Anti Practice: The Realm of the What-Could-Have-Been (and what can still be, elsewhere) – Suprio Bhattacharjee

In many ways, a project remains unbuilt because most of the time it has challenged the normative, the status quo, the acceptability of ‘populist taste’. This is what a reading of history tells us – and why this is important as it inspires future generations of architects to be edgy and provocative.

Suprio Bhattacharjee

I have been thinking about the architects that I admire, and their projects that have moved me the most. There have been many over the years, right from the days of architecture school; the list continues to grow as I uncover more gems hidden away in the dense layered history that is 20th century architecture. Most of them, if not all, are unbuilt – manifesting themselves in bits and parts in other projects by those very architects, or of those inspired by them.

Oscar Niemeyer’s vision for the Museum of Modern Art in Caracas, Venezuela comes to mind; an inverted pyramid at the edge of a cliff, a sheer triumph of modern materials over relentless gravity – it overcame the need for an angle of repose, unlike the pyramids of yore that owe their stability to the earth’s pull. The inversion of the pyramid carries with it multiple meanings and connotations – a jab almost, proud and defiant. This proposal dating from 1955 has the power to stir one’s imagination, and has achieved a quasi-legendary status, easily becoming one of 20th century’s most beloved unbuilt icons. Resembling a tree perched at the edge of a precipice, its internal spaces – column-free, spanned across by floor slabs in tension tying the leaning concrete walls together – would perhaps have been the ultimate achievement
by an architect whose works continue to exude remarkable otherworldliness, emphatic optimism, and freedom. Utilizing Architecture as a means to transcend the generic, Oscar Niemeyer’s works often bring to mind the visions of artists such as Jean Giraud and Syd Mead – visionaries who painted future cityscapes for films and comics, propositioned as abstractions of reality that brought to light the challenges of the present, as much wonder as they were warnings. Like the works of Archigram and Super-studio – collectives that were not formed with the explicit intention to build, but rather to instigate and provoke – Niemeyer’s work distilled the anxieties of the 1960s and 1970s into questions of people, place, politics and production.

Mies van der Rohe’s 1921 competition entry for building Berlin city’s first high-rise on Friedrichstrasse is another favorite, an icon of early modernist architecture; the photographs of the model and the drawings are unforgettable – a remarkable early vision for a steel-framed skyscraper wrapped in glass, with three jagged crystalline wings (the early Mies owed a lot to the German Expressionist Architecture movement – another minefield for unbuilt visions) anchored by a central service core. A strangely organic plan that neatly segregated spaces of circulation and occupation, Mies’ work even foresaw Louis Kahn’s famed ideas of ‘served’ and ‘servant’ spaces. Louis Kahn himself would later envision a massive vertical city for Philadelphia in the late 1950s – a staggered latticework megastructure suggesting a dense vision for freeing up the downtown that was being wrecked by unplanned density and the automobile. Across the Pacific in Japan, the Metabolists – as they were known – were envisioning ways to deal with Tokyo’s post-war urban explosion in its new guise as a global centre, hoping that a fusion of biomimetic growth with advances in technology would provide answers. While their fantastic urban visions such as Kiyonori Kikutake’s Marine City or the famed Tokyo Bay Plan (Kenzo Tange with Kisho Kurokawa and Arata Isozaki) never saw the light of day, they did inspire an entire generation of architects and urbanists across the world to think of radical solutions. Consider Norman Foster’s own unbuilt Hammersmith Centre or his Millennium Tower proposals for both London and Tokyo, the latter being a no-holds-barred tribute to Kiyonori Kikutake’s Marine City – besides of course the Metabolists’ own translations of these ideas into the exceptional, unbridled architecture that emerged in Japan during that period distilling ideas of the body and technology into built manifestations. These had a profound impact upon an entire generation of visual artists – Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, and Mamoru Oshii, amongst others – who brought this bio-machine aestheticism and subsequent philosophical conundrums into their own body of work of remarkable anime.

It is at this juncture that I propose the idea of the Anti-Practice, much like Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s reading of Umberto Eco’s massive 30,000 book collection as an ‘Anti-Library’ – based on Eco’s own assertion that the books more precious on the shelves are the unread ones, those yet to be discovered and experienced. This offers remarkable commentary on the idea of ‘gaining’ or ‘acquiring’ knowledge, positing that all acquired knowledge – all the books one may have read – stand meekly against the mountain of books one hasn’t read, and thus cannot or should not be used as a trophy to rise in the pecking order, something that afflicts contemporary Academia – and by that extension, society – enough to strangulate discovery and invention. In a similar vein, I suggest that buildings and urban visions more precious to a culture or to the profession are the ones that haven’t been built, as they leave us with enough that is yet to be experienced, yet to be discovered, yet to be engineered, yet to be critiqued, yet to be lived-in. And what possibilities the Anti-Practice holds! Many architectural cultures (especially the advanced ones) are built upon a discourse around the unbuilt and the envisioned. Much like science-fiction – which remains fiction until it becomes fact decades later, such as the 1960s Star Trek series’ communicator becoming your cell-phone – unbuilt architecture has the power to proposition a future. Who can forget Antonio Sant’Elia, that prodigious talent whose entire body of work is essentially an example of Anti-Practice that heralded new paradigms of modern architecture and urbanism, manifested in drawings from the early 1910s.

The history of architecture is filled with examples of the Anti-Practice. Etienne-Louis Boullée proposed a daring spherical architectural construct in 1784 to mark Newton’s 150th death anniversary – higher than the pyramids of Giza, the structure symbolized a forceful defiance of the forces of gravity in honor of the individual who discovered them. In the mid-1800s, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc conceptualized architectural strategies that fused previous traditions with the possibilities that iron construction allowed – Structural Expressionism, as it is sometimes called; his explorations pre-date the High-Tech architecture tradition of the 1960s. The industrial revolution too was rich fodder for many unbuilt visions, including Thomas Telford’s Iron Bridge across the Thames in London, dated 1801 –

a filigree latticework of metal that exudes a tremendous lightness.

However, it would be incorrect to associate the unbuilt only with a certain technical or financial competence, or a mere assertion of bravura.
The Anti-Practice is where architects also strike a political pose. What can be more profound than envisioning architecture that is a direct result of the turbulent times – especially in cultures where these unbuilt visions are akin to books, cultures that believe in publishing and the print medium, cultures that are based upon the dispersion and sharing of knowledge. The authorities, consequently, were terrified of the radical propositions of the Soviet modernists of the 1920s, the original avant-garde; architects who really stuck their noses out to celebrate individual freedom of expression – the Suprematists and the Constructivists and everyone in-between – championing the embrace of technology and modern ideals of democracy and transparency in a country that was undergoing tremendous social and cultural change fueled by political propaganda. This polemic power of architecture, amplified by political consonance, has been best embodied by the Anti-Practice.

