Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"A Timeless Way of Living" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect.

In architecture we are crossing through a period when the crying baby gets the milk!

What I mean to say is that architects are screaming and yelling like babies to grab attention. Facade architecture, the packaging of buildings in trendy envelopes is popular. Fashionable western architects are “selling styles,” not making architecture. Each building they make looks like a copy of the one before.

It is only one sense these architects are playing on, and that is VISION, leaving, touch and textures; smell and nature; sound and volume, common sense and proportion to the winds. In other words architecture is at one of its low historical points where style, fade and crude popularity are projected.
This “bad taste” is media driven from cities, outward toward the smaller towns. It works on the centre-peripheral phenomena where more and more energy builds up at a central point, until the system explodes. While this is happening at the centre, there is more calm, thought and reflection out on the periphery. Often more creative works can be expected from Pune than Mumbai and Mumbai more than from New York. But young architects always look in the distance to find local truths.

Over the past decade young architects have grown up in a digital world. Their experience of architecture has been in Virtual Reality: 3D on a 2D computer screen. While this has allowed pushing the limits of the VISUAL WORLD, it has suppressed experimental architecture which finds its dimensions not only in vision/sight but in touch, smell, sound, sequence and movement.


In all of the resulting noise, cacophony, yelling and screaming we even find young architects wondering WHAT IS ARCHITECTURE. They want to know what the reality of architecture is.


Education in architecture is a search for the reality of architecture. I feel there are several “givens” about architecture which must be the basis of education and of practice.

architecture is built; it is construction; it is technology;
architecture is response to functional needs; it is a product with performance standards;
architecture is social action as every single building either “gives” or “takes” from the social milieu. At the most basic level the exploitation of Floor Space Index is a social indicator. Architects can also create new public domains. They can make schools places that stimulate learning.
architecture is an exercise in economic analysis as every client has a budget which is an estimate of the value of the economic operation of the building in producing something! At least happiness in a home.
architecture is history as it is a part of a behavioral pattern which persists overtime. It is a process in the present, which draws on the past and creates the FUTURE.
architecture is poetry, because in the end it must go beyond the programmatic! It must say something about the human condition. It must raise people’s spirits and spark their curiosities.

I feel each country in the world, and each region of each country, has a unique search for architecture. There are elemental concerns (confused as global concerns), but every regional context holds the secret of GOOD ARCHITECTURE. Bangalore, Trichy, Cochin, Managalore, Aurangabad, Ahmedabad, etc. are all regional centers with strong contexts to draw from.

Every architect must develop a language, and in fact I believe each region should have a language or a dialect; an architectural language! This is a group effort.

There are several themes/ or attitudes from which regional languages can be drawn:

attitudes towards Nature :
Exclusive or Integration.
Artificial or “green” response to Climate
attitudes towards Scale:
Monumental or Human
attitudes towards Material:
Cosmetics versus Honest
Global Expression versus Geographical resources
attitudes towards Proportion
Articulated or Ignorant
Working Modules/Machinery versus chaotic.
5. Attitudes towards Vehicles

Make them king !
Exclude them and create pedestrian precincts.
6. Attitudes towards Context:

Evolution or Revolution
Learning from, or insulting
7. Attitudes towards community

Create cozy passages and plazas
Build up to the road line
At a very simple level architectural language is made up of nouns (or components, or things: support columns, movement stairs, roof spans, enclosures and ramps). It is also made of verbs, or connections or action.

To me, this is the easy part of making a language. Identify ten components and use them. What are the roof, shade, stair, support, span, envelope devices and their connections.


More difficult is the understanding of the elements of architecture:

LIGHT AT DIFFERENT TIMES of day, or the year.
SHADES of/and COLOURS and their traditional meanings.

We have musicians known as gharanas, and in philosophy we have “schools of thought.” We need “schools of thought” and gharanas in architecture. In ancient regions I could see unique schools of thought emerging. We could have clear attitudes towards nature, sense, materials and proportion.

We could have unique components to create support, span and enclosure. We could have special motifs for shade, stair, floor, seats and connections.

We could have our own elements and unique ways to employ them.

I challenge you, young architects of India. Make your own language and your own style.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Good Planning is Good Business" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect.

One of the ill-myths of the Twentieth Century still regarded as common wisdom is the paradigm that poses planned societies against the so called “free markets.” The fact is a well tempered land regime supports consistently performing urban development markets! This is a symbiotic relationship, not an antagonistic one.
Planning appears antagonistic where it is poorly conceived and inaptly executed. Where there is scant participate of stakeholders, and a large influence of corruption, the regulated system is but a pawn in the hands criminals. This is not planning! This is Pune!.

Despite all of the media hype, Pune remains an unplanned city! The last Development plan cleared for central Pune City was completed decades ago. Town Planning Schemes are matters of history. The fact is that this huge metropolis has no holistic integrated plan. Moreover, what we call Pune is not Pune! There are numerous local authorities, cantonments, municipal corporations, an infotech city, MIDC industrial estates and now SEZ’s all growing independently.

While the Pimpri-Chinchwad Development Plan was completed ten years ago, the Pune Municipal Corporation still falters in the malaise of procedure, completing its patchy planning work in ill-conceived, adhoc and isolated chunks. The units of planning have no meaning. What is the rationale for a Balewadi –Bavadan Plan? Is it one watershed? Is it a Ward? Is it a common catchment area for infrastructure networks? Is it the constituency of any elected official?

Who plans the Kirkee, Dehu Road, Lohagaon and the Pune Cantonment? What about Alandi, the Hinjewadi Infotech Park, MIDC estates, Pirangut and many other growing areas? Who knows what the Pimpri-Chichwad New Town Development Authority is doing? Why is it restricted to a tiny corner of the metro? Does it still exist? While all other metropolitan regions in India have development authorities, we lag behind here also.

On what basis do we set FSI Ceilings? Why FSI 1.0 for residences and 2.0 for I.T. buildings? Why not 3.0? FSI is supposed to relate to the carrying capacity of an area, not to the whims of people. Why not relaxations for weavers and potters? No one has an answer!

There is no integrated road development plan inter-linking the diverse islands of urbanization and urban miss-management. Different bus systems ply common roads in the metropolis. The rapid transport bus system is exclusively for PMC buses and not for private buses, or cars with multiple passengers. What is the rationale?

We have remodeled our airport for the fifth time in so many decades, but are over-shadowed by Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cochin and many others. This fifth incarnation is but a shadow of what the region requires. Where is our new airport?

How can students walk across University Circle? Can bicycles safety ply University Road? Why are cycle signs installed where no lanes exist?

Why do people drive two wheelers without helmets, four wheelers without seat belts and that too on the wrong side of the road! Do we have motorized traffic police to bring order?

Why were side walks removed on Fergusson College Road and M.G. Road to make space for parking. Streets are for people!
The electric supply situation in Pune is primitive with an unpredictable, daily off and on chaos of starts and stops. The lack of any surety in the power sector has created an inefficient galaxy of privately owned and run generators, polluting the air and the sound of the city. This is the most inefficient and dirty way to produce power. Tons of food goes rotten daily as refrigerators go off. Workers sit idle and owners pay their wages. Imported fossil fuel is burnt, while indigenous power sources go waste! There is no plan for a private power generation company in Pune like the AEC or Torrent in Ahmedabad. There is no plan for sustainable energy!

Lack of a modern sewerage system has resulted in the pollution of the subterranean aquifer system upon which a large percentage of the Pune population depends for drinking water through tube wells. This has proved a bonanza for local corporators who ply water tankers through their drought-prone constituencies! Like everything else, there is a “number two system” in potable water supply. Vast areas have been taken under urban jurisdictions that no local body can imagine to serve. There was a regional water supply plan prepared by Kirloskar Consultants more than a decade back! Why has it not been fully implemented? And, What next?

Extensive and deep rooted corruption in every aspect of the management of local authorities has deepened the situation. Paying bribes is “de rigor” and there is a hand out to accept them in any aspect of the city’s development. Doing business in Pune involves a great deal of “laisioning” to get through the maze of opaque rules, discretionary powers and corrupt officials.

The fact is that free enterprise thrives on planned systems. A property market cannot function unless buyers have some surety that land use zones are stable; that water supply, sewerage and storm drainage will function; that there is 24X7 electricity; that roads will access properties; and that legal disputes will not arise over boundaries and even ownership.

Reserved plots for schools, hospitals, gardens and public utilities further enhance land values! The total lack of planning, and the lack of coordination between public bodies, assures the inhabitants of the Pune region that such a secure land market will never exist! Is this oversight or a public policy? Is it neglect or considered policy?

The recent land grabbing attempts on the COEP campus, involving the collusion public officials who did not even record the compliant of an invasion of over one hundred miscreants on to the campus, sends a threatening message to average citizens. If the nation’s oldest engineering college can become prey to land grabs, where does the resident of a lonely cottage stand? What security of property does the common man have? Will the local chowki refuse support, being a part of the crime?

Koregaon Park is an example of a residential neighborhood being turned into an intense commercial hub lane by lane, bribe by bride. Boutiques, bars, eateries and restaurants are spreading like a cancer through this once pristine residential area. Koregoan Park can only boast of being Pune’s Pot Pong.

Moreover a Development Plan is really not what people think it is. It does not assure access to ninety percent of the habitable land; it does not institute rational plot boundaries, nor does it amalgamate odd shaped and small pieces of land into rectangular plots and into sizes useful for the population. Many layouts now within the Pune Municipal Corporation, which were sanctioned by village panchayats under the Pune Regional Master Plan, have not created standard road widths, reserved open space plots or amenity spaces. Even the demarcation of individual plots was not done. It is now very difficult because it requires the cooperation of numerous plot owners with diverse interests and claims. Narrow lanes with no turn around cul de sacs make access difficult.

All of this chaos severely reduces the land supply and curtails the market turn-over, driving up prices artificially, excluding more buyers. Such a perverted land market benefits no one except the spot investors who cash in through buying and selling during upward market swings. It benefits corrupt officials whose bribes grease the system. It benefits land sharks who steal land! It benefits realtors who openly facilitate vendors who try to sell land that does not belong to them!

In a rapidly growing and vibrant city like Bangalore there are still ample opportunities to buy bungalow plots and to build one’s dream house. Likewise for Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Not so in unplanned Pune. There simply are no sanctioned layout schemes!

In free market urban economies as diverse as Singapore, Atlanta, Tokyo and Frankfurt planning has been carefully done. Plots have been pooled, reconfigured and the areas for roads and public amenities deducted, prior to handing the remaining land back to the original owners. This essential technique called LAND POOLING, once common in India, is no longer used. It was developed in India under the name of Town Planning Schemes. Due to antiquated legislation the procedures resulted in endless legal disputes and the process came to a stand still. In Gujarat the legislation was corrected and land pooling is an effective, participatory land development tool.

In the interest of effective land markets and property tax systems we must restructure and amend the concerned town planning legislation, so at least peripheral areas can be pre-planned.

A half-baked measure called the Gunthewari Scheme created a one year window for illegal layouts in urban fringe areas to be regularized. This was something like a “loan mela” where defaulters are rewarded and honest citizens pay the price!

All this has been done at the cost of the public and of those who unknowing purchased plots in illegal layouts. Under the Gunthewari act owners were given one year to have their illegal plots demarcated, and newly registered under the bonanza! On the reverse of each registered plot plan a seal was placed declaring that any regularized plot under the scheme would suffer loss of road widening compensation. For road widening land acquition there is no FSI compensation, and no TDR credit. As most of these plots are connected by three meter wide lanes, which are inadequate even for two vehicles passing one another, road widening is inevitable! For road widening land will be acquired! Unknowing plot owners will pay the price, with roads paved right up to their bed room windows!

FSI is also restricted to 0.75 on these plots to compensate the “public interest” as no parks or amenities were provided in the original illegal layouts. Thus, the population densities are arbitrarily reduced so that those remaining inhabitants with no amenities, or open spaces can enjoy the absence of any public amenities in less pain.

And, what is happening in all of the slums, chawls and illegal buildings where the majority of Punaries live? There is inadequate potable water, no sewerage systems, muddy footpaths, no street lights, over-crowding, illness, illiteracy and deprivation! Hope is only an election slogan! In free wheeling, open economy Singapore, sixty percent of the people live in public housing.

Surprisingly in Thimphu, Bhutan what cannot happen in Pune has happened!
Every piece and parcel of vacant land in the new capital plan has been pooled into a common land bank and then planned into a rational arrangement of parcels. The remaining demarcated plots have been handed back to the original owners. Thus, unlike in Pune, no one arbitrarily losses their land to a public land use just because someone else makes an ad hoc decision to place a school or a park on their land!

Under Land Pooling owners surrender thirty percent of their land for roads, open spaces and amenities. The seventy percent which is returned to them has an immediate value enhancement of a hundred percent over the unplanned value! Now useless, angular and fragmented and odd shaped land parcels are transformed into marketable, rectilinear properties! A raw material becomes a commodity.

Forty-three thousand square feet worth Rupees forty-three lakhs is returned as thirty thousand square feet, worth Rupees Eighty-six lakhs! When the roads and services are put in place, the value jumps again to Rupees Two crores! At the same time a viable urban resource mobilization takes place through related land taxes and the collection of development fees! These resources are then re-invested in new urban infrastructure.

