26 December 2006

Collapsing worlds..

I spend the whole of Christmas day (ie today) in the Dubai International Airport waiting for a connecting flight to Cochin. Thanks to some amazing traffic because of the holiday season the earliest I could manage a ticket was with a halt of over 15 hours in this huge terminal/shopping mall/ Non-place. However, the sheer magnitude of people in here and free Wi-Fi kept me going.

Here are a few photos I made during the course of the day - of things that more and more we have gotten used to or rather that we don’t notice for some reason or the other. Photos which illustrate that how in cities like Dubai different world are colliding or probably co-existing – whether this is good or bad I guess only time will tell.

I’ll start with this image of how the 'double meaning' sleaze of corporate world is superimposed over an airline gate dedicated for Haj travellers from all over the world. (And to remember that Dubai is still an important part of the ‘Islamic’ Arab world - this might have seemed absurd to anyone from Dubai 10 years ago).

While the people who can afford to buy there ‘Channels, YSLs, Pradas and Mont Blancs’ downstairs in Porsche Duty free mall; Immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent and South-East Asia wait in huge queues for their flights back home.

And the last image in this series - Here a few Pakistani Immigrants are waiting for their flights while in the background - the walls of the airport are slowly but surely being taken over by - advertisements of highly exclusive city developments that have nothing to offer to them and to a large majority of people that keep cities like this going.

This of course is a larger problem, a global problem, a problem to which no-one seems to have a viable alternative to. But my question is – Shouldn’t we be very worried about what these colliding worlds could create, could generate or rather could degenerate?

(This entry has been posted from the Dubai International Airport itself - using the free Wi-Fi)

10 December 2006

Braved the Dutch weather today and went to Almere (north of Amsterdam) to check out some architecture. Here’s a snap made at the big lake where a slight clearing in the horrible sky made a very nice photograph possible.

25 November 2006

Henry Moore @ the Kunsthal (Rotterdam)

Earlier today went for yet another nice Exhibition at the Kunsthal here in Rotterdam. This time it was on the works of Henry Moore (both sculptural and architectural projects undertaken by him).

I never knew that he had keenly worked closely with architects in developing huge murals and sculptures which we part of the design of buildings. The exhibition was very well done with his works bought together from all sorts of sources (across the globe). However, I really do hope that they start titling and explaining everything in English as well at the Kunsthal (that really is a enthusiasm killer).

28 October 2006

The Big Library in Delft

Went for a lecture by Michael Speaks today at the Technical University of Delft. And finally went inside the big library, check out a few pictures from the inside.

25 October 2006

A very interesting Lecture.

Just finished attending a very interesting lecture by Eyal Weizman as part of the Architecture and Power lecture series at the Berlage. His lecture was titled "Cumulative Radicalisation: Design in conflict" and it dealt with the use of planning and architecture by the Israeli Army as means of appropriating and controlling land.
Eyal is an Israeli architect and currently directs the Centre for Research Architecture at the Goldsmith Academy in London (a programme that he founded there).

[You can read an article about his research titled 'Politics of Verticality' here - http://www.netartreview.net/weeklyFeatures/Weizman_English.html or you could read an interesting interview here - http://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/9/wall.php or better still you can watch a lecture by him here - http://webcast.rice.edu/speeches/20040318weizman.html ]

21 October 2006

Day out in Amsterdam

I finally got to go around Amsterdam to see some architecture earlier today, thanks to a great plan by Thomas to show us around his town. Thomas is the architecture Historian who took us to New York and a dear friend of our group here at the Berlage. Here's a few snaps from today.

This is MVRDV's Silodam project along the river very close to the Centre of the city.

Above is one of the best examples of the Amsterdam School Style of architecture. This is the 'Het Scheep' project designed by Micheal de Klerk.

And this last snap is of some temporary student housing made of self contained container units.

14 October 2006

Exhibition in Amsterdam

Earlier today an exhibition of our* projects to develop a high speed railway station at Zuidas opened at a small gallery called 'Platform21' in South Amsterdam.

