Architectural Practice and the City - IIA NATCON 2016 Presentations

Events Diary Dated:  Dec. 19, 2016
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Indian Institute of Architects - Karnataka Chapter

We are sharing with you a brief on the speakers, moderator and the thoughts put forward by them in Session 1 titled 'Architectural Practice and the City' at the recently concluded IIA Natcon 2016 at Bengaluru.

Focal Points:

  • Should practices only concern themselves with the buildings they design, or should they also be concerned with the city?
  • How does the city inform or influence practice?
  • How do individual acts of practice shape the city?
  • What ethical responsibilities should an architect take on when practicing within 0 city?
  • What role can the fraternity of architects play in the development and implementation of public policy on urbanism?

About the Speakers:

Alfredo Brillembourg is an Architect, urban designer and educator, focusing primarily on the intersection of formal and informal design. He studied at Columbia University and the Central University of Venezuela. In 1998 he and Hubert Klumpner founded Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) in Caracas. Since 1994 he has been a member of the Venezuelan Architects and Engineers Association and has been a guest professor at the University Jose Maria Vargas, the University Simon Bolivar and the Central University of Venezuela. Starting in 2007, Brilembourg and Klumpner began teaching at the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning, Columbia University, where they co-founded the Sustainable Living Urban Model Laboratory (S.L.U.M. Lab).

Neelkanth Chhaya is an academic as well as a practicing architect. He has taught at various places and was a faculty member at CEPT University for over 25 years. He retired as Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at CEPT University in 2013. Subsequently he has been appointed an Adjunct Faculty at Srishti School of Design and holds the position of Academic Chair at the Goa College of Architecture.

His professional practice has dealt with institutional and residential projects across India. The practice is focussed on culturally and environmentally appropriate design, and has emphasised innovative application of local skills and materials.

Tatjana Schneider is an educator, researcher and writer, currently working at the School of Architecture, The University of Sheffield, where she teaches Architectural History & Theory. Her research is concerned with the understanding of critical spatial practices and radical architectural pedagogies. She was a co-founder of the workers co-operative Glasgow Letters and Architecture and is a member of the research cluster Architecture & Politics. She is the author and co-author of a number of books including 'A Right to Build' (London: 00:, 2012), 'Spatial Agency. Other Ways of Doing Architecture', and 'Flexible Housing' (Architectural Press, 2007).

The session was moderated by Vijay Namapatti, a practicing architect and Design Principal at mayaPRAXIS since its inception in 2001 in Bangalore. He brings to his work concerns of sustainability, building process and theoretical understanding of architecture in relation to architectural practice and education. As a teacher, he likes to engage students with a critical and theoretical understanding of architecture. He is also part of research and interest groups that look into these aspects in the context of Bangalore. He has a bachelors degree in Architecture from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and a Masters degree in History and Theory of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati (USA).

Speakers' Thoughts:

Alfredo's presentation focused on the connection between the modernist architecture legacy in India, epitomized by Le Corbusier's influence on the development of Chandigarh, and the modernist legacy in South America, exemplified in the Venezuelan architect and planner, Carlos Villanueva. The historical trajectory brings us to urgent questions facing city-makers today, such as a flexible tool kit to address large-scale challenges and the relation between thinking global and acting local.

Neelkanth Chhaya's presentation focused on Architectural Practice And The Recuperation Of City life. Architectural Practice in the contemporary world is as much obsessed with the struggle to achieve striking novelty as with the desire for relevance, the need to "fit in". Value is given on the one hand to works that stand out by being different and on the other to works that conform to the "context". Such a paradoxical stance is the necessary outcome of an epistemology that uses linear time in which the "present" is a nearly non-existent infinitesimal point. The past is no more, hence the present must sever its connections. The future is not yet, hence the work of architecture can only in that hair-thin moment, state "relevance" to on imaginary present.

Both newness and relevance belong to the vocabulary of the market that gargantuan force that attempts a hegemony over contemporary existence. The result is either extermination, or preservation in the museum. We either eliminate what exists, or we freeze it and get on with "life". The first needs ever-stranger answers, the second needs polite but passionless conformity. We cannot positively include the complex textures of lived presents.

Could there be another model of time, history and architectural practice as a participation in a present that more inclusive, more spacious, and more capable of accepting the multidimensional actual life? Of a manner of practice that includes many Kinds of time and place, and one that contributes to city-building rather than directing or resisting it? That "stays with the trouble" (Donna Haraway's phrase) in a way that helps in the recuperation of life?

Source: IIA, Karnataka Chapter. Reproduced as Digital Partner, NATCON.

Find the other presentations here:

Session 2, Session 3, Session 4, Session 5, Session 6

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