The upcoming 2014 Venice architecture biennale, Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014, will question the notion of national identity in architecture and investigate the degree to which national styles have been "sacrificed to modernity." To the credit of the Venice curators, they asked national pavilions to investigate ways in which this "seemingly universal architectural language… in significant encounters between cultures... can find hidden ways of remaining 'national?'" Clearly the internationalization—and some would say flattening—of culture is one of the more complicated forces in contemporary culture. It will be interesting to see how the various pavilions in the Venice giardini answer or grapple with this problem. Of course, architectural theorists (Kenneth Frampton, Alexander Tzonis, and Liane Lefaivre, etc.) have long seen the problems and potential of the national or local and the modern, but a new exhibition has just come to our attention that grapples with this problem in a direct and completing way. The exhibit Samskara at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi is a project created by the Be Open Foundation and the Indian architect Anupama Kundoo, whose two-year research initiative Made in...India investigates craft in the modern world. The exhibit, like Kundoo's practice, claims to be driven forward by the past and creates an exhibit space that is a "reflection of the potential for heritage skills not to be swept away by technology and business, but to move forward, hand-in-hand with them, and shape the future." Kundoo points to the inclusion in Samskara of an exhibition plinth created by a community of granite stone-chippers in Tamil Nade. These artisans "originally produced the grinding stones found in every Indian household for grinding fresh masalas—another endangered product in an urbanising India," but today electric grinders are increasingly replacing them. Kindoo's designed stone plinths are created by the workers "tirelessly chipping away at hard slabs of local grey white granite, in order to achieve a very specific effect, which would be impossible to achieve by a machine." This technique naturally creates distinct textured surfaces, quite the opposite of the shiny, reflecting granite surfaces that machines deliver. It is such a beautiful convincing display of a modern idea that drives the traditional and hand-made forward.
Posts tagged with "India":
At its 37th session held from June 16 to 27, 2013 in Phnom Pehnh and Siem Reap-Angkor, Cambodia, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added 19 sites to the World Heritage List. The new additions bring the list to 981 noteworthy destinations. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of exceptional universal significance and satisfy at least one out of ten selection criteria, which are frequently improved by the Committee to reflect the advancement of the World Heritage notion itself. The following cultural sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List. · Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, Qatar · Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora, Ukraine · Bergpark Wilhemshöhe, Germany · Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China · Fujisan, Japan · Golestan Palace, Iran · Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India · Historic Centre of Agadez, Niger · Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong, Korea · Levuka Historical Port Town, Fiji · Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany, Italy · Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, Canada · University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia, Portugal · Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region, Poland & Ukraine · El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Mexico · Mount Etna, Italy · Namib Sand Sea, Namibia · Tajik National Park, Tajikistan · Xinjiang Tianshan, China
The BMW Guggenheim Lab is taking its show on the road one more time, after jaunts in Manhattan's East Village and Berlin, Germany. This time to Mumbai, India, where starting in December, an international group of experts and innovators will lead six weeks of free programs, public discourse, and experiments exploring a range of topics related to contemporary urban life. Mumbai, a city of 20.5 million people—the fourth most populous city in the world—represents a unique challenge for the Mumbai Lab Team, who have created a series of projects, studies, and design proposals that respond to issues including transportation, infrastructure, governance, and housing. To get a sense of the types of discourse that will be going on, check out 100 Urban Trends, a glossary of 100 of the most talked about trends in urban thinking, compiled during the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s trip to Berlin in June. A 36-column bamboo structure, designed by Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow and inspired by a traditional Indian Mandapa—a pillared outdoor hall for events—will serve as a mobile pavilion and hub for the happenings. Atelier Bow-Wow designed all three BWM Guggemheim Lab pavilions, part of a collaboration between the museum and the car company. The pavilion will be built at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum and will open on December 9, 2012. Pop-up sites are also planned throughout the city.