(* - Participants at the Berlage Institute, Rotterdam)

01 October 2006

Day trip to Essen

Just back from a day trip to Essen (just across the border in Germany) along with people from Wiel Arets Office. We went to see the new Design school building designed my the Japanese Firm SANAA (kazuyo sejima + ryue nishizawa) (Read a bit about this firm here).

The building itself, as you can see, is quiet a beautiful piece of sculpture. But sadly the only things that it’s concerned with are its fine detailing and construction itself. The experience of the moving thru the building itself was very sterile and boring. The building in no way confronts its users in anyway and remains a silent backdrop, a sort of mundane elevator music. Probably it’s not so much a problem of this particular building but a general approach towards architecture that is adopted by SANAA.

25 September 2006

Corruption and Satellite Cities.

Just got back to the Netherlands after a short trip to visit Bangalore and Hyderabad in relation with a few projects that the office – Wiel Arets and Associates - where I have been doing a summer job at is pursing. These projects were basically to develop designs for satellite cities for the two IT driven booming metropolises of India.

Sadly, the only thing besides an opportunity to meet a few old friends and to see two cities in India that I had not yet been to (Hyderabad and Mamallapuram) that this trip has left me is with an extreme sense of bad after taste. In fact a sort of nauseating one.

All I saw and experienced in meetings after meeting right from the CM of Karnataka to his assistant’s assistant’s assistant’s assistant was that of a system of total corruption, a system that could hardly be any more wrong, a system that will make sure that those who remain and at the bottom will remain there and those who are willing to kiss ass will eventually get rewarded.

There I was sucked into this mess completely; first innocently, then knowingly because I felt that I had to help my office (because they had just invested soo much in me, to take me there and so on and so on ….when all they cared about was making some fancy building cladded in meaningless glass facades with expensive prints on them). It feels horrible!

Let me explain the projects however - Bangalore is planning to build 7 satellite cities around itself now and Hyderabad a lot more (they said something like 12-15).

But the fact of the matter is that under the pretext that both these cities are right now among the fastest growing in India and probably in the world the governments of both these states have managed to get enough funds from the State, Private investors and Global organizations like the World bank to set aside HUGE amounts of money for these projects. And dealing with such huge amounts of money, as we all know, can be very good for the governments in power now. So for this task, instead of planning these cities using the State planning boards/other such governmental bodies or at least local planners these governments are keen on calling ‘Foreign’ architects and planners to help ‘solve their problems’, besides being good as a sales tactic the people who make these decisions also realize that since most of these ‘Foreign’ office are right now so focused on getting into the Indian market they are more than willing to ‘co-operate’ with them. I suppose we will have the same ‘Chinese-problem’ in India too soon, when we shall have every Tom, Dick and Harry of the western architectural elite coming to India and telling us ‘how they can fix our mess’.

I seriously hope that the future of every city in India does not lie in models like the Bandra-Kurla Complex (Mumbai) / Hitec City (Hyderabad)

or even worse the ‘cities’ of Dubai (Internet City, Knowledge City, Media City) not because I think that this sort of projects are not interesting but rather because – Firstly, these are not really cities; and Secondly, they have no concerns that a city should have, all they have is boutique houses, generic offices and not to forget shopping malls.

If these are the only projects that are undertaken by the authorities than what happens to more immediate needs like Housing, Amenities (Schools, Hospitals….), Public Transportation and Public spaces? What happens to the city? What happens to us?

I wonder, what will it take to make things change? How are we to tackle this situation? How then are we to imagine the city (let alone build it)?

Some interesting architecture

Here's some image of some interesting Architecture that I saw in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mamallapuram.
This is the LIC building in Bangalore by Charles Correa, though he never shows this project or talks about it I quiet like it. The rough concrete is beautiful they should do more buildings with this brutal look.

Since this was my first visit to Hyderabad, it would be queit empty without a visit to the city's most important Icon - the Char Minar.
And this strange building owned by VSNL inside the Hitec city to me has to be the most interesting building in the whole complex.

And the last series are of the world famous Temples of Mamallapuram (or Mahabalipuram)
The Rock cut caves are quiet mind blowing. (Check out the Lion columns)

And these are monolith pieces of rock !!

And to end with the most dramatic - the Shore Temple.

Good old (Dubai) people

Here's a couple of good moments of the trip when I was able to catch up with a few friends from school in Dubai.

