Architects have to write their own agenda: Charles Correa

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 16, 2011 06:40 hrs

New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) Architects have to script their own agenda while creating new idioms in this age of homogenised culture, suggests Indian architect Charles Correa.

'Young architects have to stick their neck out to do something new and write their own agendas,' Correa said in his address at the launch of his book 'A Place in the Shade: A New Landscape and Other Essays'.

The iconic architect gave India milestones like the Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, the India Habitat Centre, the National Crafts Museum and the British Council in the capital, the blueprint for the new Mumbai city and the Cochin Waterfront.

'It is very important to do things you want to - to know where you are going - when you are young. I would not have liked to build the commercial stuff that goes on, I can't just sit back,' he said at the British Council auditorium Monday.

For Correa, the address was revisiting the past. The building designed by him in 1993 is still an emblematic architectural edifice of the capital, keeping in mind Delhi's Hindu, Muslim and European past.

Correa is known for adapting modernism into the sacred heritage space of traditional Indian architecture - merging components of the old and the new. His buildings, inspired by art, are characterised by abstract loggias, interconnected spaces vital splashes of green and infinite mandala-like open to sky stretches that play with natural light.

About his generation architects in India, he said: 'Most architects of my generation have been deeply influenced by the projects that Le Corbusier built in our part of the world.'

'Was Corbusier, like other major artists, another form of globalisation? Think about it. Art has always been a part of the globalisation process because artists have always been affected by news from other cultures.'

'An exhibition of wood block prints in the 19th century Paris aroused the enthusiastic acclaim of Gaugin and other impressionists. They had never seen anything like it before - and it changed the way they themselves went on to paint,' Correa said.

In the 20th century, 'it was the display of African masks in a Paris museum that made Picasso completely revise his form and depiction of the human face. It led him to Cubism'.

But artists Picasso and Gauguin did not transpose the images blindly. 'They felt the impact of the exotic and something new, and they transformed it into something of their very own. This is what art does, it transforms them. That is why it makes such wonderful bridges between different cultures,' Correa said.

He lists two examples of transformation architecture in his book, published by Oenguin-India.

'The first is the Diwan-i-khas, the audience hall for nobles built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in Fatehpur Sikri. The structure is a small cube in the centre of which is a monumental column connected to the corners by four bridges. Akbar sat on the top of the column with his principal advisers at the far end of each of the bridges,' he writes.

The plan was a transformation architecture that reflected Akbar's religious philosophy.

The square layout of the 'audience hall' came with Akbar from central Asia. But to the Hindu craftsmen constructing the building, the square would have represented the 'mandala' - the model of the cosmos, Correa said.

'In the centre of the mandala in which the bindu, the source of all energy was located, there was no Brahman, but emperor Akbar himself. In case, anybody missed the point, the column he sat on was clearly Buddhist-Hindu in form.'

'In it, Akbar was using the myths of Hinduism and Buddhism to proclaim that a new political order had come to town,' he writes.

The other example of transformation was the 'plan of the city of Jaipur', founded by former Maharaja Jai Singh in the 18th century.

'He embarked on a truly extraordinary venture. He sought to combine his passion for the rationalistic tenets of contemporary astronomy with the most ancient and sacred of beliefs. The city's plan was based on the nine-square mandala corresponding to the nava graha or the nine planets,' the architect said.

Jaipur is 'an example of transformation between past and the future, between material and metaphysical world, between microcosm and macrocosm that Maharaja Jai Singh sought to synthesise'.