In Thimphu, the urban area was divided into fifteen “Urban Villages” where Local Area Plans were integrated into the city’s over-all “Structure Plan.” Thus, trunk infrastructure, major arterial roads and the regional open space system remained untouched, while land owners participated with planners to employ their “pooled land” to create viable Urban Villages. Each Urban Village over-laps micro-watershed.

Each Urban Village has a Village Square with a post office, health centre, crèche, pub, cyber-cafe, dry-cleaner, amenities shops and park. This garden square is at a walk-able distance from walk-up apartment buildings that are allowed the highest densities and FSI’s. Near the high density Village Square is as Express Bus-stop that is a “pull-off” from the Urban Corridor that runs through the spine of the lineal valley city. There are also pay-as-you-park lots allowing people to leave their vehicles and move around in the city from the Urban Villages to nodes, hubs and the Urban Core along this mass transit corridor!

This plan encourages walking, promotes efficient mass transport and assures good land use practices. It relates densities to mixed land uses, Floor Space Index and infrastructure levels. What is outstanding in the Land Pooling system is public participation, micro-level planning, facilitation of infrastructure networks and private development. Plot layouts are not left willy-nilly to greedy land sharks, but are professionally patterned and assembled.

With all of these near-by examples staring us in our face we prefer to create a dual system of legal and illegal development; planned and unplanned urbanism; serviced and un-serviced plots; sincere employees harassed by corrupt officials; multiple authories with no plans!

We need not look to the west, and say this is all beyond our means! We can learn from our neighbors! Even in nearby Gujarat, there is a revival of the Town Planning Scheme mechanism that is a great stimulus to their urban economy. It is in the interest of all realtors, architects, engineers, contractors and developers to insist on good planning. All citizens of Pune will live a better life in a planned city.

Good planning is good business!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Garfield Mondays.

Mondays – it’s not only Garfield that hates Mondays, a vast majority of us do. Monday morning blues hit us so hard, half of us are left staggering. After the weekend, most of which is spent in utter enjoyment, the idea of getting back to a structured work environment in a job/course we may or may not enjoy is simply too much to take in! For two days, one day for some of us, we forget about deadlines and other things like that.

Spending time with friends and family, self grooming procedures, catching up on movies – that’s how the weekend is spent by most of us. Mondays seem dull and drab after exciting weekends. But the question arises, would weekends seem as exciting if there was no prospect of a dull Monday?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"HARISH MAHINDRA: PATRON OF THE ARTS ARCHITECTURE" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect.

Harish Mahindra was a man one can never forget! Not because he was one of the “M’s” of M & M, but because he was a very simple man with a vast vision. I first met Harishji when I was invited for an interview of architects to design the Mahindra United World College of India. That was in September 1993. Sure that I would not be selected from amongst a panel of my seniors, I introduced myself as an architect who would refuse “to build a monument!” Harishji smiled, catching my ploy, and said “well, we don’t want to build cow sheds here!” and then laughed. But he looked through the photographs of my work carefully, and said he’d like to visit the campus I had designed for myself in Pune. Accordingly, he came to Pune.

As luck would have it my jeep broke down on my way back from Ahmednagar and I missed Harishji, who was taken around the campus by my associates. Always the optimist, Harish did not take offence. He called me the next day thanking me for not bothering him, and for giving him a chance to see things in solitude. He closed off saying, “you’ve got the project!”

My early meetings with him put me on unsure footings, and I was aware of his critical mind and his penetrating manner of looking at things. But the sheer fun of the way he viewed life, his insights, his jokes and his commentaries soon put me at ease. We spent some intense evenings over drinks and discussing the project, which I’ll never forget. We also had some great arguments over the college, with each of us declaring we’d resign from it, and then a room full of laughter when we both knew we’d called each other’s bluffs to the point of the ridiculous!

When the college Headmaster joined the team he asked me if I ever had arguments with Harishji. I said, “Not arguments---fights!” Harishji was very wound up in his work. He wanted it to be a contribution to the country, but he had to do it within a budget ceiling! We kept going over the budget ceiling! It had to be done in fourteen months! We lost our first site and we needed a new one immediately. The contractor quit half way through! All of this was very tension provoking, but Harishji knew how to light a candle, rather than curse dark!

There was not a moment I spent with him that was not stimulating, engaging and always with an element of fun. I think the fun was there because he loved life and he enjoyed life. That special spirit effused everything he did. He always used to tease me about my designs, ending a review in his office saying, “Christopher, if it’s a good design it’s mine, if it’s a bad design it’s yours” and then he’d laugh that special devious laugh of his.

At my lecture at the NCAP in July 1999 I tried to explain how Harishji was a true patron of architecture, and not a client. I gave the example of how Harishji handled meetings in the board room. During the early stage of the design, when I was literally fumbling for a concept and the ideas which would flow from it, I had to make a number of presentations. We had a large team involved in the project which included the college CEO, the Headmaster, accounts people, the construction management consultants the three main contractors, numerous advisors---not to mention the board members and many others. Harishji knew how to handle relations between team members and get the best out of them. He understood the essence of each man, what made him tick and what he yearned for. He noticed that I’d get agitated with people pin pricking the designs, and he also noticed that people were trying to get his attention by showing how clever they were in challenging what we were designing.

Without my realizing it, Harishji started calling me early to his chamber and he’d ask me to go over the designs and drawings with him. I got a feeling at these meetings that he just wanted to encourage me to do the best I could, and that when I showed him the drawings he really didn’t care what they looked like, as long as I was sure they would be something really good. Sometimes I’d catch his eyes wandering elsewhere while I was explaining the design. He’d just say “great, great, don’t make cow sheds!” Whenever I showed him sketches, he would be praising and encouraging me. Just when my ego would be floating I would realize that Harishji could not read my sketchy drawings and the doubt stuck me that I may be deceiving him! Then as we’d go to the meetings he’d say, “remember if its good it’s mine, if its bad it’s yours!” then I’d doubt who was fooling who!

At the meeting the first item on the Agenda would always be “Review of the Architect’s Plans.” People’s eyes would gleam and there would be secret smiles on their faces as they readied for the plans to unfold to their attacks! Then Harishji would say “Item One, I’ve seen the drawings …they’re great, now Item Two,” and to the disappointed faces he’d continue the meeting.

The fact is he had really not studied the plans, and he wanted me to know he had not studied them, and he wanted me to know the ominous responsibility he’d put on me. “You are alone in this,” he once told me. Then he said, “We’re all alone. Anything else people tell you is not true.”

At the meetings there would be lots of talk about details, schedules, bottlenecks and problems. People would always say, “We are going to solve this! We are looking into this.” Harishji would cut in, saying, “never say ‘we,’ always say ‘I’!” Harishji was a man who put his faith in individuals, not committees and not in groups. As an architect this was very refreshing.

If there is any aspect which distinguished Harishji---made him a true patron---it was his craftsmanship in shaping human relations around his vision and around his mission.

Being with him while he conceptualized the college, watching him deal with the profound in the idea, and the mandane in the project---all in one breadth---is something I shall never forget.

Every era raises up its art and its architecture, but architecture does not change over night---it drifts! It drifts behind techniques, behind economics and behind social trends. But most of all it drifts behind the “vision” of patrons.

I believe there are no great architects, but only great patrons of the arts. Harishji was one of the patrons and like a Renaissance prince of Florence he knew the beauty of life. He knew that life was short, so he enriched it, and he made it fun to be alive! Architecture was just one of the ways through which he celebrated life! And through this celebration he become a true patron!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dancing in the moonlight.

Similar to the last post about music, dancing is a sought after respite. It may not be as big as music, but dancing is definitely and quickly making its way to being a sought after respite.

As Van Morrison said many years ago, you really cannot dance and stay uptight. Dancing comes naturally to all of us, whether it is a strange bopping movement of the head or a violent flailing of the arms. Not all of us are expert dancers, but that doesn’t matter. Letting go of our inhibitions and just letting the music take over us, getting completely lost helps us unwind in the most untraditional way. But however untraditional it may be, it is quite easily the most effective. One doesn’t need to be at a dance club or at a party around other dancers to take the benefit of this simple unwinding tool – the best part of dancing is you just need yourself. Of course, a little music would be welcome. But who says you can’t just dance to the music in your head in the comfort of your room?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Music in our lives, music in our souls.

Everyone loves music. I say that statement with no statistical data to back me up, but it’s a statement that doesn’t really need any statistical backing. But in case it is met with opposition, let me rephrase that. Almost everyone loves music.

There are very few people who don’t like music, and even fewer that actively DISLIKE music. Music continues to be the most commonly sought respite in the world, the one thing that people turn to for a distraction from their own existence. Whether it be a happy existence or a miserable one, music helps everyone – offering a little something for everyone.

Some say that people like to listen to music that suits the mood they’re in. that is probably true of people that are in good moods. But what about people in bad moods? Do they listen to depressing music that suits their mood or do they listen to upbeat music that helps them to snap out of that mood?

Either way, the world of music is vast. There’s a little something for everyone – no matter what age, no matter what culture. and the most beautiful part of the music world? The fact that it is mostly undiscovered. There is so much gorgeous music just waiting to be discovered, either by accident or by conversations between two people who listen to completely genres of music.

So let’s just say thank you for the music!

Friday, March 11, 2011


Our professional organizations are the backbone of each practitioner. As our profession becomes more complex, the importance of the Indian Institute of Architects and the Council of Architecture increases. Professional organizations can make new initiatives that will enhance the profession. Many of these areas can be addressed immediately, and others must be seen as long term goals. The gamut of areas that can be enhanced is vast. In the following note I have expanded on some of these.
Employed Architects

As more architects are produced, the potential for every practitioner to open their own proprietorship firm, or start-up company, will diminish. This means employed architects will seek longer term relations with employers. But the present scenario offers few long term rewards to long term employees. To start with the salaries being paid to senior employees have been low: It is only in the past two years that they have reached parity. There are no PERKS. Long term advancement opportunities are unclear. Professional organizations should suggest minimum monthly salaries right from “trainees,” to freshers, to more experienced employed architects. These should be related to “city types” as per the cost of living in different towns and cities. Annual holidays and leaves should be standardized. Annual increments and cost of living considerations should be laid out. A system of “positions” starting from Trainee, Junior Architect, Architect, Senior Architect/Project Manager, Associate, and finally firm Director should be proposed. The skills, knowledge and sensitivities of each position must be laid out. At the same seniority level there should be different skill profiles, recognizing the many important roles and paths required to reach team excellence. The normal years of employment associated with career advancements should be standardized. The work of our profession is shared amongst our employees through our considered guidance.

Many senior architects opine that they cannot find middle level professionals to enhance their firm’s technical and management capabilities. The reason is that the prospects do not keep pace with increasing experience levels of employed architects. Expectations grow faster than employment conditions. The professional organizations could outline a model of “profit sharing,” after a salary ceiling is reached. The annual inflation of the cost-of-living should be built into salary increments. Salaries should be based on relevant experience related to expected roles and this should correlate with years of experience. The kinds of PERKS seniors may expect and the kinds of proactive and significant contributions Senior Architects, Project Managers, Associates and Directors must make to deserve the PERKS should be stated! Thus, a segmented salary structure must be evolved that promotes increased knowledge, enhanced skills and matured professional sensitivity. Honesty, loyalty, proactiveness, ingenuity and similar assets, are less easy to measure but are “felt” by principals of organizations.

Yeoman Architects

Fresh graduates enter the profession with low skills and knowledge levels. They need three years minimum to transform from mere graduates into a capable practitioners. Certificated Public Accountants, Doctors “in residence,” and entering lawyers all serve as novices for several years prior to registration. This “in job” training is essential. Practical training, or Office training, of three to six months does not suffice. We need to change our registration rules to ensure that we quality only persons who know their profession through work experience.

The Management of Professional Practice

There are no guidelines or norms regarding how an architectural practice should ideally be run! What percentage of fee harvested should go towards consultant’s fees, salaries, overheads and profits? What kinds of contract documents should a firm use? What kinds of taxes must be paid and when? Standard invoicing and billing procedures and formats should be available. Safety, hygiene, and office environmental standards should be suggested. Standard letters of appointment, trial periods, and termination letters, should be “on file.” A list of basic and essential office reference books should be recommended. A model office filling system must be proposed. Numbering systems for drawings, AutoCAD information layers and document archiving should be standardized. The “layering systems” for different consultants to work on must be established. Rules regarding office decorum, dress, acceptable behavior, honesty, client confidentiality and the intellectual property of the office can be common amongst all offices.

Most architects have little or no access to the basic information on the “practice of architecture.” Professional organizations can fill these group lacunae.

Eco-friendly Architecture

Green Architecture and environmental sustainability are key architectural concerns. The Chamber of Indian Industries set the ball rolling with their international Green Buildings Conference in August 2004 at Hyderabad. The Indian Institute of Architects, and many local associations, have highlighted sustainable architecture. With the WTO and ISO entering India there is a danger that the “building products” industries will reaping huge profits in the products certification process. An American organization called LEED is entering India and will certify “green architects” and “green buildings,” charging high fees for these services! A question arises as to the over-laps between traditional professional practice, and foreign certifying agencies. Should we not strengthen our own professional associations by introducing our own Green Ratings. There is an international trend toward putting old wine in a new bottle through “green washing” products to be seen as “eco-friendly!” Hype and publicity should not replace good professional practice.

The Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) has an indigenous Indian green building rating system. The Green Building Council of India has spread to most cities.
Building Regulations

Building Codes is an area presently dominated by engineers through the Indian Bureau of Standards, where architects are also participants, along with the Indian Standards Institute. Professional organizations must be more proactive in this area. While serving on the Bureau of Indian Standards Committee for Architecture, Town Planning and Building Materials, and I felt architects are under represented. The engineers working in this area are excellent and we have much to learn from them. But our profession must be more involved!

Intellectual Property

The presentation drawings, statutory drawings, working drawings, and contractual documents are all the intellectual property of the Architects who create them. Clients cannot recycle them. Even the “concept” belongs to the architect. Where a builder may take an architects’ intellectual property to a cheaper architect, and make modifications to the original design, the architect may still charge the corrupt practitioner for malpractice and for plagiarism! Architects, who ‘hustle’ other architects’ clients, must know that they need a No Objection Certificate from the original contracted architect. This would generally be given after the originator has been paid by the client for their intellectual property.

Urban Planning

Town Planning Standards have largely been negotiated between the builders’ lobby and corrupt politicians, with town planners as the mid-wife. Architects must lend a voice to the town planners who fight a lonely battle against vociferous, wealthy and crude builders whose only aim is to leverage their profits. Unfortunately, only a few architects with vested interests, who are regular visitors to municipal corporations, are the ones to actively participate in the debate on building bye-laws. The example of the “second” Transfer of Development Rights, bringing effective floor space indexes up to 2.0 from 1.2, is an example where our cities are being sacrificed to generate more “chargeable constructed area,” without the necessary supporting infrastructure and parking! Presently, the miss-use of basements, and the under provision of “parking” should be a major concern. Perhaps FSI should be even higher than 2.0? But the concomitance facilities must be part of the package.

Town Planning is too important a subject to be left to town planners! Architects must support them by playing a constructive role.


Safety is another area of concern to the architectural profession. Architects are becoming more active in the seismically safe built environment, with a number of workshops and seminars being held yearly. Areas like fire safety, potable water management, hygienic waste disposal, worker safety, and electrical safety need to be promoted aggressively.


Historic Buildings and Architectural Assets Preservation is an important role of professional organizations. Architects have already played a leading role in conserving heritage sites and structures, primarily through INTAC. While many professional organizations are active in this area we can do much more. At the under-graduate level a course in heritage conservation needs to be introduced. There should be more post graduate degrees in historic building preservation, and awards to “showcase” the profession’s role. We also need to conserve some of our Post-Independence modern classics! Heritage bodies will not even recognize these. As a profession we have our own heritage and it is our duty to protect it for future generations.

Materials and Fittings

A vast array of new materials has arrived on the Indian market. Many are untested in our climate and with our labor force. We are applying slick looking ACP onto mild steel supports that are quietly rusting, hidden behind the glamour. We are specifying tiles that cannot be replaced as none are kept in stock. We are specifying toilets that our plumbers cannot repair and the seats cost Rupees 3,000 each to replace. Many are ‘seconds’ quality and others are poorly engineered copies of originals. Few have a performance record in India. Common bricks are of poor quality having no shape, standard color or compressive strength. We need an information exchange on materials to share our experiences.

Project Management

Construction Management has been in the hands of engineers. It is a positive sign that a few schools of architecture have initiated professional, post graduate courses in Construction Management as this is a professional area which is lagging. It is a logical extension of our profession that can be enhanced at all levels. This is an area where our graduates can be absorbed and they can play an important professional role. Architectural graduates with post graduate qualifications in Construction Management will be better qualified and sensitized to manage architectural sites, than engineers drawn from irrigation, hydral, roads and similar project exposures.

As the field of Construction Management has emerged over the last decade, it has eaten into traditional roles of architects. Often construction managers are MBA holders, without even a civil engineering, or an architectural undergraduate degree. They attempt to become the ‘arch’ in the ‘tecture’ by gaining the role of clearing the architect’s payments. This must be stopped!

Legal Agreements

The Contractual Roles of our profession need to be deepened more than expanded. We are adding more specialization without strengthening our core areas of professional delivery. We must develop standard contracts between:

*. Architects and their Clients;
*. Architects and their Structural Designers;
*. Architects and their Services Designers;
*. Clients and their Contractors;
*. Clients and their Service Equipment Suppliers;
*. Clients and various Sub-Contractors;
*. Clients and Landscape Designers;
*. Clients and Interiors Designers;
*. Clients and their Construction Managers; and
*. Clients and their Vendors.

In a system where we are all operating the same framework of standards and contractual understandings, the quality of our products can only improve. We must develop standard commercial conditions for employing contractors so that item-rate bids are viewed on an even playing field. We need standard methods for calculating extra and additional items.

We need standard documents like Letters of Intent; patterns for issuing and guaranteeing Mobilization Payments; formats for Rectification Lists and Compliance; Certificates of Virtual and Actual Completion; certificates releasing retention amounts and standard forms of guarantees to protect clients in areas related to water proofing, color fastness, materials performance and the like. Contractors’ Water Proofing Liabilities must be underwritten through indemnities and Legal Documents. We must design the contracts under which clients engage Construction Management and Project Management firms to protect the sanctity and the role of architects as masters of the construction process. It is not unusual to find Construction Management firms “clearing the fees of architects,” while their major job is to follow and implement the architect’s plans and specifications.

We also need to protect the rights and genuine interests of contractors and vendors whom greedy clients try to cheat. Corporate clients often try to harvest undue profits by systematically delaying payments to earn interest on retained payments!

Liabilities of Architects

Liabilities of Architects will emerge and grow with the advent of GATS and the WTO. Professional Liability Insurance costs are very exorbitant even in the west. This requirement benefits the insurance industry at the direct cost to the architects, adding legal liability to the architects. Architects may have to bear this additional cost and the clients may refuse to raise fees accordingly. Added to this are the lawyers fees and effort expended involved in settling claims. This practice leads clients to bring legal cases against architects, because they know architects are insured! In America even a conceptual sketch is no longer a creative artifact. As one of my American colleagues pointed out, “every sketch, every working drawing and every signed shop drawing is a potential court document as evidence in a case against an architect.” We as a profession will be remiss if we do not understand the implications of the WTO, and how it will profoundly change our profession.

Design and Build

Design and Build is the model for the practice of architecture in Latin America. In our present set-up, architects do all the work for other people who amass all of the wealth. I am not advocating Design and Build as a model, but I would like to provoke a professional debate on this topic. Even uneducated and uncertified “Real Estate Agents,” who provide nominal professional services to clients, demand and get fees of four percent (2% each from seller and buyer) on the land and on the civil works, while architects are paid their fees only on the civil works cost! While the architect’s involvement on projects lasts for several years, an agent may reap benefits in a matter of hours. Such agents have no overheads, no deliverables, no liability for the product they sell, and no investment on professional education. Most do not even have offices! They have no commitment to the civil society in terms of town planning, hygiene, safety, parking requirements and environment. If we analyze the developer’s inputs into small residential projects, on say a one thousand square meter plot, the architect is assuming responsibility for most of them! Architects are even involved in preparing investment plans, cash flows and project return estimates for financial institutions. We are often asked to sign expenditure statements which the clients submit to financial institutions when going for loans and payments. In the years to come, whether directly, or through “benamis,” more and more architects are bound to become designer-builders, with family members taking up the less technical tasks of marketing, land matters and accounting. It makes more sense for professional organizations to organize this trend rather than leaving it to drift into an “informal sector activity.”

In the over-all scenario of the construction industry, architects are assuming the role of “sweat shops” in a system where those who make the least efforts yield the highest returns! Our young employees bear the immediate costs of this inequitable system, and our profession bears the long term costs. We need to interact with our fellow professionals in Latin America to learn how this system works as a professional model.

Continuing Education

Architects need to keep learning all of the time. “Continuing education” is a responsibility of professional organizations which is neglected. In every town there should be “half-day,” to one week, courses to up-date mid-career and senior architects on services systems, new structural systems, water proofing methods, energy conservation, cladding, paints and finishes, new sanitary fittings and public health systems, integrating utilities into building systems, energy conservation, etc. These refresher courses should be taught by professionals, and not by the marketing representatives of manufactures. This is a need which professional organizations can fill and the profession will be better equipped to serve the public as a result. The American Institute of Architects has accredited various colleges, institutes and universities to teach a wide variety of “refresher courses.” Some are available ‘on line” via the Internet. In order to maintain one’s membership, an architect must clear a minimum number of “continuing education credits” each year. All of these courses are advertised on the institute’s web site and in Architectural Record, its official journal.

Teaching Architecture

Like medicine, law and business accounts knowledge cannot be imparted by fresh graduates and housewives. A Masters Degree is a necessary, but not adequate qualification to teach. Most teachers in architectural colleges do not have a clue as to how a building is put together. Running short courses is not the answer. It is just better than nothing! Without ‘practitioner teachers’ we are running a system where the blind are leading the blind. This must change!

The Architectural Curriculum

We try to teach what cannot be taught, which is “creativity,” and we neglect what can be taught: technical knowledge, skills and professionalism. Like medical students who study Grey’s Anatomy, architectural students must know completely all the technical systems of a building at the end of the first year. Then they must be on construction sites and only later in design studios. They need to know that the practice of architecture is a step by step process laid out in a contract and based on a schedule of deliverables. Planning the creation these deliverables, integrated with the deliverables of consultants, is the key! The roles of sub-consultants must be understood. It is essential that a ‘common course’ in architectural history is constructed, using common graphics, simple texts and lecture structures. Most young architects do not have a clue of the linage of our history, or where our present work stands with regard to the past and the future.

Networking and Communicating

Professional organizations have a prime responsibility to communicate to their members the essential legal, technical and aesthetic information related to the practice of architecture. New books relevant to India should be reviewed. Seminars and competitions should be communicated well in advance. In India we have a number of excellent professional newsletters, magazines and journals, including The Journal of the Indian Institute of Architects, Architecture+ Design, The Indian Architect and Builder and the COA’s official journal Architecture: Time, Space and People.

What is missing is a high quality web page with windows into Members’ Interests (including payments of fees by credit card on-line, and renewing registration on-line); a window on “Resources and Sources” (including books, journals, technical reports, new materials, building products, regulatory codes, standards and bye-laws).

A good web page with separate “windows” for curious Potential Clients (including the fee scales and a model contract); a page for students and intending Applicants to Colleges of Architecture, for Employees in the architectural firms (explaining minimum wages in different city types and the types of positions and related duties), for Building Materials vendors, for Legal Documents, for building precedents and case studies, for “continuing education,” for employment and “Architects Wanted” will serve a critical role. The relevant standards for specialized building types and the Building Control Regulations and Building Bye-Laws of various cities should be “on-line.”

Professional organizations must also consider employing professional public relations and policy analysts who “lobby” government, state legislatures, parliament, the Bureau of Indian Standards, private and public sector client groups, educating them and advocating the causes and laws which will strengthen our profession’s ability to serve the public better.

Fees for Services

The present fee scales are not realistic. They do not recognize the higher taxes architects now pay; the number and variety of consultants which must be engaged; the increased co-ordination efforts; the higher cost of living of employees; and the expanded design considerations architects must address. All of these efforts cost money, and the practicing architects need the backing of their professional organizations to be able to obtain adequate fees through contracts, which cover the real costs of providing high quality services. The present minimum fees of five percent for institutional buildings must increase to seven percent, and the other fee scales accordingly must increase. Minimum specified fees, after all, become the maximum! It is interesting that a statutory body like COA specifies five percent for institutional buildings while the University Grants Commission only budgets four percent in its grants. The National Building Corporation tries to pay three percent and less.


Modern architectural practice runs on computer hard-and software. We have become “IT-based” enterprises. Even so, about eighty percent of our practices use illegal, pirated software. The reason for this is very simple: up-to-date software and the use regimes specified by vendors ‘price’ useful, legal software beyond the financial reach of honest, hard-working practitioners. It is simply beyond their “ability-to-pay.” The pricing of software is very much along the lines of colonial mercantile economic models. Buy the raw materials cheap; process them cheap; brand them and package them expensive and sell them back to the source of the raw materials at a huge “un-earned increment.” More than reaping huge profits this model serves as a mechanism to keep the economic colonies ‘outside the law’! This plays a role of sorting architectural practices into the formal sector and the squatters, just like the housing market. In so doing the IT industry has created classes of practitioners: the legal and illegal!

This matter is helped a great deal by the fact that architectural software would be a monopoly item as defined under the Monopolies Restriction and Control Act, if it were not cleverly exempted in the name of “opening our economy.” There should be a regulated maximum price as in essential medicine. It is high time Indian architects come out of the closet, explain their true identities as “illegals” and demand a fair deal. This must be done by our professional bodies as individuals will be victimized. The colonial IT industry and marketing groups have obtained draconian ‘police rights’ allowing them to raid architects’ offices and to seal their computers, denying them their “right to livelihood’ as guaranteed under the Constitution. In the same manner that medicines are sold in India at “affordable” and “fair” prices software should be regulated, and yes charged for. If drafting software were available at fifteen percent of the present legal price, the vendors would quadruple their profits through a mass market. This is in everyone’s interest!

