Landscape Design

It was dry as bone and hot. About a 30 minute drive from town was a 250 acre piece of land near Bavla, which is NW of Ahmedabad. The soil was saline; but what was really worrying was the water. This is the land where ancient sea beds were meant to be; its barely 50 kms from the ancient river linked port of the Indus Valley port city of Lothal. The water is saline; the TDS close to 20000 ppm; which those who know , know how bad that is ( Sea water is around 30000 ppm); and to make matters worse, the water  was close to the  surface which meant that roots of any plants  that came in contact with that salinity would be affected adversely. Add to it; the site…
For too long when it comes to say office spaces, or housing projects , the motivation behind installing a landscape is often the ticking of boxes; Children’s play space- yes; Gathering green; yes; Amphitheater ; yes, Jogging track; yes. Then it  really does not matter how that is expressed, or subsequently even used. Office spaces have it tougher. There usually is very little space. A drive way; maybe a small podium; and the programme often nonexistent. This leads to many a good piece of architecture, ending up with a rather messy and indifferent landscape as a handmaiden. In Upper Worli , the landscape for rather handsome building by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners (PCF), was suffering an inglorious fate. It was a combination of reasons; an indifferent design effort, coupled…
Tim Richardson is the rather brilliant and knowledgeable landscape writer from England; and has to his credit some of the most respected titles in Landscape Architecture. Many years back he did a book called Futurescapes ( Thames and Hudson) where he showcased 50  practices from across the globe that he had researched for a long time and believed  were valuable to the definition of the profession. We were one of them. And now is the delightful book again by Thames and Hudson, where he picks  37  practices across the globe and examines how these firms think and draw. The introduction by Tim.            Its delightful to be amongst some names that we have heard or known about; like Gustafson Porter and Taylor-Cullity Lethlean, and also see…
Mazar of Mirza Ghalib ; Delhi. “And do it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut might say” To which I asked , “ Ever liked Puckoon? Spike Milligan? 1960s; I think you will” And to which he said “ Yes” That was a few days back. I am staring at about 35 mails from him in the last three months. Its the most  he has talked to me- ever. And now he wont. After an indifferent  five years in an architecture college I joined the programme in Delhi in the late 1980s. It was a musical chairs, with Heads coming and going. Insanity and instability was  what it was. I decided to put my head down and really work and blanked the world out for the two years there. The only time…
Exhibition on Indian Landscape Design; Call for Research Assistants. A few years back with friends we had mounted an effort called A  Million Gardens; while we did not really go through with it to the extent that we could have, it was a very valuable endeavor and at least allowed us to restate , and investigate the meanings today of the gardens of the past, and more importantly try and define what constituted a garden in the Indian context. This led to a lecture that was well received, and that then became a LEAF document. What this did ,was plant the germ of an idea that since has recurred often, demanding that this topic be given better attention. Beginning from May 2015 for 6 months we plan to invest energy…
Baring Our Soul- “  Forest for the trees;Trees for the Forest” – The Monograph. The office likes to publish; we do this with some reticence while distributing what we publish, but we publish with a fervor that is rare. All presentations become booklets, all studies become booklets, lectures find themselves in a printed form, and then of course there are a few books that we have lent energies on. Over time this has led many people to suggest that we do a book on the office. It started with a few friends egging us, and then we found the suggestions coming in from good publishing houses. “ Do a book on the Million Garden initiative” “ Do a book on landscape design” “ Do a book on just the idea…
In 1993; a few years after I had just started work, with some landscape experience and really no architectural experience, a client who I had done a residential landscape asked me to visit a land he had near town. It was barren. Completely. But had two majestic mango trees on it; the rest of the large land sun scorched and bare.  He wanted to build on it a place to sit; that's all- and did not want to spend much money. I remember seeing the trees, and deciding that I had to build somehow engaging them. The branches were low , and so I finally sunk the ground around it, and built at a diagonal, between the two trees, so as to not disturb the branches. And since the ground…
The idea of identity in emerging urbanity is a difficult one. With clone like relentless growth , the new urbanity of India has no soul, no character, and no sense of personality. Arguably , to deal with both, the idea of this scale and pace in any other way seems difficult. Either we should build slowly, or we should build less- or perhaps there is another way- one that has not been developed till now. Till we find a better way to build, how does one find the expression of the human spirit, build an idea of identity, and more simply bring a smile to  people's faces, in the new supplanted urbanity, they call homes. The studio was recently confronted with a small space, measuring 3700 sq.mts, in the middle on 500 middle income housing flats.…
Near Haji Ali in Mumbai is a new office building. As are many in big cities, at least from the distance, there is little to distinguish it from the sea of the many similar looking buildings. Should it look different? Should it not? This whole discussion about what are "back ground buildings : meaning, those that sort of vanish in a blur, and "foreground " buildings, meaning those that stand out and have an identity is often an incorrectly represented discussion. True, all buildings don't need to be flamboyant, or stand out strongly- but they at least must have an identity, a certain presence, a distinct character. In olden days, often this was, despite buildings being produced by a guild or following certain building traditions, provided by the great craft…
A few years back, a person we did not know, but since then, some one that the whole office has grown to love and respect, walked in the office. She was a young passionate lady who cared deeply about education, and about children, and had a school in Dwarka, that she was in the process of renovating. She wanted us to do the landscape. There was not much to do or so it seemed. There were the margins that had to allow , fire brigade access, and a court. Did not seem much; but she was insistent. Not sure if we could really bring value to the project, and also simply because of what we could see was sheer commitment to her work we did the project as a pro-bono…
