Architecture

Lucknow havelis Thriving hubs in the past

For centuries, havelis reigned supreme in places such as Lucknow, but recent decades have seen a gradual decline in the number of such palatial homes

WORDS: N. B. RAO

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Today, there are more than a dozen heritage hotels in Uttar Pradesh that have managed to restore the grandeur to many of the havelis of the past. Besides providing a peep into the history of a lovely land, the hotels have also managed to preserve the rich history and heritage of Uttar Pradesh.

FOR centuries, thousands of Indians living in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, would stay in havelis, which were traditional mansions with divisions within.
Havelis have been popular for centuries and during the Mughal Empire, they rose to prominence with many of the impressive buildings being described as havelis.
Sadly, today even historic cities like Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, do not have many havelis on display. Many of the old structures in the city have crumbled because of the lack of adequate attention by the owners, most of who have become impoverished.
The few havelis that can be seen are at Katari Tola, but most are in bad shape. To enjoy the true essence of living in a haveli, one has to stay in some of the impressive heritage hotels, not just in the capital, but other parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Today, there are more than a dozen heritage hotels in Uttar Pradesh that have managed to restore the grandeur to many of the havelis of the past. Besides providing a peep into the history of a lovely land, the hotels have also managed to preserve the rich history and heritage of Uttar

Pradesh. Indeed, many of the havelis and palaces are still owned by the erstwhile royal families, who were desperately lacking funds to ensure the upkeep of these majestic structures built about 150 to 200 years ago.
They have tied up with hotel chains to ensure the upkeep of these properties.
The palatial mansions and havelis have in recent years been refurbished and transformed into heritage hotels, where a growing number of middle-class Indians (not just the very affluent) are able to spend a few nights in royal splendor.
The heritage hotels in UP reflect the glory of the Mughal era and also during the British empire, going back to those days of grandeur in those palatial buildings.

Tourism officials in UP claim that the havelis and palaces – now converted into hotels – reflect wonderful stories of heroism, sacrifice and even romance.
Of course, quite a few books have also been written on these ancient monuments that once mesmerised the people – both ordinary folk and the royalty – with their grandeur.

Adity Chakravarti, an artist and jewellery maker, who is also the wife of an IFS officer – and has lived abroad in many capitals for several years – wrote a coffee table book on Lucknow’s havelis and other homes. Rehaish – At Home in Lucknow, her book, discovers the historic homes, havelis, kothis and bungalows of the city.

FASCINATING HAVELIS
In her book, she writes extensively about some of the most fascinating havelis in the city. She travelled extensively across Lucknow, interacting with the owners of the havelis to come up with her book.
Havelis have been popular across Uttar Pradesh for centuries. Before the Mughal empire, havelis – a generic term for mansions and townhouses – were popular in north India.
They featured courtyards, which were the centre of the house and all members and guests gathered there. Some in Gujarat and Rajasthan also referred to a few temples as havelis. Rajasthani architecture also influenced the construction of havelis in many cities.
Unfortunately, the era of havelis has virtually come to an end, though some of the heritage properties are trying to preserve the ancient structures.

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Creating a balanced symbiosis of Design & Nature

Studio Symbiosis, an architectural & interior design studio based in Delhi, London and Stuttgart is reckoned with working on projects of various scales and sectors across South Asia. A design philosophy that focuses on creating integrated design solutions imbibing efficient, robust and sustainable designs, performative architecture is here to stay in India

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VOTED by CNN (International) Style in 2017 as one of the top architects who could change India’s skylines forever is the young team of Ar. Amit Gupta and his wife, Ar. Britta Knobel Gupta, both founders of Delhi-based design firm Studio Symbiosis. The firm is only about eight years old but is looking at aggressively shaping the skylines of many major cities and skylines across South Asia. Ranging from lone-standing structures such as hotels and offices to several large-scale housing and city-planning projects, the scope for Studio Symbiosis is unique and fulfilling.