Foreign Architectural Practices

There are many reasons we should all welcome more competition and enhanced professionalism on to our playing field. That can happen if senior foreign firms come and set-up offices in India. However, there are several trends that should concern our profession. International Project Management firms run by engineers are employing local personnel to carry on an architectural “practice,” which is actually owned and operated by non-professionals and by architects not registered with the Council of Architecture. Other firms are sending “marketing agents” into India who set-up a camp offices and then market their vast foreign portfolio, with no Indian experience or legal registration here. These are marketing wings, who then sub-contract the statutory, working drawings and tender documents to local commercial firms. They provide Concept Designs and Master Plans to ignorant Indian Clients. This does not enhance our profession or contribute to the nation’s intellectual wealth. These practices place Indian architects in a subservient position

The ‘arch’ in Architecture

Architects are paid to work in the studio and on the site. Managers are paid to talk, write letters, have meetings and to prepare MOM’s. I always say I’m from the “working class,” not the “talking class.” But the Project Managers, and Construction Managers, and Client’s Representatives are all paid to talk. Unless their day is full of meetings, talking and recording what they say, then they have not earned their day’s bread. What do they talk about: OUR WORK! And, the more we talk, the less work we do and the more they have to talk about! The foreign firms coming into Indian are large enough to keep aside ten percent of their staff as a professional ‘talking class.” This could be USP that will push aside the Indian Architect.

It is a sad fact that corporate India favors MBAs over M.Techs, where salaries and command lines are concerned. This is the greatest lacunae in India where real technologists are given the back seat to the “talking” class.

Often management is the act of doing the wrong thing, better and better. It is the politics of casting aside responsibility for failures and taking credit for someone else’s success.

It is no wonder that we have over one thousand institutes imparting management degrees today! We cannot allow ill-informed managers to steal the “arch” from architecture, and believe that the ‘tecture’ will survive. On the other hand we have to understand that good project management, which respects the architect, is essential and makes walking our path easier. But we have to aggressively make our powers, responsibilities position clear.

Essence of True Professionalism

inally, I would like for us all to remember the courage of the late architect Acyhut Kanvinde. Six months before he died, at that time a gentleman in his late eighties, he was engaged to sit on the jury for the selection of the design for a new capital city in Central India. Seeing the unethical procedures being followed by the senior most bureaucrats and technicians throughout the process, he walked out of the final selection meeting! Before catching his flight back to New Delhi he wrote a critical letter to the Chief Secretary, who was chairing the meeting, refusing to associate his name with the fraudulent process, and returning his Rupees One Lakh fee as a Senior Jury Member. This is the essence of professionalism: vision, courage, honesty, fair play, procedures and transparency.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"An Architecture for Learning -THE MAHINDRA UNITED WORLD COLLEGE OF INDIA" by Christopher Charles Benninger, Architect.

In 1993 the Indian Industrialist, Harish Mahindra, approached Christopher Benninger to design the new college the Mahindra family wanted to create as a gift to India. Affiliated with the United World Colleges movement, the college would be the tenth such institution worldwide, under the Presidency of Nelson Mendela, with Queen Noor as the Chairperson. Mahindra and Benninger shared values which grew out of their common educational experiences at Harvard, merged with their love of Indian traditions and culture. Both had an utopian image of an ideal, independent community of scholars who would address global issues. For Mahindra, this represented a chance to mirror his corporate journey from a national group of companies, to a multi-national conglomerate. He saw the future in terms of an expanding world economy, tempered by sustainable growth and humanistic values. He wanted this philanthropic initiative to act as the visible torch bearer for these values. For Benninger, the design offered an opportunity to integrate his quarter century of experience in the sub-continent with the lessons of his gurus in the West, who included Jose Luis Sert, Constantinos Doxiades, Jerzey Soltan, Shadrack Woods, Jane Drew, Maxwell Fry, Kevin Lynch, Yona Friedman, Barbara Ward and Jacquline Tyrwhitt. Benninger maintained close relations with his teachers throughout his career saying, “The only good luck in life is having good teachers.”

At the outset of their venture Harish Mahindra called upon Benninger to, “Create a gift to the world of lasting beauty and quality.” In true Renaissance style, the Mahindra family tripled the size of their donation during construction to see that the campus emerged into a reality. To quote Benninger, “Great architecture requires the vision of great clients. I call them patrons of the arts. Without them an architect’s concepts remain mere dreams.”

Benninger first arrived in India in 1968 on a Fulbright Fellowship, returning back to Harvard in 1970 to teach design. In Cambridge he worked in Sert’s studio and completed his MIT degree in urban planning. He settled in India permanently in 1972 as a Ford Foundation Consultant. Some labeled this as a ‘self imposed exile’(1). It was toward the end of the Indian Golden Age. Mahatma Gandhi was still ‘alive’ in people’s hearts and minds. Benninger often quotes Gandhi’s indicative, “Live in a village and plan for the world.” He founded the School of Planning at Ahmedabad [1972] and the Centre for Development Studies and Activities, Pune [1976]. He often noted that he craved the a life of “being in reality,” as opposed to studying it from afar. “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,” Benninger opines that, “Architecture involves social, spatial, cultural and technological relationships, and being an outsider allows one to throw off the given truths, to re-consider 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. We can search pleasure, beauty, balance and comfort etc.”




The Mahindra United World College of India is affiliated with the United World Colleges movement founded by Lord Mountbaten and headquartered in London. Including the new Indian college, there are nine other campuses spread around the world. The United World Colleges teach the two-year, International Bacheloriate program, based on the globally recognized Geneva curriculum. The college is designed for an annual induction of one hundred candidates, hailing from over sixty countries. Thus, my mission was to create a community of scholars, housed in its own facilities, adequate for two hundred residential students, twenty-five faculty members and about thirty support staff. I envisioned this as a unique institution for India, integrating value systems of the East and the West, while seeking an integrity between empirical thought and the human spirit. Like the Centre for Development Studies and Activities, which I founded with Barbara Ward as the Patron in 1976, I wanted to create a milieu which imparts value-based education, while building competencies within a framework of constructive humanism. The shared experience of international education and community service creates responsible world citizens, wherein students enhance their skills and knowledge through the International Bachelorate course and participation in development projects. Personal discovery and global awareness prevail over classroom education in the arts, sciences, languages and mathematics. Human relations and integrity are amongst the qualities the college enhances. The architecture must do more than reflect this, it must catalyze this!

I often cite the influence of C.A. Doxiadis and the Delos Symposium Group on my later work. At the 1967 Delos Symposium we were infused with hope and commitment, woven into a fine fabric…a vision of the world as a single human community. Everyone was analyzing this from a different perspective. Barbara Ward was linking the global economy with environmental sustainability; Buckminister Fuller saw technology and science converging for the enhancement of the human condition, Margret Mead drew lessons from cultures and contexts to form hypothesis about future societies; Arnold Toynbee picked history apart into trends and events, pinpointing concerns and opportunities. Doxiadis had a holistic vision, we know as Ekistics, which pulled all of these world views into a global vision. As a young person this was all very heady stuff, and I left with my own vision of the future and my own image of what I could personally do. The college concept matched the Delos idea very well! Doxiadis always wanted to give a concrete shape to ideas. He wanted concepts to be mirrored in a physical vision of reality.

The academic program called for a classroom cluster, a library, centers for science and fine arts, a multi-purpose hall, a catering facility and an administration area. In addition there would be a separate residential area for all the faculty and students, clustered around a common medical facility and student center.

In a letter to Harish Mahindra I proposed that, “the campus must provide practical shelter for functions to be carried out, while also standing for experiential space in which the spirit moulds minds into attitudes and expectations. Built form is a true reflection of our image of reality and our lean on the absolute.” I insisted that, “the core faculty group at the MUWCI must be committed to a life style which is charged with idealism, but based in programmatic approaches. In the end analysis the success of our venture depends on the inspiring capability of the core group, and the allure of the environment. Each catalyses the other”(1).

Through our correspondence the strategies became clearer. We both felt the use of local materials in the design would embody universal truths. “While building from local stone and clay tiles, we shall search out forms which reflect the forests, the mountanious landscape above the site, and the rice terraces below. We would attempt to form spaces which are human in scale. We would provide for all of the functions and tasks which both join people together into common pursuits, as well as offer them spiritual privacy in their search for the ideal in themselves.”(2)

Harish Mahindra often pondered over the nature of inspiration and the meaning of education. He pondered over what role architecture could play in their realization.

I felt that, the campus must address an inherent contradiction: the focussing of life toward institutional aims and objectives, and the liberation of the ‘creative’ in each individual toward the discovery of what is uniquely humane in them. This contradiction involves a dynamic tension between the wandering mind, which is always searching, and the demands for concentrated effort, which is always focused. This tension is a force which must be understood and expressed(3).

The college held out the promise of being a strong partner in an international movement, synthesizing its global orientation with India’s traditional universalism.

The Setting

My terms of reference included identification of the site. I explored the ancient mountain trails of the Marathas and the heardmen’s upland pastures, searching for an ideal location for such a community to be created. I was intrigued by the vast open spaces of America, as utilized in the layouts of Mount Vernon, Monticello, the University of Virginia, and Taliesin West. I explored the mountanious region between Mumbai on the Arabian Sea, and Pune up in the Sahayadri Mountains. I wanted a place accessible to Mumbai and Pune airports, hospitals, libraries, book stores and entertainment, but adequately insulated from pollution, urban sprawl and distracting amusement. I yearned to create an enclave in the high pasture lands, which separate India’s vast Deccan Plateau from the sea. The ancient Maratha Empire had constructed walled forts and administrative settlements on such plateaus, perched over the verdant rice fields and meandering rivers below. I felt this would be a way to bring the students close to nature, yet isolate them from the distractions of city life. Finally, I selected a hill ridge in a village called Khubavali, about three hundred feet above the Mulla River valley, dotted with a patchwork of green patty fields, affording the campus dramatic views through a valley, which is surrounded by high mountains.


My visits to American campuses made me critical of current architectural trends. With a sense of nostalgia I pondered what happened to the ideal of the university? Each ‘discipline of study’ wants to be separate from the ‘university.’ The objective seems to be the opposite of the goal! Each architect wants to make his own statement, through his own isolated building. Each faculty has its own, isolated plot in the university sub-division. Just as they have isolated their own little lives in suburbia, people want to isolate their own little minds on campuses! Everything is broken into components, into compartmentsm, and then it’s packaged into little boxes and little things! Instead of integrating and catalyzing, the entire exercise seems to be to close off and to ‘block out’. That’s the problem with nations-states; with corporations, with urban opportunities and with suburbia. The New Urbanism is a fine example of this decay! It is neither new, nor it is urban! It is an expression of personal gain---all isolated into a personal investment, all expressed in little houses! In the end what can not be hidden is that the entire design is just an investment package, for an isolated, homogeneous group of investors to lock their dreams into something which can be sold later for a profit. Everyone’s investment is safe from the dangerous people. This is not ‘communitas,’ this is not a goal, and this is not where we should go!

The Mahindra college offered an opportunity to make a counter statement about what we ‘are’ and what the world is all about. It was a chance to put community before profit; a chance to put ideas above greed! One had to pick up the idea of built-form, and say look…we can start all over again, we can build a habitat which centers around mankind; around context and around sharing! The plan became a kind of counter-blast to what was going on! Everyone was confusing globalization, de-regularization, and privatization with some kind of goal. It was as if ameliorizing past errors was a vision of the future! It was not! So the Mahindra college design was a chance to go back to basics; back to history to define relevant traditions again, and most of all, back to humanism!


Architecture does not emerge from imagination alone! It is part of a continuum of history, and is born from the evolution of society and its technology. It is essential to look back in history and to see how ancient schools, learning places and universities evolved from the same climate and terrain. I have been interested in the early Buddhist centers of learning in India, which include Taxila, Nalanda and the Ellora-Ajanta cave complexes.

Though they exist today only as archeological ruins, there were Buddhist centers of learning in the sub-continent built over two thousand years ago. Their plans can be visualized from excavations which make their spatial qualities and functions fairly obvious(4), and speak of design principles which are relevant even today.

Scattered over the Ganges basin of India were Hindu Gurukulas which educated young boys in the fundamentals of mathematics, ethics, mythology, warfare, language, cosmology, philosophy, agriculture and social mores. These schools were usually set within a walled court with an entrance at one end and a pavilion at the other. In more evolved residential schools, study cubicals were lined along the two remaining walls, where students and teachers also slept. Most important was the garden courtyard, shaded by generous, broad trees. These, and other types of residential schools were always located in an isolated place(5). Gurukulas were common even until recent times and would be the oldest type of educational institution found in India.


Perhaps the oldest known university in the world was at Taxila [600 BC – 200 A.D]. Subjects ranging from archery, astrology, medicine, mathematics, Buddhist philosophy and the Hindu Vedas were taught in various ‘colleges’ spread along a main boulevard(6). These ‘learning centers’ were dispersed within a complex, cosmopolitan trading center which linked Asia to the West. In each center a respected teacher, assisted by senior students, ran the learning programs. The method of learning ranged from the memorization of ‘slokas’, to didactic discussions and debate. Students and faculty lived together around a common assembly hall. The Maurya Empire’s expansion provided an impetus to Taxila, as did the influx of the Greeks during the third and second centuries BC. Like many universities today, Taxila was an urban university, whose built form was integrated into the urban fabric.What is relevant to me is the “courtyard plan.” At Taxila all the learning centers, or colleges, were constructed as a series of courtyards, in which indoor and outdoor spaces merged almost inperceptively. Though this integration took place in a highly urban context, the idea of an inside-outside continuum caught my imagination.


