Jaipur’s tryst with Temples

20171030_164622As I was walking along Chaura Rasta, mesmerized with the beauty and splendor of architecture and urban systems around, I just observed the temples; yes, there were temples of all forms, all styles and all deities’ spreads across either side of the road and established as a very important element of architectural vocabulary of the area. Seeing so many temples all around, I was simply spellbound, and I decided to do a study and then I found out that walled city of Jaipur has one of highest density of temples in the country. Again, a Wow!!

The search continued and so did the study. I found out different typologies of Temples within the city – Temples with Shikhars, Haveli temples and also Temples with Baradari, and this is not all, as, then there were temples with multiple courtyards, single courtyard and no courtyard. I found more than 400 temples within a small area of walled city itself. Moreover, these temples are so beautifully organized and blend in the city fabric that one can identify the precinct with the temple itself and temple with the precinct. These temples of Jaipur put the city on a map parallel with the city of Brindavan or Varanasi which are known as temple towns.

The temple towns, are the cities characterized solely with their association with the temples, be it Brindavan as the city of Krishna temples, Varanasi the city of Ganges Aarti or Madurai as home to Meenakshi temple. The importance of Temples in Jaipur can be realized as one notices that the king proclaimed himself to be representative of the God and aligned the Govind Dev ji Temple directly with King’s palace or if one stands at any of the city square and discovers that the skyline is dominated by the temples be it Lakshmi Narayan temple at Badi Chaupar, Sita Ram temple at Choti Chaupar or Murli Manohar temple at Ramganj Chaupar, moreover if one stands at any junction, it will find a temple right across, like Kalki Temple at Sireh Deorhi gate.

Thus, although having a parallel association with temples like any other temple city, Jaipur is nowhere recorded as a temple town. The spirit of Jaipur is unified with temples, still, Jaipur has been able to retain a distinguishing character of its own. I think this has happened because of the spirit of the citizens and immaculate planning by Sawai Jai Singh ji (II). This festive spirit of Jaipurites where they take pride on enjoying each and every moment in life be it with the kites in the sky, colour in the air or the light all around, celebrating Teej Mata ki Sawari, relishing Jain tableau (Jhaakiya) on Mahaveer Jayanti, or announcing the availability of best Finis at Sambharwala and best Doodh ke laddu at Bhagat.

While planning the city, the king blended the best of elements in the urban fabric of the city where everything coexists and that’s the reason why we have the best of the temples coexisting and not competing to govern the city’s character. These temples of our city are the nodal points which enhances the different characteristics and elements of our city making Jaipur, a melting pot in true sense. And taking lessons from our past, we should continue to preserve our heritage practices while developing new elements enhancing city’s character further.

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Which software best suits to Architect?

Last week, while I was speaking with a group of architecture/interior design students, they randomly asked me which software should they learn and I was again reminded of my dilemma, the dilemma in which I had been while I started using software for design work. As everyone, I started my Computer aided design work on AutoCAD but then slowly moved on to Revit Architecture, from where I restarted using AutoCAD with a combination of SketchUP and Adobe Photoshop while I found my contemporaries graduating onto 3dsMAX, Blender, Rhino and other design software.

I believe each of them offer their unique advantages and have their own strengths. Therefore, like the stream an Architect needs to specialize in, be in Residences, Interiors, Urban design, Conservation, Energy Efficiency etc., an Architect also needs to know its own methodology of working and should strengthen that capability. In order to understand this, let us consider a few cases;

  1. The project is architectural design of a small residence in a city, wherein you have conceptualized things mostly in rectilinear format and you have been tasked with preparation of required working drawings also. This work can easily be managed singularly by AutoCAD.
  2. The project is a sizeable bungalow in a city and you have been tasked with preparation of required working drawings also. This work can easily be managed singularly by AutoCAD, however, Revit offers in this case more advantages since the scale is bit large and clients requirements would be demanding, which one can easily deal on Revit.
  • Project is a farm house/or a large residence in a village and you are exploring option in organic form while exploring innovative building systems, my vote here would go on SketchUP as it offers maximum flexibility and convenience of drafting.
  1. If you are designing a dynamic hotel with unique form, one can explore Rhino; coupled with Revit BIM works.
  2. In an urban design work, housing or large-scale projects, 3dsMAX has its very high potential which if utilized can lead to immediate success of project.

Hence, there can never be a single word answer to the question of which software, one should learn, it is totally dependent on style of designing and liking of projects. Therefore, one should first explore one’s inner self and then dedicate time on learning software accordingly. Till then, knowledge of AutoCAD with any basic 3D software can suffice your requirements.