This young, creative design firm has been involved in several prestigious and high end projects like Hilton Ahmedabad, Trans Ganga Master plan 1200 acres, Kanpur Riverfront Redevelopment, Allahabad Master plan 2300 Acres, Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Taj Ahmedabad, Taj Jodhpur, Mundra Hotel, Punjab Kesari Headquarters, ID Headquarters Lucknow to name just a few.
The dynamic duo met whilst studying together at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, United Kingdom and then subsequently working together

with the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid for five years. During their time together there, they were involved with several award winning designs and projects. While they both come from diverse backgrounds – Amit from India and Britta from Germany, this diversity existed to a certain point and a strong convergence of ideas took place while studying and working together later on. They both have keen interest in travel, nature and technology and that is best reflected in their work together. They feel all this gives their practice a unique outlook on designs.

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Founded in 2010 by Amit and Britta along with Dr. Vandana Sehgal (Honorary Partner), Studio Symbiosis is involved in projects of various scales and sectors, ranging from master plans, hospitality, mixed-use development, offices, housing and villas. They also have ties to Germany, where their firm’s international headquarters is located. But it is in India where these designers feel their projects really make an impact.

The core focus of the design firm is on creating spaces that exist in equilibrium with their surroundings. Elements of program, site, context, landscape and climate are studied and interfaced, thereby resulting in the amalgamation of these design considerations in one coherent design and resonating the term “symbiosis” in the design. The outlook towards the projects is to create a unified design language as an outcome of the design parameters and to push the boundaries of the conventional design in terms of efficiency, design language and execution techniques.

APPROACHING NEW PROJECTS:
The architects believe that each project is unique and needs to be treated differently, keeping in mind the environment it is built in and the use. They do not believe in style based architecture but rather let the design parameters drive the project. By not trying to force the design into a certain criteria of design language, they feel that the result is a seamless amalgamation of the design parameters with the outcome taking its own form. They also are interested in sustainable designs, ensuring this brief is communicated and imbibed in the design process in an early stage.

Incorporating natural ways like open, free ventilation or shading is an integral part of the design and form from the Studio. They also enjoy knowing more about projects and their future vision which forms the driving force for their design which is then becomes the driving force of the design element. The projects they work on come from a background where there is a very strong sense of design as they are based on one system and thought which is followed through and that drives the entire project.
The research and intent of the practice is to create performance as a design driver, to achieve Sustainable and Smart buildings. The duo adds, “Every project we have done in the office is special to us. It is very difficult to single out one. From the inception of the projects we take an iconoclastic approach towards design.

It is a process of going to the basics of the design and not trying to fit the design in the preconceived image of the given typology. It is this process of dissolution of existing ideas that leads to meaningful spaces and thereby creates Iconic and elegant architecture.”

ENSURING ENVIRONMENT CONSCIOUSNESS:
An underlying approach for their designs is to address the issue of sustainability in designing. “We have been working on sustainable design solution in various projects of varying scales. Trans Ganga Master plan, Allahabad Master Plan, Aqua villa, Mundra hotel, Kanpur Riverfront Development are some examples of the projects that have sustainability deeply embedded as an integral part of the design”, they add. The team tries to imbibe elements from nature such as sun path diagrams, wind patterns, topographical levels etc are studied both digitally and physically to instigate a design process where the overall form presents an optimum solution.

This is an inherent part of the design process whereby a feedback loop is established that constantly updates the formal language of the project thereby embedding environmental sustainability in the form itself. India faces the extremes of climates in most places and for this reason it is important to utilize these natural resources by making them work alongside the design.

FACING REAL TIME CHALLENGES:
The biggest challenge for them is to create meaningful architectural spaces in India with the existing construction techniques and having a developer driven market where the design value of architecture has little but no significance. Keeping in mind the end user is very important and architecture should be about the experience and perception of the user, they feel. Construction in India is different from anywhere in the world, feel the architects. There is a combination of factors here – the use of high and low technology processes and tools are used for construction so one is typically working with materials that are otherwise uncommon or rarely used in other countries. For example, it is very rare for one to find buildings constructed with steel in India, but one can find buildings made from concrete everywhere. “The challenges of design in India are in terms of construction techniques and pushing meaningful architectural forms and spaces are seen by us as design parameters.

