Inalienable (01) – October, 2015

I was in Old Delhi to­day, on er­rands, visit to the an­ga­dia, buy coke to cut for my char­col, sit with the newa­pa­per-cut­ting ser­vice who can beat Google news any­time as usual.

Now that the gov­ern­ment has re-started the UNESCO-tag drama, lar­rons of con­ser­va­tion­ists and gen­tri­fiers were out in force: for­ti­fied be­hind their cam­eras, and lensed be­hind thoughts of, I guess, his­tory, her­itage and nice ed­i­ble things. And it oc­curred that I might be look­ing at the last years of a great city, if they have their way, things they hold dear will be de­fined, brought into sharp re­lief, and things they do not recog­nise or have no words to de­scribe may be re­moved. For sure, I am con­cerned about ar­chi­tec­tural dis­po­si­tions that have come about in the past cen­tury or so – per­haps since 1858 – that tend to tran­scend ar­chi­tec­tural types and his­tory but make for pro­duc­tions that may, yet, re­sult in ar­chi­tec­tures we have haven’t seen.

Kurula Varkey in his last years was some­times ob­sessed with the hu­man pos­ture, types of work, and how space is re­pro­duced in the inner city’ as he liked to call it, inner’ was not a sen­ti­men­tal word for him the way it is for con­ser­va­tion­ists. I think, by inner’ he meant some new types of work­ings he was start­ing to no­tice, and in 1999, I saw him do this charette and they drew a city from scratch — but it looked al­most ex­actly like a mea­sured draw­ing of an informal set­tle­ment’, al­most, be­cause you would no­tice pre­me­di­ated ar­chi­tec­tures and all the think­ing that went into the tec­nics – you would lead your hand and pen­cil, and the re­sistence of lead on pa­per – and a trained hand will think’ for the ar­chi­tect.

His stu­dents (rather, a lot of peo­ple who were at CEPT and took his his­tory and de­sign lec­tures) have pro­duced build­ings that seem to in­herit this ten­dency: they hold his­toric ab­strac­tions, and in­ter­na­tional ref­er­ence mod­els, but at the same time the trained hand pro­duces some­thing that is right here, and new as it is right here. I am look­ing for such inalienable’ build­ings like this one by Gurjit Singh Matharoo, or build­ings that lose a sig­nif­i­cant as­pect or mean­ing if re­moved from the site.

Matharoo, Gurjit Singh - Crematorium, in Surat, view of the old railway bridge from the porch.
Matharoo, Gurjit Singh - Crematorium, in Surat, view of the old rail­way bridge from the porch.: This cre­ma­to­rium is lo­cated at Ashwinkumar Ghat on the banks of the Tapi. It was to house five gas fur­naces with sup­port­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as the reg­is­tra­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices, stor­age, and large tracts of non-spec­i­fied space. Source: Matharoo Associates, Ahmedabad

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(infra)-structured Delhi, around 2004 - the city en­route to Alphaville, via Liberalization (1992) JNNURM (2004) and CWG (2004-2010) pro­grammes, the city is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a mis­sion-ori­ented smart cities’ (2015- con­t’d) state.