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?