These constraints are embedded in the design from the inception itself where by computational tools and the iterative design process helps us in using these challenges as design drivers. Digital tools along with local construction knowledge are embedded in the design. With most of the projects based in India, it is very critical to understand the local construction techniques which enables us to deliver a robust final project,” they say. While every cloud has a silver lining, the architects feel that these challenges and having a set-up in India gives them an edge over other firms globally who are unable to tap and deal with the dynamic India design and construction scenario.One other challenge one is faced with is that small and unknown architectural firms tend to take projects for very low fees thereby bringing down the standards of designs. This does not allow highly qualified consultants to get good meaningful work which is expensive sometimes.

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The challenges of design in India are in terms of construction techniques and pushing meaningful architectural forms and spaces are seen by us as design parameters. These constraints are embedded in the design from the inception itself where by computational tools and the iterative design process helps us in using these challenges as design drivers. Digital tools along with local construction knowledge are embedded in the design. With most of the projects based in India, it is very critical to understand the local construction techniques which enables us to deliver a robust final project

FINDING INSPIRATION FOR EVERY PROJECT:
Indian architecture — particularly traditional construction techniques — has served as inspiration for several of Studio Symbiosis’ bold, futuristic designs. “We’ve spent a long time studying India’s architectural history,” Knobel Gupta said, “mogul architecture, Wada architecture and of course the famed ancient stepwells. But we then take these historic designs and re-imagine them, and so you may not even recognize it at first because it’s done in a completely new form.”
The perspective has aided the firm’s mission to create sustainable and environmentally sensitive designs. For example, the architects revamped traditional cooling techniques to tackle India’s scorching temperatures. Britta Knobel Gupta points to a traditional South Asian technique known as jali, which involves creating perforated holes on walls or window screens to cool the space by compressing air. “It’s a technique we find extremely interesting because it lets in light but does not let in heat,” she said. Similar cooling techniques are seen in one of the firm’s newest projects: the Net Zero Affordable Housing Jhansi.
Creating spaces and built forms that are elegant, timeless and in harmony is what drives the design team. The inspiration for every design comes from understanding the process driving the various phenomenon of nature. “We believe in having a research based approach to the practice whereby systems are studied, tested and developed and translated from elements of nature to an expression of architectural design. Nature has developed and tested the various elements over a period of billions of years making elements very efficient; anything that is not required is taken away from the system hereby making it an elegant system. It is this research of natural phenomenon that interests our practice. The feeling of seeing our designs being executed and to see them once finished gives a feeling parallel to none,” they add.

AWARDS & ACCOLADES:
Britta Knobel Gupta, Partner of Studio Symbiosis was recently honored with the prestigious “40 under 40 Europe Architects” that recognizes the excellence in the field of Architecture. Also they have been recently awarded the prestigious “iGen Architects of the future 2014″, International property awards for best hotel project in India for Double Tree by Hilton Ahmedabad, Iconic Design for

Best Master plan of the year for Kanpur Riverfront Development, German Design Award 2015 for best Urban Design of the year for Kanpur Riverfront Development. Studio Symbiosis has been recognized as the best Architectural practice in North India by Global Lifestyle Awards for 2015-16.THE FUTURE:
The young, creative architects at Studio Symbiosis are raring to go. They add that the Indian architecture industry is really transforming in India. The increase in economic standards and disposable incomes in the last decade has really increased the demand for new, well designed buildings crafted by highly experienced professionals. Consumers too are well travelled and know what they want to make an impression while keeping in mind the environmental footprints. Due to this huge demand, many international firms working out of India are interested in the development of our country. More and more Indian architects are returning back to the country and setting up base here due to this increase in demand. Also budgets too are sizeable and there is plenty of land available to build on. This only will help create more room for younger, smaller practices to move in with their bold new designs.

While Studio Symbiosis has also been commissioned to work on several large-scale projects, with three major city-planning designs — Transganga Masterplan Kanpur, Allahabad Masterplan and Chola Masterplan — now in the works. The duo feels that well-thought out city-planning projects are very crucial to India’s progress, much like smart cities that has been launched by the current Government. Today, besides just a few exceptions of city planning like Lucknow and Chandigarh, no real Indian city has been planned and since the growth is so phenomenal, we can see the repercussions and strains on the metro cities already. Of course, one cannot change the system overnight but the architects are hoping that urban planners take due cognizance of their perennial problem facing Indian cities and work towards the same over time.
Concluding, the team adds, “We at Studio Symbiosis have extended our research unit in the office also into academics in terms of workshops and symposiums. It is important for the youngsters to have a very clear focus and looking over the boundaries into parallel fields like product, interior, movie and fashion industry. Our profession might be a very slow one but it is worth every second.”

