status of work on a timeline on #architecturalimagination / #architecturaltheory as #socialmedia campaign

a working draft

Isaac Mathew
34 min readMay 8, 2022

Social media in the recent past has distorted architecture as domain knowledge. Content consumed by most is a combination of second-hand opinions to learn skills and facts on various aspects of the construction industry. Who is an expert and what is the basis of their expertise is eroded on the open internet. Until the early 2000’s we had master architects today they no longer exist. What falls under the gamete of architecture knowledge is now in question especially since the information landscape we know today is a very different one from the immediate past. This index is an introduction to a survey, to map how architectural thinking has changed both in contemporary #indianarchitecture and through the work of select #architectural publishing practices. There are multiple ways to do narratives of book lists, how that will unfold is still subject to thought. What is #indianarchitecture? and what is #architecturalimagination in the context of #india are the two broad trajectories creating a network of ideas. Through the set of posts on a timeline and limits to a grand theory of making. A survey of an information landscape as a #socialmedia campaign. It is derived as a form owing to the material I have access to. A structured reading around ideas and findings based on an analysis of the material. The project started by trying to address gaps in knowledge on #architecturalresearch but has taken this now presented form of organizing a physical and digital library of #architectural books. Priority is given to first sorting the physical books read, and reviewed, on Instagram. Where available pdfs of documents, and books are accessed from project pages on the GitHub profile.

01on the production of contemporary Indian discourse. There is an overarching disparity in the understanding and knowledge of Indian architectural design theory. The reason for this is the lack of authoritative sources on the subject that are recognized. Since everyone is publishing, there is also unclarity on who is an authority. Indian architecture was political propaganda that became a theory for discussing spatial production in the country. Two state architecture exhibitions, Architecture in India 1985 and Vistara 1986 began the ideology. Research in architecture is relatively new and has its origins in reflective practice as developed by Donald Schön. This exercise first started as general reading and then it has taken a methodological turn as the number of books increased in the collection. The following is a structured display of a literature survey on Indian Architecture Design Publishing from 1985 to 2019. The book list builds to fill gaps in reading lists displayed during the State of Architecture 2016. I have left out the photo books and a couple here and there have gone out of print, which I am unable to acquire. The lot is an almost survey. The aim of the work is to trace how architectural design knowledge production has changed or evolved in the identified time frame. An Instagram photo feed is an enabling infrastructure to get a reaction on the collection and the found knowledge landscape. Seeing Indian architectural design discourse through its publishing is but a perspective on the subject. A chronology is maintained in the images but other than that for the sake of relative accessibility of the medium, the exercise is more about a display. Architectural knowledge is handed down from one generation to the next, as a model this exercise takes forward a conversation that began in a past. It is an exercise in imagining a past or the possibility of it. A version of history that directs its gaze on productivity rather than criticality. Identify the points of influence and lines of development of what we understand as #indianarchitecture.

02how contemporary indian architecture knowledge production works? If it was a longish essay I may have this quote to introduce positions if the old doesn’t leave the new will never arrive. Between the title and the quote, there are two parts of the problem statement the research is trying to address. What is the mechanics of contemporary Indian architectural knowledge production? and how has it changed/ evolved in time? The collection of books breaks a previous run of publications by the practice of Rem Koolhaas and OMA/AMO. If between ’85 and ’01 is a period of high theory in architecture, the time after according to Michael Speaks is the age of Design Intelligence, a paradigm shift in discussing the production of architecture. From a reflection of styles a dominant force of architectural thought in the late 20th century, the 21st is defined by information and its flows. Contemporary Indian architectural knowledge broadly shifts between these two epochs. In ‘21/’22 when design intelligence is now super design intelligence in the form of AI and the information age has now attained post-information status with the open-source blockchain infrastructure of cryptocurrency. It is in the context of attempting to map changing times in architectural design writing the collection tries to position a perspective. The 75year national Independence day celebrations will bring in a flurry of activity around nationhood, as a loose working list, the collection tries and absorb or react to the events around the country’s building practices. I borrow the trajectory from How Asia Works by Joe Studwell. It is an attempt to piece together how the imagined community that India is, is constructing its spatial landscape. Though knowledge is limited, interpreting it in absolutes is the problem to solve in times when there is a constant exponential influx of newer content questioning what was previously produced and considered as essential canon to learn from.