The Buddhist university at Nalanda was founded by Ashoka, the great Mauryan emperor and patron of Buddhism. Nalanda, unlike Taxila, has a university campus which includes a number of monasteries and temples. Temples in India have always been centers of dance, music, philosophy and ethics. For Westerners who find it difficult to accept a mixture of scientific reasoning with subjective theology, one must look no further than Oxford or Harvard, which have chapels centrally located within their plans. What interests me more about Nalanda is the grouping of user spaces around interior courts, and the further grouping of monasteries into a cluster. Various courses of study were all taught at Nalanda from the Third Century BC, right up to the 12th Century AD, including mathematics, logic, grammar, medicine, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. Buddha himself visited Nalanda and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, spent fourteen years studying there.

Nalanda was the first planned university with a large central library in three structures. There were seven large halls for teaching and three hundred smaller class rooms. About three thousand monks, and even more students, lived in residential “quadrangles(7).” I feel strongly about the quadrangles and the way monasteries were grouped with stupas and academic structures. The over-all plan is interesting not in the manner in which it creates ‘negative’ spaces, but in the way the building masses, containing independent enclosed spaces, were aggregated in a lineal row, with other activities clustered around them. Landscaping also played a strong role, which tempered my ideas in the Mahindra College. There was an enclosing wall and a system of lotus ponds.

Ajanta and Ellora Cave Monasteries

Unlike Taxila and Nalanda, the cave monasteries at Ajanta and Ellora were isolated from distracting urban centers. As schools for monks, the complexes included assembly halls [Chaitya] having a stupa within, a central dome and relics of the Buddha. There were ‘viharas” which were living-cum-study halls. I was quick to acknowledge the similarity of these monastery sites to that of the Mahindra College, located in the same Sahayadri Mountains. Ajanta is set in a horseshoe, semi-circular scarp, overlooking a gorge within green fields and a river below. The campus which flourished from the Second Century B.C. until the Seventh Century AD interested me due to its link with nature, use of natural materials, exploitation of views and isolation from urban areas(8).

Through history architects have always dealt with the same realities and problems. We have always delt with gravity, with foundations of stone, with doors and windows, with people moving, with living, with working or sleeping in these places. Walls have always been there, and they will always be there. The column has always played a transcendental role, as well as a structural one. A new structure is always determined by an old precedent, either from history, or from within an architect’s own evolving ‘ouvre’ which is, or should be, in the nature of experiments. In addition to physics and natural forces we are dealing with issues of social cohesion and humanistic qualities. One has to see his work as laboratory, life-sized experiments, wherein the successes and errors of history---and of one’s own work---feed into further work.


In addition to the influence of these historical examples, my own work developed slowly over several decades. There are two aspects of my life in India that allowed my work to evolve.

In India, until the Internet arrived recently, we were isolated from Western fashion and ‘trend swings.’ US architectural magazines were just too expensive! We frankly did not know what was going on which was a true blessing. Benign neglect, would be a proper way to view it. Post Modernism was kind of a joke, which we never took seriously. We looked at modernism critically, but we never lost sight of its origins: social and technical issues; community and the human conditions! Another blessing was that I never earned a living running a practice. I ran a studio more as a ‘play thing,’ or as a kind of personal laboratory. I was never in a hurry to ‘be fashionable’ or to sell ‘design.’ I was doing social science research, building a new institute, studying rural development trends and the environmental system. Architecture was more of a craft which had to find its place in all of this. But I learned from my craft, and my craft evolved.

The Theological Library at Ahmedabad

In 1972 I was approached by a group of priests to design a library to house a rare collection of religious books, written in the vernacular Gujarati language. This structure of inter-connected spaces illustrates most of the features I have integrated into my architectural language. Water spouts, window boxes, courtyards, exposed bearing wall materials, and form finished concrete work are all precursors to his present language. The project employs a rigorous structural system which is exploited spatially with sky lights, parallel beams, and other ideas prominent in current works. The circular stair, bridge and interior balcony all “move” people in space. The free standing column in the center of the two-storied main hall generates the “figure ground” movement I employ widely today. The “plug-in” toilets have been resolved into pure geometry, strangely reminiscent of archigram arrangements(9).

The entire system is based on human proportion of seven feet - six inch ceiling heights, and square paving patterns, from which the plan is generated. These aggregate into the fifteen-foot square floor grid. When reflected in the ceiling’s structural system, these are divided further into five foot on center, fifteen foot long beams, which in turn “pop up” as skylights! The massing of this very small structure is used to enclose a small courtyard, between two Nineteenth Century brick structures. Most of the elements, motifs and proportional systems have been carried on into the Center for Development Studies and Activities at Pune, and later into the Mahindra College. The ‘light shafts’ of the Student Center at the College find their origins in the skylights of this early work.

The Centre for Development Studies and Activities [CDSA]

The CDSA campus at Pune, India was created in 1988 as my own work place, campus, where students came to study and to carry out research on development issues, strategies and plans(10). CDSA was an experimental piece of architecture wherein I, as my own client, could test out many of the ideas which later appear in the college. For example: “bas relief” form finish murals; exposed random rubble stone walls, tile roofs; class rooms facing on to a court or garden, via glass sliding panels, and numerous other features are evident. Many of these devices and motifs can be seen in the Theological Library [1972] also. There is an evolution of ideas, rather than random trials. CDSA, in fact, lies within the same micro region as the Mahindra College and the use of the “borrowed landscape” at CDSA, wherein one focuses on distant views, was later evolved further in the college(11).

CDSA’s campus plan and activities are conceived from the concept of a Greek gymnasium, and in that spirit are set in a suburban environment, on a terrace of land along the fall of a hill slope. The campus includes facilities for both intellectual and physical development, keeping the holistic development of the human being as an objective. In the Clouds, Aristophanes describes the ‘Academy’ with its trees and its terracing on a hill slope, as a typical suburban Athenian gymnasium:

“But you will below the Academe go, and under the Olives contented.

With your chaplet of reed, in a contest of speed with some excellent rival and friend.

All fragrant with woodbine and peaceful content, and the leaf which the line-blossoms fling.

When the pine whispers love to the elm in the grove in the beautiful season of spring.

In ancient times, Athens was almost ringed with these pleasant spots in which garden parks, athletics, social and intellectual life blossomed freely. These were also places where statues and art works were commonly found. By the fourth century B.C. each of the three main suburban gymnasia of Athens had become the seat of a philosophical school of thought. Political and ethical discussions were frequent topics of concern amongst the members. Socrates frequented the Lyceum and Plato established his school next to the Academy. The cynics found their home around Antisthenes at Cynosures. Aristotle and the School of the Peripatetic identified with the Lyceum. Because of their importance in Athenian life in general, but more particularly because of their association with philosophical schools, the gymnasia have an equally intense significance for the history of humanity as the acropolis or the agora(12). In Maharashtra, the CDSA is a centre of the pragmatist school of philosophy, and the institute is deeply involved with very real development efforts.

The gymnasium of Delphi was magnificently situated high on a hill beneath higher slopes, and it was required to adapt the slope for the gardens by creating terraces. Along the lines of Delphi, CDSA’s hill slope near Pune has first been terraced into a dense garden. The flat court of the academic quadrangle reflects the podium of many Greek structures. The ‘grouping’ of buildings around this podium, focused on views and statues, also draws its roots from the classic Greek tradition. Superimposed over these references are elements of a strictly Indian origin. The ottas [sitting platforms], Kund-like steps, courts and tile roofs all draw their inspiration from the traditional Indian milieu. The Center’s art collection includes statues by contemporary Indian artists like Piraji Sagara and Ghanshyam Gupta Prasad. It includes ancient brass statues, priceless Mogul and Rajput miniatures, and original screen prints donated by Balkrishna V. Doshi. All of these enrich the building fabric woven from classical roots.

Set in the Sahaydri Mountains, the campus consists of eleven structures, including four “houses” which group around and bridge over an internal street. There are also a “club house” for cooking, eating and symposia, and a cluster of classrooms, a library and study/offices around a central “Podium.”

As a plan pattern, or foot print, the CDSA campus is also a link between the Theological Library and the Mahindra College designs. It is composed of parallel stone walls. These east-west oriented elements protect the interiors from sun and heat. Running perpendicular to these stone walls are glass sliding panels which separate the interior spaces from the exterior gardens. These transparent screens lead on to the verandahs, which draw-in gardens, courts, platforms and other devices integrating interior and exterior spaces. The verandah ceilings also serve as “basins” to catch water running off of the tile roofs. All of these elements are found in the Mahindra College, yet the two campuses are indeed very different, each having a very unique use of “space molding,” shaping of forms and sequencing of events. At CDSA the pitched tile roofs are “held” by stone walls which prestage the Mahindra College sloped roofs in their angular shapes. I made the roof slopes to the west significantly steeper [45 degrees] than the slopes facing east [30 degrees], as the heavy rains pour in from the West! This unusual change in slopes generates asymmetrical ‘end’ walls in elevation. Ideas like these are further exploited at the Mahindra College. Clustering of the five structures around the podium follows a strict, discipline. The east-west elongated spaces enclosed within parallel Basalt walls, open up to views of the mountains on the west, and the growing metropolis of Pune to the east. Tiled roofs are laid on marine plywood, supported by steel rafters with an exposed teak wood vineer aesthetic on the ceilings inside. The sloping roofs accommodate mezzanines connected through interior balconies and two-storied interlocking spaces. An interesting play of spaces has been created where the classrooms open out into their own private landscaped courtyards, which again visually connect to the main court through square openings(13).

In the choice of materials, finishes, detailing and spatial design, I am attempting to consolidate the wisdom of the past, while searching for new relationships and patterns. The inertia of Post Modernism, that is becoming narcissistically oriented around the single building statement, is rejected. In this small complex the “single building” is being destroyed, and fused into a more complex fabric. Yet, there are very individualistic expressions for various functions.

Dhamma Hall and Meditation Pavilion at Nagaloka

In Nagpur a Buddhist campus known as “Nagaloka” has been coming up over the past decade. Nagpur is the center of modern India’s Buddhist movement. The campus includes a Dhamma Hall, or discourse room, where lectures and discussions are held. There is also a library, administration hall, dharmashala, multi-purpose hall, monk’s communities and meditation pavilion. All are set around a large open space, centered on a statue of Lord Buddha. I was influenced by the Deer Park at Sarnath where the Buddha gave his Sermon of the Turning of the Wheel, outlining the Five Fold Path. In this spirit the interior park is an unstructured gathering space, which will be planted informally with shady trees.

The Dhamma Hall

The Dhamma Hall at Nagaloka is the main public meeting hall where the Buddhist triad-Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha-are brought together. Buddha, or the image of ‘enlightenment,’ is positioned at the end of the central aile of the hall, with a clearstorey over the Image. This anti-space in which the image rests is a kind of shrine. It is where the pious can do their ritual rounds of the image. It is a ‘purer’ space than the main hall, which has more sanctity than the entrance porch.

The Sangha, or the ‘community’ can meet in the Dhamma Hall to discuss and to practice the dharma, or the ‘law’ of Buddha. This large hall is spamed by five concrete shells, which rest on columns, framing the Buddha image. The columns visually suggest a separation between the Buddha’s realm and the realm of the sangha, or community. Meditation, and the image of the Buddha as a vehicle of transcendence, are essential elements. Hollow exposed brick bearing walls, enclose three sides of the hall. Glass folding doors open on to the large entrance pavilion, which is also sheltered by a twenty meter long shell.

Thus, the configuration is one of seven, twenty meter by four meter structural concrete shells. The Kotah stone floor, detailed in white marble, is patterned to reflect the structural divisions of the shells, with the central shell connecting the main entrance door to the Buddha image. The hall is used for discourses, meditation and public gatherings. The entry porch, or pavilion, derives its origins from pindhi, or open verandahs which are “separators” between the house and the street, or at a grander scale between a city and the vast wilderness beyond. A pindhi can be a humble shed to comfort a tired passer-by, or it can be a dignified symbol of a whole city(14).

Thus, the structure communicates three levels of sanctity in the form of a pindhi, the actual dhamma hall and the shrine. Each has a distinct function, and is a distinct place. There is a stark classicism about this structure which I purposefully employed to sanctify the amluance. It is a twenty meter square hall, with two twenty meter long shells defining the ‘ends.’

While the Dhamma Hall is functionally very removed from the Mahindra College function, one can see the same language at work: natural expression of bearing materials; form finished concrete, the motifs and classic proportions. The round columns separating the Buddha shrine from the sangha, also are static references, which make other features move when the human body moves. The Buddha image is also anchored into a static position, forcing each individual to visually align with it!

The Meditation Hall

The meditation hall is a Vihara for monks. Vihara, in Sanskrit, relates to wandering about, or movement. As a verb it means to ‘go around,’ contemplating, or visiting a reclusive grove of trees or a garden. In short it is a place for retreat and isolation. It is cut off from the world. Originally the monks wandered about India, and beyond, to propagate to Wheel of Law, or Dhamma, settling in retreats during the monsoon. These monsoon retreats, or avasas, gradually became permanent establishments know as viharas. During the Buddha’s time Veluvanarama was a vihara in a forest grove and Jivakarama was a vihara in a mango grove of Rajagriha in northern India, which Buddha himself visited. As these institutions began to be established in cities, they had to physically seclude the vihara from the surrounding settlements.

