowed work on the dam.
 The Dam was commissioned in 2006 (when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat.)
 In 2011, the government of Gujarat announced plans to generate solar power by placing
solar panels over the canal.
 In 2013 work begins on the “Statue of Unity” dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
 In 2017 PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the dam.

A passionate architect

Architecture his passion and with several major projects to his credit in India and abroad, he is also actively involved in development of open spaces in Mumbai.

As a principal architect with his partner I.M.Kadri, Rahul’s formative years began in exploring the forests of Kumaon Hills while studying at Sherwood College, Nainital. Romancing Nature infused a deep passion in him to create buildings and open spaces to offset the fast rising human settlements.

After completing his diploma in architecture from the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai, he did his master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1988.

Rahul assumed directorship of Kadri Consultants Pvt Ltd in 1995 and since then designed and executed several architecture and town planning projects. He has designed townships for the Tatas, the Jindals and Reliance, hotels and resorts for Taj and Club Mahindra, college campuses for Symbiosis and a building for the Supreme Court of India.

Over the years he has been passionate in creating public places where people and nature thrive. Kadri is also a trustee of Save the Children India – an organisation committed to the cause of the education of less privileged children.

Komal Rao gets down to brass tacks in an exclusive chat. Excerpts:

WORDS: KOMAL RAO

9-option-03-angular

What are the issues confronting Urban India?
We are still stuck in the 1960s mindset with planning 20 years in advance. The concept of zoning wherein we have a fixed plan for each block still rules.
The aim was residential areas should not be polluted by industrial ones and residential areas should be healthy enough to live in. But with changing times, many industries follow the non-polluting rule, with the service industry being on top of the charts.
Segregating services is an old idea which has to change. The idea that master plan can be conceived for the next 20 years is just not possible. Such concepts are like worn out clichés.
Each area and neighbourhood should be allowed to evolve on its own. Local area planning is something that really needs to be worked upon. For this to be implemented with success, our basic rules and laws must be changed.
A healthy city is about neighbourhood, the arteries of the city are transportation networks.
Some of the effective and efficient ways of transportation are the railways and the metro which are fast, less time consuming and non-polluting.

Roads are inefficient means of transport because of burgeoning traffic. Even if we were to talk about goods transportation, nothing like railways as a mode of transport.
In Japan after World War II, planners understood that to make rapid progress, the public and goods need to be moved faster and the trains would be the best option. Authorities therefore urged engineers and architects to speed up train services. For the first time, tunnels were drilled under mountains for faster movement of goods and passengers.

architecture

architectureone

symbiosis-school-for-banking-finance
architecturetwo

How can India improve public transportation system?
We should re-model the bullet trains and not simply buy them from Japan or China.
Our engineers should focus on redesigning trains and make bullet trains fit our needs and pockets as well.
Currently the metro systems that we are using is not cost-effective being expensive.

The normal method of transportation should be rail and metro and cars be given lesser importance.

I recall my trip to Tokyo in 1980. They had seven layers of flyovers and cars moved everywhere causing traffic jam. But during my recent visit to Tokyo the experience was completely different.
The seven-layered flyovers removed, Tokyo’s road length reduced and footpaths made broader and on many roads there were hardly any cars. The reason was 10 layers of underground metro rails that made commuters move easily from one destination to another without depending on cars.
Each city in Japan is unique with its limited budget.

architecturethree
architecturefour

There is competition among cities to excel and locals feeling a sense of power and responsibility. Nothing is centrally controlled or forced upon. Local units have the power to function independently.

How do we make India more organised and streamline urbanisation?
India as a nation is still not a democracy in the true sense. Many things need to be change.
Authorities in Mumbai, for instance, are coming out with another 20-year plan, though the previous one was not successful.
Ours is a fast-growing nation and we should understand that 20-year planning is not going to work in such a rapidly evolving country.
A Singapore-based company has been appointed to rework the rules,

There is no need for the government to get into the real estate business. If the government stops making profit from this the prices can fall by 75%

1-national-judiciary-academy
architectureaurangabad

rejecting the need for local ideas and plans.
What is the housing scenario in India? Can rapid growth of slums in Mumbai tackled?
The government relies on real estate for revenues. About 50% of the cost of our houses go as taxes. Development rights are given away as if they are commodities.
A buyer is not only paying the developer for the land, he is also paying the government for the FSI. So if the government is trying to bring the cost of housing and land down, why are they making a profit from buyers in the form of FSI?
There is no need for the government to get into the real estate business. If the government stops making profit from this the prices can fall by 75%.
About 50-60% people in Mumbai live in slums. Another 22% in dilapidated homes. The government has promised free housing for 82% of the population, but it is the remaining 18% taxpayers who will foot the bill for this “free housing”.
While slums are going in for redevelopment, the condition imposed on the developer strangely is that everyone should be given free housing.
We need to tackle things politically by getting out of the whole concept of free housing. Nor slums can be redeveloped by developers.
There are a number of ways to solve the problems, but politically we are unable to do so. The government has no intention of solving the housing problem as they would not profit and will lose taxes the way they garner it today.
The current government follows the same rules; all they are focusing on is the time limit. They wish to do everything faster, but what about changing the old policies as well? It is like bringing the bad old set of events again. The actual way to solve this issue is for government to look at the root causes setting right what has gone wrong over the years.