On March 31, the Wright auction house gingerly dipped into controversy with its sale of 23 lots of office furniture from Chandigarh even as the Indian government launched a belated international campaign to recover the pieces designed by Pierre Jeanneret for the masterwork by cousin Corbusier. The mid-century furnishings, many made of teak, had notoriously been neglected on site, stashed away in storage by officials, or even used as scrap. Since the 1980s, restored pieces have started to show up abroad and attract high prices, as in $54,000 for a pair of chairs. Corbusier biographer and historian, Jean Louis Cohen, called such sales “sad for history” and tantamount to “looting.” In Chicago, the sale attracted an international crowd, but no museums. A pair of upholstered teak chairs from the High Court (estimated $15,000-20,000) sold for a record $104,500. As for how it felt to court controversy, auctioneer Richard Wright, said “What I hope will come out of all this is that India will take steps in the future to protect these pieces but, even more important, the architecture.”
Like its neighbor to the northeast, India is urbanizing at break-neck speed. Much of the resulting development takes the shape of monotonous towers and slabs designed to house the maximum number people as quickly as possible. The innovative Dutch firm MVRDV’s project Amanora Apartment City punches through, twists, and slices off pieces of a monolithic superstructure, to create a new park-side landmark within a largely undifferentiated urban field. The first of three buildings will contain 1,068 naturally-ventilated apartments ranging from studios to villa-sized units, to capture a variety of family sizes and income levels, as well as retail and community facilities. Many units will have garden balconies overlooking a park and city beyond. While the massive, mountain-like building is built of concrete, it will be richly detailed with a variety of materials, including ornamented sunshades, wood cladding on the balconies, and stone facing on passageways through the building. Taken together, the three-building complex will eventually include over 3,000 units, and their multi-peaked, zigzagging forms will create a new urban identity for the rapidly expanding city.
Keeping Cooper. There's a fight brewing over the demolition of the 186-year-old 35 Cooper Square. A demolition permit had been issued and subsequent stop work orders and candlelight vigils. The small federal style structure was once home to descendants of Peter Stuyvesant and beatnik Diane DiPrima. Keep tabs on the little building at EV Grieve and the Bowery Alliance (And in other Cooper Square preservation news, what's going to happen to the Astor Place mosaics under the planned pedestrian plaza upgrades?) Slum for Sale. In the heart of Mumbai, India, the Dharavi settlement is under pressure to redevlop. Polis has a review of a new documentary on the struggles of a "city tearing at the seams" trying to balance capital growth and the needs of its inhabitants. Urban Evolution. Cities are constantly changing, but we rarely take the big step back and look at how an area has evolved over, say, the past 500 years. Aid Watch put together a visual history of one block in New York's Soho neighborhood, from wilderness, to brothel central, to home of high-end retail. (Via Economix.) Infographic. Gothamist uncovers an interesting chart comparing Chicago and New York by the statistics. Categories include miles of transit track, cost of living, and even who has better pizza.
Yesterday AN learned, via ArchNewsNow, that Prince Charles is planning a new town in India that draws its inspiration from the slums and informal settlements of Calcutta and Bangalore. While the Prince has long been a bete noire for modernists, his interest in vernacular, impromptu settlements is in line with modern architects like the members of Team 10 and Bernard Rudofsky. The Prince is no stranger to town building, having created a simulacrum of a medieval village at Poundbury. In India, the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment plans to build 3000 homes--for an estimated 15,000 low income residents--interwoven with schools and small shops. "We have a great deal to learn about how complex systems can self-organize to create a harmonious whole," the Prince said in a statement, according to the Daily Mail. The Prince, widely admired for his work on sustainable agriculture, plans to include green features like rainwater collectors and natural ventilation.
The past ten years have seen an impressive amount of economic growth and infrastructural development in India, and the nation is becoming more and more a well established market for American architectural talent. This trend doesn't seem to be changing as we embark on a new decade. One sign of that is the September 2009 opening of an office in Mumbai by structural engineering firm Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA). Founded in 1923 in New York City, LERA has contributed its services to many of the city's iconic structures (such as the World Trade Center) and has designed buildings all around the world, but this will be its first foreign office. A release by the firm cited a "growing workload" and the need to "facilitate client relations" as key reasons for the opening. LERA will join a number of other American architecture firms that have recently opened branches in the subcontinent, including HOK and Perkins Eastman. See some of the projects LERA has worked on after the jump.