by Vladimir Belogolovsky Dec 02, 2020
On one cloudy day, at the STIR gallery in New Delhi, India, the conversation between Prof. Anne Feenstra and Gautam Bhatia traversed into their journey as thinkers, as they discussed the current pandemic situation and what appears to be the way ahead for the architectural fraternity. The conversation titled, ‘Fable, Truth and Rendition’, took into account their own explorations in the field of architecture and their diverse realisations. Moderated by STIR Founder and Editor-in-chief Amit Gupta, the talk presented a holistic perspective of the profession of architecture pointing towards the ideas of: curiosity and pro-activeness, craftsmanship, an artist’s affair with sketches, pedagogy in architecture, and the use and misuse of space.
Prof. Anne Feenstra is an architect and educator who is sensitive to the local environment and has worked in several cities across the world, including Kabul, Ladakh, Punjab, New Delhi, Paris and many others. He is a recipient of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture 2012 (Paris) and the former Dean of Architecture at CEPT University in Ahmedabad. He has also taught at SPA Delhi, as well as in Kabul and Kathmandu. Prof. Feenstra currently runs a practice named Sustainable Mountain Architecture (SMA) in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based artist, curator, author and architect. He expresses a peculiarity through his humorous and satirical sketching and writing. Bhatia graduated in the Fine Arts and further went on to receive a Masters degree in Architecture from the United States of America. He has received several awards for his drawings and buildings and has written extensively on architecture. He has authored a biography on architect Laurie Baker and also books such as Punjabi Baroque, Silent Spaces, Malaria Dreams (a trilogy that focuses on the cultural and social aspects of buildings) and Lie: A Traditional Tale of Modern India, among others.
At the STIR gallery, the conversation began with both expressing the respect and admiration they have for each other and their work. “The way you think Gautam, and are able to express yourself with your skills, talent and experience, is fantastic and highly inspiring,” mentioned Prof. Feenstra. The two further discussed how having ‘curiosity’ is very important in the profession of architecture, especially for students and young professionals. Going forward, the idea of craftsmanship and its role in local communities was deliberated upon, while Bhatia asserted, “The more you assert your private identity in the building, the more mistrust you create within the local community”. Prof. Feenstra further mentioned of his work in Bamyan, Afghanistan while Bhatia discussed his early interactions with clients and what peaked his interest in writing about architecture and sketching. Later during the conversation, Feenstra reminisced his interaction with late architect Revathi Kamath and how a drawing from her that he highly admires was presented to him at an exhibition in New Delhi, while explaining one project in a consolidated and holistic manner.
Further dwelling into the notion of pedagogy and its relevance in architecture, the two gentlemen exchanged their views on the legacy of Laurie Baker, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Rabindranath Tagore and Le Corbusier. Referencing to a quote by a French diplomat, Patrick Bouchain, Feenstra mentioned, “Our role as architects, is to be the curator of the spaces we already have,” stressing on the appropriate use of spaces, the concept that today holds more relevance than ever. Concluding on a suggestive note, Feenstra also offered a set of guiding principles that can be used and applied to buildings in higher altitudes.
The dialogue brought powerful and intimate realisations that the two thinkers have experienced and shared over their years of practice, bestowing in-depth insights into the profession of architecture, its current state and what to expect as we move forward.