Sunday, December 16, 2007


ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI -- Heart It Races (DJ /Rupture Mix)
(AKA Adrenaline featuring Mr Lee G)

Spent most of Saturday at this event called 12 on 12, an annual session which began in Ahmedabad, March 12th 2005, as a day for architects from all over India to talk about whatever they wanted for 12 minutes each. Archi-types, landscape architects and interior designers powerpointed throughout the day. I think there were 38 in all. I don't know much about architecture but this was a great introduction to the breadth of practice, some academic issues, aesthetics and politics. There were some naff presentations featuring waffly new age bullshit dressed up as social conscience. There's a tendency for Indian intellectuals who want to sound more 'serious' and 'engaged' than the apparent mainstream of Indian culture to become really pretentious about their work. They do this in the English language. To this English foreigner, this overblown rhetoric sounds vacuous most of the time. It's the same for 'alternative' arthouse films here in which actors speak portentous lines in English that sound like nothing people actually say to each other in any language. In some of the power point presentations, I started to get annoyed with the spate of cryptic dot, dot, dots (... ) after sentences (Hallmark cards for aspiring brainiacs) and gee-whizz ideas such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull text panels for corporate IT interiors. But on the plus side some of the presentations that dealt with huge development projects in rural areas (Bhutan and Nagaland), urban wetlands (flood-prone Surat), heritage property renovation and large public buildings were fascinating. Their sensitivity to longstanding environmental and cultural ecologies was reassuring, given the untrammeled real estate boom in India's metropolises and its 'creative destruction'. The prominence of software and computer mapping in the field was another sign of the digital mediascape shaping so much work today. My other initial response to the wide range of presentations was the continuing dominance of high modernism as a paradigm. Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe, Charles Correa, Louis Kahn and post-Bauhaus internationalism were very influential on the establishment of architecture as a professional practice and discipline in India. In fact, some of these major figures designed buildings in Ahmedabad. Hell, even Buckminster Fuller constructed a dome in the old city. The cult of the architect ('starchitect') rather like the cult of the auteur film director is very strong, even though architecture is a collaborative enterprise, circumscribed by many institutions and forces
. Though vernacular postmodernism has had a life here, for the most part a modern minimalist aesthetic with minor elements of regional and ethnic traditions seems to be the norm. But I'm saying this as someone pretty ignorant of the field, based largely on a first impression from this show 'n' tell day.

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