03 #indianarchitecture 8519 & #imagingindia 4722. Architectural research in the early 2000s as intelligence informed rethinking form and building type. This was the trend then. Almost around that time conservation planning picked up leading to broader discourses on urbanism and urban living. The ends of research are to excavate newer opportunities for design practice. Business development or kind of. Somewhere between the pursuit of new styles and business development to focus the gaze better. Conservation planning proposals generated work for conservation architects and as a result, developed the sub-domain. The research was also known as an activity to collect raw materials to develop ideas. Mostly in practice, professionally, and not academically. A significant paradigm shift is how professional research has gotten confused for an academic one. That is architectural research in a nutshell. Architectural theory on the other hand never made it into broader practice mandates since architects never read and very few articulated their ideas in writing. An idea of Indianness is postulated as just making it into the discourse very much by chance. Because this is the only indigenously developed architectural theory that has had a tangible impact on architectural production which is documented. Theory-making is not history writing. There have been significant trends in history writing to produce material that forms part of a knowledge landscape. Possibilities with the book’s lot are miscellaneous. Social media especially those which come under #indianarchitecture predominately addresses concerns with solving problems of academia and info-entertainment. I am treading a fuzzy line here by attempting a possible visual narrative on the progress of a theory. Publishing a while back was rigid. Social media feeds as a system of thought have made it almost a work in progress, akin to software. The book collection is an idea of possible studies, it is a structured bibliography creating a space to assemble direction to what #indianarchitecture has mutated into.

04 education vs practice, directions for architectural knowledge. It is about the role of research, history, theory, and criticism in architecture. Just an interim update from the previous post it is 8419 instead of 8519, #indianarchitecture between ten elections held between 1984 till 2019. Where does it all sit in the grand scheme of Indian things? What is the culture of knowledge production or what has a culture produced about its architecture? Architecture is a domain where there is not much distinction between what is learned in academia vs what is known on-site while in practice. College acclimatizes, and introduces a type of knowledge system defined by a syllabus. Practice builds on this broader ideology based on idiosyncratic practitioner mandates and the resultant patronage a practice receives. Research for projects, history for conservation, theory for trajectories, and criticism for strategic re-invention, all of which have very grounded professional use cases. A disjunct to address here, digital content streams have divided material distributed for the architectural student and for then for everyone else. #architecturestudent is a material state and consumption ecology #architecturalinternet has imagined. Somewhere somehow how both architecture offices and colleges that contribute to the #architecture content streams need a revision. The gap in the material available as #indianarchitecture 8519 is an extended objective of the study. As an extension from the early days of the internet what is understood as architecture has predominantly been western classical buildings and monuments from different lands. Architectural offices went live next with OMA/ BIG were one of the popular pre-social media practices. #architecture blogs, #architecture photography, #architecture youtube, #architecture social media, and recently #architecture skill development. If #architecturalinternet was a grand library, resources on #architecture research, history, theory, and criticism aren’t easily available, or it is mostly inaccessible. If there is to be a better societal imagination of the profession it is to first address these gaps.

05 constructing an imagination of architectural production. How do you define a profession in a country which doesn’t know anything about it? Not all the posts will have these articulations. Somewhere are concepts to keep track of, I note them here for reference later and build on them. At the moment all of these are working ideas. Architecture in India and Vistara, The Architecture of India begins a culture of conceptualization that will direct a perspective on contemporary spatial design in the country. Spearheaded by Raj Rewal and Charles Correa with the collaboration of BV Doshi, what is presented are two overlapping but distinct models. Both have an extended set of contributors but the broad narratives are tied together with work from the three practices based in Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Bombay. Rewal’s trajectory is done with a mandate to validate the French government’s role in helping build the new India by allowing the purchase of Le Corbusier’s services. It sees India from Chandigarh. The discourse is about finding an Indian spatial form, a regional spatial language. An answer they locate in monuments and places selected from different pasts and regions. The lens is tradition, Corbusier, and contemporary. Correa takes a more conceptual route in locating traditional spatial concepts and their implementation rather than places. It is followed up by how these are re-interpreted by contemporary practices. Interviews with Indian architects and their practices anchor the work. So here it is regional spatial concepts, contemporary translations of these concepts, and practice case study as an imagination of assembling Indianness. It is a Delhi and Bombay ’80s view about India, to put it crudely. Baker who plays a role in both is another viewpoint. To note architectural imagination is a very professional activity and is an aid in solving real problems.

06 attempts in tracing a history of an idea or #imaginingindia 4722. There are many methods today to construct the idea of Indianness, unlike in the recent past. The most accessible sources are Wikipedia and Amazon #india kindle ebooks. I would cite the exercise as a non-public-service examination, a lateral perspective to investigate India and the sub-continent it’s located in. Two essentials to begin the survey are Bipan Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence and Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi. It covers the time between 1857 to 2007, 150years of nation-building. An original imagination of India isn’t very feasible for this stage of the project. What I have access to are secondary and tertiary sources that give direction. These maps are from the Historical Atlas of India by Charles Joppen S.J. is such an example. It gets the idea out that what we know or understand as the nation was never the delineated version we have today but has evolved over millennia. archive. org is another public forum to source readings on the country. There is background historical material on history-making and Indian history that I have leafed through which aren’t listed for now. #imaginingindia tries to present only an argument for ways of seeing geography. Concentrating on accessible sources, the list directs energies to plan possible frameworks to consider Indian diversity as an ideology. Though understood at the time of Indian masters, #indiandiversity as a resource to produce #indianarchitecture isn’t developed. Methodologies to excavate a regional ideology and repurpose it to outline a local architectural design theory require updating. When you have a geography that is continually occupied, its spatial language to record aspirations, changes with each generation. Diversity can form the basis for imagining an Indian spatial knowledge system, recalibrating it to address the requirements of the day.