Ultimately, the most precious projects for the profession as well as the practitioner of architecture are the Unbuilt ones. These remain unbuilt for a number of reasons; one should not forget that two of the most remarkable buildings that won Millennium Commission competitions (a massive undertaking for public projects funded by the British Government in the late 1990s) were won by foreigners and never built for shockingly frivolous reasons – something that foretold today’s Brexit drama of a supposed ‘British-ness’. One project – the Cardiff Bay Opea House – was won by Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid, and the other – the Bristol Opera House – was won by Gunther Behnisch, a German post-war democratic architecture proponent. The saga of these two projects, widely published and documented in the media, highlights the necessary political struggles of a project – predominant among these the responsibility of an architectural venture to make administrators and upholders of the status quo uncomfortable, and in turn re-vitalize a generation of architects. This discomfort is the seed of transformation and changes the views of cities and societies; in many ways, architectural practice has been paving the way for these shifts in perspective, if not instigating directly.

The intention, thus, is to demonstrate the importance of having a historical archive for the unbuilt – and by extension, the importance of a book like this. In the absence of discourse, we tend to accept compromised and diluted visions as the standard (like the now-forgotten original New Bombay masterplan); worse still, we tend to forget and undermine visions proposed in a certain past – such as the Bombay City Centre proposed by S.W. Sangamnehri in the 1970s, which could have positively altered the landscape, pre-empting as it did the challenges of the present city. Or Charles Correa’s unbuilt competition-winning scheme for the Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha, Qatar – replaced later by a bland building by I.M. Pei, as the ruler of the land wished for an ‘International Starchitect’ to build his trophy-building; a study in geo-political aspirations, the circumstances threw light on why Jean Nouvel was still needed at the time to build a museum in Doha or Abu Dhabi to make the region appear ‘open’ and ‘diverse’ enough for foreign (read western) investors – although that is no longer really true in today’s post-global scenario. Another remarkable instance is the unbuilt masterplan for rejuvenating the Lodhi Garden by Joseph Allen Stein – a proposal that envisioned a blurring of the edges between garden and city, nature and artifact, to bring the Lodhi Garden into the 20th century. Unfortunately, what we have today is a garden hedged off from the city, and Stein’s brilliant India International Centre forming the edge of a landscape it was meant to be a part of, not disconnected from. These were not necessarily projects before their time, as much as projects of their time – as is the curse of those who are able to see into the future. In many ways, a project remains unbuilt because most of the time it has challenged the normative, the status quo, the acceptability of ‘populist taste’. This is what a reading of history tells us; these records remain all the more pertinent as they inspire future generations of architects to be edgy and provocative.

If nothing else, a study of unbuilt projects can also be just pure unadulterated fun – like knowing that architecture’s original infant terrible Rem Koolhaas essentially took an unbuilt private house from 1998 and scaled it up for his competition-winning (and eventually built) Casa da Musica proposal sited in the middle of an important roundabout in the Portuguese city of Porto. A boulder-like spaceship that sits squarely in the middle of a UNESCO-designated world heritage precinct, the design is utterly modern and 21st century in its abstraction, yet resoundingly urban and totemic. A silly move, apparently, but serious in its execution – who knew that one could pull out an unbuilt idea for somewhere else onto elsewhere?

What could have been, What can be – Amritha Ballal, SpaceMatters

How the realm of the Architectural Unbuilt can shape the way we build.

What is built cannot be easily unbuilt. An increasingly entrenched tendering based ‘design procurement’ process for most public projects usually demand high turnovers for prequalification and eventually often reward the lowest bidder. This reinforces the status quo while leaving little room for innovation. In an increasing glut of concrete, space for radical and relevant architecture is diminishing.

When, by and large, the ecosystem of built architecture does not encourage innovation, it is worth exploring if the realm of unbuilt architecture can provide an alternative.

The term ‘Unbuilt’ marks a project by what it could not be. Given architecture’s umbilical connection with ‘building’, the unbuilt is what gets left behind. Seen this way, each unbuilt project carries a touch of melancholy for ideas that could not come to fruition through the act of building.

A collection of unbuilt projects, such as this publication, offers compelling insight to what could have been, offering a counterpoint to the quality of our built architecture. What do we choose to build, and why? How do we choose what gets built and what remains unbuilt? When used for such inquiry, unbuilt architecture is no longer relegated to the detritus of architectural dreams. It serves instead as an important incubator and instigator of our built reality.

This essay – as part of possibly the only recent compilation of unbuilt architecture in India – explores the potential of unbuilt architecture to act as mirror and muse to the built.

At this time of unprecedented urbanization, climate change and technological revolution, the challenges facing our habitats are multiplying faster than we can build solutions for them. In many cases, the act of building – or at least building without considering the overall impact is becoming a large part of the problem. Buildings continue to be one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide and consumers of energy globally. India is building millions of square feet annually, and planning experts posit that we need to build millions of square feet of space more to catch up with existing demand.

In all this frenzy of building, astoundingly 7 Indian cities feature in the list of the 10 most polluted cities in the world1, Delhi and Mumbai continue to languish near the bottom of the Global Livability Index and a whole slew of public and private projects have resulted in numbingly similar urban sprawls from Kanpur to Pune. While urban housing and infrastructure remain woefully underprovided, what has been built has created in many cases lasting environmental degradation and social segregation in the urban fabric that might take decades to repair.

In the post-independence era, the body ofwork of the first generation of master architects in India – Charles Correa, B.V. Doshi, Habib Rehman, Raj Rewal, Urmila Eulie Chowdhury et al – collectively explored notions of modernity, cultural identity and social equity, beyond the immediate demands of their individual projects. A culture of competitions for key public commissions helped hone and refine a vision of how architecture could serve the needs of a nascent republic. Yielding both built and unbuilt projects, their work provided a homegrown, probing architectural lexicon for a young nation. Even if the answers weren’t always satisfactory, bigger questions were asked of architecture.

A massive increase in construction activity post liberalization has prioritized building ‘buildings’ as an end unto itself, superseding the development achieving this requires organizers to conceive architectural competitions as a platform to expand architectural thought and identify fresh, ground-breaking design. However, the culture of conducting competitions for important public commissions is not the norm in India and end results often abide by the status quo. Of the few competitions that are conducted, many have faced complaints of lack of transparency and professionalism. Recent examples of this malaise include the design competitions for Amravati Capital Complex in Andhra Pradesh and The War Museum in Delhi2.

