Monday, April 23, 2007


Golconde is the dormitory that The Mother wanted to build for her disciples, in Pondichery.

The commissioned architect was Antonin Reymond, who was practising in Japan. He came to the country to assist in F.L.Wright's Imperial hotel, and then went on to open his own office, in 1920.He was known for his love for RCC and incorporating Japanese values and practices in his buildings.

In 1935, he was given the task, by The Mother, to build a dormitory for Sri Aurobindo's disciples. He was assisted by George Nakashima ( an architect in Raymond's office) and Francois Summers ( a Czech architect who worked with Le Corbusier before coming to Pondy).

The building has distinct Corbuserean influences. The strong horizontal lines, the shading devices, the recessed semi-basement that makes it seem like the building is floating.
It has a few Wrightian ideas incorporated in it too - the way the building is tilted at 20deg to the road to catch the breeze, the principles of "organic architecture" - where the building is a part of nature.


The first RCC framed structure to be built in India, the building is an archetype for detail.
Everything, including the furniture has been designed to suit the climate.
The building has been so sited that the longer facades have been designed to face the North and South. There are no walls - only asbestos louvers that screen the interior from the exterior, providing shade from the sun while ventilating the interior space.
The Southern garden is heavily wooded, while the Northern garden is sparsely planted.
The difference in temperatures facilitates conventional currents through the building.
CORRIDORS on the NORTHERN SIDE - access to the rooms
Sliding teak doors with no rollers and panels alternating on the inner and outer frames provide constant ventilation, while ensuring privacy.The flooring is of black cudappah that has been laid with large joints to disguise the stones' irregular edges which were a result of a lack of precise cutting instruments. The few walls have been plastered with Chettinad egg plaster, which is dense and highly reflective.
The extended low sills, highly polished black cudappah floor, the shining white walls and the constant breeze through the building proves to be the perfect canvas for the play of sunlight streaming in through the louvers at different angles.

The furniture has also been aptly designed to suit the climate.The bed is made of cane, with provisions for a mosquito net, the chairs have cane seats and backrest for ventilation.The extended low sill allows for additional seating, with a view into the northern garden, which has narrow reflecting lotus pools.

The utilitarian core consisting of the main staircase, bathrooms and laundry area services the building.The wiring and plumbing are concealed and the building is provided with lightning conductors.

From the street, a large exposed concrete wall with an oversized entry door forms the dominant part of the elevation, behind which is visible a series of louvers that form the northern facade.

The subtle shifts in scale and accent - between form, structure and detail make the entire building a harmonious union.

The Golconde ( named after the Golconda Fort ( a mine of jewels)) , funded by Akbar Hayadri, the then Diwan of the state of hyderabad , remains a vital part of Modernist Indian Architecture for being the first "home-made" building of its kind ( all the parts were manufactured in the Ashram's workshop, with a highdegree of precision and specification) and its success in merging aesthetics, craft and technology almost-perfectly.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Architecture of the future

Something i wrote for a topic - "Architecture of the future" ... Jan 2007.

Architecture is to make us know and remember who we are.
Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe

The past is never obsolete. Neither is it dead. It always lives on albeit changing in form to suit the context. There is a constant metamorphosis of what was, to what is and what will be.
For instance, sky gardens, or terrace gardens are no new invention. They have been a feature since the “hanging gardens of Babylon.’ When abundant land was available, there was no need for such a feature. Now, when there is so much pressure on the land, high-rises becoming the order of the day, terrace gardens have become inevitable, to get a whiff of fresh air in the concrete jungles of today.

Heredity is a strong factor, even in architecture. Necessity first mothered invention. Now invention has little ones of her own, and they look just like grandma.

The Industrial revolution brought with it mass productions, large scale standardization and new building types. It changed the way spaces were perceived and the way buildings were built.
The new industries required large span structures that led to innovation in the building techniques. Building sensibilities in terms of human values and scale were modified in accordance with the building type. There was a virtual coup in building and construction.

Modern Architecture has its validity in terms of technology and industry in the West. However, when the same theme was indiscriminately applied in the regions where no such conditions existed, especially in the colonies of non-industrialized regions whose expected and forced role was to provide raw materials, and at the same time provide a market for the industrial products of the colonial masters, the confusion and misunderstanding caused by the new products was considerable.
Modern Architecture was handed down to and accepted as advanced by the non-West. There was no reflection of the vernacular, although many of the pre-modern colonial styles paid due respect to local climatic conditions and resulted in interesting hybrid, technically sound solutions.

Global and Local, informationalization, economic and financial systems, science and technology, consumer-oriented life style etc. are basically challenging masses of waves which will only grow with characters of inevitability. This requires conscious, strong-willed and persistent efforts on the part of the local community and individuals. Otherwise the local paradigm will not survive, community may disappear, and individuals may be engulfed as mere molecules in the global picture. However, the tension between global and local, the challenge and response between them is a potentially creative process, which could open a new horizon towards the future – the GLOCAL approach.


The 'vernacular' is a localised phenomenon, growing organically out of the soil, whereas the modern high-rise is emerging as a 'global-tradition'. Human aspirations as well as the myriad variety of building materials available today have transcended political boundaries and assumed a 'global' form. Even if it is possible to design a 'vernacular' skyscraper, it is necessary to consider the aspirations, needs and concerns of the 'global' citizen. If a rash of skyscrapers in its present form were allowed to grow uncontrolled in urban soils around the globe, it would lead to a homogenization of the urban landscape, killing the cities and their glorious cultural history..
A vernacular skyscraper is the absolute need of the hour, where local sentimentalities and aspirations have been accounted for, while catering to the ‘global’ citizen.

Until Modern Architecture conquered the world, architecture was mostly rational, functional, hence resource conserving and energy saving in the local climatic context. Architecture embodied the local characteristics or a place. It was a fruit selected through the long process of trial and error, of evaluation by the eyes of aesthetic value judgment existing in the local culture. Hence, vernacular architecture, buy its nature, had built-in sustainability, both physical and cultural.
In other words, architecture is not a simplistic product of physical engineering, but also it should have beauty and something metaphysical which could work on human soul. An architect should function as a blend of a craftsman and an artiste, not as a mere craftsman.

Significant advancement in the field of Information Technology has also brought about a change similar to the one caused by the Industrial Revolution. The world has shrunk. People spend more time with their computers than with other people. With the click of the mouse, one can now pay bills, shop, learn, play, bank, book tickets and do much more – something that was unfathomable until ten years ago. It has reduced human interaction to a minimum.

Technology has indeed made the world a smaller place, but by bringing continents closer, but pushing neighbours further apart. It is now easier to see a person half-way across the world than have a face-to-face conversation with your next door neighbour.

What significance do the “public spaces” have today? What used to be parks and markets have today become multiplexes and malls. Architecture has to keep re-inventing itself and taking on new forms to keep up. New development brings with it new materials, new building types to make these materials and newer buildings to use these materials.
But basic human values and functions will never change. As long as man continues to eat, breathe and sleep, architecture, as we know it today, will retain these characteristics.
Merely Vitruvian theories will not help constitute the ideal virtual world. It must be complemented by certain more aspects of human and social values and the immeasurable functional aspects.

The virtual is only an extension of the real. The virtual exists where the real does. Designing of multi-functional spaces will become the order of the day, where each person will be a cocoon and human interaction will be reduced to a minimum.With a reduction in space requirements with technology, multi-functional devices, burgeoning population, escalating land value and near-total breakdown of infrastructure in all major towns in our country, the future is left to what we imagine………or choose to imagine.The choice is ours.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


My first serious attempt at writing "substance" ....
Lets see how it goes !!