What are your views on the Smart City project?
Smart cities are being defined by the IT companies. High end IT companies have got big projects and showed the government the positive side. But has the government really thought about whether there is need for such cities?

Before everything else, we need to know and ask ourselves what exactly does it mean to be ‘smart?’ We should firstly prioritise what exactly do we want.
We need a clean place for living, clean water, schools and hospitals. While we wish for this, why not find a “smarter” way of doing this? There have been no serious thoughts given on how we can really achieve the goal.
The urban management team needs to have the best brains working on such a project. If we have the right team, they can evolve realistic plans.
This is something governments don’t do.
If we were to appoint the right people with apt knowledge, listen to them and go ahead with various policies, then wondrous changes could take place. The government needs to do it properly.

Are we shaping future generation of architects in right manner?
Yes, there are number of young architects who are doing marvellous work. But reforms are needed in architecture education.
At present, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) governs the syllabus.
There should be decentralisation. Let universities develop their own syllabus patterns for the right growth.
If the government believes in an open and free market then this should be taking place in the education system as well.

We don’t want big open places. Say more than 100 houses people interaction can be easier. Lack of common places leads to people living in isolation.
Colleges need to be properly located so that students of different colleges can meet as they come out of their premises.
It requires deft planning. Indeed architects have the power to make a society durable and prosperous.

What are your favourite cities in India and abroad?
In India, it would be Pondicherry, parts of Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
I prefer cities with good transportation and greenery. Globally, I prefer London, Tokyo and Amsterdam.

What is your dream project?
It would be an interactive place that helps people live without having to breathe polluted air. It can come from salutary planning from rising living standards. Dream projects educate people and make them environment conscious.
Other than architecture, what do you like?
Running my mother’s NGO is one. Educating pre-school kids, or children who fail to make it to the school or are dropouts.
Every country has its own style of architecture. Why did we lose our heritage architecture?
The old kings didn’t use strong materials to make structures last long. Italian cities have thick walls which have managed to withstand vagaries of nature.
Indian architecture never used strong materials or right design to make structures last long. Maybe we just didn’t have the money to go with such structures that could have cost more money.
We’re still enamoured of foreigners but not their way of making structures durable. We resort to easier methods and builders don’t have the requisite knowledge. Majority of architects are submissive. We are evolving.

What motivated you to become an architect?
Everyone in the family said that I had to become an architect. And the moment I started learning it, I loved architecture.
We need to prioritise and articulate what we really want and remain focused. The debate and discussion about what we want and what is our priority is something our country really needs to understand loud and clear.

We feel that the importance of knowing our neighbours and interacting with them has been slowly declining in modern times and has it impacted architecture?
While executing projects, there are a few aspects to take note of. One is the economic, the other environmental to be in tune with nature, flora and fauna; and the third social.
We need to create a happier and friendly place for people to live; a house that keeps the family happy. Every architect should make sure that buildings are for the people and not people for the buildings.

‘Benefits of design should percolate to the masses’

Nitin Killawala, Mumbai-based architect and director, Group Seven Architects and Planners Pvt Ltd, is vigorously campaigning for an integrated transport plan for Mumbai. Recipient of several national awards, including from the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) and the Institute of Interior Designs (IID), he believes masses and slum-dwellers should benefit from newer infrastructure projects rather than left to fend off speculative real estate operators. Excerpts from interview:

WORDS: KOMAL RAO

As someone who has been associated closely with the Indian architecture sector for four decades, what are your views on its evolution, especially in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata?
Every city grows progressively and it is the responsibility of both authorities and citizens to strive constantly for better quality of life. Although our cities have grown quantitatively in terms of population, infrastructure, wealth, education and technology, none of these components are qualitative. So the result is chaos, despair and deteriorating human values.

Do you see a gradual change for the better in terms of architectural standards, in our structures and buildings over the coming years, or will profits and finances overshadow such changes?
I do see some change for the better, but that is fragmented and happens not collectively but in isolation.

nitin-killawala_1
smruti-vile-parle

That’s why we do not see the positive impact. One of the most important aspects is that of the housing sector which is totally neglected by successive governments.
This is evident in flawed housing policies. The entire housing industry is in the hands of private developers; hence it is speculative and profit-oriented. Gone are the days when MHADA, CIDCO and DDA used to hold even competitions for excellence in housing across all typologies such as HIG, MIG and LIG including large public spaces.

vallabh-ashram-school
chinmaya-ashram

Mumbai has been one of your focus areas and you have been vociferous in backing some projects and opposing others. Where do you see the metropolis headed for over the coming years in terms of the development of mega projects?
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is the richest local body (Rs42,000 crore in FDs alone) and the most corrupt public institution of the world. So Mumbai is a milking cow for any government and so long as it remains that way the city will continue to deteriorate.
All the chief ministers over the last two decades have had no concern for the city. Therefore, even though it is not a city-state (like Delhi, London, Singapore and New York) it should at least have its CEO to govern the city.

