Letters that start with 'unfortunately'....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

...and discuss it

Dear Anuj,

unfortunately I couldn`t meet you personally this week, please except my Email instead.

As you know already, the Cultural Spaces-project will not be carried forward in the format we had expected, rigtht now it has even come to a stillstand and I do not see that we will carry it further before July/August.

You have been very helpful during the process and even afterwards in assisting us in our regular work with many good ideas and design proposals. Nevertheless I would like to suggest that we stop the work contract at this stage due to the circumstances given in the cultural spaces-context. Moreover our institute will remain closed during the second half of May and there are not many programs in the low season before July/August.

Please let me know whether it would be agreeable to you to end the cooperation with the end of this month. Since ths is very short notice I could also offer to continue till mid May, until we close the institute.

We really enjoyed working with you and you have become a member of the team.We see many opportunities to cooperate in the context of other programs in the near future and would be very happy to stay in touch with you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

warm regards,



Dear Anuj,

Unfortunately, I am unable to offer you admission to The Master of Architecture II program
of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture program of The Cooper Union.

Our deliberations have been concluded. All of us continue to be impressed by the outstanding academic and creative talents of all our applicants, but we have a very limited number of openings. Generally, we admit less than ten percent of all applicants.

I wish you continued success in the future and especially in your academic career.


Mitchell L. Lipton
Dean of Admissions and Records
and Registrar


Dear Anuj Daga,

We regret to inform you that after careful consideration of your application, the Admissions Committee is unable to offer you admission to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. We would like to underscore that the Committee is keenly aware that there are many strong candidates whom we are unable to admit. We very much appreciate your interest in the Graduate School of Design and wish you the best in your career pursuits.


Gail Gustafson and Geri Nederhoff
Directors of Admission


I am truly sorry to inform you that we are not offering you admission to MIT in the Department of Architecture. The number of applicants for admission to the Graduate School greatly exceeds the number that can be accommodated and it has been necessary to refuse admission to some fine applicants.

We appreciate your interest in MIT and sincerely hope that you may be able to continue your studies elsewhere.


Yung Ho Chang
Professor and Department Head
Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Dear Anuj,

Letters have been mailed out… you should have or will be receiving one most any day.
For those accepted into the program, they were contacted by telephone. We had so many excellent applications this year and unfortunately we could not accept everyone. If you have received an offer from another institution, you may want to consider accepting it.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Dianne WhitmoreDepartment of Architecture
Graduate Field Coordinator
Cornell University

AOA Final Jury 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

(photos in order: house for atheist and a believer, again same, house for plant maker/breaker, house for a person with mixed identity, drawing for space for sculptors, model of the previous, space for a body builder)

We finished the First year AOA final jury today. Looking through incomplete works, unthought-of panels, last minute models and messy floors, we finally shortlisted 8 projects to be discussed in the class. I would like to discuss those projects on my space here.

Project 1: Shamin Bhangwar - She built a space for a musician and a meticulous lady in Sherley Village. What she explored was the musician’s space where she translated the 5th symphony of Beethoven into her architectural expression inside the house using curved roofs, sloping ramps and fabric coverings. Though the project was quite literally translated, the effort was commendable. Her drawings were beautiful and the model was superbly executed.

Project 2: Sahil Kanekar - He chose to bring a character from Madhya Pradesh’s dry land to meet a sailor in Sherley village. He decided to recreate the experience of a ship through the house he designed for both these characters. So his house sat inside a depression where in you climbed to a deck through a ramp crossing the water that would accumulate in the depression. He created a watch tower, a bedroom which was half submerged in water (like you would see from inside a ship) and a suspended floor where one could experience the unstable of the ship.

Project 3: Vidhi Jain - Chose to work with two sculptors (and some complicated story). She manifested the terrace of a 6 storey high tower into a beautiful sculpture like rib case (or rather a spine) - the language of which flowed in to the space of the second character. The perfection with which she executed her drawings and model were superb.

Project 4: Anushka Desouza - I was not interested in her characters at all. However, what we found interesting in her project was the way in which she articulated her spaces in a shoe box like space opening and transforming the spaces outside it.

Project 5: Hrishikesh Borse - His users were a car stealer and perhaps a mechanic? He actually ended up in an exciting dynamic form, which was derived after studying the aerodynamic properties of a car. Though the concept did not apply to the site, or even the function, we appreciated his commitment to a form, which was quite fascinating.

Project 6: Siddharth Kantharia - The most celebrated project of the class - where the two users were an atheist and a believer of God. The design posed an interesting dialectic of spaces which questioned and supported the belief of God at the same time. This was manifested again in Sherley village - a predominantly Christian community, where Siddharth chose to begin by using his building to hide an existing cross, which is only revealed at the end of the journey in the house. The house uses Christian signs and play of light and shadow to create experiential spaces where a dialogue between the atheist and the believer would take place.

