School of Environment and Architecture

SEA Conversations

monsoon 2021

On 16th March 2020, the Supreme Court of India made an interpretation of the Architects Act of 1972 that shook the legislative identity of architects in the country. The Act had prohibited anyone who is not registered by the Council of Architecture (and not qualified as an architect) to use the title of the ‘architect’. For years, this prohibition was interpreted as a prohibition on participating in the building making industry as a designer, supervisor, etc. The Supreme Court’s interpretation severed the two aspects - while it recognised that use of the title of an ‘architect’ is connected to qualification, registration, etc; it ruled that the Act does not provide any prohibition on anyone for participating in the building making activity in any capacity. Even though architects contribute to a miniscule proportion of the built environment, the architectural community felt threatened for its identity and agency.

In response to the fresh economic flows of post liberalization, architecture in India almost willingly took a service-oriented tone, moulding private capital into bold, unapologetic delivery of absolutely new building types. The architectural portfolios in the last three decades have been largely about second homes, private townships, corporate complexes or commercial enclaves. To a large extent, these must also be read as the exigent and inevitable responses to the restructuring of the national economy itself. This has been a clear departure from architects who grew up in the socialist state in providing solutions for large scale affordable housing, city expansions or public institutions.

The new millennium has only brought to fore the difficult realities of the built environment we come to inhabit today – those that have created social and spatial polarizations that are sharper and evident than ever before. This is particularly evident in the increasing number of protests across the world that are deeply related to access to resources, spatial inequality and social differences. Through a sustained disengagement, the figure of the architect is now associated with provision of luxury amenities and servitude to capital, rather than addressing the issues of space within the public domain. Architecture thus seems to have lost its umbilical cord as well as its intellectual ground within contemporary society and must call for a deeper inquiry.

‘Building Agency’ aims to address the question of how architecture becomes relevant for / in society today. There are two main dimensions to this question - how does spatial design shape societal relationships; and how could a spatial practitioner contribute responsibly and potently to the emerging complexities of spatial operation today? The series invites spatial practitioners who have been formulating visions, trajectories, questions, methods and processes through which the environmental apparatus may be configured afresh. These discussions, we expect, will offer useful directions for contemporary spatial pedagogy and practice.

speakers 2021
25/6 CHAAL CHAAL AGENCY \ Ahmedabad-Bogotá
09/7 MATTER \ Goa
06/8 COMMUNITY DESIGN AGENCY \ Mumbai-Ahmednagar
20/8 Dinghaiqiao Mutual Aid Society \ Shanghai
24/9 COOPIA \ Bogotá-Mexico City
01/10 DHARMENDRA PRASAD \ Guwahati
15/10 SAROSH ANKLESARIA \ Pittsburgh

Visit for event details and Zoom links.

This online event series is supported by Urban Centre Mumbai, and is free and open to everyone across the world.



Other ways of Worldmaking 

by Sarosh Anklesaria

Zoom Link

This talk investigates the agency of architecture using Design for Transitions as a broad developmental framework that allows for new processes and modes of Worldmaking. It foregrounds Arturo Escobar's notion of the Pluriverse, a theoretical construct for a world where many worlds fit, as a design prompt for architecture and the built environment. This entails the deconstruction of the global developmentalist model of late capitalism in favor of hyperlocal, autonomous, and inclusive models of Worldmaking that also promote planetary solidarity across cultures. Upon constructing this theoretical ground, the talk focuses on two recent projects that locate agency across distinct geographies and temporalities.  

The first proposes an Urban Symbiome as a synthetic template of the human and the natural world, inspired by progressive, emergent food systems embedded in circular ecologies. The Urban Symbiome is tactical in its appropriation of the city, reusing building materials through acts of urban mining, fusing and depaving land through urban farming and commoning.  In doing so, the Urban Symbiome promotes acts of symbiosis and ecological justice, through new forms of politics and ethics rooted in the pluriverse. The second considers agency through the lens of Critical Care and reflects on a recent campaign to stop the demolition of dormitory buildings at IIM, Ahmedabad. It calls for an ethic of empathy, care, and maintenance in the context of aging modernisms, thereby resituating the legacy of the IIMA project away from the hagiography surrounding Louis Kahn, to point toward other ways of Worldmaking.

Sarosh Anklesaria is the T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor of Architecture and Track Chair of the M.Arch program at Carnegie Mellon University. Anklesaria's work synthesizes architectural agency with questions of social empowerment and ecological justice. Current design research has been supported by the Richard Rogers Fellowship from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Taliesin Fellowship and the Art Omi Residency. His project The Urban Symbiome has been published in "Expansions: Responses to How Will We Live Together" (2021, La Biennale di Venezia). Anklesaria's writing, design, research, and advocacy work has been published in The New York Times, The Architectural Review, Domus, Architect’s Newspaper and Design Today. He has worked as an architect for Diller Scofidio and Renfro, Herzog & de Meuron and B.V. Doshi. He holds a diploma in architecture from CEPT University, Ahmedabad and a post-professional Master of Architecture from Cornell University.


1730 hrs IST

Zoom Link

This online event series is supported by Urban Centre Mumbai, and is free and open to everyone across the world.

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