Having participated in several key public competitions in India in the last decade and a half, we have had a ringside view on how the priorities of competition organizers impact the final outcome. SpaceMatters was established
in 2005 when we won the competition for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Memorial. As a brand-new practice of fresh graduates, the open entry and imaginative brief of the competition provided us with the rare access to a large and complex public project. The entries were anonymous and jury results were announced through a press release, keeping the process highly transparent. However, this was an experience of how even well-organized competitions are often disconnected from the framework required to see complex projects through the process of realization. The complex realities of building consensus amongst various stakeholders, navigating legal and environmental issues related to the site and tragedy were not embedded in the competition brief and project vision. More than a decade since winning the competition we have stretched ourselves working on these crucial ‘unbuilt’ aspects of the project so that the project can be built true to its intention of memorializing the world’s biggest industrial disaster in an inclusive, participatory manner.

In the Nalanda University competition, on the other hand, the competition itself seemed acutely concerned with the execution phase.

We were one of the final eight shortlisted teams in collaboration with the Norwegian practice Snøhetta and Delhi-based firm Space Design. Arriving at a design that could match up to the breath-taking architecture of the original Nalanda University was no easy task; the competition was essentially a battle of ideas and vision. However, producing the mammoth deliverables took over the mood of the submission. Phase 1 of the projects added up to a built-up of upwards of 5,00,000 sq. ft, and the brief asked for 1:100 scale drawings of the main buildings as part of the competition entry. While the subsequent exhibition of entries at NGMA, Delhi showcased reams and reams of detailed drawings, hardly any schemes could match the legacy of the original. It is as if after having taken the pains to prequalify the best teams globally for the competition, the organizers wanted to test the ‘real-worldliness’ of these architects and see if they could actually churn out drawings – in other words, build.

This undue stress on conservative ‘build-ability’ at the ideation stage is often at the detriment of radical thought and vision, typically yields entries that are competent and build-able but not necessarily exceptional. When even architectural competitions largely tend to play it safe, can our professional and academic institutions create platforms where unbuilt architecture is consciously utilized to provide space for disruptive, investigative architecture? Can unbuilt explorations offer a tantalizing glimpse of alternative futures, engage a wider audience, and spur debate in a manner that replaces apathy with ownership for how our built environment is shaping up?

As I write this, almost 700 acres of former government housing land in Delhi is up for redevelopment, ostensibly to provide housing for state employees. These new buildings will drastically alter the density and urban character of Delhi, with far reaching impacts; key neighborhoods are already being bulldozed and the planned felling of approximately 17,000 trees has created a public outcry. Taken together, this is possibly the biggest transformation of South and Central Delhi in recent history. To put it into perspective, the old city of Shahjahanabad covers an approximate area of 1500 acres and the Central Vista of Lutyens’ Zone covers 90 acres. Immense potential lies wasted as each individual parcel of land is being dealt with as a separate project with little vision or debate on what it would mean for the city as a whole. The initial designs indicate that we risk bringing a chaotic mix of dated residential and commercial projects, reminiscent of the dreary, decade-old urban sprawl of Gurgaon and Noida into the heart of Delhi.

Imagine an alternative, wherein before jumping headlong into a building we could publicly debate, ideate, create, speculate and investigate in the ephemeral realm of the unbuilt, where we have the space to make mistakes instead
of risking these consequences when we build. For the national capital, as for every other burgeoning city in the nation, unbuilt architecture provides the opportunity to conceptualize as well as gauge the merits of the impending built environment. Unbuilt architecture needs further attention as both hypothesis and provocation.

As imagination recedes in the built environment, unbuilt architecture can emerge not just as creative incompletions but as the space for birthing radical ideas free from the constraints of the built. These ideas can be cautionary or inspiring, and they can pose questions or provide answers – one way or the other, they hold the potential to alter what we expect of the built.

  1. As reported by The Guardian on 5th March 2019, based on analysis of air pollution readings from 3,000 cities by Greenpeace and Air-visual; as per The Guardian, the data was collected from “public monitoring sources, such as government monitoring networks, supplemented with validated data from outdoor IQAir Air-visual monitors operated by private individuals and organizations.”
  2. Michele Van Acker on behalf of Fumihiko Maki, “Architectural Competitions in India – Discussions with Fumhiko Maki, Maki and Associates, Tokyo”, accessed 30th July 2019, architectural-competitions-in-india-with- fumihiko-maki/

Unbuilding Design – Himanshu Burte

Critiquing the Enthusiasm for the Build-able Unbuilt.

Buildability of the design is the fulcrum on which its valuation as unbuilt design often turns. Every buildable unbuilt design sustains the contradiction between ‘pure design’ and the messiness of reality that produces it, which it must navigate and alter, and which may defeat it too.

Himanshu Burte

There is, perhaps, little difference between most built and unbuilt designs in terms of attitude towards the task. The difference would be significant if a design were unbuildable, but what purpose would such designs serve? A rich range of purposes, it turns out, in the long history of diagrams and utopian explorations, the expressionistic re-modelling of real space and time by Asian miniature painters, the very European Piranesi, and the very Indian Gautam Bhatia in our time.

I share in diverse enthusiasms for the unbuilt, which has taught me much about how to design, build, experience and analyse space better. Yet, mine is a cautionary reflection. It is not any particular unbuilt architecture that I train my attention on, nor even the idea of unbuilt architecture in general. It is, rather, the niche enthusiasm for the unbuilt – especially the unbuilt that could have been built, like the projects in this volume – that I would like to examine more closely. Along the way, I hope to illuminate problems with how we design the built and the buildable. 

Ways of Being Unbuilt

There are at least three relevant kinds of unbuilt architecture: the unbuildable, the actively un-built, and finally the buildable unbuilt. The tradition of the unbuildable representation boasts of illustrious artists including Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Archigram, and Lebbeus Woods. This kind of unbuilt representation is a completed ‘work’ autonomous from the real world. Here, the representation of space is itself the real thing, not an anticipation or instrument of its realisation. 

A diametrically opposite unbuilt may be imagined. This is the built that has been undone (un-built, literally), as in the ruin or the completely disappeared building – whether from antiquity or from last year (e.g. Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations in New Delhi); the agent of unbuilding may be known definitively – as with the Hall of Nations – or not. Unbuilding is a process or activity in this case, unlike with the conventional usage of ‘unbuilt’, in which nothing happens. 

Finally you have the buildable unbuilt: Le Corbusier’s 1920s proposals for the modern city, or some of Zaha Hadid’s projects that were not built but possibly got her the Pritzker Prize. These may range from the design drawings that never evolved into buildings, or the more common ‘near-miss’ after the completion of working drawings stage, or even the wantonly visionary proposal anchored to a real place and problem like Le Corbusier’s (in)famous plan to replace the Parisian cityscape, or the thousands of competition entries produced annually all over the world. It is this last category, the buildable unbuilt, that I focus on here. 