07 how does an Indian spatial knowledge system work? I have ‘time, place, technology, and patronage noted as working parameters to assemble a perspective framing a possible #knowledgesystem to conceptualize how #indianness could take form as. It is a calculated frame to read material sourced. #imaginingindia is a working collection of material from archive .org, Amazon #kindle ebooks, and Wikipedia. The crowd-sourced encyclopedia extends into as a resource and ebooks are thrown at you if you have any form of an Amazon account. What is an India we have access to that isn’t social media? YouTube I have added as a corollary. It recognizes in a long stretch the oral traditions of nationhood that we should be aware of. There are several source types for material access and survey but owing to the lack of resources for now they aren’t pursued. Deep dive into existing material arenas instead of tracking new ones and even material types. For maps, which ideally is the most non-negotiable component Survey of India is pointed at as a primary source. #india is an idea that is fuzzy in form. There are certain absolutes but those are definite perspectives. Thus here it is plausible to state all attempts in constructing a knowledge system are personal or mandate driven. I have slotted categories — travel, history, narrative, story, south, east, hills, islands, society, ideas, ecology, villages, and politics based on how the Amazon algorithm recommends books. Sourced incrementally last year type of books produced are for a generation, and mostly even from specific publishers. A knowledge system is a framework to extend a subject knowledge base, it is a study of a domain in its entirety with an objective to develop it. To navigate the diverse Indian landscape and identify its various cultures is the attempt of this sketch. The regional spatial knowledge system will evolve its trajectories of how the land is traversed in.

08 01/07 counting time in the discourse. Of the #knowledgesystem parameters identified (time + technology + patronage + place), time is the most unrecognized of the lot. Locating ideas in linear time is not done, as in there is never a system in place to map when a specific idea is introduced and its status today. #indianarchitecture 8419 is very much a then and now study of an idea that is assumed produced in ’84. Previously anything to do with #architecture in #india was published as monuments of a past by the British historian or the Archaeological Survey of India. It also contributed to the fine arts narratives of styles. The exhibitions changed the paradigm of the narrative and put #contemporary #indianarchitecture on the international stage. So what the now in #indianarchitecture theory is the question? #imaginingindia 4722 as a brief introduction only addresses, how an image of #indiandiversity has changed in time, hence what the perspective available to address the shifting landscape of #indian #architecturalimagination is. The markers selected to break the timeline are the Lok Sabah elections. In the last 35years, there have been 10 of them that have all changed our perspectives of the land we inhabit. On Twitter, there are threads to link conversations, here it is tricky, therefore, numbers as part of the header. Elections markers are five reverse chronologically listed events, from ’19 going back to ’84. The events are from Wikipedia YEAR in India pages, one each for every year. Lists there aren’t extensive so I have taken an approximate guess and picked the most significant for a year in relation to its impact on spatial design. Doing technology with a similar method is very possible but owing to this annual events are more accessible than the tech that updates its events for now. How the political landscape has changed in these years and thus patronage is the last of this linked set of posts. What we have of the place of discourse as a construct will get to at the end.

quantified time

09 07/07 what is this evolving knowledge landscape, system? These are stray thoughts for now on from two other knowledge systems, I am working on that could lead to this third one on #indianarchitecture. In the past, everything spatial was considered architecture. Then in the New Landscape as imagined by Correa in ’85 it became architecture and planning among education and #ideas. The domain locally started breaking down into interior design, graphic design, product design, conservation, and landscape architecture around the early 2000s. All these have had different forms of thinking about what architecture as a profession is. I started looking into knowledge construction with the KRVIA fellowship. #mumbaiopendata .org is a result of that. What is the Mumbai you get when a collection of information sets on it are assembled as a public platform online? The compiled information repository discussed Bombay-Mumbai of 2003 — ’17. As an archive/ repository, the site was online between 2012 — ’17. Contemporary #indianarchitecture readings assemble as a part of #museumofdesign .in, the project looking at #architecturalimagination. #mumbaiopendata is about constructing a regional imagination. What Mumbai and its region is the question the project is trying to answer. What is architecture is the question #museumofdesign directs its gaze towards. What is the knowledge system constructing an #indian #architecturalimagination, if I could be more specific? Thinking on Instagram develops as an extension of foundation ideas by K. Michael Hays. The imagination of #india as a construct has had various forms and the project addresses the imaginations of architecture within a specific epoch framed by 10 Lok Sabah elections, i.e. 1984–2019. This same model is transposable across time to measure imagination and therefore the analysis of the production of spatial strategies within a region. Time, place, technology, and patronage as parameters to address why knowledge about the disciple and therefore the profession has taken a particular form. To test this model as a hypothesis in #indian #architecturalimagination is the primary aim the project addresses.

