For Ar. Apurva Bose Dutta – Bengaluru-based architectural journalist, ‘enjoyment is exploring new subjects in design, comprehending their ideologies and bringing forth architecture that makes a difference and needs to be noticed, which she does by writing and talking on various aspects of the field’. In an exclusive interview with Sawdust, she discusses in detail about her recently launched book ARCHITECTURAL VOICES OF INDIA: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos. The book brings out the voices of 17 iconic architects from India across generations, conversing through dialogues about the core issues and perspectives around architecture.
What is currently on your mind?
I am presently occupied with my book that was launched recently. Though I have been working in the field of architectural journalism for the past twelve years, and have been working with architectural organisations and print and digital media related to the architecture and building industry, this is my first-authored book. Titled ARCHITECTURAL VOICES OF INDIA: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos, it is something that has got me excited over the past many months/years, as it has not only been my journey with the book, but also the journey of 17 iconic architects of India which the book comprehensively documents.
Tell us about your journey with this book.
I work with a lot of international architectural magazines, and I keep on meeting a lot of international architects and I have realised that there is a lot of interest in Indian architects and Indian architecture. Besides, it is common knowledge that architects in India hardly write, so though their thoughts are documented at conferences / talks etc, but in the media, there has seldom been a platform where India’s illustrious architects across generations, building genres and theories have come together and spoken on their career paths, their philosophies in architecture, their views on where architecture as a subject and a profession WAS, IS, and WILL BE. My book, hence, is an effort in that direction and it’s been a rather wonderful, strenuous, yet exciting journey, interacting with 17 iconic architects from India and understanding what architecture has meant to them, and giving birth to a common platform which celebrates the diversity of these architects. The amalgamation of their forthcoming views on the profession, their inspirational journeys, their personal spaces and favourite projects, through text, images and hand-made sketches makes this book a worthwhile read.
Who are some of the architects you have covered in this book?
I have tried and covered architects across age groups, geographical locations, specialisations, having different as well as similar views on architecture. Some of the architects covered include Raj Rewal, BV Doshi, CN Raghavendran, Shiv Datt Sharma, Christopher Benninger, Sanjay Puri, Sonali and Manit Rastogi, Hafeez Contractor, Sanjay Mohe, Ravindra Bhan and Brinda Somaya. The aim was to get a diverse set of architects so that it could lead to an interesting discourse on Indian architecture, and the book could serve a good resource in architecture.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this journey?
My biggest takeaway has been the learning that humility and staying grounded to one’s values and roots is an important factor that determines how successful, valued and respected a person is. Some of the most senior, busiest and the most successful architects of India are a part of this book, but it is not their work and thoughts on architecture which bowled me over the most; it was their humble nature, which has stayed intact, irrespective of their stature.
Since you talk about being still occupied with your book which has already been launched, what is your relationship with a project once you’ve finished it and it has been published?
We writers, similar to architects and a few other professions too, have it tough in the sense that our written words once printed, are there for eternity. That might not be the case when we work with the digital media which offers more liberty. So, there is nothing much that we can do once the articles have been printed, but yes, we need to be additionally cautious about this challenge of not being able to change things once they are there for everyone to see. So once my writing assignments are out in the print, there is not much to do.
However, in the case of writing a book, though the written words cannot be changed, the author shouldn’t stop working at it after the book is out in the markets. One of the most famous architectural historians of all times, Prof. William Curtis, whom I interviewed in 2015, told me that an author’s journey is only half complete once the book is launched. And that’s exactly what I have realised now. An author has to go out to make his/her book visible, so that people develop an interest in the book. A lone article in a magazine can be read by anyone, since it is the actually the magazine which is being bought, not necessarily that one article. But in the case of a book, it is an interest and faith in an individual author’s thoughts that have to pull people to read it. When a writer invests so many of her/his years working on a book, s/he has definitely chosen a topic s/he wants people to know about and read. So that much of additional effort is needed. Architects are at a slight more advantage in the sense that buildings are a little more visible to everyone than the contents of a book. Hence, I think, I am going to be completely occupied with my book for at least a couple of months more.
What currently excites you the most, either in terms of what you’re working on yourself or what you see being done in the field of architecture?
What stimulates me the most is that our fraternity has several self-aware professionals who are not only conscious of what we as the architecture industry should do, but are also taking their individual steps to work towards it. Architecture has humungous challenges as well as opportunities to tackle, and one finds a lot of networking between the fraternity at different levels to make a difference. A difference might not be seen immediately, but the fact that the fraternity is united at many stands and is taking its little steps to make differences is a great sign for the profession.
You represent a profession whose visibility in India has been comparatively lesser than overseas. What kind of difficulties have you had to overcome on your way?
Whenever one decides to take a path where no one else has been before, whenever one doesn’t have a mentor to guide her/him, one automatically has to be ready to assume a far greater responsibility – of not only creating her/his own path, but one on which others will tread along. I took up architectural journalism as my main profession at a time when there were none or hardly any full time architectural journalists in India; however, the need of architectural writers who can make a difference to architecture through their words was always felt. I have had a fascinating journey, discovering what avenues and opportunities I can explore, and how through my writing can I make a difference to the profession. But that doesn’t mean everything has been extremely smooth.
Success should never be simplified, because there is a lot of patience, perseverance and hard work that goes into it. What everyone around sees as mere “success”, is also seen by an individual as a journey of confronting challenges, disappointments and failures and rising above them. Yes, it has been a tough journey, but the candid voicing of the architecture fraternity of the importance of the subject to architecture has made it even more relevant. Since now a path has already been laid, I believe it will be simpler for others in our country to go ahead on it.
For more information on ARCHITECTURAL VOICES OF INDIA: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos, you can access http://www.cambridgescholars.com/architectural-voices-of-india, the website of the publishers who are also offering a 50% discount on the book in the months of September and October. To get in touch with Apurva Bose Dutta, you can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org