This drawing is from my 2008 sketchbook. It was my first month at CEPT as a post grad student. I was still overwhelmed coming to this new city and esteemed campus. The move from Mysore to Ahmedabad was both exciting and anxious. We were elated that Prof. Doshi will be visiting our design studio. Prof. Snehal Shah was our design studio faculty, who insisted Doshi visit our studio and also teach. We were fortunate he made a few visits to our class at regular intervals from the beginning to the final review. It was also a rare privilege, as this might have been one of his last longer academic engagements being part of a studio. In one of the early classes, to introduce ourselves, he asked to bring sketches to share our interests and skills. This was one of the drawings i showed. I made some sketches of the SA building. It was both an embarrassing and fertile moment for me. Doshi pointed out that only the central grid has 3 frames and and other grids have 4 frames (not 3 as i had drawn!). I also embarrassingly argued with him that there was only was 3 frames even in the other grids. He drew on my notebook (right bottom corner), to explain me. Our studio was also located inside the same SA building . He took me out of the studio and showed the four frames in the building he designed . Now you can imagine how naive and overwhelmed i was then. As a constructive lesson, he upped the assignment for the next class, where we had to measure a part of the CEPT Campus and draft to scale – so we had to be more careful and observant of what we drew. On that day he asked us to pin up the drawings and not say or explain anything. I remember very vividly him saying that, with an impish smile, that our ‘drawings will reveal the background, interests, skills and everything about us’ – without us speaking a word. Drawing a small sketch cross section on a paper, he said one should draw slowly, the skin should feel the scale and profile of the space you are in – and one should sense if the height of the corridor in the section is 2.1 or 2.4 m high – so the scale is both perceived and registered in the drawing.
Below is short extract from the online discussion between Niall McLaughlin and Dominic Eley on books, reading and architecture. A great combo, which this blog seeks for.
Dominic : I think it is important to note your slight reluctance on addressing the literature that impacts your architecture. You were apprehensive about the insinuation that book equals building; that it could easily be misunderstood as you read a certain piece of literature and a building magically appears. During one of our discussions, you spoke about loam as an analogy for your relationship to reading and literature.
Niall : I do have a scepticism about architects showing off all their books and laying claim to a deep intellectual life that somehow has an equivalence in their buildings. I think I am sceptical to a degree about the idea that there’s a whole set of texts that I have read and a building that I have built and there is an equal sign between the two of them. It’s perfectly clear that many architects are extensive and careful readers and that reading must have some impact on the buildings that they are creating. However, unpicking the nature of that relationship seems to me to be trickier than creating any direct equivalences. I worry when I find myself, or others, at lectures reading from a text, and then the next thing is there’s a photograph of the building, a direct equivalence between the two appears. So, this is the idea of loam; the layers of soil that build up in a garden or a woodland. Whatever grows out of that loam is naturally dependent on it, but the relationship between the nourishing substructure growth is not as direct, or as necessary, as some people think. That was the metaphor I was using when discussing the tension in this lecture.” (emphasis mine)
I felt this metaphor of the ‘loam’ is apt at so many levels. If we zoom out a bit, it could be between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’. There need not be a ‘direct equivalence’ but it can be a ‘nourishing substructure’. The metaphor can be interpreted at multiple levels – the seed in the soil can grow into any form or shape. It can also be about how different constituents (sand, silt and slay) make the soil fertile. The heterogenous nature of the constituents – a framework so well suited for the composition of faculties in a school and the triangle being the ‘school of thought’. Each component can be distinct and also co-exist with another component with a common ground / interests to operate. This also attaches well to the gardener metaphor used by Alison Gopnik for parenting (and teaching too) that “When we garden, on the other hand, we do not believe we are the ones who single-handedly create the cabbages or the roses. Rather, we toil to create the conditions in which plants have the best chance of flourishing.”
I came across a similar diagram by Anupama Kundoo – which she has labelled ‘inventory of battles’ – in which she talks about her ‘projects’ stemming from the process of ‘knowledge’. In this spectrum, I was curious that how teaching is an underground process – slow, unseen yet foundational. A good reminder for teachers to do what they do.
At the intersection of teaching and practicing architecture, I come across ‘fragments’ of ideas. These drawing explorations allow ideas to simmer without being concrete and purposeful. It allows me to both inform and escape the everyday grind of teaching. I have been testing these hybrid drawings for sometime now – drawn by hand and digitally recomposed. The hand allows one to meander unconsciously evoking the muscle memory of the ‘thinking hand’ (referring to Pallasmaa’s brilliant book). Whereas the digital allows it to do what it is good at – being precise and allowing repeated quick manipulations of pattern and translucency.
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