10 directions for architecture, research, and practice. Somewhere between public scholarship, and practice + pedagogy, #architecturalresearch sits as a construct. Research is meant to create discourse and therefore increase public participation in spatial concerns that plague a community. I position these as working updates and notes. As a practice-based-research documentation #indianarchitecture 8419 tries to evaluate other grand narrative projects to address #indianness as a concern. It is interested in other methodologies and spatial perspectives of projecting #india. Not as a counter-narrative but as an alternative. This doesn’t try to compete but locates contexts to other formulations. I have built a book collection to outline a landscape. So it focuses on ideas. The other formats used to construct the public image of the #indianarchitect are the magazine, interviews or reflections on practice, and the institutional, private archive. Rather than the elusive what is accessible and what the material informs is an objective of the study. In the early days of #indianarchitecture, let’s assume that between ’84 and ’89 are the better happenings everyone abroad knows about. If the internet is also an archive of material on the profession what does that hold? With #imaginingindia we have created a lens to understand #indiandiversity. The next part of the problem is to build on that. Archaeological Survey of India readings from archive. org, Archnet’s developing world architectural gaze through Mimar, and Frampton’s critical regionalism is found as origins of the making of #contemporary #indian masters. In the post-information age, when material available isn’t a static repository but a constantly flowing stream, positions are fuzzy and subject to revision. Knowledge construction is distinct here. ASI Publications, #india Mimar, and Frampton discourses are proposals for further work. To track changes in #architecturalimagination from and of geography is an added trajectory of the investigation.

11 01/03 constructing architectural knowledge in archive .org/. Architectural libraries tend to have a pattern of collecting books and therefore accessing them. In most cases, they reflect, at least broadly in Indian architectural academia a framework outlined by coursework. Books pertaining to the syllabus are what it predominantly contains. If the school has a mandate that interprets the syllabus in a particular way then books will invariably reflect the construct. Irrespective of geography there are certain books that are considered essential reading. Then there is the bookseller that limits what is possible to buy. Architecture in an architecture library operates to facilitate a type of knowing about the profession. Now we have public libraries holding books about architecture among other disciplines. It occupies space in a specific self. archive .org/ is something like that. Finding books pertaining to architecture is a research problem in itself. What kind of material labeled #indianarchitecture is accessed via archive .org/ and its linked services. For now, only pdfs which are downloadable are considered in the project. This makes access to content from a specific period and type from the site. There are rare and interesting documents like `The Architecture Review, A Magazine of Architecture and Decoration. January 1931` available. Most though are from the Archaeological Survey of India’s publishing department. Those which I found on a preliminary search. Time of ideas is a curious state. Ways of seeing and methods of study are possible within specific periods owing to both patronage available and technology. The kind of knowledge produced within this time and therefore agency bear these traits. Types of books that contain accounts of architecture are guidebooks, history books, art style catalogs, and excavation site-specific documentation. Making of #indianarchitecture in the context submits a specific model of addressing spatial problem-solving. Travel between sites to tell how seeing architecture was decided based on the resources at hand.

12 02/03 origin stories of Indian master architects. So you have a type of readings found on archive .org/, imagining architectural making and its appreciation for a generation. The next open-access resource for #indianarchitecture is on archnet .org `a virtual repository dedicated to architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design, conservation issues, visual and material cultures, and other topics related to the built environment, with a focus on societies in which Muslims are or have been a significant cultural presence`. Like archive .org/ there are several sections and collections to browse and find material for access but for now, I have concentrated on a publication collection. This explains mandates `Mimar: Architecture in Development is first published in 1981 and has a print run of 43 issues, it is the only international architecture magazine focusing on architecture in the developing world and related issues of concern`. Both quotes I have modified. To note as far based on what is published #indianarchitecture in its contemporary discourse first is patronized and developed at Mimar. There is Marg and the Journal of the Indian Institute of Architects that is active but based on the buildings and concepts to show up in the ’85 and ’86 exhibitions, Mimar sets the stage to consolidate ideas for a generation. IAB, Indian Architect & Builder, starts around ’86. Correa, Rewal, and Doshi, in that order, receive the most spread with the occasional essay here and there of others practicing from the country. It’s that they may have removed the ad pages, or of the few complete issues available for download they are minimal, therefore a very clean layout is easy to read. It doesn’t particularly seem path-breaking. Either the publication was hyper-visionary for its times or we really as a profession not made much progress in the past 40 odd years. It is fitting, therefore, whenever Correa assembled his book the New Landscape all he saw was an opportunity for the profession to field.

