Thursday, 22 February 2007

Masters of Timeless Architecture

Lomas Rishi Cave, Barabar Hill. Bihar 

ARCHITECTURE, LIKE POETRY, is now a branch of humanities. Architecture – good or bad, classical or vernacular – is a source to read prehistoric, ancient or modern cultures for the archaeologists and anthropologists, besides other disciplines.

The people of ethnic communities have the understanding and autonomy in their vernacular architecture, which also had been the source for classical styles (in music, e.g., the Late Pt. Kumar Gandharva).

The same may not be the case for the modern (mass) society that occupies modern architecture, a by-product if industrial revolution, which may be a cause for disillusionment, and physical and mental maladies that is not fully investigated.

Architecture, among the academia, is a holy cow, by aphorisms such as: “Architecture is mother of all arts”. In practice, market seems to be mother of all arts!

Indeed all shall pass away. Then what is timeless even while I am alive?

Tukaram is people’s beloved saint-poet of Maharashtra. I met him in my childhood at my native village through oral tradition. Later I met Kabir of North India: both centuries later.

There is a story, or perhaps a myth: Tukaram’s ‘Gatha’ – the collection of his poems – was thrown in the River Indrayani by the high caste Hindus. However it comes afloat untouched by water. The truth is that his poems have survived in the river of time to meet the ocean of millions of people. Myths have enduring meanings.

Kabir says he cannot read and write, but certainly he is ‘bahusruti’, meaning ‘well-heard’, an equivalent of ‘well-read’ for the literate. Both speak in vernacular tongues.

Both are rebels, but not discontented. All creative action is rebellious but all rebellions are not necessarily creative. They both practice and speak freedom while living a family life. Their poetry gives joy and courage to the multitude of downtrodden and the exploited, and helps them to liberate themselves. Truly they are masters in true sense, and their poetry has the quality of timelessness.

Are there any masters or works of timeless quality IN ARCHITECTURE? Fortunately I met two, for example.

One is Lomas Rishi Cave, carved in a solid rock in a hill, which stands for millennia. It was built by a community of artisans, not by slaves. Entering in the Cave is entering in the womb of the Earth: Death occurs followed by rebirth. Once you are inside you could hear your heartbeats and you are led to a profound silence: the chattering of mind stops.

House of Tetya Nusa Koli, Satpura Ranges, India

House of Tetya Nusa Koli, Living Room seen from Cattle Shed

House of Tetya Nusa Koli, Panihara - Water Place
Another is a tribal house in the Satpura Ranges. Tetya Nusa Koli, has his bamboo house built with community participation, of course, as is customary. Fragile that it may look it has ability to stand an earthquake. The house has lived for millennia in remote antiquity by regeneration.

The Cave must have been an experience for the artisans who worked for several thousand man-days as it was materializing, for their families, and the people in the following centuries. Tetya’s ancestors must have rebuilt the house during last ten thousand or more years, but surely without strictly imitating the lines of the previous one, or may not have built it in the same place. The humble bamboo house regenerates from time to time.

On each event of meeting them I am reminded of my childhood experience. I started learning to write on a slate. I write and wipe the slate clean to write again, and again every time. There is neither an attachment to whatever was written, it is lost, because what is learnt is inscribed in the body, mind, psyche, brain, and practice.

The Cave and the tribal house have similar plans. There is outer chamber / room for the community, and an inner chamber for meditation / preparing food and for confinement that are sacred actions. Both have, as if assumed, a concrete form the poetry by Tukaram and Kabir, which have an outer / gross level of matter, and inner / higher level of spirituality, religiousness.

Tukaram, Kabir, the Cave, the tribal house have roots in the antiquity, and they are our archetypes – ‘collective unconscious’ as Jung says, or ‘deep structures’ as Noam Chomski says – embedded in our psyche. Thus they have the proven quality of timelessness. None of them are not after any official recognition.

Industrial civilization, by its money and military powers, has robbed and plundered the resources of other societies, other living beings, and the earth. It has invented laws of Copyright / Intellectual Property Rights to protect their wealth built on the stolen resources, and is continuously engaged in warfare, directly or indirectly, visible or invisible, under various garbs. Modern architecture too is built out of the plundered resources of the earth that rightfully belong also to other living beings.

In the wave of industrialization who could predict the future of these that face the danger of ‘mining’ through the means, such as ‘development’ and ‘multimedia’, with their onslaught on body and mind that takes place without a moment’s hesitation? Who knows if we would go through a genetic change in the changed environment? Perhaps a cultural / moral / patriotic brigade might try to conserve them in the urban jungle of World Wide Web in virtual reality for the occasional quotes and comments, for the intellectual kicks, in the scholarly treatises, duly protected by Copyrights.