The situation now is so pathetic that we do not know who is the mayor of the city – when he’s appointed or removed, or even what he does?
We must realise that 90% of civil construction and building materials are consumed by infrastructure projects promoted by the government. The decision-makers for these projects are corporators and political parties across cities of India.
Many corporators are not even matriculates, lack basic civic sense and ethics. Unfortunately, they control infrastructure projects worth thousands of crores across the country.
The present government keeps on announcing populist projects such as the bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad but the real lifeline of suburban rail work is neglected,

There are plans for coastal roads with huge costs, but they never improve potholed roads.

What are the challenges confronting the Indian architectural segment – too many complex laws, political interference, or financial issues?
I strongly advocate that in our architectural curriculum, we must have elective subjects like law, politics, finance and management because these streams will add tremendous value to the profession as well as society at large.
Look at the bizarre political decision to make a new capital complex of Amaravati on the lines of the sets of Bahubali. Or the ruthless demolition of architect Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations and Industry at Pragati Maidan.

Due to rapid advancement in information technology and frequent cross–country travels even emerging cities are losing the sense of belonging. Look at Pune, Bengaluru and even Kochi and Guwahati – you do not find the uniqueness that was there about a decade ago, but there is bizarre urbanisation without any goals.

Bye-laws should be fine-tuned to adapt to new challenges, but our political sensibilities are so low that every government works for the next election, and real problems are never resolved.
I do not consider this as political interference but our helplessness because for a common person there are so many other issues on a daily basis that we have become immune to many important issues around us.

d-c-house
getz-pharma-ambernath

What are the prospects for Indian cities over the coming years? Will authorities pay heed to the warnings of architects and urban planners?
Due to rapid advancement in information technology and frequent cross–country travels even emerging cities are losing the sense of belonging. Look at Pune, Bengaluru and even Kochi and Guwahati – you do not find the uniqueness that was there about a decade ago, but there is bizarre urbanisation without any goals. Today as architects/planners we do not have constitutional appointments in any local planning authorities. This is one more reason that architects must educate themselves beyond architecture to use their strength legally and politically.

You must often be interacting with architecture students learning. How different is this generation as compared to those from yours?
Yes, students are more intuitive than our contemporaries, naturally because of unprecedented access to information, which is very good. However, implementing in practice in today’s social scenario as well as competitive world is becoming tougher for the young generation.

You were part of the design team for the Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial, Nashik. Could you tell us about the design philosophy behind it?

The Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial is a very old project realised through an architectural competition sponsored by Nashik Municipality in 2001.

The main concept and execution was relentlessly carried out by our friend and mentor late Akhil Dadkar.

I am happy to see that such large public space is used by citizens and is one of the attractions in Nashik City, although the campus needs constant maintenance and upgradation.

Could you talk about some of the interesting projects that you – and your firm – executed in recent years in Indian cities?

All our projects are in India and we make an attempt to make it interesting, by implementing Indian ethos in a contemporary manner.
However, there are a few projects which keeps us on our toes like a few school campus in south Gujarat, a training institute for the Reserve Bank of India at Prabhadevi in Mumbai and a couple of R & D centres for the pharma industry.

Your own house is a very interesting design as far as layout and use of materials are concerned. Can you please tell us about its uniqueness?
Our newly built family residence is an outcome of nurturing ancestral

assets and make it work for future generations. We have been staying in this property for over five decades.
The rebuilt structure is totally in steel – MS columns, fabricated ‘I’ beams and galvanised deck sheets. The reason for this option, although not economical than conventional RCC frame, was mainly the time factor – small plot size in developed neighbourhood and exploiting technology in steel structures.
Moreover steel structures provide tremendous flexibility in planning and sleeker yet strengthy aesthetical feel. In short it’s a typical urban house to suit individual needs – not necessarily opulent but adaptable.

The government has taken up the ambitious smart city project. What according to you makes a city smart?
Everyone in government is talking about smart cities and in equal breath we say it is ‘hyped’. The present government is thriving on hope, which is not bad per se. But every time there is renewal of hope, we do not reach anywhere.
This is yet another item for propaganda like Vaastu, green / environmental friendly cities, sustainable living and so on. To me there is nothing like ‘smart’ cities.
Cities should have sense of belonging. They should be simple, interactive and promote democratic spaces for every local citizen and even visitors. Today the rich-poor gap is widening and could lead social unrest in future.

“An architect has to create meaningful spaces. The rest will follow”

CP Kukreja Architects (CPKA), founded in 1969, is today one of the most influential architectural practices in the country. With a highly-qualified and professional team of architects, urban planners, structural engineers, and surveyors, the New Delhi-based CPKA is a multi-disciplinary firm known for some of the most iconic buildings across the globe and for its commitment to design excellence, innovation, and sustainability.
We feature an extensive interview with Dikshu C. Kukreja, the highly-qualified architect, who is a gold medalist in B.Arch from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi; has an M.Arch degree in urban design from Harvard University; besides an MCOA from the AIIA. Excerpts:

WORDS: KOMAL RAO AND TILLANA DESAI

You have been conferred with several national and international awards. Could you please tell us about your journey that led to these accolades?

