As I stare out of my window while waiting for subject-inspiration, my attention is caught by reflected sun rays from a glass façade building, now typical to #Ahmedabad.
The glazed building I am looking at is may be a rude monstrosity for my #schoolofarchitecture Ahmedabad trained sense of aesthetics, but I have not an iota of doubt that it impresses Indians. The modern, the western, the designed-by-German/Italian/French-architect is the IN thing today.
It seems that seventy years of independence is not enough for this self-critical nation to find its own language of architecture and be proud of it.
It starts a train of thought and lands at the grand old station of #IIMA, a bastion of architecture in both visual and metaphoric way that I was just visiting for my yearly academic commitment.
IIMA is grand, it is great, but it is a symbol of identity-crisis of a people who can’t find themselves and need help from other to define them.
Luis Kahn always reminds me of the #IndianaJones movie franchise. He is the eternal white hero, an expert on ancient cultures typically found with a local side-kick, and his movies depict an imaginary interpretation of ancient nations as perceived by an American.
Though what the movie franchise imagines an ancient culture to be is often a vulgar and shallow caricature of some of the oldest nations on earth, it is lapped up by people without a question.
IIMA is a caricature of what a westerner saw to be Indian sense of space and architecture. Thick exposed brick-walls with startlingly large fenestrations, ramparts and moats emerged from his visual understanding of Indian desert architecture and became dramatically impressive due to scale and an alien visual look-and-feel they offered.
Confronted by scale and novelty seen never before in India, it had all the potential to become an icon. As the institution attracts some of the finest young brains of India to walk under its arches year after year, it quickly turned into an emotional landmark of excellence that we all are proud of.
While IIMA is a jumble of huge nostalgia constructed around a unique visual and spatial theme, it is also a building built in a hot city that is falling apart due to Indiana Jones interpretations.
The thick wall language used to keep the heat out sounds like a wonderful discovery by a rational western brain, it works in academic area used during the day as heat takes time in seeping across the walls, but it backfires miserably as it is also used for residential quarters. Heat that is delayed from entering inside, once inside takes equally long time to dissipate. Heat trapped inside homes that are occupied at night turns them into ovens.
The #redbricks that “talked” to #Kahn seeking honour and glorification unfortunately forgot to tell him that they are not made to bask in harsh weather of tropics in birthday suit glory. The poetic conversation between Kahn and exposed bricks makes an impressive read, but it has also meant an exorbitant restoration cost for the academy.
I would surely not rate IIMA as a folly of Kahn, but I would surely rate Indian tendency to mindlessly appreciate western ideas as dangerously servile. It is not that we were made of that mind-set in distant past.
Even today an Indian builder will flaunt a foreign architect and proudly construct alien architecture of glass façade. Even today, when we want to make any iconic building, the clamour for “world class” rises and global design tenders are floated.