Project 7: Nikita Mahale - Her users were a psychologically irritated person who would purge his frustration by plucking leaves (in his village) and grass and a gardener from Hiranandani. The project saw the two users as plant-breaker and plant-maker, in the context of the site, and developed a language wherein the house protects the trees from inside while the trees grow on outside the house. Nikita worked consistently over manifesting a cage over which leaves would creep and become the skin, which could be plucked to open out a window from the house while the gardener thought that he is protecting the trees from his house partner.

Project 8: Rohini Bapat - Rohini’s project was selected for her improvement graph and the beautiful large sections that she drew. She worked with the scrap material on a junkyard site to create a boundary where a night watchman could give a cricket enthusiast practice lessons to develop his skills in the sport. Though Rohini’s project had large technical errors, the quality of spaces that she created were really good.

All project in some ways questioned several notions of the city. The communal mosaic of a neighbourhood, the large green bounded gardens in Hiranandani, the wealth of material in what seems junk at Chor Bazaar, or the junk that converts into a space in a formal space… there were interesting contradictions. Perhaps students were too tired to discuss them,

But that is what was perhaps depressing. We asked students if they liked philosophy or how they decide upon liking certain things, or how they look at the city, or what do they feel about slums - none answered! However, they liked certain drawings, because of technical correctness, not because it was a nice experiential space, or because it felt nice…I think students take pleasure in construction and graphic subjects, where things are given. They said they refer books for Basic Design, not for Architectural Design. They refer to google and type in keywords (themes) for their AD on search engines (how ridiculous can that be!). However, they said they like to study real sites.

I spoke a lot, and tried to engage them in a discussion (but maybe that’s ironical and did not help in a ‘dia’logue). I should have kept my mouth shut. No one likes to talk; no one wants to discuss things. They come from a setup where things are always fed! But things will be like that. And I will continue to be irritated by the system.

Pushp Ki Abhilaasha (Desire of a Flower)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today while traveling in the local train, a rose fell off a lady's hair, and then what happened:

चाह नहीं मै सुरबाला के
गहनों में गुंथा जाऊं
चाह नहीं प्रेमी माला में
बिंध , प्यारी को ललचाऊँ

चाह नहीं सम्राटों के
शव पर , हे हरी डाला जाऊं
चाह नहीं देवों के सर पर
चढूँ , भाग्य पर इतराऊँ

मुझे तोड़ लेना बनमाली ,
उस पथ पर तुम देना फेंक
मात्र भूमि पर शीश चढ़ाने ,
जिस पथ जाएँ वीर अनेक.
-Makhanlal Chaturvedi Ji – Rajiv Krishna Saxena

Accidents on railway tracks shot up by 53%, from 5,304 in 1997 to 8,244 in 2007

Source of chart: http://mumbainews.wordpress.com/category/railway/

Tactical City

(this is a highly unstructured and cynical post)

They are more intelligent than us.
Perhaps the Municipal Corporation did not want the slum dwellers to occupy the pavements along the D N Road in Andheri. Initially, before this, we saw them making tents, temporary poles covered in plastic spilling over the pavement, which also accommodated the formal activities like bus stops. I rarely saw people walking on these pavements.
So they started putting planters alongside the compound wall which screens a huge plot of land reserved for god knows what! I thought they would grow plants in it. They even filled it with soil. Then they started to screen it with iron grills. These grills come till your chest. These grills seem illogical from all possible thinking angles - the maintenance, the gardener or even the passer by.  However, I did not know that things could work out just the other way!
The same old people now started using the grills as walls. Only that the room turned inside out. In the gaps, they created their mini kitchens, where they cook on sigdis. In series, the next one has a well defined lavish bathroom, which also takes care of water buckets and leaves enough space for having a shower. The un necessary stuff of the house is dumped inside the grills (in flower beds) - so they essentially become storage bins. Clothes hang on the grill all along. Eventually, I think they will span it across the trees and make a shelter out of that. But a new house typology is ready!
To see it from Rupali’s point of view (or rather Michael De Carteau): it would be “Tactical” - ironically against DeCarteau’s own “Strategic”.
When I see this, I feel that the corporation rather give them houses, just along the pavement. Or is it that they love living in such frugal conditions. When the government gives them housing, they run away - something that Kairavi’s research points out is that the issue is not space, but economy. Seems like they are like gypsies. They want to keep moving with work. But then, I think they need to carry better houses along. Do they need houses? No. They need infrastructure - anyway they sleep on roads. They like to sleep like that I think. So they must be provided infrastructure that can contain water, stove, clothes, that’s all. All other things are temporary - the comb, soap, food…all of it.
Amidst all this, what about the pavement? Do hell with the pavement: they can take nothing but paver blocks! On this one, the trees bend such that you actually crawl under them at regular intervals. Bus stops? They are dysfunctional any ways! Ah! Perfect! That makes a perfect case in favour of these gypsies! But what about the Flower beds? We can make bowls out of those: Topiary!
Why do such things happen in the city: This shows how “engineer-minded” the people in the system are, and how “creative” people outside it are! And people from developed countries will document all of this to make it into a publication under perhaps two broad heads (suggest more if you can): Housing in India and Product Design.

