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  • Tejashrii Shankarraman

Skyscrapers

Hello and welcome back after a long period of dormancy.

Huge cultural shifts on the personal front (I’ve moved across the world for further education) and I’ve been wondering how to address this schism on the blog too.

So for starters, let me tell you that I am loving the opportunity to sit in a building filled with diversely passionate architects for the next two years.

Rory

Yes. This is exactly me. Except its about books and buildings. (Embracing the inner nerd)


So it’s been just over a month of school here and I found a fitting topic to bridge my past flow of thought with this shift – Skyscrapers ! (Yes, I get how random it sounds so far, but hold on)

We’re learning about Rem Koolhas’s manifesto for New York (Delirious New York – lovely book I am geeking over) and it has really opened my eyes to ideas that legitimize skyscrapers.

To give some more context, coming from India, you’re exposed to the ideals of Correa and Doshi, who believed in horizontal growth and autonomy by means of this horizontally expanded human ecosystem(Eg. Doshi’s ideas for self-sustaining small cities). Correa especially detested the skyscraper – to him, the greater the distance to the ground, the higher the disconnect with it (something that he believed Indians thrive on).

Rem presents a lovely antithesis/paradox to this. The greater the physical disconnect with the ground, the closer you are to air and the sky. This is not to say he legitimizes the skyscraper or advocates FOR it through this paradox, but it is what it is. Rem has an unbelievably matter of fact perspective on the skyscraper – It exists because there is a need and there is definitely a capital gain aspect to it. (embrace your inner capitalist !) He places no moral burden on the skyscraper, no rules of the past for it to abide by and allows it the liberty of being an entirely independent entity.

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OMA/Koolhaas, Shenzhen Stock Exchange (2013). [Photo by Joshua L]; Reproduced from placesjournal.org

For those interested in learning more about Rem’s thinking – read ‘Bigness’, available at https://politicshyperwall.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/koolhaas-rem-bigness-1994.pdf

Looking at the skyscraper away from any imposition of values allows us to perceive it as an architectural tool. Let’s face it – India is in a capitalist era right now, people are building towers whether we like it or not and we genuinely do not have the physical space to accommodate 1 billion people horizontally. So then, the autonomous values of ‘Bigness’ can be adapted to the Indian tower/skyscraper and how it can be used to address our pressing issues of density. We need to free ourselves from the moral binary of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and focus on the efficiency of the skyscraper to solve our immediate problems.

I do not condone most of the towers that we have in India today – blind to context, climate, experience. I am saying that we need to embrace this idea and redefine what experience of this tower we want our inhabitants to have – this is where culture, Indian tradition, Indian forms of socialization, etc. will play a big role. We need to look at India in 2019, for it’s problems as it is and address with tools of 2019 duly bolstered by the insights of our past. There is SO much logic to why Indians do certain things that end up becoming traditions (No, not superstitions, but the logical ones) and we need to learn from them.

The reason why Correa and Doshi were successful was because they responded to the problems of THEIR time and we need to actively define for ourselves the problems of OUR time. (Correa still tried to redefine a tower in his time – Kanchenjunga Apts ! )

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Kanchenjunga Apts; from archdaily.com


And with that, I come to the end of my first cross-continental insight. If you made it this far, well, thanks for that. You might as well go and read ‘Bigness‘ now.

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