<This post is addressing primarily to those people who have time to learn a software and only a software and are not sure what they want to do and how they want to be in future.>

#SPADonFire SPA Delhi burning under lack of infrastructure

My college, the institute which practically shaped me who I am, gave me my identity, defined my professionally and shaped me personally is today burning in fires in all ways and here I am sitting helplessly seeing it burning. Due to unplanned growth in intake, both the social and physical infrastructure had got impacted greatly and today that untoward incident is taking place where there is no option for the students but to not stay in hostels.

The authorities’ have-not been to update the infrastructure to meet the needs of time and the students pursuing their course of planning and architecture couldn’t help but wonder the fate of their planning and architecture. It has been ages since the promise of new campus is being given to the entrants and there are now batches who are crumbling under the dead load of infrastructure which college and hostel structures can no more take.

There was a fire in a room in one of the hostels where if a student would have been present could have burned alive and administration has not only neglected the situation but has gone on to the extent of threatening the students who have been rightfully asking for an infrastructure where they can study without the fear of losing their life. Electricity cabling is age old, Fire safety and detection system is almost in absentia and water purifying system is not maintained, considering this state of the campus, expecting students to design the future of nation is unfair and unjustifiable.

As an alumnus, I am just wondering who is to be held responsible for this state of affairs; College administration, Ministry or students or is a multi-fold parenthesis where each holds their role. College administration has not been able to justify their role in meeting the demands of the students, ministry who never been able to understand the functioning of college and has increased the strength without equipping institute with resources or students who never been able to demand their rights properly and have adjusted with whatever was available. I have been through this phase and can completely understand the situation. What hurts most is the fact that this institute has the capability to produce world leaders but instead it traverses their energy in waste.

But, what is the way forward under the present situation? I recommend student community to start attending the classes but operate from college campus only, they should not be accepting to stay in a hostel where they can’t even be assured a safety of life. The campus has already been lacking modern facilities but accepting falling ceilings and short circuit fires is a big NO. I know that in an IIM when a student’s laptop has got partially damaged due to unexpected drop in voltage (since the campus is on DG with 24 hours backup), the complete amount was duly refunded and administration had apologized for mishap. Therefore, students should not accept anything but duly liveable facilities and work on their academics from college. I know it is a hard way out but I guess it’s the right time since this is the time when iron is hot and college admin can work on existing campus and plan on new campus.

Establishing my own (Architectural) practice

As we start practice, we always have the due sincerity to work intently on a project but what one lacks is the credibility/experience. The people might choose the young guy for fresh ideas and innovative designs but more often they simply dissuade from having them on board due to not knowing them. Therefore, what hurts the most as a young architect professional is the fact when you know you could have done a better, much better job, but only, if you would have been given a chance.

Yes, today, when I have started my practice the biggest challenge I think I am facing is the race against the name and fame that the big shots have earned in their due course of professional life which would be definitely a hard earned accomplishment. Therefore, the big task that I have is gaining visibility and more visibility out in the competitive world, to let people know what I can do and what I am worth.

Therefore, what I plan to strive on is gaining credibility, getting testimonials from people and generating word of mouth that I am out there. I think I should start reaching out a few seniors (to start with those in the town) who can transfer a few clients whose projects they are not interested in. Also, I have to make use of my adeptness with social media and use it to market me well, explore new avenues where the contemporary/established architects have not looked at and offer my services in the segment.

People do suggest participating in competitions but the kind of investment good competitions seek is again challenging both in terms of time capital and financial capital as we would be fighting the odds against the established giants. Hence, I believe I have to take a well-thought of step before participating in a completion which could be done by identifying my strength and working towards those segments.

Setting up a fresh architectural practice has challenges of its own which become quite playful as we grow as the freedom of expression it offers is incredible and with it there is a unique satisfaction which one can feel. But off-course, it has to be a well thought of decision wherein we should be equipped in our own rights to establish ourselves in the challenging world we are entering in.

P.S. I have kept the Architectural in brackets, because I sense it would hold true to all new professionals and designers.

Good luck!

Crankiness – a trait inherited

via Daily Prompt: Cranky

Architects are born pleasant but developed cranky, partially because of the work stress and remuneration and partially because of the thought process. What they see all-around is nothing but the work, building and details all around are their case studies and natural landscapes are potential sites for upcoming projects. Moreover, the work they see all around is not up to the mark, and they can definitely do way better, but the work that they do is not often executed properly, or clients don’t agree to the solutions or sometimes doesn’t come out as expected. This all leads to stress and dissatisfaction, leading to a cranky being.

Being an architect myself, I believe they should take some time to cherish their life. It’s a wonderful life out there, sit back and relax. I know there is so much going on, and sitting back might lead to delay and eventual fatigue but relaxing does no harm. Details all around definitely need to be observed but it should be taking away the comfort; one should quickly register the same and get back to the normal societal mode. They should treasure and prize their work, they are the ones who are creating things out of nowhere. They are the one developing the world. They are creating a habitat, which becomes home for everyone. They play a very important role in the society, which they need to understand and prize.