(Me with Jassim, Aldrin and Vipin)

(With Vineet)

12 September 2006

Venice by night

Just back from Venice, where I had gone to attend the International Architectural Biennale 2006. While there I got the chance to see the less touristic side of Venice - one that is best experienced under the cover of dark. Find more snaps on this online album.

28 August 2006

OMA in The Hague (Den Haag)

Yesterday I saw a very nice exhibition of all the work done by Office for Metropolitan Architecture done in the city of Den Haag.

Besides the usual Models, Drawings and PowerPoint explain all the projects the exhibition had a very interesting way of interacting with the viewers through idea ‘Make your own OMA building’. Printouts of a fold out model of one of there new projects for the city were kept for people to try there hand at. These were to be made as per the drawing or according to ones fancy and could be taken home or kept on display there itself. I have always found such attempts of OMA to take architecture beyond architects and there self centred worlds a very important and interesting contribution.

16 August 2006

WAAA - Maastricht

Check out some images of the Studio where I’m doing my two month summer internship.

The building itself is shared by Wiel Arets’ house and studio and was designed by him. Have a look at our website (www.wielarets.nl) to see what sort of work we do.

(ps. WAAA stands for Wiel Arets Architect and Associates)

08 August 2006

Living in Maastricht.

For the next two months I’m going to be living in Maastricht. This city in the extreme south of the Netherlands is sandwiched between Belgium and Germany was built by the Romans, making it by far the oldest city in the country.

The city has a very nice Medieval touch with a few reminiscence of its past in the form of pieces of its city walls. The river Maas (the same river running through Rotterdam) cuts the city in two. On one side is the historical core of the city which is today reduced to a pedestrianized shopping mall and on the other city is some interesting new development called ‘Ceramique’.

The master plan for ‘Ceramique’ was drawn out by Jo Coenen (of NAI fame) and has an impressive collection of architects building there (Jo Coenen, Alvaro Siza, Aldo Rossi, Wiel Arets to name a few). Check out a few buildings from here –

Anyways, what brings me to this small town is a summer internship at Wiel Arets Architect and Associates. Wiel Arets is the ex-Dean of the Berlage Institute, Rotterdam and is considered to be one of the major figures in contemporary architecture here the Netherlands. I will soon post some images of the studio.

03 August 2006

Short trips to Dubai

To and Back from my trip to India I stopped over in Dubai for a few days each time to meet my parents and some old friends. The city hasn’t changed much sine my last visit here in February and the city’s Absurdification project is still on. (Though many of my friends seem to have heard about discussion to cut back on some of the very large projects like the Palm Deira and DubaiLand – but like everything else in Dubai there is no way to verify this till then actually finish building these projects)

I clicked these images (above) to explain the magnitude to the madness that we call Dubai. Huge chunks of the most barren deserts in the world are being conquered by Disneyland like themed areas (areas as huge as small towns). The above billboards demarcated and give passerby’s insights into how the scaled version of the different continents might look like in the future.

So like I was saying from the Deserts and her sea huge monstro‘cities’ are appearing. Above the construction cranes of the Palm Island as seen from the natural coast line of the city.

(and the First images from on top of the Palm itself – remember you never saw them here)

Though I find myself distancing from this city and it’s ‘Fakeness’ I wonder is this not a new reality. A reality based on copies and copies of copies. Probably that’s where Dubai’s legacy lays – its apparent playfulness in a world of problems. The city seems to have found an Absurd but in fact successful way to sustain the attention it is crabbing for herself; though she is in a region (Middle-East) that has been plagued by wars and completely hostility to anything new (anything that’s not the norm).

The Protestant reformists of the 1500s believed “That Absurd meaninglessness can become the source of Salvation”. Similarly probably the rulers of Dubai seem to believe in an Absurd meaninglessness through excessiveness that could help them Salvage a city that is suppose to be dying out (because of fast depleting oil resources) much faster than all her competitors in the region.

As I ponder about these the rest of family who still reside here gets ever more sucked in and consumed into the whirlwind created by the absurdification. My parents recently moved into a themed gated community where everyone of the over 7,000 houses look exactly the same, full with its own Golf course, Polo ground and not to mention shopping mall – The Arabian Ranches (even the name is cheesy).