13 03/03 locating Frampton in art while creating masters. Hal Foster is an art critic. The significance of Foster, at least here in context is how does architecture locate within an art discourse of a time. Early 1980s is pivotal in spatial visual culture. After that stressful biennale post-modernism in architecture is two factions of knowledge, projected as the icon and the local. Same movement different perspectives. To outline critical regionalism as fact, here as an anti-aesthetic it is a collection of six ideas. Culture and civilization, the rise and fall of the avant-garde, critical regionalism, and world culture, the resistance of place form, culture vs nature: topography, context, climate, light and tectonic form, and finally the visual vs tactile. Extended international style overlaid with a contextual interpretation of regional spatial building strategies. It’s the beginning of thinking of architecture as part of an immediate landscape, along with related the constraints that facilitate architectural making. From an isolated object which takes a form decided by its creator prescribing to a particular aesthetic style, architectural production is now a movement. Frampton and critical regionalism one could argue is the last of the artistic styles. Foster in the four books covers the end of modernism, introduces post-modernism, contextualizes critical regionalism, discusses deconstruction and minimalism. While pushing architecture as art, he has made its association with design obsolete. The cultural status of architecture has changed in the process. Foster locates Frampton, who in process locates Correa et al. as #india’s master architects. Pioneers of a generation. Practices those who show how to engage with a new landscape. The end of criticism and inadvertently theory is to assist in seeing a culture of production through newer frameworks of assemblage. With every update in seeing there is a simultaneous loss and gain in observing the world around us and the problems we subsequently solve. There is a then of seeing all of Foster, Frampton, and the #indianmasters. Where do we go from here?

14 planning conversations ’22 as the brand new landscape. Architectural discourse in the post-information age requires a new strategy. This tries to address possibilities. For now, I am tied between if it should be conversations ‘YY or annual conversations ‘YY. So there is #imaginingindia 4722, #indiancontemporarymasters 8489, #indianarchitecture 8419, and #internetindianarchitecture. Four GitHub repositories to compile. #imaginingindia 4722 addresses diversity as a construct to assemble and frame any discourse on spatial practices emerging from the country. #indiancontemporarymasters 8489 is a virtual collection of found material on the first generation of #indian #architects. It is found internet copies of Correa, Doshi, and Rewal’s work but if any others of the generation show up they are factored in as well. Some on Kanvinde and Baker also have made their way in. #indianarchitecture 8419 is a survey 36years of architectural design publishing. It is a timeline but how a discussion of the books ensures is organic as per current plans. #internetindianarchitecture is the brand new landscape of architectural knowledge production. It is a survey of different material states imagining #architecture from #india. Architecture theory and criticism were for a time and had specific methods to create the knowledge it created, today, the material produced is something else. Simple, aspirational simple, or accessible is what the creators like to call it. Post-critical, descriptions about the built environment at best. Schön’s reflective practice is the method everything will start with that. Reflection in archive. org/ and archnet/ Mimar on a before of #indianarchitecture becomes necessary, overlaid by Foster. How to map out the extent of the South Asia network is a research question in itself to address. It builds into ideas on Frampton’s critical regionalism via Foster’s notes on art and architecture. When does the business begin, where are its centers and what are the various ideas the construct has participated in. All a discourse on #indian #architecturalimagination for ’22.

15 frampton as a method on #indianarchitecture. It is probably because the first book I brought was Frampton’s 3rd edition of Modern Architecture. So if I was to define architecture it is on the imagination outlined. Frampton created a lens that builds on Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition, and the popularity of Donald Schön’s Reflective Practice. It expands on work done previously attempted in Space, Time, and Architecture by Sigfried Giedion and Theory and Design in the First Machine Age by Reyner Banham. One could argue Frampton’s work is an original second-hand derivate but his contribution lies in taking the conversation forward. Modern Architecture, A Critical History is now in its 5th edition. His work has also lasted the longest in comparison to historians before him. If an overview of how the time has changed its tracing change is made in the conclusions of the book. Chapters 6 and 7 in Part III, The critical assessment and extension into the present. Terms play a key role in tying the essays and creating a lens to read them. Taking them out of their context and moving them around, presents some possibilities for methods of discussing architecture. Architecture, according to Frampton is an idea, a part of an ongoing conversation on building practices around the world. He’s looked at a diversity of architectural strategies rather than those who have proposed or built them. Both of these have made the project more sustainable than any of the previous attempts. History is not meant for critical reading. Its recommended mandate is to record facts and events. For Frampton, the record and discussion of buildings is an attempt to show how a particular strategy reacts against the cultural stain of the period it was built in. #indian accounts, the popular ones have focused mostly on patronage and why buildings got built a certain way. We will get to that.

