Domus - - CONTENTS - Kai­wan Me­hta

There has been a gen­er­a­tion of ar­chi­tects who set up prac­tice in the 1990s and by the end of the decade, emerged with a clear ar­tic­u­la­tion of their ar­chi­tec­tural the­ses as de­sign prac­ti­tion­ers; the gen­er­a­tion and their work out­lined a clear path of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and en­gage­ment that showed no es­sen­tial in­ter­est in un­crit­i­cally tow­ing the line of thought that dom­i­nated the 1970s and 1980s. How­ever, at the same time, many prac­tices es­tab­lished in the 1970s or so en­tered an in­ter­est­ing sec­ond phase of their work-ca­reers in the 1990s, and strug­gled with a change in values, ma­te­ri­als, and tech­nol­ogy vis-à-vis the de­sign ideas and con­struc­tion of build­ings. It is re­quired that the work of some se­nior prac­tices from the 1990s on­wards be re­viewed and crit­i­cally dis­cussed now with a more con­tem­po­rary set of ques­tions and the­mat­ics. One of the most vi­brant but also ex­ces­sively dis­cussed and very of­ten un­crit­i­cally em­ployed ideas — the idea of In­di­an­ness in de­sign, which also ex­tends into other themes and prac­tices with ideas and la­bels such as ‘lo­cal’ or ‘re­gional’ or ‘ver­nac­u­lar’, has un­der­gone crit­i­cal re­view­ing. Ideas are never uni­ver­sal or time­less and they need pe­ri­odic re­view­ing, es­pe­cially when they reach a pop­u­lar­ity such that it be­comes a for­mula than a the­sis, and pro­duces ob­jects that are nei­ther chal­leng­ing to the senses, nor pro­duc­ing a sense of de­light that is en­gag­ing crit­i­cally the mind and its be­lief sys­tems. His­tory be­comes flat­tened as ideas turn to for­mu­lae, and to­day. in a coun­try like In­dia, ques­tions of His­tory, mem­ory, and be­long­ing need ac­tive de­bate. His­tory and In­di­an­ness are sub­jects of de­bate — and it is only de­bate and dis­cus­sion that can keep these ideas alive, and they will be most in­tel­lec­tu­ally pro­duc­tive and al­low for vi­brant ex­pe­ri­ences only as long as they are alive! The con­di­tions of prac­tice have shifted in many ways — lo­ca­tions of in­vest­ment, sys­tems of values, pro­gram­matic def­i­ni­tions of what hap­pens in­side build­ings, ideas and avail­abil­ity of tech­nol­ogy, li­brary of ma­te­ri­als, and so on. The clas­sic ur­ban-ru­ral di­vide has been blur­ring for the last two decades nearly, eco­nomic up­heavals have cre­ated new equa­tions be­tween fi­nan­cial re­sources, so­cial re­quire­ments, cul­tural imag­i­na­tions, and rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of pro­fes­sional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ser­vices. Ar­chi­tec­ture, and so the ar­chi­tect, stand really at an in­ter­est­ing lo­ca­tion of bal­anc­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ideas, but also have to con­stantly de­fine and re­de­fine roles of ar­tic­u­la­tions, as well as the pur­pose, scope, and lim­i­ta­tions of de­sign. What can de­sign do, is an im­por­tant ques­tion that needs to be con­stantly ad­dressed; in what ways can de­sign in­ter­vene and en­gage with con­di­tions on ground and his­tory, and con­di­tions that are chang­ing in undefined ways? So does de­sign be­come

the pro­vi­sional pause to re­view and de­bate our con­di­tions of be­ing, work­ing, and liv­ing? In this sit­u­a­tion it be­comes ev­i­dent how dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of ar­chi­tects work­ing and pro­duc­ing con­tem­po­rary de­signs and build­ings at the present are re­turn­ing in­ter­est­ingly to ques­tions of form, struc­ture, de­tails, ref­er­ences and no­tions of vis­ual-think­ing as much as sys­tems of spa­tial in­vest­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence. Play of the vis­ual-think­ing, the ‘thought-im­ages’ ar­tic­u­lated as ways of ad­dress­ing the ground of con­di­tions — re­la­tions of sorts, eco­nomic, so­cial, fa­mil­ial — could be seen as an emerg­ing method­ol­ogy of de­sign. De­sign is more and more about the ar­tic­u­la­tion of thoughts, and the process of de­sign­ing be­comes a way to ad­dress re­al­i­ties we en­counter as sit­u­a­tions of every­day life. Then how does ar­chi­tec­ture talk about the re­al­i­ties of every­day life — re­al­i­ties of his­tory, of per­cep­tion, of po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ships, of think­ing around our so­cial net­works, and what will the tool-kit of de­sign­ing, of el­e­ments that or­gan­ise and shape build­ings mean as a cul­tural re­source?

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