At the same time, society also needs to cherish architects, its them who have created a beautiful world out there. They should make sure, they get their due and fair compensation. Otherwise, they would have a place devoid of satisfaction, and it would reflect in their lives; making even them cranky.

While, architects are working on their projects they should also understand that they are not the ultimate users, and therefore, it won’t be them who would be using the project. The project, has to meet the requirements, expectations of the client. It is definitely their duty to educate the client, but ultimately it should be the call of the client/user.

These minor changes in the working system would lead to happiness all around and crankiness would be done away with.

And it was Red Mandana!

Mandana is a quartzite stone used for flooring, cladding and similar stone finishing works. It is a chemical resistant hard stone, delivering rich dark red finish subsequent to multiple polishes and is opted for high maintenance luxury stockyards or factories. It is an expensive stone owing to the hard profile of stone making the cutting and stone processing work challenging.

Impressed with this luxurious finish, an architect proposed this stone as the final finish to an institute being built with taxpayer’s money. Being a dark coloured stone, it absorbs light and creates a dark and gloomy ambience in an otherwise lively space, sparkling with students and environment of growth knowledge dispersion.  It makes the space looks smaller and demands for a regular maintenance and in its absence, it starts looking dusky, spotted and tainted.  The strong and tough profile of the stone makes it a heavily demanding exercise to polish the flooring surface and in spite of more concentrated efforts, results in inferior outcomes.

The consultants involved in the project requested the client and architect to replace the Red mandana stone with an alternate finish considering the above listed points, but, under the gravity of the architect’s strong vision of a building jewelled with Red mandana, client shied away from getting involved in the design process and architect continued decorating the building with red mandana. This resulted in a discomforting situation wherein in spite of heavier usage of funds, the flooring finish achieved discomforted the users and added on to the plight of the project managers wherein the time required for finishing and polishing was high and results were a dark, gloomy space.

It leaves me pondering does an architect has a right to override the user comfort with a design idea, or a vision. Today the institute has finally decided to do away with the Red mandana and use an alternate finish in the remaining structure, wherein luckily lot of work pending, but is it how the fraternity functions. An architect is expected to shape the building which shapes the residents using it. Thus the responsibility of an architect is high prior to deciding or zeroing or forcing a design idea/vision onto the face of the client.

I believe before finalising any finish in the building, users’ opinion must be taken while educating them rightly with the characteristics of the finish involved and not decorate the building with red mandana as a personal vendetta of creating a jewel in mandana, as it is not a showpiece but a functional building we are creating.

Designing lives, Designing Classrooms

Teaching as a medium to transmit knowledge has always existed since the dawn of civilization. As read in our scriptures, the system of teaching surpasses the time immemorial, be it listed in legendary texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata or in the ancient texts of Panini and Kalpasutra. Though very different from the current mode of education, the system of Ashrama shiksha (apprentice training) had created its own share of legends in the history.

This mode of teaching revolved around an intense system of togetherness wherein students lived with their mentor, the teacher, the rishi which became their family. Classes there used to conduct under a tree wherein the sage or the teacher would deliver his lesson/lecture to the group of students directly. These classes used to happen under a tree or a courtyard in an informal seating but ensuring a lot of interaction of the students with teachers.

This was surpassed then by the classroom teaching which started in confined setting. There the format of a teacher teaching a group of students sustained but the seating got formalized to an arrayed arrangement, wherein the focus is not on teacher but board, which promotes the significance of board than teacher and hence influences students to memorize than learn.  This simple example demonstrates the importance of classroom layout in teaching.

In order to substantiate the argument if we consider different classroom layouts and their impacts, we can consider an engineering college, an architecture school and a management institute. Engineering and management institutes requires formal classroom setups whereas architecture schools can manage in unceremonious settings also. Engineering schools mostly have a seating layout (either semi-circular or arrayed) with focus at board wherein students directly concentrate at board. A substantial component of the teaching in these schools also happens in the laboratories and thus those who manage to see and observe details, hear and listen lecture and grasp and do experiments continue as engineers post-graduation and rest leave it for other studies. These trends clearly demonstrate how classroom layouts can influence the learning and interest mechanism of students.

The management schools successfully have disclosed a classroom layout which leads to successful teaching making it the most effective and priced education course. They have a horse-shoe type of an arrangement wherein focus is solely on the interaction. All the students are enabled to look at each other leading to enhanced interaction and thus improved learning wherein they are able to discuss their cases, interpretations and discourses.

This analysis helps us establish the importance of a classroom layout for different teaching techniques and courses. Unlike a standardized arrangement for all the classes, effective systems and layouts need to be explored for fruitful teaching and learning alike, and it can be very well said that a while designing a sustainable institute, layouts of classroom play a very important role as otherwise they wont be able to deliver the purpose they are built for.

‘Designing Lives, Designing Classrooms’