16 the imagination of architectural canons. There is chatter that grand narratives of architecture are biased or have left people and ideas out. History has displaced several from the times they contributed in. There are multiple points of view to address this, what these are but a sketch. I don’t have some of these tombs or series, since they are very expensive and clunky. Canon’s are standards, or so I understand that define, for architecture, what architecture is. It lists a set of case studies, and precedents to form templates to imagine further strategies. We are all taught architecture from a canon. Fletcher and Ching are not the only historic surveys out there but since they have reproducible drawings they are used for class. Architects before the modern era had pattern books for inspiration for columns and decorations, it is from that tradition, that history building surveys came about. Then there were guides and travel books. The canon whatever we have today is a relatively new knowledge product and consumed mostly in academia. Modernist, vernacular, and contemporary surveys all owe their history to pattern books and catalogs of an era. Architectural guide books have a history in travel route guides. If you went visiting places you needed to know which were the cool sites to see. Travel is also a mandatory learning requirement for architects. So a mutated travel guide and pattern book is the contemporary canon, kinda. Canons have got to do with the teaching of ideas and strategies rather than persona’s and their practices. The listed are the popular ones but broad canon-making categories remain. Across urban design, urban planning, landscape architecture, and even architecture theory canons come as compilations, essential readings. Interior design builds on trends. There is a rigidity that canons as instruments employ, which must be seen as such. The imagination of architecture would vary across authors and how they prefer to assemble a narrative on the subject.

17 an inquiry into the making of canons. A premise that the current South Asian dialogues suggest is the decolonization of canons. The question then immediately arises, what is a canon? What are the uses of making one? Any designer irrespective of the subdomain refers to catalogs of everything for inspiration. Canon is in principle a catalog, possibly of different building styles. It is a catalog of various spatial ideas or strategies from different places and times. World canons of architecture as knowledge products are understandably western but to have Indian or anything in the sub-continent inscribed simply to garner recognition isn’t very useful. India itself is a very diverse landscape and those architects who have had an impact have dominated the scene for a while. Before we try and locate our ideas elsewhere, what is the status of buildings and architectural practices here unaccounted for? If a history of architecture from India is written, what form should it take? What are the resources available to rewrite the history of Indian architecture? What is the imagination of #indianarchitecture if it was traced from the beginning of time till date? What is the knowledge landscape we have on the subject? Till now Indian architecture has had a western textbook and notes about contemporary modern practices from the work of masters. Custodian of monuments in India is the ASI/ Archaeological Survey of India promotes a version of building practices and production which is distinct from art publications of the early 20th century and contemporary practices. Then there is the CoA/ Council of Architecture too. To truly contribute to a global discourse retracing a regional narrative is appropriate and possibly sustainable. A local iteration before the global is questioned.

  • An agency missed in the set is INTACH whose working mandates create the possibility of addressing alternate canons that they think work for them. City and country architectural guides have their own systems. If there are specific other conservation agencies then the structures that act as models defining their work also take alternate forms. The argument here is, that the canon is never fixed as an instrument and is subject to the specific positions of agencies and their aspirations.

18 a gap in the #indianarchitecture narrative. The work of Christopher Alexander misses all canons and theory compilations. It is not deliberate but he doesn’t fit the categories defined by a type of book. He finds a place in studies on computation and architectural design but that too is an uncomfortable association. Alexander’s original process formulation of patterns doesn’t produce the urban icon’s deconstruction facilitates. Ideas that exist outside of the canon as in this case can shift the paradigm of how we understand constructed knowledge landscapes. From what I have till now Alexander’s notes have their origins in Saurashtra, the west of Ahmedabad. That is where he does his fieldwork which becomes his Ph.D. dissertation. Around 1961 he was in the country. His other Indian collaboration is with B.V. Doshi. The paper is titled Main Structure Concept: A Role for the Individual in City Planning. Published in the June of ’64 it is an edited lecture given in ’62. To observe, Alexander is one of the earliest contemporary architects to publish scientific papers. Even though it is credited to Doshi, the tone is very much Alexander. It describes a conversation about overlapping concerns on #indian rural spatial organization and urban, institutional design. For now, there is nothing more about the association mentioned anywhere else than this. The discussion critiques the profession even then by stating there is no actual need for architects since their only contribution to society is spatial problem-solving. All of Alexander’s work is an attempt to fine-tune the assembly of spatial organizing patterns and make them accessible to non-architects. Patterns take a western turn when it becomes a language but there is some definitive future that was planned in the past which got buried in the detritus of time. There is no evidence of Alexander in India after that but using his ideas to rethink regional discourses is a welcome, found opportunity.