Experiment and Work

I propose that the value of a buildable unbuilt design may normally be judged in terms of its achievement as an experiment or as a realized ‘work’ (as in a ‘work of art’), often both. When we examine a particular project for its experimental value, we look for new considerations and explorations related to aesthetics, planning, materiality, technology, detailing, or design in general. That value is recognized without reference to the ‘completion’ (as a ‘design’ alone, not as a completed building) that the unbuilt scheme reveals. By contrast, typically, when we approach an unbuilt design as a ‘work’, we evaluate it in totality for its ‘completeness’: it must not require nor allow significant further processing to be completed as a design. It may or may not offer particular experimental advances, but as the fruit of a supposedly valuable creative process, it must embody value in its totality. It may well be enough that an unbuilt ‘work’ encourages us to sustain a larger commitment to good design, without any earth-shaking claims. However, occasionally a particular design may be recognized as something bigger – herald or exemplar of a new strategy, approach, or even paradigm. 

The two aspects are not always easy to disentangle, as in the case of Le Corbusier’s city plans of the early 20th Century, among the most influential buildable unbuilt designs in the history of architecture so far. These plans were experimental both in terms of their specifics as well as their totality. They were also complete and distinctive works which confidently proposed a new paradigm of urban spatiality (as also, misguidedly, of a new and appropriate urban sociality).

It is important to remember that these aspects of value are not intrinsic to the design itself – we cannot always point to features of the design that can be put in the ‘experiment’ or ‘work’ categories neatly. Whether we know it consciously or not, we subjectively ‘construct’ each aspect of the value of an unbuilt design – as experiment or work – in relation to prior commitments and beliefs. Thus, every evaluation of a particular unbuilt work normally moves to and fro between considering its experimental and work value.

Unpacking Enthusiasm

Let us now turn to the enthusiasm for the buildable unbuilt. Evidently, this is a niche enthusiasm – the present book is of a rare kind in India – but one that, I suspect, is more powerful than we may think. 

Since 20th Century modernism at least, the design of a building is a real thing for architects even when unrealized in built form. When I once asked myself the deliberately naïve question, ‘what do architects design?’ I finally landed on the answer: architects design designs. Though partial, the literal truth of this statement is part of the reason for a tendency to fetishise design over and above building, and certainly way above the practices or other realities of dwelling. 

A fetish typically involves separating and overvaluing a part from a whole or a system of relations, as well as from the process that creates or sustains that part. When we consider an unbuilt design a ‘work’ in the above sense, without reference to the larger processes or outcomes of which it is a part, we can be said to fetishise design. After all, its design is only one aspect, or part, of the reality of a building whether it is considered an environmental product, an instrument for a household’s progress through time, or a social process. 

For ordinary people (including clients), a buildable design is only a means to realizing the building, which is the real ‘work’. But since architects usually only produce designs – systematic patterns of intention – and don’t directly build buildings, they often consider a design a ‘work’ close to a realized building in value. When a design an architect is proud of is distorted by poor construction, the architect may take solace in, and focus on, what was in her control: the quality of design, considered apart from the larger process that led to a poor built outcome. When I practiced architecture, this often helped me remain sane and ‘committed’ to ‘good design’. But it is still a routine example of fetishisation. The niche enthusiasm for the buildable unbuilt, I would argue, is a bigger plant that springs from the soil of this modernist attitude. 

Of course, buildability of the design is the fulcrum on which its valuation as unbuilt design often turns. Every buildable unbuilt design sustains the contradiction between ‘pure design’ and the messiness of reality that produces it, which it must navigate and alter, and which may defeat it occasionally. But unlike a built design, it also allows us to isolate ‘pure design’ for serious consideration uncontaminated by life, while retaining a firm foothold in the real world in the form of a real commission and site. This foothold in reality legitimizes the design, protecting it from being dismissed as just an unbuildable castle in the air. Paradoxically then, the more buildable an unbuilt scheme appears in spite of its untested claims, the greater the stakes attached to the ‘pure design’ involved.

Against Abstraction

So, why the skepticism about the enthusiasm for the buildable unbuilt? At the core, it has to do with the relationship between design and reality. People dwell in real natural and social space-time, but after modernism architectural design itself is increasingly valued for how it exists in an abstract space outside time and social life. 

A potentially serious contradiction exists between real space-time and its abstract representations, as Henri Lefebvre has argued in The Production of Space1. Many misalignments between modernist architecture and everyday life, and the resulting conflicts and violence to human life, may be traced to the inadequate attention given to this contradiction. As James Scott2 shows through examples of well-meaning modernist state initiatives that led to disasters in forest management, agriculture, urban planning and other domains of modern governance, this is the quintessential modernist failure.

Like Scott, humanist critiques of modernist architecture and planning – like those offered by Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch and Christopher Alexander – as well as more recent environmental ones, implicitly or explicitly recognize two interrelated issues. One, a building process centred on drawings gives the power of decision-making to a remote set of people, who do not have to cope with the consequences of those decisions. And two, technical drawings necessarily reduce the complexity of real space and its uncertain processes to static, abstract diagrams. Scott notes, for instance, that it is impossible to draw a useful map without leaving out most of the information about the reality that it represents. 

Designs, as proposals for construction, are based on a particular understanding of a targeted reality. That understanding must be built on some abstract representations of that reality. But since these representations – whether by sociologists, or by architects – can only capture limited aspects of an existing reality, the understanding they allow is weak. As a result, even where a designer consults diverse representations (or, in other words, knowledges), proposals are likely to be built only on a caricature of the reality they seek to improve. More typically, designers only consult their own kind of representations, recycling professional or disciplinary caricatures of reality enough times to turn them into the ‘common sense’ of professional knowledge. In the best instance, those who evaluate these proposals rely on the caricatured knowledge of a different discipline, but that is less common. Typically, proposers and evaluators share the same disciplinary culture and therefore believe in the same caricature. It is no surprise, then, that designs or ideas that entire professions uphold, but which are based on distorted understandings of reality, distort that reality further when implemented. Since those closest to a development – as users, or as those affected by its collateral impacts, or just politically weak – are rarely consulted in this system, disasters abound. What else can one expect if a cartoon is upheld as a working drawing with which to build a house?

If my argument – about the near sovereignty of abstract space and the design that resides in it – is right, some circumspection is in order. One step is to consider whether the appeal of a particular unbuilt design is for its experimental or its work aspects. I suspect that we are better equipped to evaluate unbuilt designs for the value of their specific experiments, than for their implications when built as a work. The French were perhaps right to reject, as a ‘work’, Le Corbusier’s 1920s proposal to demolish Paris and replace it with the fully realized city of towers. That they, and others across the world, nevertheless realized aspects of the same unbuilt ‘work’ in diverse housing projects or in new towns with equally dehumanizing results, only points to the dangers of uncritical enthusiasm for even specific ‘experimental’ aspects of the buildable unbuilt design (say, its geometry, scale or commitment to the automobile). 