I have always felt that as an architect, all one can hope to do is to create meaningful spaces. The rest will follow. That has been our aim since when CP Kukreja Architects (CPKA) was established in 1969, almost five decades ago.
After winning the national competition for Jawaharlal Nehru University and rising to prominence, we made it our mission to contribute to the architectural field by designing buildings that respond to the complexities of the contextual urban fabric.
The journey has been nothing short of incredible, being given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects over the years, each posing a fresh challenge for us. To us, the fact that we have gained recognition and won awards for our work comes secondary to the way the built form interacts with its surroundings over time.
We try to gauge our success on the basis of a space’s functionality, aesthetic and sustainability.

architecture250x-250

In the end, it is important for one to realise that no matter how many accolades a practice gets, it is temporal – here today and gone tomorrow. What remains is the longevity of architecture itself, and therefore architects are called to build with a responsibility towards society and generations to come.

CPKA is known for some of the most Iconic buildings across the globe and the commitment to design excellence, innovation and sustainability. What is your design philosophy?

At CPKA, we believe that design is a process and not the end product. It is a journey of discovery, innovation, evolution and eventually, creation. With each project, we aim to “read” and “respond” to the built and un-built contexts of the urban scape.

The most important exercise in the design process is to read the silent gestures of forms and spaces, to converse with the natural environment and then translate those gestures into architectural ensembles.

We refer to this as ‘Responsive Architecture’ – a philosophy which advocates architecture as a response to the various existing forces and systems like nature, climate, society, technology, economy and culture.

Our primary objective is to create architecture that is a collective of all these blended seamlessly into a physical manifestation with the existing geographical setting and, at the same time containing within itself a strong potential to live up to the future developments and urban standards.

Which of your buildings have been the most challenging to design?

Working on the pilot Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project alongside IDOM, UK in the capital city was by far the most challenging project we have ever undertaken. Delhi has become a victim of half-baked ideas, with no clear vision for the future of the city.
Development is spreading in both horizontal and vertical directions, and satellite towns are emerging alongside re-densification projects in the mother city.
The TOD policy drafted by Delhi Development Authority was a major breakthrough. Not only did TOD interlink the different parts of the expanding city, but it also emphasised the need for high density growth at the centres of such development, thus reconciling the two sides of Delhi’s city-shaping.

architecture500x500

East Delhi Hub in Karkardooma allowed us to interpret the TOD policy as a step towards a “Smart City.” We incorporated an “organic density” that introduces extensive vertical mixed-use development, which includes commercial, residential, medical and recreational facilities.
This ensured 24-hour activity at all points within the site, and thus promote safety by encouraging “eyes on the street.” In addition to this, we were able to maximise the un-built areas devoted to landscape through compact, high density planning, which would in turn serve as a vibrant public space, and include greens, plazas and multipurpose zones for cultural activities.
Vertical gardens, landscaped terraces and green facades were proposed as an attempt at providing “Greens for all.”

architecture800-x-500

East Delhi Hub’s design is based on a sustainable grid and building configuration which combines a sustainable orientation with the complex geometry of the site.

The result is a highly efficient radial hexagonal system that upholds “Smart Mobility”, “Smart Infrastructure” and “Smart Living”. We perceive this project as a definition of “Living, Organic Architecture” on real ground.

onearchitecture500-x-300

The Gautam Buddha University at Noida was bestowed with the title of “Best Sustainable Campus” by BUILD 2016 Architecture Awards, London. Could you tell us about the design?

Gautam Buddha University was designed to underline the importance of a harmonious coexistence between man and his natural surroundings. Believing this relationship to be the key to fostering intellect, creativity and the dissemination of ideas, our aim was to create a “Centre of Learning” that embraces Mother Nature.

The very understanding and realisation of “Enlightenment” propagated by Gautam Buddha, the “Enlightened One,” and Buddhist teachings such as the Middle Path stress on the importance of a marriage between binaries like Dhatu (matter/solid) and Shunya (antimatter/void), existence and non-existence, Bhog (consumption) and Tyag (detachment) to maintain a balance that keeps the wheel of life turning.

The ratio and proportions of the image of the “Buddha in meditation” were considered to derive a rhythmically knitted pattern with strong connectivity, network and space organisation for the master plan of the 500-acre university campus.
For the main campus entrance, we created a dense forest to act as a visual and sound buffer. It creates a stark difference in environment, as the tranquility is a stark juxtaposition to the chaotic frenzy outside.
The academic and faculty blocks are arranged radially along the Central Promenade Axis, which culminates at the feet of a magnificent statue of Buddha himself.
A meditation centre, with its somber domed form echoes the architectural symbolism of the stupa. It was designed to visually tie the earth with the sky when viewed in the horizon. Features like water recycling through lakes and water bodies, natural lighting and ventilation, locally sourced materials and traditional elements like jaalis, chajjas and domes allowed us to further establish a strong link with the environment.