The meditation pavilion is, thus, completely surrounded by a wall, forming an interior court. There is a vestibule, or entrance structure and there is a shrine area. This division of elements can be found even today in the balrals of Kathmandu Valley. Unlike the Dhamma Hall the Sangha and Buddha share the same sacred space; for the monks the dhamma has fused their sangha life with that of the Buddha ideal!

The plan is a spiral, with the intention of confusing participants’ orientation. Moving in a circular pattern, one immediately looses their sense of direction. The need for orientation is replaced suddenly by the Buddha image! The image sits in a small pavilion, which is placed geometrically in the center of the courtyard. In this way the garden atmosphere of ancient times is recreated. The experience is of sitting in an isolated green area, if not a forest.

This is a place for contemplation and for meditation. All materials are naturally expressed. Harmony is achieved with other structures in the campus through common materials, motifs and proportions, engendering an architectural language.


Movement in Space

These historical examples, and my earlier works, are precedents upon which the Mahindra College design is based. For me, the individual moving in space, is the focal concern. It is this concern which generates a spatial framework for design. I attempt to use highly controlled visual-spatial confections to achieve what Lefaivre and Tzonis have termed a design strategy of arranging masses of artifacts in controlled disequilibrium in “a manner that is portent of a changed state(15).” My idea is not the form of space, not moulded or flowing shapes…..but the kinetic juxtaposition of forms, channels, vistas, stairs, walls, columns, etc., which heighten a sense of awareness of both space and one’s place in space. As Siegfried Giedeon noted, “space should be conceived relative to a moving point of reference, not as relevant to some absolute and static entity.”(16) The central column in the Theological Library, used extensively as a visual device in the Mahindra College, creates a moving point of reference. Such a column must continually change its placement reference to walls and other elements, heightening one’s sense and awareness of movement. One does this with building masses also. They frame each other into compositions which continuously change.

I would contrast this ‘kinetic fabric’ with the stand-alone ‘plan-mass’ statements being made today, particularly in American university campuses. In such cases one finds architecture as an alienating idea, as a static and as a forbidding visual force. Each structure is trying desperately to say something about the architect [of all people], and not much about the users and surrounding context. At best I find these static boxes and forms interesting abstract compositions and arrangements, presumed to be aesthetic.

We are not concerned with planning parcels of land, or individual building statements. We are concerned with the communities who will live in our works, and how these communities reflect the larger societies they mirror. We are concerned with human inter-action; with human emotional inter-dependencies; with understandings of ‘publicness,’ with civility and with behavioural norms. These are the fundamental concepts of ‘society’ and of ‘civilization.’ Architecture can both contribute to and distract from these.

Movement in space, and the visual noting of movement through various devices, is the most dominant theme which ties this diverse group of work together. In addition a group of design principles are applied.

Design Principles

Integration with the environment has been a design theme in all of my work. Site features and the local ecology help focus and mould other design themes. At the college I was fortunate to have a potential site which could be apportioned between productive cultivation and natural landscape, with a variety of terrain and vegetation, for a creative living space.

While there was a clear mandate and program of activities through which objectives were to be met, some principles for a ‘built-environment’ emerged were applied applied to the design. These were:

1.The architecture should be a natural expression of available resources, through the use of indigenous materials like terracotta tiles, Basalt stone for walls, Shahabad stone for external paving and lintels, and Kotah stone for interior floors. These materials are all expressed naturally, without the application of plaster or paint. Form finished concrete was also a way to express the reality of materials. Honesty of expression was thus a design principle.

2.Employment of human scale, as opposed to the monumentalism so often found in institutions, is another principle. No building should dominate the landscape through brute size, or heavy architectonic statements. The architectural milieu must provide personal spaces which belong to the inhabitants and engender interaction. This infers a ‘low-rise’ fabric wherein the roof-shape should be a humble reflection of the landscape.

3.Continuity and harmony should be achieved through consistency in the architectural language and the environment. It is important that common building systems tie a complex group of structures into an integrated whole. For example, one building can not be of reinforced concrete, and another of brick bearing walls, and yet another of pre-fabricated concrete elements, and still another of steel, which we observe in American show case campuses these days, where each architect is competing with the other for attention.

4.An architectural language must be evolved through the selection of appropriate motifs. Motifs can include functional components like door lintels, window shade boxes, ventilators, water spouts and various built-in components. These reflect the demands of climate and culture on lifestyles, customs and habits. Murals cast into natural, exposed concrete enrich the design. One can not ‘design a language’ over night. Elements, ideas and components may emerge from historical examples. An architectural language must evolve through a number of projects and experiences.

5.A sustainable environment must be created. A college can not just be a cluster of buildings on parcels of land. It has to be an integrated man-bio system where nature thrives and people learn. The sun, rains and winds must all temper the orientation of walls, roof coverage and openings. These are not issues of style or fancy, but facts of the environment.

6.A circulation system must separate vehicles from pedestrians; and visitors from regular participants. Noisy and polluting vehicles must be kept at a distance. Movement must be pedestrian and service/visitor vehicles must be separated from this network. The circulation system must also be a lattice, allowing choices of how one moves from place to place in the work area. In the living areas there should be a tree like structure, lending privacy and security to the most basic residential units. A campus is not a city, and the circulation system must honour this distinction.

7.The architectural scheme must establish a main structure through the circulation pattern and the building technology pattern which reinforce each other, integrating into a framework. The main structure must respect the need for short span areas to gather together, and for long span spaces to act as focal points and nodal centers. Such an integrated circulation network-cum-structural system works to separate casual visitors, vendors, and suppliers from serious participants and key actors. In its subtle manner such a system reflects the daily schedule, requiring quiet zones to later become discussion, music or even loud zones, or visa-versa. Space and movement; place and sense of being; form and sequence are all part of this integration of movement networks and building systems. These elements are all linked and integrated through a main structure.

8.Most of all, the ambience will be one of global thinking. This does not mean the projection of a cold, cultureless image through an industrialized ‘international style.’ It does not mean McDonnel’s hamburgers will replace rice and dal. It means applying principles which can unite mankind into a world community: honesty in expression; sustainable environment; respect for the individual; encouragement of constructive group action; use of appropriate technology and creating balanced eco-systems. It is in its role of promoting group concerns and life styles that architecture contributes to a future vision.

The college is based on the ‘vision’ of a secure, safe, and enjoyable environment. In such an environment national, racial, religious and other ‘boundaries’ loose their devicine meanings. Architecture and planning are not merely geometric problems. They are problems in which time, space, life and purpose all become part of one reality.


A small diversion is required here! I must emphasize that I am not a Post-Modernist. I look back with nostalgia to a great modernist tradition filled with Wright, Le Corbusier, Kahn, Sert and other expressionist, modern architects. I feel that modernism was highjacked by bureaucrats and developers to save and make money, and then this boorishness was kidnapped by the post-modernists as their antithesis! Instead of booking the rapists, they labeled the abused as whores! The post-modernists have misrepresented modernism to make themselves appear new, when they are just a continuum! The roots of architecture lie in social purposes, in technology, physical movement, in nature, in visual and mental stimulation. Architecture is the beauty which emerges when all of these elements are mixed together.

The modern movement finds its basis in a social agenda and in an understanding of technology. Technology, in the modern sense, does not mean the tallest, largest or longest structure! Technology does not mean steel and glass. Technology means the fusing of quantitative systems and value systems toward an appropriate application. Because labour in India is plentiful, and highly skilled in stone work, it would not be appropriate to build a tensile structure, where a stone wall would do. That would not be ‘modern.’ The so-called Post Modernists have disjointed quantitative and value systems. They use techniques merely as a form of gymnastics to attract attention. The so-called ‘Post Modernists’ have abandoned a social agenda. At the College social interaction, social hierarchies; community and privacy; provision of ‘settings for interaction’ and ‘places of exchange’ are formative aspects of the plan. This is why it is modern architecture.

We are still very much a part of the modern movement. Perhaps we are late modernists, but modernists we are! Post-modernism is a ‘word’ used by historians and critics to fit their own personalities and identities into a framework. The architects they write about are flattered to be cited as new and different. Post Modernism is not a period, or a movement, like modernism. It has been created by academics to resolve their own identity crises. Post Modernism is not the product of ‘architectural oeuvres’ created over time, which culminate in a true movement. If it is a movement, it is a movement of superficial style, of packaging, of decoration, of cold monuments and of ‘things.’ Recent works on American campuses isolate people, isolate intellectual disciplines, and alienate one building from another. This is the opposite of what a university stands for. It is preposterous! We must break this tragic historical trend. A campus must work as a whole, as a total organism, with a purpose. Animals have needs, people have purposes! Why do we see so many campus designs which are mere expressions of need?


Spatial Organization

Hierarchy of space plays an important role in the organization of the college plan. The academic campus is organized around a central quadrangle with passages radiating off of it. One enters the campus through the “Mahadwara,” or an ancient wooden carved door, set within a massive entrance wall, which acts as a symbolic ‘guard,’ or a sentinel to the campus.

Inside a world of meandering stone walkways, takes one through the reception area, the Administration Building and on to where a long view up to the Catering Center chimney tower, stops the eye. It is the stone walls which carry one along, as if exploring a medieval hill town. The walls are massive, angular, bent in and thrust out---all in a conceived scheme of movement and experience. One is attracted to an opening into the Academic Quadrangle at the end of this sequence, but not before one’s view is diverted up a pedestrian ramp, leading to the porch of the Science Center.

This porch rests on columns, at a pivotal point, dominating the open area below it, as a Greek temple would preside over a village. With a circular opening in its roof, and five round columns holding it up in the air, the porch literally turns space around it. These two events, the ‘long view’ and the ‘turning porch’ add excitement and discovery to one’s journey deeper into the fabric of the campus.

The sequence from the Mahadwara ends as one moves into the academic quadrangle. This is the hub of the campus, where all of the classrooms are located. Each of the four corners of the quadrangle opens out to views, and to different activity areas, such as the campus lawn, which spreads down the western axis, toward a grand vista of Mulshi Lake with its dramatic sunsets, all framed by the strong, directional Library wall and the heavy masonry of the Art Center. To the east, the quadrangle opens through a narrow passage, focused on a small pyramid with students perched on it. A ramp moves on up from the pyramid to the Catering Center. In similar ways the quadrangle opens to the south, down the amphi-theatre steps, ramps and gardens to the Multi-purpose Hall. These are all flowing, “lattice” spaces, inter-connected with one another, unlike the more ‘tree-like’ cul-de-sacs in the residential village.

Social Hierarchy and Spatial Patterns

Just as villages in this region of India are divided into hamlets, or ‘wadis,’ so the residential village of the campus is divided into four ‘wadis.’ Each wadi entrance has a wind tower, in which antique wooden carved doors from old Maharashtrian ‘wadas’ or large houses, are fixed to signify “passage” from the unstable universe into the stable space of household life. In each hamlet there is a Common Room with telephones, kitchenette, T.V., launderette, etc. This common area is a spatial pivot between a Student Yard and a Faculty Yard. Each student yard has six houses or wadas around it. Like the traditional wadas of the region, these also have an internal, walled-in court, using verandah to link rooms together. Again, in local vernacular, these enclosed courts are known as chowks.

These four communities are clustered around a landscaped Mall where amenities, such as the Students’ Center, Swimming Pool, Medical Center and Nurses’ Quarters are located. Sitting areas and walkways are used to link the hamlets together. The Mall is the highest social gathering space, next are the four Common Rooms, next the eight Yards, and finally the twenty-four wadas and twenty faculty cottages. Each wada and each ‘cottage’ has a chowk, where household social units gather. Thus, there is a social scaling of various sizes of inter-action within groups, which is also reflected and strengthened, through the spatial pattern of the college, embracing the entire community. The scaling is reflected in built-form in a hirearchy from village, wadi, wada and then chowk!

Within the ‘wadas’ each student has their own spatial domain: an individual sleep/study area. Four of these spaces form a dormitory room, in which the most basic social group lives, originating from four different countries. Two dorm rooms, an entrance area, a box room and a wet core are linked by the verandah and chowk, forming a ‘house.’ These houses are very similar to the small courtyard houses, one finds in the villages of western India.

Integration of Open Spaces and Interior Spaces

At the college external gardens, connecting walls, passages, courts, ramps and quadrangles serve to integrate interior and exterior spaces. Each classroom has its own private garden court where the learning process can spill out-of-doors. The result is the penetration of nature into the built form. In the Library and in the Administration Building, entrance porches and glass atria twist exterior space into the interior. In the Academic Quadrangle and the Science Center, interior quadrangles are employed, with low covered passages around them. In the Student Center, Catering Center and Multi-purpose Hall and other structrures verandahs are used as ‘in-between’ spaces which integrate the interior with the exterior. Thus, the school is conceived as a sequence of low and high walls, gardens, passages, verandahs, sit-out platforms, courtyards, atria, ramps, steps and orchards, creating the ambiance of a natural park in which activities seem to be incidentally set. This idea is similar to that of Mogul complexes where the structures are actually “pavilions” opening into gardens. In such compositions the definition between interior and exterior areas is vague and nebulous. A number of Indian devices are employed, like “ottas,” or sitting platforms, or “kund-like” steps. Even low walls are employed to bring people together as “sitting walls,” rather than as barriers.