My argument is probably clear now. The often uncritical enthusiasm for the buildable unbuilt can reinforce the modernist prestige that attaches to abstract space, with dire consequences. A critical enthusiasm for abstractions like buildable unbuilt designs, one that proceeds with an alertness to the above considerations, is of course, another step towards a better understanding of real space and its possibilities.

  1.  Lefebvre, H. (1991 [1974]). The Production of Space. (D. Nicholson-Smith, Trans.) Oxford (UK) and Cambridge (USA): Blackwell.
  2. Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.

Why Should We Examine Unbuilt Architecture? – Foreword by Prem Chandavarkar

If we view unbuilt architecture as a photograph of the inner turn of the architect, what is revealed in this photograph will demonstrate whether architecture is captured by an ideology of arrogance or an ideology of humility.

Prem Chandavarkar

 If we are to do justice to this collection of unbuilt architecture, we must critically examine the purpose it serves. Some light can be thrown on this challenge by enumerating why a design could remain unbuilt:

  1. Speculative design that has not been commissioned by a client, done of the architect’s own volition as a form of design-research that explores potential in a radical architecture.
  2. Commissioned projects that get stalled for legal, financial or other reasons. These account for the vast majority of unbuilt architecture. 
  3. Unrealised design competitions, either because the design did not win, or because the competition never evolved into a built project.

The first category is not a subject of this particular collection of unbuilt architecture – so, if revolutionary potential is not what we seek to examine here, what can we gain from the projects in this collection? Some direction is suggested by Anupriya Saraswat in an essay on unbuilt architecture where she states, “Untouched by numerous rounds of negotiations and adjustments – which any design inevitably faces upon execution – unbuilt projects retain their original ideology in its entirety.”1 Her argument implies that the complexity of negotiation involved in moving architecture to the state of built completion tends to contaminate the original intent.

Saraswat’s argument echoes that made by one of the iconic superstars of contemporary architecture: Peter Eisenman. In an interview with Iman Ansari, Eisenman makes the polemic claim that “The ‘real architecture’ only exists in the drawings. The ‘real building’ exists outside the drawings. The difference here is that ‘architecture’ and ‘building’ are not the same.”2 He draws attention to a key debate “between architecture as a conceptual, cultural and intellectual enterprise, and architecture as a phenomenological enterprise − that is, the experience of the subject in architecture”3, making it explicitly clear that he has little interest in the latter and focuses his attention on the former. To Eisenman, the architect is a cultural innovator, and the dynamism of culture requires the resisting of any contamination of an architect’s’ creative intentionality to maintain the purity of his/her innovation. He cites advice given to him by Manfredo Tafuri that he must build in order to be taken seriously – not because his ideas may otherwise be dismissed as mere abstractions, but because “Architecture involves seeing whether those ideas can withstand the attack of building, of people, of time, of function, etc.”4 The goal of architecture is to resist distortions affected by this ‘attack’, and Eisenman expresses his pleasure when a French magazine, while covering his work, mistakes the photograph of a constructed house for an image of a model of the design, interpreting this error as a demonstration of success in his quest. From this perspective, a collection of unbuilt architecture possesses great significance, for it presents architecture at its purest moment before subsequent contamination.

But can we dismiss the quest for architecture as a phenomenological enterprise with the same ease with which Eisenman does? To raise the phenomenological question is to grant recognition to the inhabiting subject in architecture as necessarily significant to the architect’s reckoning. Rejection of the phenomenological enterprise is tantamount to derecognition of this subject: an action fraught with ethical pitfalls, for architecture’s inherent status as a public art that shapes and constrains daily life places certain limits on didactic luxuries which may be afforded to other arts that are comparatively private or sporadic. An examination of the historical roots of modern architecture throws some light on this dilemma.

The Foundations of Modernity in Architecture

We cannot easily condemn the derecognition of the inhabiting subject, for we must acknowledge that it is central to the category of unbuilt architecture we are not focusing on here: speculative design. And we owe a great debt to this category, for modern architecture would not have existed if not for speculative and provocative proposals by early innovators such as Antonio Sant’Elia, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Paolo Soleri, Archigram, and many others. The value we acknowledge in these architectural visions would never have been realised if the recognition of the inhabiting object were to be mandatorily held central to the effort, for they were created at a point in history when most people viewed traditional idiom as inevitable. 

While these designs covered a wide variety of approaches, their intellectual roots all evolved from philosophies proposed in an earlier era in Europe known as the Age of Enlightenment5. Modernity, as proposed by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, was at its core an ethical and political project. It critiqued traditional authority, arguing that hierarchies created by convention or circumstances of birth should not suppress the autonomous potential of individual will. Energy latent in history could only be released by freedom and democracy. The work of the early modern architects echoed this ethical impulse, permeated by a strong social idealism that is extremely significant. If the experiencing subject was not a constituent in the philosophies that drove radicalism at the moment of revolution, that subject was drawn into the model through the validations of democratic participation as revolution evolved into routine practice. 

This is not the case today, since the mainstream of architecture is no longer a political enterprise. As an artistic practice that relies on a constant negotiation between tacit creativity and intellectual critique, architectural ideas have never been easily separable from their creators. Once political and ethical idealism retreated into the background, architecture evolved into a personality-centric profession where the creativity of heroic figures came to be perceived as the cutting edge that pushes at the frontiers of the discipline to drive its evolution. The experiencing subject has become marginal to the process.

In an essay that asks why the creations of architects tend to stand out rather than merge into landscape, even when the landscape is claimed by the architect as a source of design inspiration, David Heymann suggests that this question is tied to how the experiencing subject is viewed by the architect.6 Drawing extensively on the writing of Adolf Loos, Heymann argues that natural landscape is a spatial category that is not tied to a specific moment of creation, and must therefore be experienced before it can be interpreted. In contrast, architecture’s claim to status as an art tends to foreground the ideas of the artist, seeking interpretation before experience – and consequently, architecture does not merge easily with landscape. Vernacular building, which does not claim status as an art, does not exhibit this attribute. Heymann cites the assertion of Loos that the monument and the tomb are the only typologies that deserve consideration as an art, whereas all other typologies of architecture should not make such a claim. 

We need not delve further into whether architecture is an art or not, for that would be an unproductive side-track. But the relative privilege we give to experience and interpretation is crucial. If we privilege interpretation, we cast modernity as primarily a space of creative and inspirational ideas. But in that case, we face the danger of losing sight of the ethical impulse of modernity. If architecture accepts this ethical dimension, then it must privilege experience through a democratic recognition of the inhabiting subject. 