You have designed embassies for several nations. What is the thought process that goes behind designing such official buildings?

I think the challenge with designing any embassy or foreign mission is that the architect feels obliged to force an architectural vocabulary onto the structure irrespective of whether it works with the contextual influences or not.
Doubtless, it is important to reflect the cultural richness of the home state when designing foreign missions. Yet, the objective is not to portray this through mere cosmetic additions and alterations, but to achieve a tasteful amalgamation of styles.
Restraint plays an important role here. It is easy to be carried away with creating a beautiful building that blindly apes a foreign character and has no real relationship with its immediate surroundings, especially in terms of climate and geographical responsiveness.
However, the result of such a design exercise is always disastrous, because the built form is nothing more than an empty shell.

architecturetwo500-x-300

As far as the creative liberty of an architect is concerned, clients are entitled to make their demands, and they must be respected. The wishes of the end user cannot be ignored. However, the architect has the creative liberty to interpret these demands and engage with the client in the envisioning of the final product.
The idea of translating a concept from paper to the ground is a romantic idea, but it is seldom that simple. There is, and should be,

architecure-800-x-500

a constant dialogue and back and forth between the client and the designer. Only then can any design be approached in a holistic manner.

India is a country of disparity. While rural India is totally devoid of technology and development, urban India is rapidly expanding. How do you think this gap can be bridged?

The idea of translating a concept from paper to the ground is a romantic idea, but it is seldom that simple. There is, and should be, a constant dialogue and back and forth between the client and the designer. Only then can any design be approached in a holistic manner.

One of the harshest truths in India is that we have plenty of talented urban designers and urban planners, but the development of rural areas is left solely in the hands of policy makers.

Why should this be? Rural regions have their own complexities, just like an urban fabric would have. Yet, most of what we hear about any progress in these areas comes from government policies to safeguard the livelihood of the people here, be it switching to alternate sources of power, providing loans, etc.

architecture-five-500-x-350

While this is crucial, we cannot deny that one of the major contributing factors for the mass exodus of people to cities is because they are in search of better lifestyles.
There is no real “designing” of rural spaces to address the needs of those who live here. Everyone has the right to contented living, and it is important for us to understand that while an agrarian society can do without us, we cannot do without an agrarian society.
The disparity between rural and urban India is appalling, and this gap can only be bridged with serious, dedicated research in “rural design”. From the very beginning, we need to work hand-in-hand with experts from a variety of disciplines such as agriculturists, economists, architects, designers and planners to create a well-rounded field that may one day even be taught as part of the curriculum in architectural schools.
Educating and creating awareness among the current and next generation of architects about this issue would be a concrete step towards ensuring action is taken to uplift the lives of rural dwellers.

When we look at architecture in India, it is heavily influenced by foreign styles. Is there any form which we can truly say is our own Indian identity?

It is very difficult to define what “Indian Architecture” really is. We have borrowed from so many influences over the history of the Indian subcontinent that the diverse religions, lifestyles and indeed, architecture of this country are the result of a cultural melting pot.
The very idea of finding our “true” style is therefore complex, because if we had to go back into our origins, we would have to revive the Indus Valley Civilisation, which predates the Colonial Era, Mughal Age and even the Aryan Invasion.

Perhaps it is time for us to abandon the argument of defining what is ‘Indian,’ learn to embrace our past as an integral part of who we are, and look to the future as we continue on this journey of evolution and re-evolution.
To me, the future of Indian architecture is not about imbibing an identity that is only skin deep. It is about architecture that is sensitive to the needs of its context – social, political, economic, and geographic.
It is about creating a meaningful dialogue between the tangible and intangible aspects of the built form, and giving up superfluity for spaces that have a true impact on its surroundings.

When you look at the current generation of architects, what difference do you see (if any) from the time that you were a fresher?

I have to admit that with three dimensional visualisation and photo realistic conceptual imagery, architecture has reached new heights on paper. Young architects have been trained to better convey their ideas to the layman through these tools, and this is definitely a positive step towards progress.
However, this cannot and does not replace the architect’s design intuition, which is something technology cannot provide. As far as talent goes, I believe the next generation possesses the same capabilities and potential that we did when we began in the profession. Yet, it is in the hands of these young, aspiring architects on how they choose to take the reins.

Could you share your views on the term “Smart City”?

The term “Smart Cities” is in vogue, and everyone is using it.

Yet, the very definition of a smart city is still to be comprehended to its fullest, even by experts. People from different educational and professional backgrounds would explain this concept in different ways.
It is therefore important to incorporate a multidisciplinary view to generate a more comprehensive outlook with regard to this.
To me, a smart city is one that is high on efficiency in every way. From sustainability and low carbon footprints, to the incorporation of technology to transit, every facet of the city is geared towards complete productivity.
While this is undoubtedly a daring ambition, and may indeed be merely a utopian concept, we can take smaller steps towards achieving this, and in the process create better city living.