Movement, Time and Perception

In all of the designs at the college an ‘apparent,’ yet deceptive, informality in order is used to create a dynamic tension, which keeps the eye moving, exploiting kinetic sensations. Columns are used as static benchmarks to demarcate space, with the walls as moving backgrounds. In this manner the mobile human being becomes the focal point, as a ‘third force,’ whose location, or ‘situation’ is marked by stationary columns, against walls which appear to move behind the columns.

Unlike my earlier works, which are organized around a modulated Cartesian grid, the MUWCI is organized around ‘patterns’ which are integrated through the use of a common language of build. This has allowed us to ‘plug in’ new structures, in a flexible manner, along the radial paths leading out from the Academic Quadrangle. This can be linked with the Indian perception of “time.”

Time in the West is very different than in the East. A Hindu will reincarnate in to another manifestation at a later date! He must live out his present dharma and be sincere in the duties it bestows on him. In his life he will be a bramhachari, or virgin student, a householder, a sanyasi, and then he will retreat to the forest and die. He knows who he is. He knows what he must do. He knows where he is going, and that if he is true to his ‘station’ in the cycle of birth, death, and re-birth, some day he shall surely reach nirvana! He is not rushed for money, achievement, fame, celebrity and immortality, because he is part of a continuum. Time is something to be experienced, enjoyed---and lived! Time is not making it to a deal at 10:45, or the EMI on a loan! The Buddha envisioned reincarnation like a flame blowing from one candle to the next. The soul flows on through various manifestations! In such a time frame movement and perception become sources of enjoyment and experience.


In Slowness, Milan Kundera transposed a modern couple into a Sixteenth Century setting. His twentieth century man had no time to consider where he was going, he was concerned only about the speed he moved. He never asked why? He was only concerned about ‘getting there.’ In India, historical time frames are laid, one over the other! A new building will overlay a colonial building, which overlpas a Mogul structure, which overlays a Vedic structure! The artifacts of history are part of the theatre of life. A building complex must have a threshold, there must be ‘in between’ spaces which allow people to absorb the change between one space and another. There must be ‘ottas’ to sit on and to think about life! Time, space and movement temper our conception about the nature of the world.

In most of New York City there is no place to sit down, or to just saunter about. Slowness may even catch the eye of a security guard, who may question ‘what are you up to?’ Unless we design places for slowness, we necessitate speed. And when people rush to a destination there will be no place to sit down and to think! We live in a paradigm in which we are either hyperactive workaholics, or we are drugged into the unconscious by alcoholic! We are either working, or “on vacation.” There is no place to sit down! Vacations are for people who feel guilty about slowness, who do not contemplate, and who have no place to sit down. Architecture must celebrate transition, it must welcome a pause. It must engender contemplation and provide for slowness. A glass box with elevators, with air-conditioned passages, with cubicles that have no chairs for visitors…these confections are the opposite of architecture. In New York I saw a building full of ramps behind a glass wall. But one ramp only lead to another ramp, and then to another! Even a device made for slowness, became a contraption for the hyperactive...everyone moving, but to nowhere! And there was no place to sit down!

Visual Devices

The school design employs what the I call a ‘magical visual trick,’ which is to utilize the vast mountains in which the campus sits, as the ‘designed spatial environment.’ The buildings themselves are reflections of mountains. It is almost as if the campus is a miniature model of the
mountain ranges and hills, so that when one views a distant mountain behind a structure, it appears to be the same visual scale, and to be of the same size, as the mountains! Angles reinforce this illusion, as do earth mounds, which straddle the buildings. What results is the harnessing of the vast natural landscape into the visual imagery and architectural illusions, as if these monoliths were designed themselves to enhance an existing architecture, instead of the other way around!

Just as a Mogul miniature painting brings a wide range of elements of vastly differing sizes into the same visual milieu on a flat canvas, so also the designer scheme uses the ‘flat canvas’, or ‘visual plane’ concept in a new and innovative manner.

A unique visual feature of the school is the employment of bas-relief murals, cast in the form-finished concrete ceilings. The images, drawn from nature, include birds, snakes, lizards, fish, turtles and people. There are also stars the sun, moons and other cosmic images. A cosmic river flows around the ceiling of the entire academic quadrangle. There are also imaginary primordial beings, and beings eaten by other beings!

Systems of Order

While individual buildings enjoy considerable variety in terms of their plans and generic order, the campus is bound together by a strict system of dimensions, proportions, and a highly consistent visual language. It is the manner in which the supporting elements within the language interact, that adds variety and intrigue. Columns and walls are used in counter point; square windows in heavy masonry lend a sense of playfulness to serious masses; motifs [water spouts, ottas, ponds, steps, lintels and windows] are used to engage the eye’s vision and to catalyze movement on visual planes.

Just as Indian women place a bindi on their foreheads to denote one of the most powerful energy centers, spaces are ‘marked’ and then aligned with one another in ways which interlink centers of energy in the campus complex. For example, the four openings of the Academic Quadrangle are aligned with the four cardinal directions of the earth, such that one’s line of vision coming into the quadrangle from the East, is focused down a narrow passage, through a square opening, which frames a small image of Mulshi Lake, in the distance West. This energy line draws in a far off landscape, more than ten kilometers away, making it a miniature painting within an architectural composition. The alignment is by no means obvious, nor is it accidental. It is subtle, almost hidden---a reality known only to those who live and work within the campus. The relationship is an abiding one.


Design Process

In our studio work there is always a large team. I do not have the luxury of painters and writers to sit alone and ponder. Ours is ‘an art of mobilization and management,” equally as it is of sensitive manipulation of forms and spaces. For this teams are essential. In our studio senior architects study, search and ‘re-search’ the initial sketches I make. When the pattern and its employment of language is clear we call in the air conditioning, structural and services engineers. At this point a ‘re-think’ is inevitable. Then the specifications, quantities and costs have to be considered, and maybe we start again. Design is not a lineal proposition. We try to involve all of these people as early in the process as possible. That is the meaning of a ‘studio.’ In a studio everyone is part of ‘art making.’

What is important in team work, is that the studio has established its own values and rules. Everyone works within the same language, and follows the same principles. Extensive and complex designs can not be realized unless the work is divided amongst a group of like-minded architects. This stimulates constructive debate and discussion from which appropriate alternatives emerge. Making buildings is a lineal process where one stage of work follows another. It is difficult to go back into a previous stage. But design is an iterative…a back and forth process! The two are at odds! There is an art in resolving this contradiction between making buildings and making designs, also.

While the campus is a single, unified composition, like a symphony, it has its own ‘movements,’ or components, with their own internal rationales. Some of these components merit analysis.

The Mahadwara

The Mahadwara is the main entrance to the college. It is the portal! The centerpiece is an ancient wood door from a wada. The door is so large that it needs a door within a door for daily access. A large masonry structure holds and orients the door. It induces one into a movement system, leading one down a meandering lane closed in by massive stone walls, into the heart of the campus. The feeling is very medieval, as if one were in an ancient Maratha Fort, or an Italian hill town.

The door opens due North, and one enters the campus on the auspicious North-South cardinal axis. The Mahadwara has its own unique shape and mass, much like the entrances to Egyptian hyperstyles along the Nile River. The use of such an “anchoring” device to set up directionality within a diverse and complex design, adds a unique sense of place to the campus. The Mahadwara sets one in motion, establishes a landmark, fixes a cardinal point and lays out an axis. It is the beginning of a system of signs, or ‘mudras’ which give meaning to the composition.

Academic Quadrangle

The Academic Quadrangle is the heart of the College. It houses three large faculty rooms, an open student lounge, and twelve classrooms. These are all connected by a low pavilion which skirts around the interior quadrangle, which is densely planted. On the outter side, each classroom has sliding glass panels facing private courtyards and gardens where learning activities can extend out-of-doors! Again, as in CDSA, low verandahs protect the glass panels and act as basins to collect water from the sloped roofs. The cardinal directions which rule the campus layout, radiate out from the center of the Academic Quadrangle, moving North [toward the Mahadwara], South [toward the Multi-purpose Hall]; East [toward the Catering Center] and West [toward the College Lawn framed by the Library and Art Center]. The views and sight lines which link all of these interior and exterior spaces are highly articulated and moulded. One means of doing this was in the treatment of the end walls of the four enclosing components of the Academic Quadrangle. In one case the two walls turn at 45 degrees leaving only a narrow, eight foot wide passage focused toward the Catering Center [East].

On the opposite side [West] the two walls are perpendicular, providing a wide open, generous view toward the College Lawn and on to Mulshi Lake, with the mountains in the distance. The North-South openings are intermediate conditions, with one wall turned at 45 degrees and the other at 90 degrees. The subtle manipulations of the openings in to the quadrangle create an illusion that the Academic Quadrangle is a free form structure. In fact it is a very tight pattern, composed of parallel bearing walls facing into the open quadrangle, much as large farmers houses orient toward a central work court. Views through the four open corners add intrigue to visual sequences. There is a ‘bas relief’ mural, depicting a mystical river, meandering around the low ceiling of the connecting pavilion in the quadrangle. The edge condition between the central garden and the covered walkway is handled with stone bearing walls, and cylindrical exposed concrete columns. These are all positioned to control views and emphasize sight lines.

Administrative Building

The Administrative Building was designed after the Academic Quadrangle was fully functional, so I started the design by extending one of the large, opening walls of the Academic Quadrangle, which I wanted to pull right up to the Mahadwara. This ‘long wall’ would pull people along with it! Right from the beginning I wanted some kind of central atria with the offices projecting off two sides, as if half the Academic Quadrangle was repeated as a cellular growth off one of the Academic Quadrangle walls! The scheme called for a Headmaster’s room, three Directors’ rooms, a Faculty room and two large work areas for reprographics and accounts. These, and a Board Room, would all be connected by a low secretarial area, with sitting and waiting spaces. Early on in the design the “long wall” was shifted in a parallel manner, mid-way, to provide an entrance porch. This break accentuated the narrow entrance passage connecting the Mahadwara with the Academic Quadrangle. Finally, the Board Room was “freed” from the main structure and turned at an angle. Like the Academic Quadrangle, verandahs between the offices and the gardens are employed to shelter the glass sliding panels. The verandah roofs, as at CDSA, act as water collectors from the inclined tile roofs over the offices. Though the plan is very strongly determined by programmatic requirements and functional considerations, there is another compositional layer of thinking which was equally determinant in fixing the final scheme. Massing, forms and spatial relations were all studied, altered, manipulated and re-structured to give the desired result. The roof of the Board Room was kept flat so that the diagonal, due west view from the Science Center would not be blocked when it transversed over the Administrative Building to the Mulshi Lake in the distance. In a similar manner the entry, waiting areas and secretaries area were kept low. This also provided a very human scale in the entry ensamble, and a generous scale change upon movement into the offices. All of these low areas spin around a glass wall, bringing a small garden, and light, into the center of the composition. Thus, spatial manipulation, light and movement were other layers of thinking. The Amphi-Theatre

The college campus is as much an out-door environment, as it is an indoor one. A number of landscape features are used to link various structures to the gardens, earth mounds, orchards, tree grooves and lawns. These structures are used as visual devices which tie diverse shapes and forms into a unified whole. The Amphi-theatre is essentially a wide staircase, which I would compare with the Spanish Steps in Rome. It is a humble reflection of the same concept.

Steps are more than a way to go up or down, they are an event! I romanticise such elements as land locked beaches where people can gather to sun themselves in the winter air, or to lounge about and admire one another.

The Amphi-theatre space is divided by a wall, with “cut-outs” to peep through, placing a ramp behind it. Young people like to look at each other, and to be looked at! They are at an age where physical beauty and the challenge of beautiful ideas vie for their attention. How one dresses---sloppy or neat---carries meaning! A college campus must address this need to ‘be seen’ and ‘to see,’ as it is an important aspect of personality development. It makes the experience of architecture a very real, and a very personal one. Perhaps only the Greeks understood this.

The Amphi-theatre opens onto a wide-open stage, composed of a paved platform, with a green carpet of grass beyond. The jagged mountains act as the backdrop. The Amphi-theatre serves as a connector between the Academic Quadrangle and the Multi-purpose Hall, which sits eight feet below. The containing walls, which are continuations of the Multipurpose Hall and the Academic Quadrangle tie the elements into a unified composition. It is like bringing Miami Beach to the Sahayadri Mountains, or Rome to India!

The Multipurpose Hall

The design of this vast interior space has to meet a number of diverse requirements. It has to house the annual International Baccalaureate exams, with specified table sizes and spaces between each table, in addition to the air temperature and light levels. It has to function as an auditorium with a stage, green rooms, focused lighting and seating. The space is used for yoga, dance, music programmes, drama, lectures and convocations. Most important, a clear span space of 5,500 square feet had to be provided, and the air conditioning system had to be housed in an unobtrusive manner.

The high ceiling is spanned by a triangular lattice structure, with smaller triangles set within still larger ones, in order to generate a hierarchy. Each of the six larger structural triangles has a skylight over its central small triangle. The result is a honeycomb effect articulating the large area into human scale modules.

