Panic Button – November, 2017

One can find the desert, they say, even in the most ster­ile of places.

There is this dean of stud­ies in a flu­o­res­cent-lit room some­where, and he does things deans of stud­ies do all the time, he keeps an eye on things. His of­fice is like a bunker too, it does not have win­dows, and the pro­por­tion of the plan is 1:2 (trained – not practicing’ – ar­chi­tects amongst you will know what it means), so you will im­me­di­ately no­tice how dean keeps an eye on him­self. You al­ways will sense it in the room, an eye dis­em­bod­ied, de­tached yet not with­out a sense of hu­mor, as peo­ple and pa­pers shuf­fle about.

You will hear them talk­ing about pro­ce­dural con­cerns like redefining the bound­aries be­tween the rural and the ur­ban in post-lib­er­al­iza­tion India” and rei­fied con­cerns like permission for stu­dents to un­der­take a study tour hav­ing dis­tance more than 600kms in con­tra­ven­tion of uni­ver­sity reg­u­la­tions” dis­cussed si­mul­ta­ne­ously with alarm­ing ease and it be­comes easy to pay at­ten­tion not to what is be­ing said and done, but the space be­tween peo­ple in the room and the de­tached eye. There is a fa­mil­iar si­lence in that space un­less you lis­ten at­ten­tively.

I would not com­ment ex­cept that I in­creas­ingly see prac­tic­ing ar­chi­tects try­ing to fill this space with bi­ogra­phies and mem­ory, sym­bol­iza­tion and the­o­riza­tion of the self – it is no longer un­com­mon for these ar­chi­tects to speak about their eth­nic­ity, feign mad­ness, even – and re­course to his­tory. ભૂતાવળ, such a pop­u­lated space be­tween the I” and its sur­round­ings is called in Gujarati, a be­wil­der­ing space that is con­jured out with past-be­ings en­velop­ing the pre­sent and ac­com­pa­ny­ing it every­where.

So. Sometimes, I go and watch this space as the Dean of Studies goes about his work, and I ask what if we let it be this way every­where the way Camus did at Oran? I find a promise in the rou­tines of aca­d­e­mic ad­min­is­tra­tion in India, here is every­thing that re­mains of the plea­sure – in­deed the work – of the ar­chi­tect, some­what like the work’ of the youths of Oran getting their shoes shined’ and displaying those very shoes on the boule­vard’.

On the dual eye, Architects tend to be comfortable working with projections and dislocation, they learn orthographic projection and planimetry early in their training
On the dual eye, Architects tend to be com­fort­able work­ing with pro­jec­tions and dis­lo­ca­tion, they learn or­tho­graphic pro­jec­tion and planime­try early in their train­ing: Illustrated is Pantheon, Rome. AD 118-28, ax­ono­met­ric pro­jec­tion and sec­tion, with a com­mon axis through the ocu­lus. Source: Christian Norberg-Schulz, Meaning in Western Architecture. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975, p. 103.

… … …
… … …
… … …
… … …

Énoncé – A City Machine, analy­sis of enun­cia­tive modal­i­ties.


  1. The both, the city and ad­min­is­tra­tion of ar­chi­tec­ture courses, are the same to me, I know the city and pro­fes­sional ar­chi­tects as dis­tinct fig­ures ap­pear late in his­tory, and only later do they travel, in the man­ner of flot­sam, to South Asia to ar­rive at about the same time.
  2. A miraculous fourth di­men­sion’ Le Corbusier called it, found with­out semi­otics, in ateliers of pa­tient re­search’.
  3. Camus, Albert. The Minotaur or the Stop in Oran (1939) in The Myth of Sisyphus, and Other Essays. London: H. Hamilton, 1965.