The Story of Intangible Creativity

The very first argument is addressed in this book: what is unbuilt, and why should it be celebrated? By taking every unrealized proposal, concept, and idea to the level of being spoken about, argued, and celebrated, it not only offers the opportunity to examine intangible notions and ideas but also puts into question the paradigm of unbuilt architecture. Contrary to how the term “unbuilt” is typically used in the context of architecture to refer to something that has been declined, discontinued, or not started, Every architect who has engaged in design practice has experienced being unbuilt at least once in their lifetime. But does it lessen the work that went into making the design? The book rejects this idea and provides space to acknowledge each such endeavor.

Book in focus: India: Unbuilt Architecture -Sheet1
Book which covers the Unbuilt ©ABRD Architects
Book in focus: India: Unbuilt Architecture -Sheet2
Museum of Minerals of Mines Proposal by  Anant D. Raje ©Unbuilt

Why Unbuilt needs to be discussed?
To highlight the creative processes of the architect’s extended professional career, Moshe Safdie’s unbuilt ideas are now on exhibit in the McCormick Gallery of the Boston Architectural College (BAC), in collaboration with Safdie Architects. To provide context and the background of the unrealized ideas, they are displayed. The architect sees these unfinished buildings as a step in the direction of designing something like Habitat 67.

In 2011, architect and urban designer Raj Rewal was working on a design competition for an academic campus in his Sheikh Sarai studio when he told his team of architects and interns, “This will be my last professional competition; let’s put all our energy into it; I am trying my best.” Unfortunately, Raj Rewal, a renowned Indian architect, was unsuccessful in what he described as his final competitive design. However, Raj’s design was among his best architectural creations during his whole career. Traditional red sandstone architecture was incorporated into the proposed campus’s design in addition to perforations, massing, and blocking to produce a contemporary, sustainable built environment

Although technological advancements have made the design process quicker and easier than in the past, the process of creation itself and the creativity that goes into it continue to be essential components of all design processes. At a time when the world of architecture is imagining unthinkable things, even when they fail to be realized in reality and on the ground, such methods needed a platform in India. This encapsulated the necessity to research and share India’s unbuilt architectural ideas. 

Numerous architectural projects are never realized for various reasons. Understanding the complexity of design requires realizing that, in addition to what is built and offers a sensory experience, the unbuilt also contributes greatly to discourse, design, and development. 

Exploring the Unbuilt
The book tries to honor such notions. The book provides ideas for designs, demonstrating once more that architecture encompasses more than the built environment. Rajesh Advani, the founding editor of Architecture Live, was the driving force behind the creation of “India-Unbuilt Architecture,” a tribute to the noteworthy Indian projects that were never realized. 

Unfortunately, a project that was never implemented entails limitations, but not because the concept was bad. In the book, several designs that were submitted as entries in design competitions but were never built are discussed. Some of these designs were unable to be executed due to red tape and even stakeholder apathy. 

Gautam Bhatia is credited with the cover art. The book includes essays that explore projects that have not yet been built, as well as the reasons why such architectural design processes should be discussed. The book honors Achyut P. Kanvinde and Anant D. Raje, two renowned Indian architects.

Prime Minister’s Residence Proposal by  Achyut Kanvinde ©Unbuilt

At the release of the book, the first of its kind in India, many architects who have gone through the Unbuilt architectural journey gathered to honor the initiative. In contrast to Madhav Raman, who said that this architectural initiative in the form of a book is a chance to show off what the client didn’t appreciate, Martand Khosla of the Romi Khosla Design Studio stated that unbuilt, the theme around which the book is based, is a moment of pause before something else emerges (in terms of design). Every architect aspires to realize their unrealized professional goals.

The proposals that didn’t win could also be utilized to define the evolution of architectural concepts and theories. Anupam Bansal used the 1992 architectural design competition for the Chicago Tribune Tower as evidence of the value and importance of unbuilt architecture in an essay that was published in the book. Anupam exemplifies how even unbuilt projects—those that were among the eliminated entries—marked a new path for modernist architecture and had an effect on the urban landscape of America. 

Even though participation in closed architectural design competitions was generally confined to allowing only selected architectural firms to participate, India’s last quarter of the 20th century saw the participation of lesser-known architects in architectural design competitions, which can be considered a turning point in the development of several iconic designs and the capacity for creative ideas. 

A design proposal is a kind of idea that will always exist in some form, even if it is never realized or is simply conceptual. The book recognizes such projects while also discussing the unbuilt design notions that are present in Indian architecture but have not yet been implemented. In addition to essays on the incorporation of the unbuilt into architectural pedagogy, this book features 54 unbuilt architectural designs by Indian architects that were never built on the ground but remained as proposals. This is the first book of its kind to ever acknowledge the value of unbuilt architectural designs in India. 

Each line is thought to have a unique meaning in architecture. The book highlights a collection of such lines that, when explored, have a context and meaning. Architecture’s unbuilt stage is a stage where ideas are challenged and contested to grow and develop.

Reference

Cano, P. (2022) ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/tag/unbuilt-architecture (Accessed: October 23, 2022). 

Author

Sadiq Zafar is a practicing architect, urban policy researcher, and planner who previously worked for a national research institute and held the position of assistant professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He researched urban poor housing neighborhoods while working as a sustainability planner in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.

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