The air conditioning system plays a formative role in the design, with the air diffusion louvers forming a continuous ring around the interior space to ensure balanced temperatures. Compressors in different towers can be utilized singly, or all together, so that one can optimize energy consumption, yet diffuse air through the same distribution ring. Thus, integration of the services with the structural system was a formative aspect of the design.

Four large towers house the mechanical equipment above and provide space for green rooms and storage below. Between these towers are glass sliding panels, opening onto terraces on the east and west, and onto covered verandahs on the north and south. These huge glass panels frame vast panoramas of the distant mountains. The sloped roofs over the verandahs and towers reflect this dramatic landscape, and tie this large structure in with the theme of the campus. Most of all, the various forms, slopes and openings are deployed effectively to break down the mass of what otherwise would have been a huge box! We have located this structure on the lowest elevation, keeping its roofline under the adjoining building line, connecting them with walls, amphi-theatre steps and a generous ramp.

The Library

The campus is envisioned as an organism which can live like a city or a town. Mass education, and mass media begin to numb our senses when a learning environment is placed in an infrastructure grid, such as an American high school, or into a megastructure concept.

It is a basic principle of cognition that, the universal can be perceived only in the particular, while the particular can be thought of only in reference to the universal(17). The homogenizing effects of mass media tend to simplify everything. In architectural schemes a similar trend occurs. Megastructures tend to say “everything is the same: a room is a room.” Structural glass walls have a similar message. This over-generalizes everything. On the other hand people are making these obnoxious individualistic statements on their isolated little plots. Both are uniforms, when a pluraform is needed!

I designed the Library a few months after I designed the Academic Quadrangle. I was worried that our campus would become monotonous, over generalized and boring. In such a situation it is the nuances of the general which provide meaning. A library is not a classroom. It needed to be celebrated in a different manner, yet it required the same kind of generalized language, a language which grows out of the landscape, materials available and the craftsmen’s technology.

Thus the materials, the motifs, the proportions and scale are a mere continuation of the over-all college generality, while the “foot print” and pattern take off on their own. They are particular. A long wall boldly directs the view toward the valley, distant mountains and sunsets. As in the Administration Building, the wall is broken in the center, and half the wall is pulled on to its own parallel alignment, providing an opening porch. A parallel line of sky lights, columns, beams and ceiling light tracks run through the structure, while the glass atria and folded, enclosing wall take on their own, yet rigorous, geometry.

The hill slope is used to provide a higher ceiling in the reading room, as there is a split-level from the entrance area, which one stepping down into the reading room. The shear glass wall which twists external space into internal atria space, contains a dense garden and acts as a light well. It fills the walled-in volume with radiant greenery. Again the design works on a number of distinct, yet inter-related planes of thought. One plane is how the internal space is sculpted, and how the external form contributes to the over-all experience of the campus. Another layer is the structure of bearing walls, parallel columns and parallel skylights. Another layer is the pattern of function, movement and program. Finally, there is a layer of “light,” and how various components of the language integrate “visual demands” [sight lines; atria focus; structural alignments; kinetic columns] with lighting. For example, the vertical slit windows bring light directly onto columns, which use their curved surface to diffuse this light back onto the interior walls. Finally, all of these layers are integrated into a stable and unified composition.

Repetition is an important concept in music and in architecture. In a fugue a series of notes becomes a thematic pattern, which is repeated over and over again in a manner which explores the potentials of the pattern! The same concept is employed in Indian classical ragas, wherein the musician has more choice in his personal exploration of a given set of notes. Interpretation plays a greater role. In architecture the language is one of the systems where repetition occurs. That is like a fugue. But the patterns provide more freedom, like a raga, as the architect has to understand what is articular about each structure! At still another level, architectonic elements can be repeated. For example, the turning glass wall connected to an entrance porch, formed of a main wall broken in the center, and set on two parallel lines, was used later in the administration building.

The Anjali Anand Art Centre

While I believe I find my roots in the Rationalist School of Design, I feel one can extract tremendous variety out of very logical paradigms. The three studios of the Art Center fly out from a central courtyard like the huge wings of a mysterious, prehistoric bird, taking the visual gymnastics of the campus to extremes, yet maintaining a very logical organizational fabric. The studios are used for multi-media work---painting, print-making, sculpture and sketching. There is a small pottery court with a kiln attached.

The courtyard verandah and studios have characteristic murals in their exposed concrete ceilings. Either a flock of birds pass overhead, or various reptiles appear to swim above. Two giant snakes intertwine each other, as they move about verandah ceilings. Celestial stars, moons and “faces in moons” play about on the studio ceilings.

At the most generic level, my early sketches for this structure were composed of simple parallel walls, with glass sliding doors opening to the central courtyard. The parallel stone walls turned in a “U shape,” enclosing three sides, using skylights to illuminate the deep ends. The large glass walls at the ends of the studios evolved later. In fact the students of the college, who I was interacting with, demanded them! The studios focused into a courtyard, which is articulated by kund-like steps, focusing down into Mulshi Valley. These parallel walls gradually shifted, as did the elevations and roof angles, until a totally new composition evolved. Large structural glass windows allow light from the north-east, north and north-west to flood the studios. The result is a very powerful, apparently free form, composition. This structure was one of the last we designed for the college. While some of the elements [a “light pilon” to be seen from the valley below] are not complete, the structure epitomizes what our studio has been attempting throughout the campus. The language is still tight, yet the pattern is very particular, molded to a specific activity. It is functionally structural, while visually unstructured.

The Science Center

Several components of the campus are purposely Cartesian; they are on a strict grid. This is in blatant contrast to the angular composition. The introduction of this “difference” gives meaning to the norm. It was also fitting for the program of the laboratories, which had to be “fed” by preparation rooms and accessed separately by students. Three covered pavilions, at a low [7’-6” high] level connect the entrance, the internal quadrangle, and an informal gathering space at the deep interior. Each is penetrated, above by a circular cut-out opening. The alignment of these circular cut-outs, and the movement of people, is purposefully contradictory to the grid of the plan layout. A diagonal alignment is created. This “alignment” also creates a direction and vista line, focused over the Administration Building directly on to Mulshi Lake ten kilometers away. This reflects, and reinforces a similar diagonal axis and vista running from the Catering Center, through the Academic Quadrangle, across the College ….to the Lake. Again, repetition is important to bring out visual themes!

I like to repeat visual and movement experiences at different locations and scales, to emphasize their auspicious qualities, and to link people with nature, as these lines all relate to the sun’s path, to natural vistas and to elevational shifts. I believe spaces are very important in the realization of architecture. A very low space is an excellent introduction. There is then a transition to higher spaces! The movement from low to medium heights, makes medium feel large! People begin to live space, to feel it, to enjoy it. They begin to understand the architect’s game with space. They begin to analyze what the architect is doing, just like music lovers go again and again to hear the same composition. They get more out of it each time! What people find in the Science Center is that they have to move on a diagonal, and there are strong sight lines on the diagonal, but the “built space” is a Eucledian idea on a Cartesian grid!

Again, a contradiction is nesseled within the concept, and this contradiction demands a reaction! People are moving one way and working in another way! The circular “cutouts” into the entrance pavilion, into the quadrangle, and into the back nitch all act as frames. One sees the moon; a variety of cloud forms, or at night the stars glimmering---all framed and made important. Herein enters the concept of place! The Science Center is a unique functional and movement experience. It transcends, in the user’s psyche, into a special experience. It develops a personality of its own and one relates to it! That’s what a place is all about, as opposed to spaces, good or bad!

One other point. The porch, or the pavilion, is very classical. It portrays the same formal message as does a Greek portico, with columns and pediment. Again, this pavilion “presides” over the campus. It is a kind of statement that empiricism is a ruling force. It is not an absolute force, because other human values temper empirical facts, and channel these facts toward application. It is important that we know that the only truths which exist, must be subject to testing and to repetition! Such truths are rare indeed. It is more meaningful to search the good! This is what this composition is all about.

The Catering Centre

The Catering Centre is composed of dining, entrance, and serving handwashing/plate disposal areas. There are also washing-cooking-preparation areas; dry, wet and cold stores, as well as an office, electrical room and a laundry.

The central feature of the scheme is the large cauffered triangular ceiling, sixty feet on its three sides, broken further into four triangles, thirty feet on the sides, with each of these being further sub-divided into sixteen triangles. The central cauffers in the four intermediate structures are sky lights.

Sitting nooks are created by attaching 30-foot stone masonry triangles to the sides, with the remaining thirty feet being glass-sliding panels opening to generous verandahs. The complex is the highest in the campus, and has unobstructed views out to the mountains and valleys. The low verandahs framed in the massive stone nooks and dining hall work to bring human scale into the scheme. The large exhaust chimney over the kitchen is used as a landmark for aligning vistas.

The Student Centre

The Student Centre illustrates the diversity of ‘publicness’ in today’s society---the influence of building context and function on human interaction(18). Public spaces that sensitively reflect context and function instill in their users some underlying public bound, or a collective subconscious. The recognition of a collective subconscious is one of the intangibles that breathe life into true architecture. It turns spaces into places. Tucked into the hill slope, the Student Centre acquires its genius loci from its given context. Just as a Greek gymnasium engendered both physical and mental development, the Student Centre caters to a wide variety of activities, including aerobics, games, hobbies, refreshment, the college newspaper room, music, and discussion groups. There is a small hall for parties and discos. This facility is the center of the residential cluster, allowing students to use it around the clock.

The Student Centre is an ‘energy centre,’ from which energy lines radiate out. The campus is formed of energy centers and energy lines, along which people move.

The design is based on a folded stone retaining wall, which holds the upper hill slope. This wall is composed of six vertical light shafts which reach up into the sky. Each shaft holds a room, or niche, for activities. A folded glass wall separates these spaces from a generous verandah, which frames a dramatic view of the Sahayadri mountains.

The Student Centre is not an area for amusement, or time pass. It is an area for ‘re-creation’ and entertainment. It stimulates the mind, stimulates skill development and develops character. The building catalyzes stimulation. It has to generate activity! The activity rooms curve around the large verandah. The light shafts, with sky lights, follow the sun! Again, the walls and bearing structure have one pattern; the column and radial beams another structure, the spaces still another and, again, movement another. The sense of place created is the constant force!

Where Do We Go From Here

The design of an object can be just that! It can be a solid, fluid form which looks like it is moving, but it is not! Such plastic shapes are conceptualized on one layer of thought, which is that of photogenic form. Even sculptors have moved away from such a simple conception, introducing moving parts. Caulder’s work not only looks like it is moving, it does move, and as one walks past a Caulder, everything around moves! Kandinsky moved away from static images through his kinetic sketches. But architecture is a magazine hungry art, and has regressed back into the exercise of object design, not be experienced, but photographed.

Architectural design has to be conceptualized through the design of elements on different layers, which are then integrated through an accomodating concept. These layers would include the architectural language, the functional plan-diagram, the external form and its response to context, the circultion network, light, the kinetic movement idea, the assembly of structure, the network of services and many more layers. Each has a structure, or pattern, which has to adjust to all of the other layers. This final integration, or accomodation, is achieved through the device of a main structure, or a concept which integratres these layers. Analysis of these layers, and the adjustment into a main structure happens at all scales of design ranging from miniature paintings up to regional plans.

There is a continuum of design thought ranging from regional plans, urban plans, campus and neighbourhood designs, individual building designs, murals and furniture. Design is similar to the Russion dolls which fit one inside the other. But there is a major difference. Each design has scale boundaries which limit its size and articulates edges, internal structure, and networks. Even an ‘endless grid” like Manhattan meets its river boundaries abruptly, demanding a park or a marina! In other words while our dolls within dolls are similar, they are also very different! Yet the themes and principles, which integrate and give meaning to buildings and campus designs, are also relevant at the city and regional levels. In a campus plan we have a rare opportunity to ‘try out’ ideas which have relevance to the larger society, and to the far vaster canvas of regional and city planning. There is also a link with smaller spaces and objects!

Campus plans are micro cosmos of much larger ideas and concepts. What we achieve, or fail to achieve, in such a confection casts a shadow over the potentials of larger scenarios. An individual building becomes a more annal retentive kind of exercise. It is the small child struggling with its own reality and its own identity. That is the way campus plans are conceived today. A campus plan which is merely a group of annal retentive children, each put in its own crib where it can yell and scream for attention is a tragic kind of failure. Whether it be the University of Cincinnati, or Harvard University, clients are not building environments. Rather they are collecting things. They have one piece by Pei, another by Sterling, another by Gehry, yet another by Venturi! All of the annal retentive infants are yelling and screaming. Entertaining as infants are, there is a colossal cost involved here. A campus must do more than mirror the narcissism of suburbia! A campus, like a university, is a microcosm of the whole. It is a fragment of the cosmos, making a statement about the nature of man, about mankind’s future!

The very nature of culture and communitas is at stake here. I propose that culture means patterns of behaviour which persist over time. Artifacts ‘fix’ that behaviour, and contribute to the determination of traditions. What we design and what we build, and what we infer, and what we ‘fix,’ IS THE NEW CULTURE.

What architects and planners are saying today is that each one is on his own; they are saying ‘get what you can while you can.’ They are saying that self gratification is the goal of society, and the purpose of culture! This is a historical reverse and a tragedy. This a contradiction to the essence of Ekistics!

The campus of the Mahindra United World College of India is a counterblast to these false preachers of New Urbanism and Post Modernism.