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Bangalore Palace Majestic property caught in decades-old disputes

The Bangalore Palace in the heart of the Garden City is a fascinating place to visit and discover a rich culture. Unfortunately, it has been tangled in legal disputes for several years now…

WORDS: N. B. RAO

DRIVING along one of Bangalore’s busy roads, you come across various signs put up by promoters of ‘halls’ where weddings and other functions are being held. Most of the organisers claim that the venue is Bangalore Palace.
Curious to visit this ‘Palace,’ this correspondent entered several gates only to find that they were merely temporary ‘halls’ put up by some smart operator, who charged hefty fees for hosting exhibitions, weddings, birthday parties and other social events.
It took almost an hour to find out from different sources the exact location of the ‘original’ Bangalore Palace.

It’s only later that one realised that the Bangalore Palace stretches on for kilometres, encompassing almost 500 acres in the heart of the garden city.
Unfortunately, the Palace is also at the heart of a long-drawn litigation between the Wadiyars, the erstwhile rulers of Mysore, the state government, the civic body, and several other parties. The matter has been going on for decades and is still pending with the Supreme Court.

Fascinating place
Irrespective of the legal disputes – which have arisen despite the state government’s enactment of the Bangalore

Palace Acquisition and Transfer Act, 1996 – the original Palace is quite a fascinating place to visit.
Because of its location – one has to take several turns and diversions to enter the original palace – not many tourists are able to reach it or are aware about its presence.
When this writer landed there around noon time recently, there were not many tourists.
Inside the Palace too, the visitors were restricted. It was only later that the realisation dawned that a shooting for a Kannada TV serial was going on and all the actors were inside the palace.

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And considering you were a ‘tourist’ the production team did not restrict your rights. So it was a pleasure meeting with some of the actresses, who were in the palace rooms, all decked up, and waiting for the director to call them for the shoot.

Bangalore Palace has a fascinating history, which some of the film/TV producers should consider working on. It was originally owned by one Rev J. Garrett, a school principal in Bangalore, who built it in 1862 and sold it to the Wadiyars 12 years later.
Inspired by Windsor castle
Chamarajendra Wadiyar, who bought it, was under the influence of Tudor and Scottish Gotchic styles. He was also inspired by the Windsor castle and other prominent ones in Europe. He built the Palace on a 45,000 sq. ft plot of land. John Cameron, a famous architect in Bangalore in the late 19th century – who had set up the sprawling Lalbaug gardens in the city – was roped in for landscaping.
The erstwhile rulers were also hunters of elephants and tigers – one of who hunted more than 300 tigers – and over the decades they displayed their ‘catch’ in the Palace.

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It also has a collection of 30,000 photographs, quite a few of which are in decrepit shape.
Unfortunately, unlike many other prominent palaces in India, the Bangalore one has been haunted by disputes over the decades. As recently as 1970, the then owner, a member of the erstwhile royal family, sold it companies promoted by a civil contractor.
However, the transfers did not occur as the companies had not been registered and one of the family members filed a civil case. There were other disputes with land being allocated to five sisters of the family.
Today, different members of the erstwhile royal family own parts of the complex. Interestingly, many of the grounds are rented out for live events including rock shows by international stars, cricket matches, other sports events and of course exhibitions and marriages.
Prominent international performances at the Palace ground included those by Elton John, Roger Waters, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Scorpions, Enrique Iglesias, Aerosmith and Deep Purple.

The Palace interiors are also well maintained and display paintings by Raja Ravi Verma and works by Dutch and Greek painters of the 19th century
Despite the numerous disputes and court battles, a visit to the Palace can be a fascinating experience and you can spend hours going around it. Hopefully, the matters should be resolved soon, allowing more people to know about the rich heritage of our past.