Vaastu is an ancient science of space. How important and relevant do you think it is in today’s times?

Vaastu, as ancient as it may be, was based on the principles of science as we know it. It took into account geographical phenomena such as the movement of the sun and wind patterns.
Even though architecture in the 21st century may not necessarily use the term “vaastu”, it is based on similar principles of climatically responsive design. It is impressive to think that we still use the fundamentals from what was taught centuries ago.
Doubtless, the logic of any design should stem from a strong, scientific, methodical backing. I therefore am convinced that “vaastu” has a place and relevance everywhere, and must be encouraged as an integral part of the curriculum in architectural schools.

These 50 years have been beautiful

India’s leading architect and designer, Prem Nath enters his 50th year of operations in 2017. The fascinating individual recounts his remarkable journey over the past half a century and also talks about the state of architecture in India in an exclusive interview with Urban Vaastu.

WORDS: KOMAL RAO AND TILLANA DESAI

Your firm is celebrating its 50th year in 2017. I am sure it’s a very special journey that you have had. What are your thoughts?
We are very casual about it. We have no idea that ‘humepachaassaalhogayehainabhi’ (…that we have completed 50 years). We never did any special celebrations. We don’t believe in them. We are happy we completed 50 years that’s all. We are busy moving on.
But these 50 years have been beautiful. In the younger days, we could devote more time to designs and thinking. And that’s why we could possibly do quality work and better than other people.
Architecture was not so fast track. We had limited material. Knowledge was also gained by exploring magazines. We didn’t have internet or computers. We had hand drawings. It was a good journey. I’ve been sitting on this same desk for the last 45 years.

And we just don’t know how time has gone. We have done projects starting from homes, celebrity homes to interiors to all kinds of different buildings. We were lucky that we were able to do many things for the first time in the country.
India’s first data centre for Citi group, the first health spa for Golden Palms, the first multiplex and mall, the first gold-rated green township, the first platinum-rated campus architecture – many things first and many challenges.

LEARNING NEW THINGS
We tried to be hungry to always learn new things, new technology, trends and also about economics, market resources, designing and even builder’s business. At the turn of the century we got exposure to foreign companies coming to invest in India. We learnt of their challenges, demands, quality and expectations.

We were the first again to do a fast-track architecture for Morgan Stanley in Mumbai in designing, foundation – everything end to end in about eight months by American standards.
The entry of foreign companies saw expectations rise in India.
Today we are well-equipped, have an experienced team, people who are ready to take any new challenges. We are ahead of others and have taken a lead even in the area of smart cities.
While some architects wondered what smart cities were, we demonstrated what they should actually be.
We are now being consulted by different cities keen on putting up such projects.
We demarcate leadership, constantly try to learn and evolve and be ahead of others.
We are enjoying our 50th year.

architecture2

How realistic is the smart cities project?

India was way ahead of the times.
One of the finest examples of an ancient Indian Smart City is Mohenjo-Daro, the most developed city of Indus Valley Civilisation.
Many people today think a smart city is something hi-tech and plush as seen abroad.
But smart must be taken in the Indian context. India cannot afford the typical ‘smart city.’

There are just two smart cities in the world – New York and Tokyo. The idea of 100 ‘smart villages’ or towns is fine in India, but not smart cities. We need to think differently, we need resources, need to rethink our master plan to create jobs.

architecture3

SMART THINKING, SMART GOVERNANCE

Who are we developing the smart cities for? Eighty per cent of people still live in villages and only a few are tax-payers. What resources do we have to fund smart cities, each of which will cost about Rs50,000crore?
Before we take up smart city projects, we need smart thinking, smart governance and efficient work. Only if we have good infrastructure in our cities can we make them smart. We need to bring efficiency in our performance, especially in governance.

There are just two smart cities in the world – New York and Tokyo.
The idea of 100 ‘smart villages’ or towns is fine in India, but not smart cities.

We need to think differently, we need resources, need to rethink our master plan to create jobs.

How do you think these smart cities will make a difference Indian society?
My concept of smart is different from those of my contemporaries. As an architect, I feel the definition of smart should be:

• S – Simple: to understand, simple in planning, simple to approach and sustainable development
• M – Manageable: the development should be easy to manage and easy to maintain
• A – Affordable: The development should not be planned for the uber class only; it should allow occupants of all financial strata
• R – Resourceful: to be rich in resources like power, water, employment, wealth, profitability
• T – Technological: development is smart only when it is technologically savvy (yet affordable), wifi-enabled communication and superior transport superior

SIMPLE FOR CITIZENS
A city can only be called smart when it is simple and not complex for citizens. One need not learn to live in a smart city; in fact the city shall make the citizen feel smart, it should surely be a self-sustaining one, not very intricate; the city needs to be planned, dynamic but yet maintainable and should not go out-of-date.