A recent trade fair organised by Index/IFJ in Mumbai allowed a few architects to imagine about open spaces in Mumbai. Large panels were put up - almost 6.mts long, and 2.4  mts wide. There were schemes of just making parts of Mumbai pedestrian friendly, or using the railway corridors and covering them to make them linear green strips or of  developing the water fronts. We had put up a panel of a park that got away. In Wadala,  along a  strip of land, we had imagined a park that comprised on many hybrid realities, much like the local trains of Mumbai that contain many lives. In many segments, the park allowed completely different  experiences that connected ecology and the life in Mumbai. So it had garden boxes, much like compartments…
The other day a student who I do not know wrote me a mail, which is reproduced below. Upon reading it and reflecting upon it, I decided that I needed to write a well thought out response- which I did, and then marked it to a few friends, and the response was immediate and all of the mails in complete agreement with my line of thought; ( my mails to them often are ignored and they only talk about it when we perhaps meet many weeks later -if at all). I wondered why this happened; and  concluded that this was a topic many had thought about , and were uneasy about; but had not gathered their thoughts and this mail allowed them to. Since it was concerned with work in…
Not many months back, on the edge of Mumbai in Bhiwandi. an old client , desired to do a series of shelters for the devotees who walk to the Sai Baba Temple in Nashik- this was to be a mid way halt. It was to have shelters , a temple, and a dining space. When we first went there, we were taken aback by the devastation and the neglect that the land showed. Quarried rocks, no green cover, harsh coarse soil- it was an oppressive site. Many things were challenges- time being one of the biggest- but also that getting good surveys seemed impossible and a lot of the work had to be done by visiting the site often, and sketching there, and working with the land as it appeared…
Its always a struggle for a landscape architect to design a small garden. To begin with, when engaged with larger work otherwise,  to reorient and sensitize the mind to the smallest nuance,( sometimes small gestures  do get  laid on the wayside  in the larger projects !), but more importantly whose character does the garden imbibe, that of the owner, or the designer? At  our studio we do these projects almost like a ritual of reorientation- every year we do a few- perhaps  five or six, so that we remind ourselves the  pleasure, of the small details, the  form of a single plant, the flower of another, the bird that comes to nest and many such tales that really can enrich our lives. In Ahmedabad in a small plot of land…
The schedule for the 4th International Cultural Landscapes Symposium is finalized. December 14th-15th. Ahmedabad. W: www.inculs4.in E:inculs4@gmail.com Be a good idea to clear your calenders and come; promises to be good thinking fare.
A thin strip , edges  South America on its western edge. It is like a line etched on the edge of a mammoth land mass, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountain. Amongst many others, the Easter Islands belong to this country, and also parts of the Antarctica. Its northern edge has deserts rich in copper, the centre with agricultural resources, the south with forests, lakes and volcanoes. This is Chile. The landscape is stunning, surreal , poetic and can make great art blush. I  saw it for the first time , a couple of weeks back. On a large screen, sometimes accompanied by soulful music, a landscape architect from Chile, revealed its magic. He struggled with English, but it did not matter, since the passion in his…
It is not often that a public or a large landscape captures your imagination and shakes you alive! In the past many have- Central Park, Nishat Baugh , Villa D-Este , but in recent times at least for me, this has not happened often- it happened with I saw the Parc André Citroën in Paris, which is a magnificent project, and one I must post a blog on soon, and I have to confess that I have not seen the Hi-Line Park- but seeing the Australian Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Cranbourne just outside Melbourne was a powerful emotional experience and only half jokingly I called it " A Taj Mahal of a Landscape". Simply stating, its one of the most powerful public gardens done in the last three odd decades…
A group of Academicians in town are working hard to put together this conference; and from all accounts it promises to a great fare with Indian and International speakers who will share their thoughts. The idea of Cultural Landscapes,its understanding, mapping and management is without doubt a very important aspect of our environment and over and above the traditional meanings, new meanings are being explored each day. Over time this will be an important area that will define the profession and its meanings. The conference is on 14th and 15th of December 2013- do block the dates and do come. Please find details . 4TH INCULS Fourth IFLA-APR International Cultural Landscapes Symposium (INCULS) Ahmedabad, India                                                                   14th-15th December 2013 Introduction About INCULS The International Symposium on Cultural and Historical Landscapes (INCULS) is…
It was the summer of 2006 and I was counting my last days in the landscape course at CEPT. While I was chatting with my colleague in the studio, my cell phone rang and I saw “Aniket sir” calling. The moment I attended the call, I was asked about my game plan for the future. I could not tell him then, but just by making the call, he had already ruined my plans. Exactly two years before the call, I was comfortably working in a big firm in Delhi and life was easy. Somehow for several reasons, the words; green, trees and flowers started fascinating me and I thought to myself that it’s a world that I could easily try my hand with. All it would take is some understanding…
When I was about 17 years old, I awoke to the real fact of what my father did for a living. Having joined the local architecture school, and with little real interest in design, I at least decided to be a responsible son, and started accompanying him on his site visits when I could. There are something’s that one remembers vividly as images whilst growing up- it’s imprinted in your mind forever. Most vivid amongst them for me, were the days when he would do planting in a project. We would reach the site early at dawn, I riding at the back of his white Lambretta- GJE-371. Sometimes it was a large house, at others, the yard of a factory. Waiting at the site would be many laborers. A large…
Cities grow, Cities build, The rock is cut, The mountains are diminished. The Western Ghats are located along the western coast of India and separate the high Deccan plateau from a narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea. The mountain range starts from Gujarat and covers a total length of around 1600 km; culminating eventually at Kanyakumari district. Along the entire length, it forms large catchment areas for a number of lakes and water bodies. The many sided landscape and the heavy rainfall have made certain areas inaccessible and have helped in preserving the diversity of the region, making it one of the world’s critical biodiversity hotspots.       For a landscape of an office building terrace,  we saw on site  a deep cut in the rocks exposing  the…
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