Anyways, I shall leave that at that for now. Here’s a picture of all my dudes in
Dubai for all my other dudes how weren’t there this time around.

31 July 2006

Bombay visit (more like a Bombay Dream)

As I land in Mumbai after more than a year and looked out my flight window it struck me – How much I really missed this amazing city!

Though the image what I saw could be simply explained as Horrific by someone who is visiting the city for the first time, but for me in all the informal mess lay a city like none other.

A few hours later once it sunk in and I was over the emotional high, I felt I like I had never been away. In my two days there I observed very few chances - hideous walls and security barricades around the famous Sidhivinayak Temple; few new shopping malls here and there –mostly the city was exactly the way I left it.

Since I was there for only the weekend the most primary aim was to meet as many people as possible and to use that excuse to visit as many places in the city as possible. So from the time I arrived till I left I was meeting people.

And I also managed to sneak in my favourite Sunday pastime when I lived here – Bird watching in the National Park – with a few friends from BNHS.

(Check out a fresh Leopard Pug Mark that I saw inside the Park on the Film city side.)

After which I met up with a few KRVIA people at the Kanheri Caves. Later met more people and before long it was time for me to bid farewell to the one place I truly feel is home beyond all other.

Mumbai – I’ll miss you.

I’ll also miss you guys and gals – Was great meeting you. Can’t wait to be back.

28 July 2006

Kerala Clichés

Spend the last week in Kerala. I find it very difficult to help my friends in Europe visualise what Kerala looks like and its is all about without the use of Clichés. In fact more and more I believe though we always criticize the cliché as reducing complex situations into highly simplistic images it is a very important tool to introduce people to new things. So at the risk of many fun of my self and my roots I have this time selected only the most clichéd images I took during my trip.

What better (or rather worse) image that the elephant along the road carrying stuff around?

(By the way to all those who don’t know - this is not a common sight in Kerala anymore, the expense of maintaining these beautiful beasts and ever increasing pressure from environmentalist are making this a rarity).

Actually I should have started with the lower image. Any highway in Kerala looks like this. The whole state sits on the extreme southern tip of India on what can be considered its more fertile side (the west side). Because of the amazing rainfall it gets and its fertility the entire landscape is made up mainly of shades of green no matter when you go there. And as you can see Coconut trees really make up for a large majority of the greenery.

Because of this beautiful and rich landscape the distinction of cities versus countryside doesn’t clearly exists in the traditional sense of it. In fact the whole state can be seen as a sprawling city or you could say that here there is neither an idea of Rural nor Urban. But whatever little Urbanity there is exists in typical Indian small town chaotic Urbanity. Largely made of highly fractured or unplanned settlement growing around some kind of infrastructural hub.

To explain this phenomenon below is an image from a small town just outside Cochin. But as far as this argument goes this could be anywhere in Kerala.

And then ofcourse there is the image that the tourism industry wants to sell – that of pristine beauty, man co-existing with Nature – as the tag line of Kerala says as ‘God’s own Country’. Though I wonder which God would actually be happy here, I have to say that the state has its own charm and is definitely worthy of its place in the National Geographic ‘10 place you must see before you die’ list.

Here’s to this spirit of Kerala – the Arabian Sea / Indian Ocean as seen from the coast of Kannur.

And for the end I save the picture that I would show if somebody asked me to ‘Explain contemporary Kerala in ONE image’.

The image is of the Cochin Airport [Probably the busiest airport in Kerala]. It show glimpses of some her main source of income – Agriculture [the vast fields (generally its paddy) and coconut plantation in the backdrop], Tourism [people from all over the world fly into Cochin] and last but not the least Kerala’s dependence on what we call ‘Gulf-Money*’ in this case coming straight from Dubai on an Emirates Airlines sitting between the beautiful greenery.

*- Money flowing in from expatriates working in the Middle East, a huge percentage of the people here either have some relatives there or indirectly benefit from the large presence of Keralites in the Arabian Gulf. Including yours truly – born in Kerala, bought up and spoiled in Dubai.

A Google map tracing my travels across the globe

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  • In Red cities where I have lived (more than one month);
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