19 locating alexander in #india. Addressing work produced by Alexander and the Centre for Environmental Structure is a distraction. To completely survey the extent of work and its access on the internet, a map of material distributed is necessary. Alexander’s work is important to synthesize as a whole but what actual potential it has, requires review. If his first project wasn’t in the country this discussion wouldn’t have come up. Between ’61 and ’62 he worked on the Bavra master plan and a school, his first project. Alexander’s writing about his work is not your contemporary texts which describe or propose spatial strategies. They are descriptions of what he did and at times how. At Bavra he assembled a domed structure that became a school. His learning was to invent a way of making based on the limited resources available to him at that time. The early days of Alexander are but a phase of his thinking. His Ph.D. and work in India are where his ideas begin. It develops to A Pattern Language, builds with The Nature of Order, and concludes at The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth. There are several publications that orbit around these times. Around twenty-three books based on the present count and access. Books by others directly build on his thinking account for the fifth layer of #readingalexander. He did get a lot of flack for the Notes on the Synthesis of Form which is difficult to understand or apply without a background in mathematics. This puts his #india phase in a conundrum. There are also multiple layers of thought informing the various phases of production by him. A question that immediately comes up is, is there an India-centric trajectory here in his theories? Is working on his ideas relevant for present-day discourses on regional spatial knowledge production?

20 alexander in the metaverse and other imaginations. There are 16 books #alexander has produced between 1963 and 2012. This is among papers, reports, and lectures that make up the entirety of intellectual output. Alexander’s pursuits are predominantly to identify patterns of synergy between man and nature but the questions he has tried to address are not of interest to most architects. First, Alexander is a mathematician. The average architect doesn’t know all that much math. Reading his early work is difficult. Second, the built work he produces doesn’t have the aesthetic to draw significant interest. He is also a building contractor which puts him in a different position than most practices. The aim of his publishing pursuits is to make accessible strategies that anyone can implement. Theoretically at-least. If that Eisenman — Alexander ’82 interview is re-visited the editorial note outlines an unfolding of trends. The world we know, the architectural one, is more Eisenman than Alexander. Alexander appeals to most programmers and scientists since his propositions perform and tend to address their technical anxieties. It has the right, for lack of a better word format to formulate computer programs. This, I glean from the tech chatter. A framework to think what is virtual spatially, into coherent wholes. It was in 2011 that Marc Andreessen exclaimed Software is eating the world. Even then our collective dependence on tech was limited but today we are on the threshold of almost total dependence on digital technologies. I borrow a proposition from Molly Wright Steenson’s 2017 Architectural Intelligence, here owing to Alexander’s past of inspiring virtual environmental designers, #patternlanguage is the bridge where programmers and architects meet. Alexander’s later ideas are also simple enough for the chaps to not grumble about it as archispeak. Then there is a possibility that the master plan for the metaverse as a virtual #patternlanguage procedurally informed is workable.

21 notes of the beginning till an end of a time. I cite this as a sketch. To summarise it is possible to consider a time loop between Alexander’s village dissertation and Koolhaas’s Guggenheim show. The 1960s are fun. Origins of all, even Schön should stem from the decade. Then there is the revolution in the May of ’68. Rem made popular the virtual in architecture, that is how we get AMO. The research was a way to contribute to a landscape by locating, ideally a critical position on it. As a screenwriter by training, he started his career writing scripts. His texts and his buildings are positioned as narratives, and screenplays almost. Rem sold his buildings as blockbuster offerings where even S is XL. Between the metropolis in 1978 to the hinterland of 2020 spans a practice that influences an architectural culture of a time. It is Alexandra Lange who brings Christopher and Rem together in her review of big architectural books on curbed .com as Overdue books. She stops at that. Curiously both have 16 books published, Rem can definitely go more but publishing patterns remain almost similar. Christopher goes from the village to the planet between 1962 and 2012, an almost similar time frame as well. Like Rem, Christopher has a cult following albeit among programmers and scientists. The ’60s were about design methods that changed form into architectural research in the late ’90s and early 2000s. The practice of architecture as a theory then is repurposed. #indianarchitecture 8419 sits within #alexanderkoolhaas 6121. Rem has even lesser points of contact in #indianarchitecture since he has actively avoided #southasian discourse at large. He is part of the Eisenman network too. With the 60years identified what are the significant contributions to guide a future?

