Only that change is worthwhile which humanises man,” wrote journalist and political commentator Romesh Thapar, in his treatise ‘Design for Living’ in 1966. Over the last few years, we have seen the Indian landscape change, both in structure and political will. Buildings have fallen and legacies erased. In a search for new identity post-Independence, architects and engineers drew from the world but had their feet firmly planted on the reality of India. An international conclave in Goa, titled “Modern Heritage”, organised by Studio Matter, will reflect on the years between 1935 and 1995, when ideas were challenged and a new vocabulary for design melded the old and the new.
The three-day programme, beginning today at the National Institute of Oceanography, includes presentations, talks and films by international speakers, documentary filmmakers, architects and academicians. Below are the highlights:
Catching them Young
India perhaps began to lead the world in design education when the National Institute of Design was established in 1961. “It boasts a value-based system that is dedicated to service,” says Chatterjee, who led NID for nearly 25 years. He adds, “We were once leaders in design pedagogy, now we are followers under the rubric of ‘world-class’ education. We believed in staying relevant on our own terms.”
Paving the Way
With Bauhaus master Walter Gropius on his mind and armed with skills taught by Claude Bately, architect Achyut Kanvinde built ATIRA (Ahmedabad Textile Industries Research Association ) in the ’50s – a building that showed the way for modernist architecture. Speaking about his works from the ’50s to the ’70s, architect Sanjay Kanvinde will share where the modernist idiom began in his father’s career. Sanjay will also draw parallels with works of Joseph Allen Stein and Habib Rahman, who came to be known at the modernist trio in the capital.
Giants in Conversation
Architect Riyaz Tayyibji will attempt a dialogue between two important figures who shaped the discourse of modernity — Mahatma Gandhi and Le Corbusier. “For Gandhi, a building was a part of a larger ‘spiritual’ endeavour, it was an experiment in physically giving form to his ideas of the ‘ashram’. On the other hand, Corbusier looked at the physical space affecting behaviour,” says Tayyibji.
Threat to History
Photographer Ram Rahman will talk of his father Habib Rahman’s early buildings in Calcutta and Delhi. Drawing from recent demolitions of modern buildings, including those in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, World Health Organisation and the imminent threat to Goa’s Kala Academy, Ram will share insights on the “importance of preserving modern heritage as markers of our own modern movement which is so linked to forging a new post-colonial cultural identity”.
Architects Rohit Raj Mehndiratta and Vandini Mehta will present the works of well-known structural engineer Mahendra Raj, who created structurally expressive forms despite the technological limitations of the building industry in India.
For details, visit: http://www.frameconclave.com
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