Most importantly if the Smart City doesn’t end-up being a financially viable one, the entire idea behind the development may go for a toss.

architecture4

It needs to be affordable in development and to the citizens; it surely needs to be resourceful, if it is to survive through its lifetime, apart from being self-sufficient in terms of water, power and other basic needs.
It should be able to pull the crowd from outside to invest in it, should have its own employment, so that people can walk to work. Last but not the least, the Smart City shall be as smart as its technology – a wifi-enabled city, with ease of communication, transport and transactions. All this, shall ensure maintaining all aspects of the city as SMART.

Do you see the emergence of a younger generation of architects in India? Will they be able to take on the new challenges that will arise in the coming years?
What are the new challenges? Every generation has faced new challenges and has overcome it. Thus, I do not see any point of concern there. But having said that, yes, I see great potential in the new generation. In fact I see young designers as my competition.

And why not? When I was young, I was competition to the then stalwarts of the field.

It’s good to have a sense of healthy competition; it enables one to keep up to the standards.

Sometimes I learn from them and they get an edge over my designs, and sometimes it’s the other way around – so it’s great to keep remaining on the edge and sharpen ourselves.

This assures me that they surely shall be able to not only take up new challenges but overcome them too.

Golden Palms Resort at Bangalore was where I could design India’s first health spa and body rejuvenating resort.

architecture6
architecture5

Do you think the government needs to improve the state of urban infrastructure in India? What measures should they undertake?
I feel there should be a clear vision from the government for the development of not just infrastructure but also architecture. The government, in fact, is the highest spender and by far, I may say, biggest developer in our country.

IMPROVING INFRASTRUCTURE
It needs to surely improve the state of infrastructure. I can happily say that the current administration is doing quite a bit of work on implementation of such projects. A city’s development shall begin with its infrastructure – if the roads are well built, water, power, communication is all available and are of dependable source then development shall take its own positive course.
Today architecture in India is driven by builder’s architecture. Residential, malls, offices – everything is being built by builders. What is the state doing? There are no public buildings or public facilities like libraries, museums, auditoriums, theatres coming up. Even schools and hospitals are built by private builders. The government is not making a contribution to that. The government needs to invest money in these things.

Secondly, the government should encourage architecture. When you look at other countries, they are very proud of their architecture. They say it is the face of the city. Architecture today is in a very bad state.
Norman Foster, the famous British architect said: ‘As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown’. What is your take on this philosophy?

One designs through his knowledge and past experience – one design for the present, which is expected to last the future. My design philosophy is to keep it simple and as functional as possible with a touch of drama. My designs are non-acrobatic, yet smart in all senses. They are detailed to the grassroot level and that’s what makes them successful.

FUNCTIONAL DESIGNS
All designs need to be functional; if one designs something that is not functional, it may be known as art. Be it a home or an office, without functionality, it is useless. We must build keeping in mind that it must last for at least 100 years. Good for today and good for tomorrow.
Indian Hindu architecture, as far as temples are concerned, have some of the finest designs. Do you think we missed out from our own roots to implement those at present?

Our ancient architecture, Hindu architecture, which we call traditional architecture is mostly temples and palaces. Temples are the examples of structures that are over 2,000 years old.
They are not homes, they are monuments. Our ancient monuments like the architecture of the Mughals, including the TajMahal and Humayun’s Tomb were all made to last for generations to come.

They were built for worship. The craftsmen were passionate. That’s why those buildings have that life and feeling. In those times, there were only natural sources of light and ventilation.
The same can be said for European monuments and old churches amongst several others across the globe. New palaces were built during the colonial period by British architects who followed Hindu traditions in after carefully studying our architecture, nature, environment and the likes. We didn’t have Indian architects or artistes.
Apart from these temples, we really do not have any examples of Indian architecture. A few homes and havelis which were built by Maharajas in a few places are exceptions. There is no distinct architecture.
We can say British architecture has taught us Indian architecture.

architecture7

They were sensitive to the Indian context. They trained our masons and craftsmen. What is colonial architecture? They came, used local expertise and started building colonies, courtyards, verandas, high-ceiling rooms, thick walls and used stones.

Please tell us about the project that you admire most in India – both yours and of other architects
I admire Lotus Temple at Delhi, designed by architect FariborzSahba, for its beauty, it’s form and structure and it’s monumental value. I love the planning done by architect Edwin Lutyens in and around the Rajpath in Delhi, the India Gate, RashtrapatiBhavan and the landscaped pockets within.

architecture8

EXEMPLARY MASTER PLANNING

Similarly, I admire Chandigarh, designed by Le Corbusier, which is an exemplary piece of master planning; The Stock Exchange tower in Mumbai designed by architect Chandra Patel is also highly appreciated by me, for its iconic look and form.
As for my own work, the Green Residential Township for the HP Mittal Energy (HMEL) township at Bathinda is close to my heart for its outstanding performance in sustainability.
Similarly Vasant Valley School is a project that has won best Day School Award and is a uniquely designed educational project; Golden Palms Resort at Bangalore was where I could design India’s first health spa and body rejuvenating resort.

You have won a series of awards from lifetime achievement to many in the field of architecture and design. What inspires you to keep going and to whom do you attribute this success?