“Our talent and our wealth are loaned to us to be used for a greater good”

Known for his sharp wit besides being a legend in global architecture, Christopher Charles Benninger has given more to India than any other architect could. From a Fulbright Fellow (1968) from MIT when he first entered India in the 1970s to forming CCBA Designs in Pune, a globally recognized architectural firm for ‘excellence in design’, Christopher can be referred to as the architect of modern India…

Christopher Charles Benninger Architects (CCBA), founded in 1999 by Prof. Christopher Benninger along with Founder Director Ramprasad Akkisetti, is globally recognized architectural firm for ‘excellence in design.’ Adds Ram, “I met Christopher at a bookshop in Pune when I was in my third year of MBBS at Armed Forces Medical College, Pune in 1993. That was the beginning of our friendship. I think we were meant to meet. Christopher for me was the chance I was looking for to break out from serious academia and pursue my interest in art and architecture.”
CCBA started its operations in 1994 with Christopher wanting to change his profession from being a professor at CDSA, Pune to wanting to start something on his own. At that time Christopher was 51 and he realised that he had been teaching for 25 years of his life and if he didn’t take the step now, it would never be realised. Uncompromising as ever with work and life choices, Benninger had relinquished his post as Executive Director of the Centre for Development Studies and ActivitieKnos (CDSA) in Pune, in 1976, to follow his dreams. Today, CCBA has a team of forty architects and studios in Pune and Thimphu, this internationally known ‘design house’ creates projects ranging from capital cities and new towns; educational campuses and corporate headquarters; housing estates and complexes; hotels resorts and hospitals; down to the design of individual chairs and art works. The firm believes that ‘The entire range of materiality plays a role in the studio’s search for beauty. In the end, it is not the “things” that the studio design’s, but the transcendental experience of the people using them, looking at them, or just being in them which is the essence.’
Born in 1942, Prof. Benninger grew up in America where he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture as a boy. At the age of twelve, he read ‘The Natural House’ by Wright, which left an indelible mark on him that can be seen in his work today. He studied urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and architecture at Harvard University where he later because a professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design.
He started his career by working under the famous Spanish architect Jose Luis Sert and learnt a lot from him. This experience brought him in contact with the “European School” of thought where abstraction, and a separation between nature and built form, played important roles. His association with Barbara Ward brought him into the Delos Symposium group where he was associated closely with Constantinos Doxiadis, Buckminister Fuller, Margarete Mead and Arnold Toynbe. He came to India on a Fullbright Fellowship in 1968, and later as a Ford Foundation consultant to set up the School of Planning at Ahmedabad (1972) jointly with Padmashree Balkrishna. V. Doshi. Since then, he has been living and working in the South Asian region for overy forty years. Some labeled this as a “self-imposed exile.”
Benninger speaks similarly about the forces that shaped his life and brought him from America to India. A holy man, whom he encountered on his early travels here, predicted that he was “a person of little wealth, but of great fortune”. And luck, the sage illumined, at its benevolent best appears in the form of great teachers. This profound realisation changed the course of Benninger’s life, quite literally so, when years later he renounced a coveted academic tenure at Harvard and returned to India, in response to Balkrishna Doshi’s call, to set up the School of Planning—now the Faculty of Planning—at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad. In doing so, he inadvertently found himself part of another school, formless and unbounded, that owed its philosophical legacy to masters such as Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. He also found home.Prof Benninger often quotes Gandhi’s indicative, ‘Live in a village and plan for the world’. He noted that he craved a life of ‘being in reality,’ as opposed to studying it from afar.

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“Being an outsider is elemental to seeing problems in new ways. It leads to more creative insights and angles from which things can be seen and related.”
Having spent years thinking and writing about the implications of architecture at a macro level in the urban milieu, Benninger’s buildings are humane in scale and heroic of stance—a civil response to social engineering. He says, ‘Architecture is the experiences of the people who live in milieus or enliven places, imbibe forms, perceive spaces and become lost in the in-between spaces, forgotten or intended, which impact on the emotions, sensitivities and memories of individuals.’
Further he elaborates, ‘Architecture and city planning involve social, spatial, cultural and technological relationships, and being an outsider allows one to throw off the given truths, to reconsider them, and to re-think what the nature of things are. We can never know the truth in architecture, but we can search the ‘good’ in architecture; that is we can search pleasure, efficiency, convenience, beauty, balance, and comfort.’
‘For our studio, the good life exist just a step outside of materiality, in a mystic twilight zone, which we call architecture. Our endeavor is to create environments, ambiances and milieus, which enrich our clients’ lives and make living a meaningful experience.’

