Jul 23, 2020

The Architect’s Heritage Dilemma !

I was eagerly following the fb competition “Design onWater” announced by Architect Dhanasekaran Muthu at the heritage context of a water body at the Senji fort.

Figure 1 Water body, Senji Fort

The competition brings up one of the basic questions that has always bothered me and I assume many Architects when it comes to historic/heritage sites and projects- Is it right to intervene in a heritage site and if so how? 
The closest such dilemma for me personally was in my early career when I was asked by the committee of a 100-year-old Church to design a commercial complex in their front open space. I declined with the explanation that the church will lose its beautiful view from the road. Nevertheless, they went ahead on their own and built a tacky building. On hindsight, I always feel guilty in not taking up the project. I realize that If you are not in a position of influence on the decision makers, sometimes its better to take it up and do a better intervention at least. 
So, coming to the competition, it is always very compelling to say “No intervention” is the best intervention in this beautiful Senji context. But as practicing Architects we need to master the skill of honest intervention even in places where logic and conscience tell us it is wrong to intervene. So my message to architects who think it is wrong to take up such challenges, remember – in a real situation the entry you think as the most misplaced ( to put it mildly) might get executed! Never say No!

Now to the question of ‘How’ to intervene…On which our fraternity has always been divided.
There is the safe “Purist way” of intervention, where the sanctity of the context is preserved. The character and style of the milieu is continued, and any modern/out of the box intervention is considered a sacrilege! 

Figure 2 Roman Bath complex, Bath, England

Then there is the “Daring way” of intervention where the architect doesn’t give two hoots to the context or so it seems at first – the most popular example being the Louvre ‘Pyramid’ at Paris. 
Architects and critics are always divided in the response to such a bold and contemporary intervention in a medieval context by Architect I.M Pei. As per the 1985 New York Times, the Pyramid was “an architectural joke, an eye sore, an anachronistic intrusion of Egyptian death symbolism in the middle of Paris and a megalomaniacal folly imposed by French President MitterrandI.MPei was publicly mocked. He says “ The first year and a half was really hell. I couldn’t walk the streets of Paris without people looking at me as if to say : There you go again. What are you doing here? What have you done to our great Louvre?! " But today, over time, the Glass Pyramid has been accepted by the city and stands proudly as a part of the Parisian skyline.
Figure 3 The Louvre, Paris

Let us understand the intelligence of Pei’s daring intervention. His design though in callous contrast to the setting – Is honest in intent, brutally minimalist and transparent to the context. If takes a formidable volume presence and yet stays invisible. This might have been possible because of the enormity in scale of the courtyard that somehow allowed both styles to coexist and arguably complement each other. This approach is like walking on the knife edge and needs great design maturity and conviction to succeed. In other words, this route boldly asserts the present rather than fake a replication of the past!

Figure 4 Music School Louviers - Opus 5 Architects - Normandy, France

Figure 5 The Military History Museum in Dresden by Daniel Libeskind

Coming back to the "design on water" competition,expectantly, the ‘Purist” approach had been the popular route by participants. However, my eagerness was to see if any one 'dared' ! I would have been thrilled if more youngsters would have attempted the “daring” intervention, at least as an academic exercise. 
Of course, the debate on what and who is right or wrong in approach will always exist…The answer : Only Time can tell!

Jul 21, 2020

Examnr logo

The logo I had designed for a friend who had started an online evaluation system ( software app) called examnr.

Jul 7, 2020

Height of self confidence !

Bengaluru traffic cops are legendary for their creativity and recently to their credit have come up with the brilliant idea of putting mannequins dressed as cops in traffic junctions to scare off traffic violators...but there is only a small problem. These mannequins do not have pot bellies! 

If you guys think we will be duped by a 6 feet tall, paper white complexioned ,super fit mannequin...Better luck next time!

