The Balgandharva Rang Mandir in Pune was full. Amidst the buzz of the many budding architect students, professors and well wishers, Ram Akkisetti, Author of the book and Managing Director of CCBA took to the stage to introduce a phenomenal book – a monograph with a difference, ‘‘Christopher Benninger- Architecture for Modern India”
“If one has to reflect, there are not more than twenty books that have been published since Independence on the state of architecture and urbanism in India. ‘Christopher Benninger – Architecture for Modern India’ published by Skira-Rizzoli from Milan and New York, will significantly contribute to the practice of architecture,” informed Akkisetti.
It was sheer chance that Editor of Skira, Rosa Maria Flavio, who came for a book release on the works of Rafiq Azam, toyed with the idea of a book on Benninger’s work after witnessing his talk. It just three months to put the book together,” he added.
This large format monograph traces architectural practice, through Benninger’s work, over the past five decades of economic transformation and social change. His experiences begin in the socialist, closed economic era, when India was a rural society. It blends into the present free market, urban society of the world’s largest global economy. Each of Benninger’s creation, whether in urban planning or architecture is a benchmark of India’s evolving character and persona.
This book has about 400 pages, about 800 colour photographs, several hundred drawings and text supporting each and every project to serve the purpose of education to both students and those who practice.
For those who are new to the subject of architecture, it is a visual treat and a medium of understanding good architecture.
Every project begins with a location map to understand the context and urban pattern of the location, with a central image like in the Kochi Refinery project, where it is important to understand the relevance of the back waters and the salubrious surroundings yet managing the humid hot climate with shading devices like louvers.
For example, the the College of Engineering, Girls Hostel building, Pune, celebrates the honest expression of Form Finish concrete used in the coffered ceiling, supported by the isometric plans of the building.
In the subsequent pages, there was a break away from the heaviness of concrete to mimic the ocean ships, that seamlessly float over the waters, as seen in the wavy north façade of the administrative building of the Samundra Institute of Maritime Studies in Lonavla, supported by the study models that went into making this project real.
The out of the box thinking to make factories equally beautiful, by using modern metal jaalis to subdue the mechanical nature of factories is seen in Forbes Marshal green Field Factory in Chakan, that allowed it to be qualified as one of the top places to work, competing with corporate offices.
The book also takes one through the journey of what all goes as studies and changes in master planning for this Azim Premji University in Bengaluru to show the evolution of an institute.
As the section demonstrates the unique idea of comparing one foot print with another to understand the scale of each and every project covered in the book, supported by the graphic representation of the facades that converge and depart from each other at the same time.
The last , but the most important aspect of this book, is the inclusion of these kind of double folds to give that grandness that a project deserves.
This book is not just a visual treat, but for keeps if one really has keen interest in understanding Benninger’s work and his treatment to his projects. This book is a testament to the journey with Benninger who made India his home.
“Architecture is a team work. It’s collaborative, creative and communicative, at the same time.this book has memories of our team that is with us for the past twenty years and of those who are with us now,” states Akkisetti.