The paradoxes we live in

Friday, April 02, 2010

I just finished a bunch of grapes (which was served to me on a piece of paper) and then a plate of watermelon. After completing my work on the computer, I collected the leftover of the grapes (the skeleton) and the piece of paper to throw in the dustbin. As I opened the bin and threw them in, my mother shouted from inside: “is there a plastic bag in the dust bin? Can you never decrease my work…”
I wondered if dustbins (collectors of dust) were meant to be clean themselves!

We generally keep a plastic bag in the bin so that it can be given to the sweeper who comes in the morning to collect the garbage from each of the houses. Culturally, we have remained very strict, where sweepers (bhangis) are still considered untouchables. So we do not even allow them to touch our garbage cans. In such a situation, we take the plastic bags ourselves from the dust bin and put it in the sweeper’s can - from a distance.

It is amusing then to think of the door bell, which he/she rings every morning (she touches the bell to ring it!). When I discussed it with my grand aunt, she had a larger argument. She said: “In Bikaner, during summers, sometimes, sweepers would be so thirsty that they would ask for some water. My mother in law would then get a lota of water to pour it to her (or him). I would ask her, in that case, is the stream of water that you pour to the person not physically touch each of you?”

I was bowled over!

But untouchability remains a paradoxical question. I sometimes think that while travelling in the city, in public modes, can we afford to think of jumping out of the train if we realize that the person standing/sitting next to us is the son of a sweeper or cleaner? (Kiran Nagarkar brings this out beautifully in his novel ‘Ravan and Eddie’)

Gods almost take the place of humans in our daily lives. Every morning, my mother worships Krishna (popularly known as the laddugopal). She almost treats the idol as a third child in the house. (The ironical thing is this child does not grow ever!). Today morning, again, my mother got up late. So as soon as she saw me bathed, ready before her, she told me to quickly take a small bowl of milk and put it in front of the idol. As if the idol had started crying, howling! What difference would it have made if one presented the milk half an hour later? Now, I don’t object to the fact that you feel devoted towards an objectified deity, but don’t we at the same time realize that if we give the deity a status of ‘living’ let it live to its fullest. In this case, the deity almost lives the life of the worshipper. The worshipper makes the deity eat, live and breathe as per his/her choice and then assumes that the object has a life of its own.

She offers the maximum amount of prasad to that small child, as compared to other deities like the Shiv, Laxmi or the Ganpati. Now that I have started to talk about the other deities in my house, let me also say that their life is perhaps not considered to be as important as others! The Shiv and Ganpati idol were recently replaced with new silver ones. So that the idols must not turn black due to outside dust, their faces have been covered in thin transparent plastic. I pity them - if they were alive, they would suffocate to death! Though the Ganesha could manage breathing from his long nose, Laxmi would certainly die!

We wash our hands before touching anything in the kitchen. Literally anything. If we have to take a glass of water, we wash our hands, then we fill the glass, and we drink water, and the glass is considered to be ‘used’ and not mixed up with the rest…if you touch this glass, then you cannot take the second glass without washing your hands first. There is a more complex logic when it comes to cooked food or food prepared for fasting. There are some kinds of food preparations which after ready, are considered separate. There is a separate section in the kitchen platform for the preparation of such food items. I myself don’t understand how and where this concept came from (neither does my mother know), but we follow it, because it’s now a tradition.

In this whole process of washing and cleaning, we end up wasting a lot of water. And ironically, she keeps yelling at the house maid when she uses or wastes excess water.

Ideas like these are complex. How do people live between tradition and rationality? How we develop our own hybrid culture. How we don’t question the way we mould it, and the way it moulds us? What are the reasons for the non inquiry? Is it that we are too educated to question? Or is it that we just live with the environment we are brought up in. The question is critical, because growing up with different contexts, when one sees there is another way of doing a thing, process come under a lens. These processes also drive opinions. Opinions become ideas, ideas become material.

How does one exist simultaneously between these oscillating thoughts? I wonder.

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