This creates further questions in looking at unbuilt architecture. The very nature of being unbuilt makes interpretation far clearer, but renders the evaluation of experience as comparatively inaccessible. To resolve this, we must examine the relationship between architecture and life more closely, and for this we must review how the design process actually happens in practice.

The Design Process

In his seminal book on reflective practice, Donald Schön argues that we tend to labour under a misconception of how effective professionals practice their craft.7 We assume that a professional first constructs an idea, philosophy, or theory, and then applies it in practice. This assumption dominates formal professional training – thereby conditioning most professionals – and Schön calls this ‘the model of technical rationality’. This model never occurs in effective practice, for the average professional challenge is far too unique and indeterminate to allow the straightforward application of an idea or theory. Schön proposes, and empirically substantiates, that rather than the conventional assumption of ‘reflection-and-action’, effective professionals develop a capacity for ‘reflection-in-action’, where they develop a value-based framework of expertise in their discipline, and treat each professional assignment as an opportunity to challenge, critique and stretch this framework in order to evolve it further. 

Prior to writing ‘The Reflective Practitioner’, Schön co-authored a book with Chris Argyris that looked at learning in practice, identifying a model they call ‘double-loop learning’8. This can be explained with the metaphor of a thermostat in a room air-conditioner. There is a single loop of learning by which the thermostat offers experiential feedback on temperature, humidity and other factors, and the air-conditioner learns from this in order to improve and optimise its performance. But the thermostat could function at a far higher level of effectiveness if it could also cast a second and wider loop of learning that looks beyond experience, taking an overarching view to critique governing variables such as the room’s insulation or the extent and orientation of its fenestration. 

Effective professionals use the technique of reflection-in-action to achieve double-loop learning, so that each professional situation is leveraged as a means of evolving a framework of disciplinary expertise and human values. The work of Schön and Argyris implies that the day-to-day negotiations of practice are far from being a source of contamination. On the contrary, they serve two functions of great significance: firstly, they are a validation of the architect’s quest, for they reveal the resonance between the architect’s expertise and the aspirations of the inhabiting subject, providing the crucial link between disciplinary autonomy and human life; secondly, they offer a foundational source for renewing and expanding the architect’s expertise and values. Negotiation does not contaminate architecture; on the contrary, it renews it. This is the perspective from which we must examine unbuilt architecture.

Unbuilt Architecture as a Photograph

The negotiations of architectural practice do not proceed along a smooth and linear trajectory. They are sustained by an ongoing rigorous and critical dialogue between the inner self of the architect and the outer world in which he/she practices. The architect’s practice involves two gazes in opposing directions: one trained within to seek introspective creativity, and the other trained outward to seeking ethical empathy with the world. Each gaze critiques and validates the other – the authenticity of architecture rests on the continuity and rigour of this critique, an interplay that lies at the heart of effective design. If unbuilt architecture remains relatively detached from the chains of the outer world, it is best viewed as a photograph that captures one of these gazes: the inner introspective turn of the architect.

In his analysis of photography, John Berger observes that art appreciation has always struggled with the question of photography given its easy reproducibility.9  He suggests a way out of this bind by positing that any artwork must be viewed from the perspective of the social function it serves, rather than the creative process that produces it. Photography makes the observation of a moment in time highly self-conscious by suggesting that this moment is worth recording. The freezing of time is significant, for the photograph “isolates, preserves and presents a moment taken from a continuum.”10 and resists the entropy of life by preventing the captured moment in time from being subsumed by subsequent moments. Consequently, when the photograph is considered artistically worthwhile, the captured moment is read as containing generalisable value. This value can be comprehended through speculation over what happens next. In a good photograph, the moment offers its presence and exactitude while inviting wonder on what might happen if it were released from its frame to re-attach to life through surrender to the subsequent. Photography thus is “a memento to the absent.”11

Viewing unbuilt architecture as a photograph of an architects’ introspection, we must ask what critique can be deduced from this image. We must resist the easy assumption that the purpose of criticism is to discern between the good and the bad, and heed the words of Alan Colquhoun, “Criticism occupies the no-man’s-land between enthusiasm and doubt, between poetic sympathy and analysis. Its purpose is not, except in rare cases, either to eulogise or condemn, and it can never grasp the essence of the work it discusses. It must try to get behind the work’s apparent originality and expose its ideological framework without turning it into a mere tautology.”12 What ideology is revealed in unbuilt architecture as a photograph? If we privilege the critical dialogue between inner self and outer world as the source of renewal and validation, we can examine this photograph of the inner turn as a moment that captures how the architect is poised to sustain this dialogue by reversing his/her gaze toward engagement with the outer world. What kind of reversal of gaze is divulged by this photograph? Do we recognise a quest for dialogic continuity, as Juhani Pallasmaa suggests, where the perceptions lent by the inhabitant contend with the aura of architecture to produce an enticing emancipatory experience?13 Or does this moment reveal a compulsion to preserve the revolutionary heroism of the architect? What is revealed in this photograph will demonstrate whether architecture is captured by an ideology of arrogance or an ethic of idealistic aspiration.

  1. Anupriya Saraswat, “Unbuilt Architecture – UnBuilt Seeks To Celebrate Not Only What Could Have Been, But Also What We Will Leave Behind,” Accessed 20 February 2019,
  2. Peter Eisenman, “Interview: Peter Eisenman – by Iman Ansari”, Accessed 23 February 2019,
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. For those unfamiliar with this period, for a concise summary see
  6. David Heymann, “A Mound in the Wood”, Accessed 4 January 2019,
  7. Donald A. Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (London: Temple Smith, 1983)
  8. Chris Argyris and Donald A. Schön, Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1974)
  9. John Berger, Understanding a Photograph, Edited and introduced by Geoff Dyer (London: Penguin Classics, 2013), Kindle Edition
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Alan Colquhoun, “From Bricolage to Myth, or How to Put Humpty-Dumpty Together Again”, in Essays in Architectural Criticism: Modern Architecture and Historical Change (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1981), 169
  13. Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 2007)

ODE TO DUTY, NATIONAL WAR Memorial, by WeBe Design Lab

3rd winning entry of international competition conducted by the Ministry of Defence, India

National War Museum - WeBe Design Lab

Traditional Indian planning and elements of Mughal architecture surround the site; the proposed memorial is designed with the same core principles to respect the context, yet differentiates itself in the visual character.

The existing two-hexagon site faces a challenge in terms of circulation so as to maintain the integrity of the existing pathways; the design creates a ceremonial path connecting the proposed museum and the subway station.

