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NISHA NAIR-GUPTA

Nisha, an architect, is also a cultural practitioner, involved in curation, publishing and more who uses writing as a tool for documentation and mapping.

THE PEOPLE PLACE PROJECT

The initiative has curated three books in the People Called Series, a children’s adaptation of People Called Mumbai. They conduct mapping and empathy building workshops across the country and are working on more books and modules of mapping.

ARCHITECTURAL WRITING FOR COMMUNICATING WITH MASS-MEDIA: CASE IN EXAMPLE – THE NET HOUSE BY GURJIT SINGH MATHAROO

With the Net House by Gurjit Singh Matharoo, I explored not only the ‘net’ but the idea of a ‘machchhardaani’ became the entry point to the article. The Net House was a manifestation of the summer nights when one sleeps on the roof and the ‘machchhardaani’ wraps around them.

ADVICE TO ASPIRING WRITERS: WITH THE GROUP OF PARTICIPANTS OF A WRITING COURSE CONDUCTED BY NISHA NAIR-GUPTA AND ANUJ DAGA

“Since formal education in the field of architectural writing is lacking in India, the onus of self-education falls on you. Constantly read, be updated with arguments and debates, meet people, and so on. Only then will you be able to create rich and layered writing.”

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Lab 26 Oct 2018

Alternatives: What does it take to write architecture? Nisha Nair-Gupta orients us to architectural writing

While buildings cannot walk, the next best means to experience, appreciate or criticise it after imagery, is by writing/reading about it. But with no school in India offering any formal education in architectural writing, where does one begin? CQ interviews Nisha Nair-Gupta to bring to the fore some on-ground realities.

Nisha is an architect with a Master’s degree in Humanities and Art Journalism from CEPT, Ahmedabad. She currently spearheads the design studio Design [Variable] and a research initiative, The People Place Project. Nisha uses writing as a tool for documentation and mapping along with other media like photography, sketching, oral narrations, etc. A cultural practitioner, her work involves curation and publishing, and she also conducts writing courses at various architecture colleges.

NISHA NAIR-GUPTA

Nisha, an architect, is also a cultural practitioner, involved in curation, publishing and more who uses writing as a tool for documentation and mapping.

In a field as visual and tactile as design, how does writing play a role?

Architectural writing furthers the design practice by allowing for a space of discussion and critique. It can also operate as a tool of dissemination of architectural knowledge, concepts and debates pertaining to the built-environment.

THE PEOPLE PLACE PROJECT

The initiative has curated three books in the People Called Series, a children’s adaptation of People Called Mumbai. They conduct mapping and empathy building workshops across the country and are working on more books and modules of mapping.

How is architectural writing different from journalistic or story writing?

Architectural writing is a broad category. All that is written about design, architecture or built-environment can be under this umbrella- A book, research paper, web content, portfolios, curatorial text and so on can become architectural writing. 

Overtime, I have become lesser interested in the distinctions and more excited about the scope and outreach of architecture writing. One such key space is architecture journalism, which encompasses reportage, features, reviews, critique etc. in peer review journals to mass media. It furthers the discourse around practice  with discussion around architecture projects, their progress, architectural events and so on. The other space is architectural research and its publications.

ARCHITECTURAL WRITING FOR COMMUNICATING WITH MASS-MEDIA: CASE IN EXAMPLE – THE NET HOUSE BY GURJIT SINGH MATHAROO

With the Net House by Gurjit Singh Matharoo, I explored not only the ‘net’ but the idea of a ‘machchhardaani’ became the entry point to the article. The Net House was a manifestation of the summer nights when one sleeps on the roof and the ‘machchhardaani’ wraps around them.

How did your design education help in this field? 

Architectural education enabled me to look at and understand various architectural practices. My Masters’ education in humanities and journalism helped me articulate my writing practice.

However, I didn’t take up the program to pursue writing but to study humanities. The course was also about communications and I ended up writing a lot. Thereafter, I had a weekly column in the Sunday Editorial section of the Times of India (TOI) about architecture in Ahmedabad. There I discovered the potential of architectural writing for mass-media.

I didn’t take up the program to pursue writing but to study humanities. The course was also about communications and I ended up writing a lot. 

Is it important to pursue Master’s in any kind of  architecture or media studies for architectural writing?

Probably, Master’s isn’t important. Expose yourself to various architectural thinking, to the inter-disciplinary. Architectural writing is not about structuring good sentences but about taking a stand, furthering a thought, reviewing and critiquing. Intellectual stimulation is important. Read books, observe and take part in debates; form a club in the peer community and discuss things.

ADVICE TO ASPIRING WRITERS: WITH THE GROUP OF PARTICIPANTS OF A WRITING COURSE CONDUCTED BY NISHA NAIR-GUPTA AND ANUJ DAGA

“Since formal education in the field of architectural writing is lacking in India, the onus of self-education falls on you. Constantly read, be updated with arguments and debates, meet people, and so on. Only then will you be able to create rich and layered writing.”

It will enable you to create rich and layered writing; be it content for websites or a critique. A writer needs to question, philosophise, tap into current debates; and this happens only with exposure and education. In India, we have to do it ourselves.

How do you write about a building that doesn’t appeal to you or incline with your personal design belief?

From a journalistic space, the writing is from a space of personal detachment and is more investigative. The more I don’t understand something or something doesn’t connect with me, the more I enquire about it. I try and understand why it manifested the way it did. That opens me up because I discover an interesting design process, thought, etc. Maybe I like the fact I don’t like certain buildings more than jumping into liking buildings.

Architectural writing is not about structuring good sentences but about taking a stand, furthering a thought, reviewing and critiquing.

It is believed that practising design has more “scope” than writing about design – in terms of career, money, stability. In your experience, how true is that?

True. The fee for building is more than what I make through writing unless I am hired as a journalist in a well-paying company. Running The People Place Project, I feel there is scope for writing that is unexplored or untapped. The space is not formalised yet but eventually it will. The digital explosion will enable it.

What would your advice be to someone starting out in design writing?

Educate yourself first because there’s much jargon out there. It’s a responsible space as you’ll mediate architectural practices and convey it to another generation or a wider mass. Since formal education in the field of architectural writing is lacking in India, the onus of self-education falls on you. Constantly read, be updated with arguments and debates, meet people.

Check out more of what Nisha is up to here!