AI11_7_2018_12_55_47_AM_Cover.jpg
ANUJ DAGA

Anuj studied History & Theory of Architecture at the Yale School of Architecture. His involvement in design, research and academia has also resulted in many roles; such as a writer, critic, commentator, theorist or interlocutor in the cultural field.

MUMBAI MODERN

Anuj was the studio conductor for Mumbai Modern at the School of Environment and Architecture. Bombay/Mumbai Modern is a snapshot of twenty-four architectural projects in Mumbai, which expand the rubric of Modern architecture and what it is to be Modern in the city. The projects chosen here are so enmeshed in the city’s everyday that we often miss them.

SHARMILA CHAKRAVORTY

Sharmila, with a graduate degree in Journalism, a Master’s in International Relations, and a diploma in Art Criticism and Theory, writes for architectural publications and alongside working in media and communications.

ARCHITECTURAL AND NON ARCHITECTURAL MEDIA

Sharmila who currently writes for Indian Architect & Builder is the former sub-editor at Domus India and has also worked on non-architectural media.

AI11_7_2018_12_55_47_AM_Cover.jpg
Lab 09 Nov 2018

Alternatives: Anuj Daga and Sharmila Chakravorty clarify whys and hows of Architectural Writing

The country has eminent architecture schools and equally prestigious media institutes. But did the two ever meet, formally? Not really. Architectural writing is not only gaining momentum in the media and architectural fraternity but is also an important tool that communicates design to architects, other professionals, enthusiasts and the masses. CQ speaks to Anuj Daga, an architect/writer, and Sharmila Chakravorty, a media professional, who write on art, architecture, design and allied disciplines about the many questions and misconceptions that riddle architectural writing.

Anuj studied History & Theory of Architecture at the Yale School of Architecture. His involvement in design, research and academia has also resulted in many roles; such as a writer, critic, commentator, theorist or interlocutor in the cultural field. Sharmila, with a graduate degree in Journalism, a Master’s in International Relations, and a diploma in Art Criticism and Theory, has worked with architectural publications like Domus India and Indian Architect & Builder. They take us through some diverse but meaningful perspectives on architectural writing.

Architectural writing: Why write architecture

Anuj: If we can agree that all built spaces tell stories, then writing maybe the most direct and effective way of narrating them. Writing about design can release a range of invisible nuances that an object may not lend easily. The writer allows users to read new forms wherein work might be appreciated across history and geography, thus making the act of design democratic and universal.

ANUJ DAGA

Anuj studied History & Theory of Architecture at the Yale School of Architecture. His involvement in design, research and academia has also resulted in many roles; such as a writer, critic, commentator, theorist or interlocutor in the cultural field.

Sharmila: Architecture will remain long after we perish. Writing records this history and perhaps even shapes it, indirectly. Architectural writing can improve the overall quality of our built environment by creating more awareness and raising the bar of expectations from design.

It’s high-time we discard this prejudiced cultural baggage. Contemporary architecture’s expanded field should be acknowledged as allied design practitioners (writers, visualizers, etc.) who equally partake in shaping an object or space.

And when you don’t appreciate a piece of architecture that you have to write about?

Anuj: Often, an unappealing project is an opportunity to expand my own limits of aesthetic experience. If I encounter an art object which I don’t relate to, I have to inform myself about its cultural context. While the research opens up new dimensions of seeing, it is also a reminder about one’s own cultural positioning, and the need to broaden it constantly. Besides, design beliefs, like our very identities are malleable and transform themselves with time and experience.

MUMBAI MODERN

Anuj was the studio conductor for Mumbai Modern at the School of Environment and Architecture. Bombay/Mumbai Modern is a snapshot of twenty-four architectural projects in Mumbai, which expand the rubric of Modern architecture and what it is to be Modern in the city. The projects chosen here are so enmeshed in the city’s everyday that we often miss them.

Sharmila: Writing about architecture isn’t praising a project, architect, or practice. Critiquing is one of the primary aspects of the job, as it highlights important questions, opens up a feedback loop, and triggers a larger dialogue. It’s a tricky space as there is no right or wrong design. Design is motivated by personal and clientele preference. However, you can logically argue why the design doesn’t appeal to you and back it up with rational arguments.

On architectural writing vs. journalistic writing vs. storytelling

Anuj: Design writing can take different forms including journalistic or a novella. It should ideally bring critical attention to human acts and the manner in which they shape ideas into material.

Sharmila: There is no difference but architectural writing is a genre in itself that demands focussed skills. It requires in-depth knowledge of architecture and design, ability to connect themes and tropes from the design world with the premise of your writing.

SHARMILA CHAKRAVORTY

Sharmila, with a graduate degree in Journalism, a Master’s in International Relations, and a diploma in Art Criticism and Theory, writes for architectural publications and alongside working in media and communications.

On pre-conceived notions and scope of architectural ‘writing’, alongside or against ‘building’ architecture

Anuj: It's high-time we acknowledge contemporary architecture’s expanded field where the figure of the master architect continues to get blurred by a range of allied design practitioners(writers, illustrators, contractors, etc.) who equally partake in shaping the final experience of any object or space. In the wake of increasing media and internet consciousness, conventional practices are realizing the value of archiving and communication. There is more scope for design writing now, than ever. However, in order to bring value, design thinking and writing has to take the centre stage in the education process. 

Sharmila: Can’t comment since I’m not an architect.

While unnecessarily criticising a project/practice may endow the writer a petty-powerful feeling, it also undermines the designer’s effort. Similarly blatant appeasement pleases designers but discredits the writer.

Advise to those aspiring to a career in architectural writing

Anuj: One needs a theoretical and analytical bent to clearly present arguments about the experience of an object and/or space rather than descriptive reviews. Focused reading and writing help in sharpening one’s own voice and way of looking. With ample written/visual content and free courses available on the internet by renowned universities, one must look forward to introducing themselves and expand their existing ways of thinking.

Sharmila: Writing about architecture is a great responsibility; a designer invests great time, effort and thought on their projects. While unnecessarily criticising a project/practice may endow the writer a petty-powerful feeling, it also undermines the designer’s effort. Similarly, blatant appeasement pleases designers but discredits the writer. Keep an open mind, read and take accountability for your opinion. 

ARCHITECTURAL AND NON ARCHITECTURAL MEDIA

Sharmila who currently writes for Indian Architect & Builder is the former sub-editor at Domus India and has also worked on non-architectural media.

Anuj blogs at Dagagiri and you can visit his website here. Sharmila is in the process of archiving her work, thoughts and more but you can reach her here.