The circulation layout of the memorial respects the existing and proposed pedestrian movement of both the gardens and the proposed museum.

The memorial acts as a connector between the subway and the proposed museum.

Symmetry is beauty in itself.
The key component of the design are the visual identity and the visual connection to the India Gate creates a  new memory with a old reference. Multiple terraces act as places where the  powerful image can be viewed.

The central core could be accessed by  two sets of Grand staircases which ascend  towards the central monument – the pinnacle of glory. While a ramp in the form of a tunnel connects the central core from the war museum. The simplicity of the design can be seen in the materials usage. Three major materials are used in the design of the memorial – Wrought Iron, sandstone and black granite but the bountiful of natural elements like trees and water create a unique experience for the visitor.

The central core is an intricately designed element of the memorial. The base pedestal is made of black granite and the pinnacle of glory rises from the strong base. The pillar is an installation consisting of numerous bullets depicting a moment frozen from the 21 gun salute for the Martyrs.This central core is surrounded by a flooring pattern inspired by the chakra.

The pillar is inspired in the form of  a bullet denoting the highest form of sacrifice for the country-at the battlefield.

The scale of the pinnacle of glory – the central pillar is designed in proportion to the India gate and the Chatri. The form is subtle in scale compared to the India gate and this creates a beautiful rhythm of movement.

The wrought iron feature represents the soldier in its strength and its simplicity, while being sandwiched between the two facets that are emphasized. The viewer, while visiting the space, gets to see the representations of the sacrifices made by countless soldiers through the wrought iron screen.

Once inside the space, they also get to view the pride of the army, again through the screen, and with each of the wrought iron blocks representing a soldier, the viewer see the achievements showcased on the outer wall through the soldiers themselves.

  • Wrought iron symbolizes the spirit of a soldier- Pure, Tough and malleable
  • Simple in form; versatile in character.
  • The design captures the material’s strength and stability through its apertures and solidarity.

The memorial is placed on a raised black podium. walls arise from the base acting as an index for the wars showing the relevance of the martyrs in the respective war. Every martyrs name is engraved on a single wrought iron brick, so families can pay their tribute to them and the visitors can understand the scale and sacrifice of the martyrs.The pedestal also limits the access to the walls protecting the integrity of the martyrs.

The visitor, inside the core of the memorial, gets to feel the Pride that every soldier feels while reminiscing the achievements of the Army and the Pride with which he Sacrifices his life for his Country.

The wrought iron jalli, displays a myriad of chiaroscuro patterns through sunlight creating an illusion of the soldiers rhythmic movement in a battle formation.

A sacred entry is created for visitors to access the memorial from the museum through a tunnel. The space is surreal with the sound of the water above and the visual connection to the memorial. With images of the battle etched along the tunnel, a unique experience is created before the visitor enters the museum.

The entrance pathways are flanked with avenue trees. The foliage of these trees start from above eye level and therefore has better visual connect with the surrounding.

Landscape forms an integral part of the design. A landform is created descending towards the water canal and tall trees with highgrass are planted along the edge to create a serene environment. The berm and trees helps in reducing the noise and creating a quiet environment for families of martyrs.

The avenue of trees establish the connection back to India Gate and create a human scale walking space providing shade for visitors.


Project name: ODE TO DUTY
Status: unbuilt
Merit: 3rd winning entry of the international competition
Architect : Webe Design Lab, Chennai
Design Team : Karthikeyan, Sangeetha Patrick, Udayarajan, Malli saravanan, Gowri sankar, Elango, Jen george, Pravanth Kanna , Ranjith kumar, Ramya, Sudersan

House inside a rock, by Kandal Design

This project is located in a remote desert inside Saudi Arabia. The surrounding context has a huge collection of architectural heritage- Nabatean settlers of 1st century AD built stone carved tombs in the deserts of Madain Saleh. These builders of the past did a great job of integrating built environment in natural elements.This archaeological site lies in an arid environment. The dry climate, the lack of resettlement after the site was abandoned, and the prevailing local beliefs about the locality have all led to the extraordinary state of preservation of this site, providing an extensive picture of the Nabatean lifestyle.

Design of this house is highly inspired by this past architectural heritage. The very rock that is the site of this project and many surrounding ones have undergone millions of years of wind erosion- giving it a visual complexity and character. Hence the design intervention in this rock had to be using simple forms that do not compete with its character. Also care has been taken to minimize the profile of architectural intervention when viewed from eye level. Only when observed from bird’s eye, the real extent of intervention is revealed. There is no provision of car parking at the house- another design decision for reducing impact of construction. The vehicle drop-off and parking is 200m away from actual site, hidden away so as to maintain the isolated nature of the dwelling. Visitor is then escorted to the house in a buggy. This off-site parking facility also houses large solar farm, emergency generators, staff housing etc considering the remote nature of the site.

The house is spread across four levels. Ground floor is arrival floor, first level is for accommodating extensive mechanical services and 2nd- 3rd levels house the main dwelling area. There are plenty of outdoor shaded areas provided for immersive experience with the context. Inhabitants can also enjoy beautiful view of night sky from these outdoor areas. The large cavern like indoor spaces with small openings to exterior provide protection from harsh exterior climate due to thermal mass of the massive rock, creating comfortable indoor living conditions.

Banyan Tree and Angsana Resorts

  • Location: Chikmagalur, Karnataka
  • Site: 52 Acres
  • Year: 2007

This resort complex contains two brands run by the same company: (1) “Banyan Tree”: a super-luxury resort where everyone stays in a private villa with its own plunge pool; and (2) “Angsana”: also a luxury brand but at higher densities than Banyan Tree.  A destination spa and specialty restaurant serve both brands.

The site is extremely unusual: fifty-two acres and a very steep slope with a 180-metre level difference between the high and low points, with some of the valleys containing an indigenous forest type called “Shola”.  This dramatic character presents three major aspects:

  1. A sense of hovering above and away from the daily routines of earthly life
  2. The steep slope gives the sky an unusually dominant presence
  3. Views in both directions are spectacular, with a rock cliff at the top of the site.

While the conventional design approach to such resorts is to use ethnic themes, it was decided that would not be appropriate here.  The site is so powerful that it was left to express itself by designing highly contemporary buildings that sit lightly on site.  Villas were conceived as structures that are cantilevered off the face of the slope, and larger buildings have a cascading set of horizontal roofs with transparency along the slope.  Structural frames are made of steel that is fabricated in the plains and assembled on site: which helps the lightness of expression and makes construction on this steep terrain much easier.

The siting of buildings was based on an analysis by the landscape architect, taking into account slopes, vegetation and drainage patterns.  By this method, the development could keep natural ecosystems intact.  The valley in the centre of the site was left unbuilt so that the character of the land was explicitly visible, and the only structure crossing this portion is a lightweight bridge that carries the specialty restaurant that has spectacular views in both directions.