Prof. Benninger has been associated with a group of technical consultants in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune in the areas of structural, services, landscape and interior design as his firm CCBA offers comprehensive architectural services from design to supervision. Over the years CCBA has built this enormous pool of knowledge, experience and trust which makes it a unique firm to engage with. The firm is directly engaged by patrons and many projects were won at national level competitions over other firms. The firm believes in having state-of-the-art electronic and computer equipment to work with latest software to deliver the best in design and drawing. The architects undergo continual training to keep abreast with the latest in technology. They are both at technical level as well as at intellectual level, at par with the best in the world.
Prof Benninger defines his firm as, “CCBA is a laboratory of exploration and experimentation where search and research for solutions to our clients’ problems and aspirations. We analyze the parameters and factors that define physical products, which are affordable, durable, functional, ecological and beautiful. Our firm has always functioned as a studio, only taking up projects involving study, analysis and exploration of visual, spatial, formal, social and technological ideas and concepts related to architecture, urbanism and human settlements.

“As architects we bring to the context more than just these utilitarian goals…we seek the poetry in the place, the lyricism in the built-forms and vibrancy in the inhabitants’ lives.”
The firm CCBA has received over 35 awards and citations. Recently, it has been awarded with India’s most sought after commissions: the Azim Premji University at Bengaluru; and the Indian Institute of Technology, in Hyderabad, along with the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. Prof Benninger’s expansive campuses reveal an understanding of Indian “place making” reflecting the great temple complexes and the Mogul campuses.

Prof Benninger has lectured at many countries / cities including Germany, Austria, Berlin, India (Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Cochin, Chandigrah, Indore, and Kolkata) etc. He has been on the Board of the United States Education Foundation of India (Fulbright Foundation), Member of the Bureau of Indian Standards, and on the Board of University Teaching and Research at the University of Pune.

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His narrative presents a language that lies between American ideals embedded in its wooded Arcadian landscapes and sacred notions enshrined within Indian courtyards, generating a unique approach to architecture and place making.
Prof Benninger has lectured at many countries / cities including Germany, Austria, Berlin, India (Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Cochin, Chandigrah, Indore, and Kolkata) etc.
He has been on the Board of the United States Education Foundation of India (Fulbright Foundation),

He is a Distinguished Professor at CEPT, Ahmedabad and on the Governing Council of the World Society of Ekistics at Athens. He is Statutory Member of the Board of Governors of the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi.
Moreover, Prof Benninger is the founder of the Center for Development Studies and Activities at Pune (1976).
After heading the institute for twenty years, he relinquished the management of CDSA to become fully involved in his design studio.

In addition to above, he has been an advisor to the Planning Commission, to the Ministries of Urban Development, Rural Development, Social Welfare and Home Affairs (GOI). He has also been a consultant to the Ford Foundation, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the UN-FAO, UN-ESCAP, UNICEF, UNCHS [Habitat] and many urban development authorities. Under these consultancies, he has prepared urban and regional development plans for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

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B.V DOSHI : FIRST INDIAN RECIPIENT OF THE PRITZKER PRIZE

Last month, Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi received the Pritzker Prize for architecture, making him the first Indian recipient of the prestigious award

WORDS: REVATI RAJWADE

balkrishna-doshiBALKRISHNA Vithaldas Doshi, 90, is a name that will go down in history as the first Indian to receive the Pritzker Prize – a pinnacle in architecture. Much has been written about his life, career and works since this announcement and it is undoubtedly a fascinating story of humility and sheer expertise in the field.
His accomplishments have raised him to a towering pedestal in the eyes of the general public. It is not improbable to imagine an architect at the core of ‘building’ India. Looking at the larger picture, the country has a lot to gain and learn from this momentous event of March 07, 2018.
Doshi’s work speaks volumes about the type of principled and design oriented architecture that India needs and its importance in nation building.
A design philosophy which nurtures nature, respects indigenous styles, promotes experimentation and evolution of design has received the highest architecture accolade.
A man behind the conception of India’s leading design institutes has joined the ranks of the greatest recognised architects of the world. It is about time that India shuns the frenzy of ‘globalisation’ of architecture, which is hardly endemic and which promotes glass façades and then uses water saving sanitary fixtures for sustainability.
B.V Doshi’s work depicts the need to respect and follow the ideals of the architectural ideology that we already possess. We as a country need to start respecting professionals who voice opinions that are politically incorrect and against the current tide of the real estate boom which is, ironically, in no way aligned to the National Mission of Housing for All -2022.
Barrier-free public spaces and amenities need to be given priority above infrastructure whose birth lies in symbolism and appeasing masses for political gain. Doshi’s work spectrum can be a model scheme for tangible and intangible aspects of our country’s built environment and the areas encompassing it.

