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2011年4月13日 星期三

Reconnecting Architecture: Documenting Practices of Hope

以下是孟買KRVIA建築學院預定在今年底推出的建築展覽活動構想, 現正與東海建築系商討合作, 他們也希望與亞洲其他國家進行合作। 經由東海的中介, 將與曼谷的朱拉隆功大學建築系一起建立跨國三校的共同設計教學計畫, 預計將配合此項年底活動同時進行। 請有興趣的老師,建築師朋友與同學們密切注意।

Proposition initiated by KRVIA, Mumbai, India, April 2011 >Reconnecting Architecture: Documenting Practices of Hope


"Reconnecting Architecture" is an exhibition of a compilation of architectural/urban practices from India as well as Asia। This exhibition curated by the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture, Mumbai is being framed during a decisive time in India as well as Asia as this region marches towards becoming an economic powerhouse driven by globalization। However, faced with rising social tensions, rising food prices, depleting water resources, the question of our dependence on different types of energy generation sources (coal based or nuclear), threatened environmental systems, natural calamities and financial meltdowns, there seems to be a doubt on the project of rapid globalization. While the benefits of globalization are there for everyone to see and experience through the benefits of increased connectivity (in close proximity as well as remote) and seemingly easy access to knowledge across the globe, it is time for a critical re -thinking.


Central to this endeavour is the rethinking on the nature of urbanization that we are experiencing in our cities along with the nature of architectural and urban practices that they seem to generate। While I write being familiar to the context of India in specific, there are similarities in the urban transformation that the Asian region is experiencing. It is driven by high economic growth, reorganization of global capital flow from developed markets to these emerging markets, ever increasing informalization of manufacturing and services within these cities and the growth of huge private townships - Special Economic Zones - dedicated to manufacturing outside it. Similar developments can be seen across the region.


Specifically In the case of India the country had embarked on the project of globalization in 1991 when a cash strapped government invited private capital, both national and international, to be invested into the development of this region. Prior to it, the government played an important role in funding development and was the prime sponsor of architecture and other cultural practices within the country.


Through 1947 till the 1980’s Indian architectural practice was led to its zenith by the like of Achyut Kanvinde, Le Corbusier, Louis Khan, Charles Correa, B. V. Doshi, Laurie Baker, Joseph Allen Stein, Raj Rewal, Uttam Jain, to name a few. The contributions of these architects have been documented in the book “After the Masters” by Vikram Bhatt and Peter Scriver. Among these architects it was Charles Correa who won the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture from the Japan Art Association in1994 taking Indian architecture to the international platform. Through these architects and the government- by being the primary patron, a series of important educational campuses, libraries, governmental headquarters, museums and art galleries, industrial complexes and townships, exhibition pavilions, etc. were built. This was a period of a great deal of experimentation and the development of a vocabulary for Modern Indian Architecture. Through experiments in material technology, scale and built volume, relationship of built and un-built spaces, etc. architects gave the country a strong identity under an independent democratic government through its 40 years of existence. These architects subscribed to strict ethical and professional codes- seeing themselves a visionaries giving shape to a new nation.


It was through the late 1980’s and the 1990’s that the government took a backstage in sponsoring architecture and private corporations and other entities took over as the primary clientele for architecture. The nature of architectural programs transformed with this shift. Architectural program from the 1990’s till today are characterised by an unending list of mega gated townships, exclusive malls and shopping complexes; sprawling commercial and office districts/ zones/ campuses; as well as buildings owned by single corporate entities, luxurious private healthcare institutions which emulate five star hotels; Disneyland like water parks and theme parks; blatant and insensitive redevelopment of historic areas and informal settlements, etc. Driven by the mathematics of profit and the unrelenting greed to multiply it further, these transformations are creating an urban form never before experienced in the history of our cities. This also seems to be true for cities in the Asian context. It has led to creating a make-believe world - an architecture of perpetual celebration, where few can participate- a few who can speculate and participate in the new financial citizenship that globalization has brought along. To drive home the exclusionary and speculative nature of these developments in the region the example of the Dubai real estate market during the height of the financial meltdown can be enumerated. Millions of square feet of spectacular and exclusive townships ex- The Palm, built by reclaiming the sea lay empty, desolate and dead for lack of buyers.


Due to these developments notions of the public realm; affordable housing; and environmental resources like water, food and energy; have undergone significant transformations along with the form of urbanization. The public realm is to be found more internalized in the confines of the mall; affordable housing as defined by the market would be completely unaffordable to the maximum amount of people; a clean environment is now considered a premium within exclusive and beautiful housing environments; clean water can only be available in PET bottles, food is increasingly being controlled by few large shopping chains, energy is privatised and is now ever more scare and costly.


It is in this that the role of architect has to be questioned. The architect now is seen as a mere service provider who is adept in maximizing financial returns for her/his corporate clients. Within these limited boundaries she/he has to manipulate forms to create “the spectacle”. It is an architecture of the skin as other parameters seem to be undefined. There is a great deal of interest among architects- both international as well as local to participate in shaping the tremendous changes that the Asian region is experiencing. While there are some practices which unquestioningly engage with the forces of global capital there are others who are looking to evolve critical ways of evolving alternative solutions. The latter group though small is often lost in the mainstream discourse of architecture and urban planning. Yet, often they seem to be most able to resolve the conflicts that emerge when the forces of globalisation hit the ground reality of communities and local environmental systems. This group is composed of academia, few collaborative practices, certain governmental and non-governmental organizations and conscious private practices. It is these types of practices, which though not always initiated by architects/planners, seem to provide alternatives to the issues that confront us.


These are the practices that the KRVIA is undertaking to document. These are practices which reconnect architecture to its need to address basic human values. Inspired by the exhibition “An Architecture of Consequence” organized by the Netherland Institute of Architecture the effort is to archive practices in India and certain countries in Asia where the KRVIA have been able to initiate collaborations namely in Taiwan, China, South Korea and Thailand. We have suggested certain themes, that we need to address and which are of prime concern due to the rapid growth and development that these contexts are experiencing. The themes are:


Reclaiming the Public Realm – It is to document projects and practices which aim to reclaim and redefine public spaces in the contemporary context. Numerous of these projects have been initiated by resident groups, community based organizations as well as individual practices.


Protecting Environmental Assets – These are projects which have been initiated either to rejuvenate or protect the natural environment, sometimes to establish a positive relationship with its immediate built environment or sometimes to increase biodiversity or to restore the ecological health of a place.


Conserving resources (Energy, Food, Water, Buildings) – These are projects that have made an attempt to conserve these resources like water, energy, old buildings as an integrated part of the built environment. There could also be projects to introduce the notion of farming and agriculture within the urban milieu.


Providing Affordable Living Environment – These would constitute projects which would help in improving living environments inhabited by the urban poor. They could also be green field projects which have been able to deliver affordable living environments to the urban poor at a reasonable price. Most of such projects would be set off by community based organizations or are government initiatives.


The archiving would be in the form of an exhibition/publication. This would be a part of the Kamala Raheja Lecture Series to be held in the month of December, 2011. Additionally it maybe a website which would assist in archiving such practices through the Asian context.

KRVIA's Website: http://www.krvia.ac.in

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