The project was won by CnT Architects in an invited international competition that attracted entries from India, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia and USA.  The project went up to the tender drawing stage before it had to be abandoned due to some legal complications on the land.

Hibernating Hut

  • Location: Himalayan Mountain Range

Over the years the country has seen the development of rural teahouses and lodges along the trekking trails to allow for more peaks to be climbed as part of adventure treks or separate expeditions.

It is an innovation that will allow the utilization of the 430 peaks which are currently opened for mountaineering along the Himalayas. The design is aimed at a shelter that provides comfort; reduces environmental impact and uses fewer resources; adapts to the harsh weather conditions and enhances the appeal of mountaineering.

The trekking routes remain closed during the monsoon and winter months and no activity takes place during this time. Since the structure has to undergo harsh weather conditions, the building retracts and completely shuts to protect the permanent staff persons and equipment.

While there is no specified location for this Himalayan Mountain Hut, the design is applicable to various different sites along trails throughout the Himalayas. It forms a new and unique, quality product for Nepal to be adapted and replicated in all parts of the country.

The design provides flexibility to the built structure and makes its application possible at various locations in the region. The hut is integrated with in-house water heating systems, power generation and waste management systems to minimize impact on the environment.

The built-mass is designed as a composition of both locally available materials that form the core structure and materials that are transported to the site. Building the core structure with locally available materials reduces the transportation cost and increases the ease of construction in remote locations. This also helps in developing localized economy of the region. Pods/ Secondary structures; metal sections and fabric/textile are transported to the site either by the local people or by the trekker themselves.

The core structure is built out of stones that are abundant in the region. Stone has always been in use in most of the structures built in high altitude regions since historic times. To reduce the embodied energy and increase the resistance towards harsh weather; it is used in the main supporting structure of the built-mass. Wood is also available and has been used for framing the roof. To reduce the consumption of wood, walls and roof are designed as one and require lesser building material. To supplement the wood framing, metal sections have been used in conjunction. The retractable pods inspired from the generic tent offer individual/ singular resting spaces to the travellers; these pods are designed to accommodate lighter material/ textile that trekkers can carry along. The main structure allows the trekker to plug his/ her sleeping structure to the main built-mass. This design intervention promotes self-sufficiency and efficient use of resources. However, there are built-in pods in the main structure as well to provide space for the elderly and specially abled.

The ingenuity of the design is a response to the harsh climate and lack of resources resulting in an inward-looking structure with a low foot-print.

The central portion of the roof is sloped towards South to gain maximum sunlight. Photovoltaics are placed on the roof to generate basic electricity. The North side is highly insulated to reduce heat loss to the surroundings. The smoke is vented through two chimneys at the centre that provide centralized heating within the structure. Kitchen is ventilated through the same vertical shafts, with clay stoves below for cooking.

The proposal acts as a self-sustained model. Water is stored in an underground tank that catches the run-off during monsoons. An integrated solar collector heats the water using the solar energy and supplies to the shower areas. The grey water from the basins and bathing areas is filtered before percolating into the ground. Leach pit decomposes the human waste naturally and perforates the clean water to the ground.

Hibernating Hut

SMVIT School of Architecture

  • Location: Bengaluru
  • Site: 4 Acres
  • Year: 2018
  • BUA: 1,37,500 Sft.

The campus is built as a response to the larger campus, where students from various disciples are allowed to witness the process of architecture. The building is designed as a three dimensional corridor, making visual and physical connections between the endless expanses of buildings that inhabit the campus. It is designed as an experience for every student alike, to witness the process of architecture.  A large staircase at the entrance opens the architecture block to the whole campus to allow the public to permeate inside. This fosters a new engagement between the discipline, students and public. The staircase creates an elevated plinth that houses several activities, pushing functions up, and allowing studios and corridors to be viewed by the public from outside. As one traverses through the site, studios and semi gathering spaces open up as unexpected pause points and extensions to this corridor. Each studio is knit to a landscape that alters the ambience.  

The landscape creates a buffer between learning and public space, but open it out enough to be witnessed in the same manner an art is viewed in a gallery. Corridors operate as in between space, blurring the boundaries of function. There are many semi gathering spaces that find expression as extensions of the classrooms and studios, so a truly limitless experience is attempted, one that is the crucible of architectural education. A parasol roof protects the building in such a way that it retains the openness of the campus, by allowing light and air to move in from all sides. The sheer size and scale of the roof offers one the unique experience of learning outdoor, whilst enjoying the cocoon environment of a closed sheltered space. The building is designed around existing trees which contribute to the studios as landscapes courtyards that bleed into the studio. The marriage of landscape, built environment and the larger public form the skeleton for our design.

SMVIT School of Architecture

Shri Gopinath Munde Memorial

  • Location: Aurangabad
  • Site: 2 Acres
  • BUA: 96,875 Sft.

To commemorate the life of Shri Gopinath Munde, an Indian politician from Maharashtra who lost his lift in a sudden road accident, a memorial was designed in the tourist city Aurangabad. Gopinath Munde was born in a middle class family in Parali in 1949; his primary education was in a school where classes were conducted under a tree, since he grew into a grounded personality who served to the nation with his truthfulness and calm attire.

Likewise the memorial is designed as a consolidation of both built and unbuilt masses. A statue of the legendary leader is erected in the centre of the site affirming to his strong vision, which is back dropped by the auditorium conceived by a conch shell and a rising wave. The memorial space is encarved as an iconic structure with green courtyards and stepped terraces. It is Apprended as a tree whose experiences changes with changing light. It is a matrix of covered and open spaces which creates a feeling of lightness and transparency. Rather than giving a continuous closed space for the facilities (training centre, Museum, Dormitory, Vip Rooms), these are connected and overlooked to the piazza podium in the centre. The partial in and Partial out experience gives the visitors a lively involvement with the tribute paying space. The green terraces are to be used as an amphitheatre overlooking the statue where one can sit and meditate, remembering the legendary leader of the Nation.

The existence of water on site on the entrance stairs, the statue plaza, and around the amphitheatre enhances the landscape, also reflecting the various masses around. There is a hierarchy of courtyards, which becomes the activity ground for the visitors. The memorial unfolds itself as one stand in the centre near the statue having a view of the whole site. The levels and scooped out courtyards give an alleviating sense standing below the sky. The Terraces act as interactive spaces too which are beneath the sky.

Overall the memorial is a walk of remembrance, initiating dialogues by complimenting social interactions and the auditorium being an iconic structure invites the visitors.

Shri Gopinath Munde Memorial
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