* addendum 01.

material repositories, in progress and anticipated / #socialmedia as #zettelkasten3. The aspiration of making booklists available is to have a discussion around #architecture history, theory, and criticism. For now, these lists make up for two parts of the project. All of these are accessed from the projects link, what is completed and those planned sometime later after what’s started is sorted. GitHub is reliable and sustainable at least presently when compared to the other publishing services. The structure of the lot builds on how ideas are developed and incrementally revised. #imaginingindia 4724 is a sketch and its aspiration is only to make a kindle and archive .org reading list on #india which could extend to videos. #indianarchitecture 8419 is the main project in progress surveying a landscape of a publishing timeline between 10 elections. #indiancontemporarymasters 8489 tries to source documents of work of masters while #internetindianarchitecture maps the virtual regional publishing landscape accessed by the profession today. You have a larger project and three subsets to think this frame. #architecturalimagination overlays ideas making up #indianarchitecture. The full extent of this I still need to get to. It would comprise on the books which I have physically and what I can source to make up for some gaps. 4784 and 1924 of #indianarchitecture is further research subject to funding. #architecturalimagination traces how #designmethods became #architecturalresearch. Key history, theory, and criticism readings bridge this narrative. For now, #indianarchitecture links with #architecturalimagination are and this is subject to progress. Hashtags are a way to adapt to newer thinking frameworks created by the modern note-taking #toolsofthought and extend the framework into social feeds as a site for building as well as refining the concept. You could call it an #architectural digital garden, or a zettelkasten but on #architecture #socialmedia. How can an #architecturaltheory feed become #zettelkasten3 in 2022?



  • #alexandermethods6212
  • #koolresearch7820

* addendum 02.

architectural culture and knowledge work on #socialmedia 2.0. It is plausible to propose the futures of all creative practices of today are decided by social media co-corporations and their algorithms. Early days of AutoCAD, the R14 and 2000, digital was a tool and an extension of replicating hand drawing. Software updates added tools and improved features. CAD technology began shifting to BIM around 2009ish. 2014ish social media events starts becoming popular, for eg. the ISRO Mars Missions were more popular on Twitter than on ground/ space. The then #indian election too is a significant phenomenon online. Pre-#socialmedia era, the blogging platforms generated and discussed most content labeled as #architecture. From blogger to medium as applications, timeframes for the type of material produced as blog posts were 2000–2013ish. Internet of the time is all web 1.0 very text-based with some videos. To note here Bjarke/ BIG becomes popular owing to their early video presentations found online. #socialmedia made the internet, web 2.0 but then it was not the marketplace we know of today. It is tedious to trace how various platforms have iteratively upgraded but what we have at the moment only looks social. There are more ads and more content types to consume, customized based on our likes, shares, and subscriptions. Even though there is resistance to the idea, #socialmedia is more utilitarian now since business is conducted on them. In the 2.0 version of #socialmedia, Web 2.5, everything is sold 24x7. Design knowledge which was consumed mostly from books is now articles, threads, podcasts, or videos. Trending posts, influencer profiles have the same value as some books and authors against the advertising revenue they generate. AI translation services also facilitates content consumption in any language in the world. The problem statement, therefore is, what is #architecturalimagination in this new arena of transactions? What lens do we form to spatial knowledge consumption trends?


when everything is #socialmedia. The early days of CAD were spent sorting the difficulties of drawing by hand. It was pretty mundane. We didn’t design directly on CAD but translated ideas from paper onto the screen and then printed them out. It almost also looked very hand-drawn too though subject to hatch patterns applied. A shift happens with SketchUp where design solutions are directly assembled within the application without really needing to think on paper. Cultures of making dictate how solutions are addressed, more free-form meant Rhino became popular next. Again it’s the culture you have access to and its preferences dictating making. Photoshop rendered sheets came right after, and now you have scripting and Blender is becoming a range. From V-Ray then today it’s Lumion and Photoshop. None of these trends are developed from within academia but by students on various #socialmedia platforms, consuming and producing within ecosystems of exchange. Learning of architectural drawing, renderings and now scripting are all social. These exchanges redraw a planning-centric workflow/ 2d to a form-based/ 3d and presentation culture of knowledge creation. The 2016 Dezeen Hot List is a significant moment when the most popular practice has the most popular presence on the internet. #koolhaasresearch at a time was the most significant publishing practice offline. Appropriately ZHA and BIG are the most influential practices online and therefore in extension on #socialmedia. They are popular because their work is appealing on-screen, almost as Koolhaas was on print. #socialmedia has streamlined all knowledge into post types distributed as an infinite feed. Previously we had attention spans. Continuos swiping between, images, reels, videos, memes, opinions, announcements, and now ads, at times even two between all of them to keep us focused is a daunting task. When the architectural book is now the #socialmedia media feed or a MOOC lecture what is the future of architectural thought?

methodology reference

  • writings and lectures of James Elkins as a publishing practice

content note

  • posts on social media are the first draft of the index, subsequent updates here and on substack have minor edits and proofs



Isaac Mathew

i think #architecture #art #planning #design #engineering