Friday, September 6, 2013

On Teachers' Day

This is one of the many (few) things that I feel truly fortunate to have experienced and documented for life during my time at architecture school. Among many other things, you haven’t completely experienced SPA Delhi if you haven’t been screamed at theatrically by Prof. Chishti (preferably outside the studio walls). Too bad if you have passed out already! I bet you have the most vivid memories from your life at college of his incredibly eventful Theory of Design sessions in the open air theatre. Professor IM Chishti is an institution all by himself.

In February 2013, Dr. Anil Dewan initiated a project for our professional practice studio to research and plan for what we would want to become ten years hence. Pedagogy had always been one of the million things on my mind after architecture school. So we began collating quantitative and qualitative information on our quest to become teachers, Wate Zheimi, myself and #thisunbelievablybrilliantguyinstudio! (who I call) Professor Dendup. This interview was part of it.

This is a (very bad quality) recording of my interview with Prof. Chishti about pedagogy, its objectives, nuances and lessons. Please write to me to help me make better this timed list of highlights from the interview. Also do share with me your opinions on any of the questions and answers from the interview to take this conversation forward. This interview is fairly long, but hey it’s been a while since you heard him speak!

Spoiler Alert: Too bad, there was no Chishti’s signature snorty laughter. I missed it too.

00:30 Ideologies of teaching
2:15 Pedagogy has to be a long term process. There has to be a vested interest in being a teacher.
4:15 Difference in the position of a studio director and being part of the faculty team
5:20 Architecture schools having ideologies
5:57 Willy nilly
6:00 SPA has ended up having a rounded ideology of a design school
7:45 The School of ‘Planning and Architecture’ was set up understand the Indian conditions. Vernacular regional studies have always been taken up extensively in the middle years.
9:20 Making a difference to contemporary society, senior years topics changed with global situations. Responsiveness to the changing conditions of the country.
12:30 SPA location in central Delhi has certainly affected us.
13:50 When the hostels were closer to campus there was a certain kind of energy.
14:45 Do good students make good teachers?
15:50 Measures of a good teacher
16:05 Being part of an institution
17:20 These values must mean something to you even outside the institutional framework
19:20 Belief systems of self discipline
19:55 Running a practice that is part of pedagogy, understanding the intersections and mutual dependencies
23:00 Scales of operation between practice and institution
23:40 Integrity as a teacher
24: 12 Teaching and working in an architecture office and not your own practice
25:00 New forms of flexible employment in both educational and professional institutions
26:22 Disconnect between studying and real work, apprenticeship?
27:45 Running a studio practice, parallel to curriculum in campus
29:40 Why are students not involved at all in the construction/renovation projects that happen in the school building?
30:40 Summer jobs within the school,
31: 30 Art thesis
32:45 If I apply for a job with the school what will be the parameters?
33:25 Do you have a contribution to make?
34:15 Are you a good communicator
34:55 Taking phone call
35:28 Of the TOD session that he just walked out of (which fortunately created the time for this interview to happen)
36:10 You get feedback qualitative and quantitative from your class intuitively
37:20 Chishti blasted a young architecture student at his thesis jury, only to be thanked years later at the twenty under thirty five exhibition by the same student who was now a designer invited by him to exhibit at the event!
39:50 A bad architect spoils a building but a bad teacher spoils a whole generation of buildings.

While he says this is only almost true, what it is completely true is that this teacher has positively instigated a whole generation of graduates from the SPA, Delhi to really think and therefore be. This Teachers’ Day I thank him and all my teachers (so many of you don’t even know I see you as one), for inspiring me. I will become one of you as I begin my journey as a teaching artist with Music Basti very soon.

In other news, I graduated from Architecture School.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

200 words to writing

The past few months have been more eventful than ever before. I've lost sense of what normalcy really is and what goodness is. I've started acknowledging all the meta-thinking and internal battles of my little brain. Kriti calls this my mental masturbation, an inventive tool that helps substantiate all the importance that I want to give myself (remember the love letters?). I saw this thesis semester walking over in front of my eyes and I saw myself losing to time and work, swaying between procrastination and overkill. I've also realized that closure is one of my least favourite nouns. I have been forcing myself to think that thesis has only begun yet.  It will get more exciting from now on.