I work with passion and pretty hard. Awards are just incidental, they come by as an appreciation of my hard work.
Success is attributed to one’s own best performance.
Once a person puts in his best – be it best as in his passion or as his hard work – success is sure to come.

What message do you have for our readers?
Architecture is nothing but work that you do passionately.
Believe in excellence and love what you do.

POOR BACKGROUND

What inspired you to take up architecture?
I came from a poor background and have stayed at refugee camps.
I used to sell newspapers to support my education.
I have worked hard to become a self-made person. When I passed out of school, I could not find a good job because of social reasons.

I couldn’t become a clerk because my English was bad, nor a typist because my spellings were bad. I found a job as a blueprint employee in an engineer’s office.
During my spare time I would draw.
I was referred to a night school in Delhi but didn’t get admission. Then I went to Mumbai where I started studying architecture.
That’s when I realised it was one of the best professions.

You have done some detailed studies of Vaastu. Should it be a part of the curriculum for architecture students?
As per my research, there is no such thing as VaastuShashtra. Vaastu is not a science it is the knowledge of ancient Indian architecture. Vastu is environment architecture.
An architect is expected to design all projects on the basis of the environment, orientation, the Sun’s path, and social and commercial aspects.
An architect is known as Vaastukar in India, which implies that one who deals with Vaastu is an architect.

BANDRA-WORLI SEALINK A blessing for Mumbai motorists

The Bandra-Worli sealink provides relief to thousands of motorists in India’s financial and commercial capital, cutting down their travel time from the heart of the city to the distant suburbs

WORDS: N B RAO

It was one of the most memorable evenings for this writer, a longtime resident of Mumbai, who found himself atop a pylon tower, soaring 420-ft over the Arabian Sea a few years ago, and watching the city and the suburbs to the north and east.

For years, one had heard of an ambitious 30-km-long Western Freeway, which would link Mumbai’s western suburbs from Kandivali to Marine Drive, enabling quick movement of traffic. Unfortunately, successive governments simply ignored the project – as most infrastructure projects in Mumbai get waylaid by the authorities – until good fortune dawned on India’s financial and commercial capital.

On that summer evening in 2009, a group of journalists were taken to the top of the tower by the developer of the six-km-long, cable-stayed bridge, and were proudly presented with the most important road project taken up in the metropolis in recent decades.
From the top of the tower, one could see the entire Bandra-Worli coastline, including the skyscrapers that were rapidly coming up in central Mumbai. Fishing boats, which usually operated out of Bandra and Mahim, were unfortunately on the decline and fisherfolk who in the past would sail out in the evenings, appeared missing. Since the new bridge would handle thousands of vehicles daily,

security had been beefed up along the six-km-long route and restrictions had been imposed on the movement of fishing boats.

Mahim, located next to Bandra, was one of the seven islands that originally made up Bombay. (The other islands included Worli, Parel, Mazagaon, Isle of Bombay, Little Colaba, or Old Woman’s Island, and Colaba). Mahim was the capital of a king who ruled over the islands in the 13th century.

AMBITIOUS PROJECT
The Bandra-WorliSealink is the first phase of the ambitious Western Freeway, which would hopefully reduce pressure on the city’s roads.

interview6

Last month, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), unveiled the ambitious project (now renamed the Mumbai Coastal road project), which it expects to become operational in a mere four years.
The freeway will link Kandivali to Marine Drive, through the Bandra-WorliSealink. The central government has given the environment clearance for the proposed eight-lane freeway, which will link Mumbai’s Princess Street flyover at Marine Lines to the sealink in the 10-km-long first phase.
The first phase, estimated to cost about Rs70 billion, will include a 3.4-km-long undersea tunnel. The second phase, of 20-km, will link Bandra to Kandivali through another sealink. There will be a dozen interconnections to the city along the 30-km-long route. The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs150 billion.
The Bandra-Worlisealink is today one of the busiest arteries in the metropolis, and more than 35,000 vehicles use it daily. Motorists have to pay a one-way toll of Rs60 (or a two-way toll of Rs90) for every ride.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which is in-charge of the sealink, wants to continue collecting toll from motorists for another four decades.

interview7

HIGH TOLL RATES
But motorists in Mumbai do not mind paying the relatively high toll rates, as the sealink cuts down their travel time by more than half. Travelling on the relatively narrow and over-crowded traditional route from Bandra to Worli can take up to an hour during the morning or evening peak rush period, especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, when hundreds of thousands of believers gather outside the Siddhivinayak temple at Worli, the St Michael’s Church at Mahim, or the Mahim mosque respectively.

Of course, considering that Mumbai has limited scope to expand its roadways, even the freeway gets choked with traffic during the peak hours and is unable to provide relief to motorists, especially those heading to the airport from the city.
The Bandra-Worlisealink (and even the Kandivali-Marine Drive link) should have become operational in the 1960s or 1970s. Political and bureaucratic delays have frozen infrastructure development in Mumbai for several years, causing untold problems for motorists and bus commuters in the metropolis.