Book Review: Architectural Voices of India

Indian architecture is known to suffer from the poverty of written authentic material on the state of profession and professional practice in the country. Challenges posed by globalisation, liberalization and opening of the Indian economies has placed the profession at the cross roads. Accordingly, the profession of architecture is in search of an identity and direction which can help it in re-discovering its lost glory and status.

Looking at the given context, the book titled, ‘Architectural Voices of India: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos’ by architectural journalist Ar. Apurva Bose Dutta gives us the insight, hope and focus on architecture and architectural practice by documenting the life history, perception, philosophy and approach of nineteen eminent architects of the country, who have made a distinct mark and are known for their pioneering work in the field of architecture and architectural education, both locally and globally. The book ushers a new era in the domain of architecture by documenting the journey of these architectural luminaries of India in terms of their journey in the profession, right from induction, education, practice and priorities, which have together led to the evolution of their distinct design approach and philosophy.

Architectural Voices contains the first-ever frank and honest narration made by the featured Indian architects about their journey and understanding of the profession and architectural practice, which is sure to go a long way in helping and directing the younger generation of architects in making appropriate choices in the profession.

The pattern adopted by the author for painting the life canvas of the individual architect to bring out the best of his thought and philosophy, is both appreciable and commendable. Each chapter dedicated to a specific architect revolves around a well-thought and well-structured interview with the respective architect. Each interview has custom-designed questions as per the architect’s philosophy and expertise and begins with looking inward and outward at the inspirations, ideologies and determination which carved out the professional direction for that architect. It then details out architecture in India and how it has been impacted under the local and global influences. Views on global architecture form an integral part of the book and its context with the Indian architecture has been defined in a comprehensive manner. The role of technology in defining the future course of architecture and architectural practice has been objectively detailed.

The author uses her strong background of architectural journalism and exposure to architecture and the industry to develop thought-provoking questions that further help to elicit a gamut of perceptions and strong opinions. Each interview is preceded by a well-researched profile offering glimpses not only in the professional achievements but in the personality of the architect too. To showcase the best of the work, each architect has defined and detailed one of his projects under the section ‘Project that re-defined architecture for me’. This section provides the implementation of his/her architectural philosophy and underlying ideas, elements and considerations into the making of the design solution. There is another informal section written by the respective architects on their personal lives and office environments.

Scanning the 10–12 pages of the book, allocated to each architect, provides a reader enough food for thought and insight, in to the architect’s perspective on the profession and professional practice and its role and importance in making the world more liveable, productive and sustainable. It also briefs about their approach and philosophy of evolving a design of the built environment which makes their buildings iconic and distinct in the real sense of the term.

Each architect remains distinct and unique in his/her approach and understanding of the profession, which lends the book a high degree of credibility since there is no duplication and repetition. The concluding chapter of ‘Reflections and Realisations’, proves to be a resourceful analysis of the varied thoughts of the architects, and reflects on the author’s take on the issues in architecture. While the focus of the book is the theory of contemporary architecture that is formed as an outcome of the diverse voices of the profession, the text is ably supported by illustrations, in the form of images, drawings and sketches of projects of the architects.

Architectural Voices of India holds the distinction of being perhaps the first and the only book which dares to bring out an entire gamut of architecture and architectural practices in India through the eyes of none other than the champions of the profession. Accordingly, it contains valuable information, ideas and approaches which can help in leveraging the profession in the right direction. Issues like improving quality of architectural education through redefining course curricula and adopting studio learning; improving environment, ecology and sustainability; minimising global warming; making buildings sustainable through energy and water efficiency using local materials and improved technologies; making buildings user-friendly through improved indoor air quality; improving quality of life through evolving affordable housing design; improving quality of life through improved quality of spaces and options of making cities smart by active involvement of architects have been appropriately debated and detailed out in the text.

The book also remains exclusive for the Indian architects and because of its careful selection of architects. The featured architects are from different age groups, specialise in designing different typologies of buildings, belong to different regions, are known for the quality of buildings designed and are the recipients of numerous awards for their creative work. Their work represent the total fabric of Indian architecture in terms of its cultural diversity, ethos, climate, material, technologies and the unique physical, social and economic conditions prevailing in the country.

Architectural Voices of India makes a great reading for all professionals and non- professionals. In my opinion, it remains a most valuable book for the institutions imparting architectural education and faculty engaged in teaching architecture as it helps in understanding the complexity of the profession. Students of architecture will find the book particularly most valuable for reasons that it will help them learn, understand and appreciate the treasure of ideas, approaches and philosophies which went into making of iconic buildings in India.

The book will remain unique, by virtue of having the distinction of being the first comprehensive book dedicated to the Indian architecture. It must find appropriate place and should form an integral part of academic circles of the profession, especially the libraries of the architecture schools.

I would wish the author to bring series of such books to make valuable addition to the architectural vocabulary of India.

Prof. Jit Kumar Gupta,, 27/11/2017.

To find out more about Architectural Voices of India: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos, click here.

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