Saturday, November 17, 2018

I misread something as "in our habit we give shape to our lives" - and thought it was much meaningful

On Architectural Writing // interview by Shriti Das

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Alternatives: Anuj Daga and Sharmila Chakravorty clarify whys and hows of Architectural Writing

The country has eminent architecture schools and equally prestigious media institutes. But did the two ever meet, formally? Not really. Architectural writing is not only gaining momentum in the media and architectural fraternity but is also an important tool that communicates design to architects, other professionals, enthusiasts and the masses. CQ speaks to Anuj Daga, an architect/writer, and Sharmila Chakravorty, a media professional, who write on art, architecture, design and allied disciplines about the many questions and misconceptions that riddle architectural writing.

The above edited interview can be found here

Full responses below: 

1. In a field as visual/tactile based as design, how does writing play a role?

If we can agree that all built spaces tell stories, then writing perhaps might be the most direct and effective way of narrating them. To write about design is to release a range of invisible nuances that an object may not lend you easily. The writer allows users to read new forms in which the work might be appreciated across history and geography, and thus makes the act of design democratic and universal.

2. How is design writing different from journalistic or story writing?

It’s not. Design writing can take different forms including journalistic or a novella. In most successful instances, it will bring critical attention to human acts and the manner in which they shape their ideas into material.

3. How did your design education help in this field?

Design education lent me a range of tools through which one may begin to articulate aesthetic experience. It opens up to a range of methods and parameters to appreciate things around us. Of course, these keep on changing and evolving with time. For example, ‘proportion’ and ‘scale’ were important parameters of assessing architecture that were introduced through design education. Today these parameters may seem archaic given that we experience much of space through media and the virtual. This example also illustrates how architectural and design history maps the shaping of our choices today and are deeply embedded in certain cultural and technological conditions of time itself.

4. How do you perceive a building critically and analyse it?

A sensitive observer necessarily has a deep sense of “self”, which is shaped through the cultural and social factors around himself / herself. Noted French literary figure Geroges Bataille once said that “Architecture is the expression of the very being of societies, just as human physiognomy is the expression of the being of individuals.” Simply understood, he meant to suggest that just like physical features of human beings may tell about their character and behavior, buildings express the aspirations and intentions of a society. The parallel between body and the building is compelling, and often, the process of perceiving a building is to understand one’s own experience within it with sensitivity and awareness.

5. How do you write about a building that doesn’t appeal to you or incline with your personal design belief?

More often than not, an unappealing project is an opportunity to expand my own limits of aesthetic experience. Often when I encounter an art object which I do not relate to, I have to inform myself about the cultural context it comes from. While the research helps in opening up new dimensions of seeing, it is also a reminder about one’s own cultural positioning, and the compulsive need to broaden it. Besides, design beliefs, like our very identities are malleable and transform themselves with time and experience.

6. It is believed that practicing design has more “scope” than writing about design – in terms of career, money, stability. In your experience, how true is that?

It is high time that we discard prejudiced cultural baggage we carry from a certain pre-liberal India and acknowledge contemporary architecture’s expanded field where the figure of the master architect continues to get blurred by a range of allied design practitioners who equally partake in shaping the final experience of any object or space. Besides, in the wake of increasing media and internet consciousness, conventional practices are realizing the value of archiving and communication. Given this change and there is more scope for design writing now, than ever. To the least, one can say that conventional building practice runs the same risks as design writers. Good projects will seek good writers. However, in order to bring value, design thinking, and writing has to take centre stage in education process.

7. What would your advice be to someone starting out in design writing?
Much of our design institutes (in India) are not equipped in introducing students to design theory. It is important that those interested in writing have a theoretical and analytical bent, so as to clearly present arguments about experience of an object/space rather than descriptive reviews that are often evident in their visual documentation. Focused reading and writing helps sharpening one’s own voice and way of looking. With ample written / visual content and free courses available on the internet by renowned universities, one must look forward to introduce themselves and expand their existing ways of thinking.

Life Notes

Thursday, November 01, 2018

"If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform."

Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh

The Middle Path

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Buddha realises that there there ought to be a way of living between extremities of luxuries and mortality. One cannot submit life to the external crisis. To just live and accept yourself, it is important to be able to perceive others' thoughts and feelings. To be an ordinary human being is to be Buddha. Buddhism does not teach you to be special, bit ordinary - in a way that you are living with everyone else,not above or below.

A string of sitar too tight will break, while of too loose, will be incapable to produce any sound. In order to produce music, the string has to be tightened just enough - that is the essence of the middle path. That one needs to know just enough to not hurt others, but unite with the rhythm of the universe in order to experience resonance and happiness.

(from somewhere)

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