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His designs show borrowed concepts from our architectural heritage and its seamless adaption to the present. They lack extravagant elevational features such as RCC cantilevered pergolas, which crown a building to ensure that it screams for an obnoxious identity amidst the other non-contextual built forms surrounding it.
To further illustrate the relevance of Doshi’s work in today’s times, let us enumerate some of his design features from key projects. The spirit of experimentation is rife in the ‘Amdavadni Gufa,’ which surely must not have had a reference image during concept finalisation.
In contrast, even the largest of our uber luxurious townships are based on the streetscapes of Paris and New York and lack originality in every sense of the term.

In his Sangath project, indirect and diffused light has been drawn into even the innermost spaces of the office areas, making it a forerunner in climatology. The usage of a curtain wall using the rat trap bond provides success in keeping the interiors of his house cooler in the formidable summers and warmer in winters.
This is well in advance, prior to the advent of ‘green architecture’. These minute design details and thought processes form the premise of the macro level planning required for formulating schemes and building infrastructure for a modern India in these difficult times.
To sum it all up in a few words is his own quote: “I think architecture is a matter of transformation. Transformation of all adverse situations into favourable ones.”

SHANIWARWADA, PUNE A wonderful monument

Shaniwarwada in Pune, which has been featured in films of late, was a majestic residence for the Marathas who ruled over much of India during the 18th century. The fort continues to attract visitors today, though it underwent a lot of neglect in the past

WORDS: N.B. RAO

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BUILT way back in 1732 as a home for Bajirao I, a Maratha prime minister who expanded the empire across India, Shaniwarwada, the historic fort in Pune, is an architectural wonder. The fort, located right at the heart of modern-day Pune, was a celebrated monument during the glorious Maratha era in the 18th century.
Unfortunately, after the Marathas lost to the British in the third Anglo-Maratha war in 1818, the East India Company took over Shaniwarwada; about a decade later, it was destroyed by an unexplained fire, got neglected over the next few decades and lost its prominence.
The marvelous fort, however, has been revived of late and attracts thousands of visitors from all over India and even other parts of the world.
Every February, from 2001 onwards, the fort hosts the classical dance festival. This year, it showcased classical BhartaNatyam dancers and Gotipua dancers from Odisha. Hundreds of visitors attend these shows each year.

CENTRE OF MARATHA POLITICS
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) oversees the monument, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as a Grade I monument. The seven-storeyed palace was the centre of Maratha politics for decades.
The fort was built as the mansion for the prime minister of the Maratha empire and cost more than Rs 16,000, a whopping sum in 1732. It was home to a thousand people and more than 3,000 guards protected it from invading enemies.

The Marathas ruled over much of India from the mid-17th century and their architecture was known for simplicity and austere aesthetics. Shaniwarwada was influenced both by the Mughal and Maratha architectural style. The palace featured fountains, mahals (including Ganesh and Rang mahals), mirrors (Aarsa Mahal), a Diwan Khana and a Hasti Dant (elephant tusk), besides sprawling gardens and courtyards.
The main gate of Shaniwarwada is the Delhi Darwaja, soaring at 21 ft. It features metal spikes built to take on invaders and enemies. Other gates at the fort include the Mastani, Khidki, Ganesh and Narayan Darwajas.
The urban fortification has seen tough times from the beginning with palace plots, murders, fires and other disasters. The palace has, however, gained prominence off late, especially after filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali came out with his hugely popular film, Bajirao Mastani.
Dubbed as ‘Pune’s Pride,’ the fort is today witnessing a lot of interest and the authorities too have spent significantly in ensuring that the sprawling gardens and fort infrastructure are well-maintained.
The PMC recently decided that it would continue to host cultural and other programmes within the historic site.

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