BYOI: Bring your own ideas

Arbour – Research Initiatives in Architecture, a space for research and conversations on contemporary architecture in India and Asia was launched in the first week of December by hosting a series of conversations on ideas, architecture and practice. Arbour means a Trellis or Jali, a structure that supports growth. The idea for this center is to allow and provide a platform for conversations between professionals and caring individuals. Hopefully these dialogues will give birth to ideas that will shape the future of the city.

In Mumbai most ideas have been realized with the help of establishing trusts and foundations. Arbour is being supported by the Priyanath Banerjee Memorial Trust. Kaiwan Mehta, the founding director of the center is an architect and has published many essays and recently a book titled, “Alice in Bhuleshwar – Navigating a Mumbai Neighbourhood.” The book documents fast disappearing architectural details and a way of life in his “native town” of Mumbai.

The conversations were conducted by Mehta; between civil engineer Mahendra Raj and architect Kamu Iyer and the second between architect Sen Kapadia and contemporary artist Atul Dodiya. The conversations focused on one of the central research projects at Arbour – ideas that shaped architectural practice in India. The prime focus of which is to understand practice, ideas and the variety of issues under which notions of architectural practice and design changed, developed and responded to various influences.

I missed the first dialogue but was fortunate to attend the conversation between Kapadia and Dodiya. Kapadia’s architecture celebrates space, and is shaped by light and colour. Dodiya with his works paints and brings to life visuals and anecdotes from his memory. The discussion started with how art has influenced architecture and vice versa. For Kapadia art and architecture were always one as part of classical architecture but gradually the two have separated and now architecture is searching for it’s soul. I beg to differ and still believe that architecture is very much an art form art a different scale. Kapadia stressed on how ornamentation has disappeared and therefore architecture is now naked. I think there is more to art than just ornamentation. When two materials come together, the way they transition or are juxtaposed there is beauty in that as well.

Dodiya associates art and architecture from his memories of the place he lived in as a young boy. His work also reflects the political state of mind and society that we live in. They discussed how one has influenced the other. Dodiya did mention how he began seeing spaces differently after working with kapadia on projects, both have been clients for one another.

An audience member commented on how architects and professionals in the field give themselves too much credit. As often times we fail to connect with people and spaces in most cases are experienced far from their intended purpose. This is a great opportunity and platform for other professionals and people in the city that care to make a difference and collaborate on projects.

The center plans to hold more conversations in the future to continue the dialogue. There is also a six month course on ideas in architectural theory that is being planned. The course begins in January for further information contact Arbour by emailing at or try downloading the flyer by clicking here: IAT_flyer.

Pecha Kucha Mumbai will be hosting it’s next volume this Friday at Balwant Sheth School of Architecture. Pecha Kucha which refers to the sound of chit-chat in Japanese, is an idea and format that was conceived in 2003 by the Tokyo based practice of Klein Dytham architects. Coordinated and owned by KDa, it has spread across about 369 cities and is practically the world’s most popular design event! Incidentally Mehta is also the organizer of Pecha Kucha nights in Mumbai. Passes are needed for this event and are available for free at the venue office from  5 December, 2010 onwards between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, Monday to Friday or at Arbour: Research Initiatives in Architecture, First Floor, Karim Chambers, Ambalal Doshi Marg (next to Mumbai Stock Exchange), Fort, Mumbai between 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm, Tuesday to Friday. (Only 2 passes will be issued per person)

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