I've realized lately that there’s far too much that I think about and feel is worthy of blogging but I never end up doing it because I never get down to structuring it as an article/ post and never write so much that there’s enough to sieve a structure from it. This also comes out of a realization that very often; I fail to look at the larger picture of a situation without getting stuck in the parts.  So this is an attempt to at least initiate all the conversation by starting with 200 words and putting it up. You just read the first 200. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

oh alright.

This one faculty in studio today screamed at me today urging me to get on with some real drawing and asking me to stop writing love letters to myself.

How did he know? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

UnBox 13

Last weekend, I found myself at the third edition of the UnBox Festival in Delhi. Apart from helping my friends around with their installation projects, helping to set up a fun print lab and being part of this little assembly line that dished out these brilliant picnic lunch hampers, I was also fortunate to be part of an interesting workshop with URBZ and even more fortunate to write for the live documentation team at Unbox, the Zinepress. As I google the names of its core team members today, I realize the real extent of fortune of being surrounded by the people I was surrounded by that Saturday night. Some of their work, I had come across and LOVED so much! and never imagined meeting them EVER.

The interesting thing was that because I hadn't seen them ever, I didn't know who they they were that night. That night they were some very warm and supportive (to me and to each other) people, who were from everywhere but were working together calmly through the night, with great planning and diligence.    They saw the product come together.

Unfortunately, I really wish:
  1. I could contribute more to the production of the magazine after writing that one piece. With no Photoshop and Indesign skills, I am still technologically 5 years too dated. 
  2. I could do better than being only half awake through that night, especially realizing later how much  I am going to fondly cherish/regret it through life. Most of the warm/cold night is a blur in my mind with extremely familiar music playing through it. I remember singing along some of the songs half asleep on the couch. Rag Doll by Maroon5 was one of them. Was it? 
The part of the night that I do remember is when I wrote the following. You may want to listen to this track on loop while you read. I listened to it while writing the piece.


This happy yellow afternoon, the second day of Unbox, in the lawns of  Zorba, as we sat together for a vino picnic lunch consisting of yummy sandwiches, salads, sangria  and cake, blaring Bollywood music from a family party  in the neighbouring farmhouse gave us some surprising company. We turned to our firang friends with embarrassing smiles. ‘Hey, welcome to India: this crazy mash up of juxtaposed realities that we smile at irrespective of what side we are on!’ But how would it be if even our neighbours were playing progressive EDM and classical music collaborations between the harp and the Indian Cello. Hipsters would never remain hipsters if they were too many of them, would they?

Cities are crucibles of transactions and hence, opportunities. Wikipedia tells me they are large centres of high density. It is often in this largeness of the city that people turn into numbers on census data and volumes on the Metro and buses.  In the busy business of urban life, we often forget about all the opportunities of conversation that this density brings and, in contradiction, yearn for the little easy place ‘back home’.

Does it reveal something about creative professionals that they are often found seeking joy in the bylanes of transforming urban villages of Delhi? Is this where we see the potential of positive urbanity harnessed at the right scale? Nostalgia for what home would have been like, or a faint inkling of what home must be like. What is this elusive comfort in the smallness of things that fills the void in our everyday urbanity?

UnBox, among many other things, sparks local and global conversations that are possible only in the physicality of this pop-up village of people. Insulated as it might want to be in this urban oasis of a farmhouse, the Bollywood music next door only puts us back in context and reminds us that that this conversation could be very every day, everywhere.

The festival doesn't grow any bigger every year. It only triggers a million other UnBoxes that could potentially spring up in neighbourhood parks and street intersections every day; local surprises that we could unravel every day in our little big buildings, in our small city homes, in cities that could become large homes.


An hour later, out of that space, not listening to the same music, I was already disagreeing with what I had written.

Nostalgia is always exaggeration and never happens to everyone. I forgot about all my friends who have always lived in cities and found themselves at most ease here. And the point really is about the smallness of things, not the rurality or urbanity that they can be present in. Urbanity has a degree of intensity in all its activities that the village lacks. The ease comes together only because of the scale of operations.

I got the point quite wrong I think. ThankyouNitinSawhneyforthehoaxcalltoeldorado.

You can see the UnBox 2013 Zine here.

Update: Reshu says she liked the piece. She didn't know I had written it.