Jul 5, 2020

Holy Trinity Church , Bangalore

After my Afghan stint, my new job landed me in Bangalore in 2006 and naturally like any Tamil coming to Bangalore, my first residence was at Ulsoor (Halasuru), the area where my brother was already living with friends. He introduced me to a Tamil church  that we used to walk to on Sundays. It was the historic Holy Trinity Church. Even after I moved to Bellandur in 2008, my family still continued to attend this church. We have fond memories of Christmas and New Year services. Beautiful memories of my daughter running around the church, memories of a surprise call from a member to come forward to do the offering collection , memories of different sermons by various pastors...Ever since we moved to North Bangalore in 2018, ( quite far to attend this church anymore) I have been thinking to do a post on this lovely church that had been a part of our family for more than a decade. So here it is...

Vintage painting from the British era

The Holy Trinity Church...  

At about the time when tiny, sporadic revolts against the British Empire had started taking place across India, Bangalore managed to get the unbending British to do something they had never done before: Build a second church in the same station. It was called Holy Trinity Church.

Though Christianity had made inroads way back in 1724, there was only St Mark's Cathedral to accommodate the increasing number of Christians in the cantonment area. Also, St Mark's catered only to the English-speaking congregation. That's when people in the area began pressurizing the British regime to build a second church and staged protests at South Parade. At first, the government denied them permission because of East India Company's one-station-one church policy. But the protests were such that the Company's directors finally changed their policy for Bangalore.

Vintage postcard 1907
Holy Trinity Church, standing high at the east end of MG Road (then South Parade), was a historic milestone in the city's development during the glorious Victorian era. Built in the English Renaissance style, the spot on which the church stands was chosen by Bishop Corrie. It was the place which gave Lord Cornwallis' military career a fresh lease of life after his humiliation at the American War of Independence. Under Cornwallis' charge, the British had suffered an embarrassing defeat, but once posted to India, Cornwallis enacted numerous significant reforms within the British East India Company and its territories. He also led British and Company forces to victory over Tipu Sultan in the third Anglo-Mysore War.

The foundation stone of the church was laid on February 16, 1848 and the church was opened on August 8, 1852. The original estimate of the construction was Rs 27,000. However, the archdeacon suggested improvements at an additional cost of Rs 6,500. With the ability to accommodate 700 people, it became famous as the largest military or garrison church in south India.

 A closer look at the 158-yearold church takes you back to colonial times. The walls of the church were adorned with stone tablets and statues of generals and other military officials, who died in battle across South East Asia. A few statues were specially carved in England. The furnishing and embellishments were designed by Rev W W Lutyens.

 The workmanship on the furniture was of a very high standard and they remain beautiful even after 140 years. The great bell of the church was cast by the famous Mears Foundry of London in 1847 and is intact. The pulpit and pipe organ were also built in London, though the pipe organ was later sold to the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church

The stained glass window above the tabernacle, depicting the baptism of Jesus, was brought specially from England along with the baptism pond. The cross was presented by Queen Victoria's own West Kent Regiment in memory of those who died when the unit was based in Bangalore.

Wood carvings of three pairs of angels on the roof above the choir pews and the altar symbolize angels guarding the Holy of Holies. The front pews, which had brass plates on them, were reserved for the honorable resident. The bell tower of the church is worth looking at not just for the strength of the structure and the solidity of the wooden ladders but also because of the beautiful view of Bangalore that it affords.
Soon after independence and the formation of the Church of South India in 1947, the church underwent a sea change. Initially, military priests were posted at the church. Gradually the English-speaking congregation began disappearing, paving the way for services in local languages. Till 1965, the church was called Holy Trinity Garrison Pastorate and later renamed Holy Trinity Church by the Mysore Diocese

 SOME TRIVIA -  * Winston Churchill, the former prime minister of England, was a parishioner here. He began his military career in Bangalore before moving to Afghanistan.
* The letters "BM" carved on the steps of the church was made during the 19th Century. Trigonometric Survey of India, a difficult undertaking that cost many Englishmen their lives.
* One could earlier get a clear view of the statue of Queen Victoria at the other end of MG Road from the porch of the church, but not any longer, thanks to the Metro Rail.

Jul 1, 2020

Eye wear Logo

Few Logo options I had proposed for my friend's Eye wear (Spectacles) manufacturing company...He had requested for a Circular Logo.