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Masters of Architecture

Ar. Sourabh Gupta, the founder of Archohm architectural design firm and the curator of the annual Archotour – a design expedition that explores contemporary design marvels across the globe. He gives an account of the recently concluded 6th expedition of Archotour to USA where they explored the works of legendary architects.

Our multi-disciplinary design studio endeavour is to stay true to the vision of design discovery. One such initiative is the design tour to different parts of the world, to see and experience the built context. The recent trip took the team on a journey by way of which we got to experience the work of the Masters.

Who are the masters? Why are they the masters? These so called masters have all been referred to in history and throughout architectural education. Broadly, the reference has been because of the body of work that they are backed by, the theory that they lived with and the relevance that their architecture still holds, is all a lesson initself. I have personally maintained that one cannot be taught to create; one can only be equipped with necessary skills and then be inspired. The latter has been the role successfully played by these masters.

Swiss architect Le Corbusier for his versatile and fundamental application of his beliefs heads the list easily. Walter Gropius, the German architect was more inspiring politically by propagating Bauhaus than with his archtiecture. Finnish architect Alvar Alto to me is the wild card entry into the club though he limited himself as a regionalist, but still had a global influence and a very powerful portfolio.

The other three are more popular and known.They have strong contrasting portfolios that one wants to dwell into deeply. Three filters are applied across their work – timelessness, relevance, position in society and influences they had.

The master stroke of the Falling Waters or Kaufmann Residence showed the radical Frank Lloyd Wright, the American architect with immense control over all faculties of spatality – all of which are softer approaches for a larger audience. Likewise, the conceptual clarity of Guggenheim museum in New York had a strong form and function principle with clean clear lines, surfaces and volumes. In a time where Victorian architecture was still celebrated, modern and post-modern architecture was being debated, the long career of Wright shows an interesting transit on the ornamentation and detail of the Robie house in Chicago, Illinois where dark intimate spaces, decorated interiors and extensive use of furniture celebrated space.

“The Masters of architecture have been referred to in history because of their body of work, the theories that they lived with and the relevance that their architecture still holds in today’s times.”

German American architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe brings in the other end of the spectrum where every building, every space was stripped of every embellishment. Spaces were neutral and an attempt to elaborate design was controlled. Minimalism where ‘less is more’ was epitomized almost bordering simplistic in its simple approach for the common eye. One has to dig deep with careful criticism to enjoy and understand the profundity of this work. This had great influence due to the steel applications of the industrial revolution and the post-war climate of democratic building.

Profound and fundamental are the two words that describe the league of American architect Louis Kahn and the control & discipline of this man. The craft of building and the art of detaliing could not be expressed better. The fact that the same principles and the same philosophy could be applied to the varying scales of homes and institutions and through versatile materials like wood and concrete with equal intensity says it all. A sensitive and refined audience is needed to uncover all the layers of enjoyment and exploration of these works.

Carpenter center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, by Corbusier, Family house by Gropius in Massachusetts, Falling Waters Residence in Pennsylvania by Wright, Illinois Institute of Technology campus by Mies, Baker house, Massachusetts by Aalto and last but not least, Exeter library by Kahn at New Hampshire, US will remain interesting impressions with all of us.

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