Otherwise, all architecture (Remember Buddha’s statue in Afghanistan that was destroyed!), including the so-called modern architecture born in the West, is perishable (e.g. Imperial Hotel in Japan by Frank Lloyd Wright), and even though Tetya’s bamboo house has possibility of regeneration… It is believed, ‘Word’ is ‘AKSHAR’ – imperishable. At present, most of us – the illiterate, and even the literate – continue to go by the word of mouth!

Remigius de Souza
(25-5-1998) 19-02-2007

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Remi’s Nightmare

Remi’s Nightmare
by Remigius de Souza

I run, run, run at a great speed.
And I think I cover a great distance.
After a while I start seeing around.
My wristwatch shows the hour-hand,
Minute-hand and second-hand are moving.
So I think I am moving with time.
What’s time?

I see there’s some kind of light,
But there’s no shadow – my shadow.
There’s no dusk or dawn, no day or night.
I see I’m running on an enormous wheel
That’ suspended in a great void endless.
Slowly I look I’m on the edge,
On the same spot in prehistory
Though running for a long, long time –
Machine time!

Then I notice the wheel I’m running upon;
It’s rotating at constantly great speed,
My body runs in opposite direction
By homeostasis and keeps herself up.
Shaken Remi wakes up sweating profusely,
In his nightmare rediscovers wheel
In post-historic time!

Remigius de Souza

Sunday, 18 February 2007

The flame above dirt and debris

The flame above dirt and debris

Sheetal had been with us.
We, you and I, have been growing together all these years.
We, you and I, know too well
that our education is incomplete.
We must realise that,
in form and context, in space and time,
our schooling has been outdated and obsolete.
Education, whether it is general or specialised,
is lame and invalid in real life,
unless it becomes universal.
Sheetal is not amongst us any more.
Her death, howsoever inevitable,
pricks us like a thorn in ours hearts and souls.
In her death she has taught us a priceless lesson.
She, with many – too many – others, is a victim
of this obsolete education.
Neither all of us are less victimised.
As professional and specialists and the citizens
we must learn
before long
to look beyond our eyelids
and must get rid of blinkers.
In this there is the beginning,
at any time
in universality.
Sheetal has outgrown and outlived all of us
in her death.

Remigius de Souza

(Homage offered to Sheetal Shroff whose budding life was snapped on 16-9-1997 in the collapse of Poonam Chambers, Worli, Mumbai. Sheetal was student of Final Year Architecture at Academy of Architecture.)~~~~

Remigius de Souza
69/243 S B MARG MUMBAI 400028 INDIA.

Friday, 16 February 2007

V V Mod First World (2 Poems)

1) Identity crisis

Remi! Carry ID here —
Even natural death
A crime.

* * *

2) Beautification

Mod fancy eye glasses
Diamond studded bras
Embellish mortified

* * *
(Dedicated to Shiv, the great god of destruction on Mahashivratri.)

Remigius de Souza
16 Februrary 2007

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Modern Building Technology that failed

Modern Building Technology that failed
by Remigius de Souza

SINCE LAST SIXTY YEARS of Independence, with progress and development in India, the institutes of learning and Agency have failed to solve the aggravating problem of the houseless, besides food. There are 100 colleges of architecture, many more institutes of engineering and a few elitist Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). None of them have carried any research or research projects, which form their curriculum, relevant to this growing malady. None of them have tried to impart skills and technologies to the public that remain in the safe custody of the experts, like Holy Scriptures are held by ‘purohits’ – the priests.

However they failed to design a house, which is equivalent in quality to that of tribal house design, and the tribal skills, used by half-naked tribals. None of the experts, specialists, builders, contractors, either in collaboration or individually, have been able to evolve skills and design for a house on a condition that it could last for a designed period of 5 – 10 – 15 or 20 years, which recovers its cost in the due time, and dismantled or recycled, at the end of period without loss of money or materials, without damaging the environment and ecology, that is energy-wise, to be built again as desired by a householder like any ethnic vernacular tribal house. None even thought of it.

In the industrialised mass education during 5 to 10 years of professional courses the aspirants are spoon-fed to produce homogenised projects. From K.G. level to university, the formal mass education at any stage fails to liberate the students who are tied to the shackles of status quo; forget about awakening some social responsibility; they are periodically assessed by the system by grading and degrading. They also are groomed to find the answers from the text / scriptures written by other mortals rather than thinking on their own to see the problems and to find answers – to maintain the status quo i.e. to obey an authority.

See More

Remigius de Souza
Postal Address: 69, 3rd floor 243 S.B Marg Mumbai 400028 India

Friday, 2 February 2007

End of an Era


End of an Era

Zero or illusion?
Each time turned back to notice —
Fissured cursed land:
The end of one era nearing.

(Translation by the author from the original Marathi text)