Architecture and the Elite – Jaisim Krishna Rao

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The social and economical disparity among people is loudly visible across many nations. The Urban Realm is not untouched. Gautam Bhatia in his interview mentioned, ‘Social Conscious among architects is completely missing..’ and ‘..most of the architects today are capable of only designing buildings behind high rise walls..’.

Johnny Miller, a Cape Town based photographer used Drone to capture a series of photographs that portray the divide between rich and poor in South Africa. One photograph from the series is below:

Durban-unequal scenes - Johnny Miller
Photo: Johnny Miller –,,

India is no different, except that we don’t need drones to witness such divide. The visuals of the divide are ubiquitous, and increasing every day. Architecture profession seems to have completely distanced itself from the real urban issues and it is getting closer to becoming a profession, only for the elite.

We asked some architects:

“Do you think the architecture profession has completely distanced itself from the people at large?”

Following are the thoughts on the issue, by architect and educator from Bangalore, Jaisim Krishna Rao.

Human beings walked the Earth and the Earth transformed. LIFE changed. Living organisms of Nature suddenly had a MASTER. Every step She or He took changed the very environment that they strode. Soon PATTERNS evolved. There was no singular or plural, it was multiple. From Knowing nothing to learning everything within the grasp of physical and mental aptitude LIFE evolved. They walked and stalked and still had no peace. Ambitions grew; there was very little difference between creation and destruction.

Nomadic Hunters to Settlers challenged change, communication sought boundaries beyond imagination. The physical mental conflict challenged plant and animal behaviour. Patterns were no longer the limitation. Only self-imposed styles mattered. Fraternities became the order of the day. Conflicts arose. The millennium froze.

Culture descended like a vulture and the sparrow flew and the crows settled. Pickings selected hierarchy – the ruler evolved.  Religion masked itself into lives. People divided and sought refuge. These tribes were NOMADS. To succeed they had to settle. Agriculture dawned. Hunting became Royalty.

The Environment SMILED. Climate patiently drove the weather on these heads. Nature beat up the physical endurance of MAN. The Mind tossed the Brain – comprehension dawned. To conquer one must live and cherish.  Survival became the subject. Language pushed communication. Communication demanded a thought process. Thinking brought ideas.

The shelter was sought. The ABODE evolved. Power defined and also defied. Classes and sectarian divisions became the style. Families became a familiar tone. Each to himself was fine as long as he belonged to an order. The pattern once again evolved mankind to LIFESTYLES.

The ABODE became the symbol. Design smiled. Each family grew its own nest of cognition. Like Animals and Birds, they sought an evolved identity. But unlike Animals and Birds, they could not divide into species of defined definition. It was PRIDE – I AM, WE ARE! But in every division hierarchy played its role.  The Abode became a Home. Open yards became Markets; Open spaces of gathering became Temples. The Ruler ruled with an iron fist, but the masses smugged. Identity and power sought avenues. Politics played havoc. The Media wanted a definition that could deafen the masses into submission.

THE ARCHITECT LAUGHED. HE / SHE were the revelation. The Creator, the Dreamer, the Philosopher, the FUTURE. The Architect gave presence and presented each to his ability and achievement and based in the order one occupied the space deserved. But it COST. LUXOR was invented. Life discovered new spaces and in Time pushed frontiers of style, imagination and innovation ruled. But defined Discipline gave ORDER based on CULTURE – an ETHOS was born.  CIVILIZATION DAWNED – the rulers yawned. ART hid within rose to spiritual heights.  This Gave the ARCHITECT the impetus of EXPRESSION.

Civil society had the technology and could put things together. BUT there was a muted suspense. Sounds emerged, noise struggled. The artist smiled Music evolved. Language once again broke barriers people listened. The technology needed a manifestation. Boring has to be brought to life. Imitation had to be shelved. Creation observed. The ARCHITECT smiled again. Yet he was silent. Having laughed and smiled he still had no expression.

The KING rose, the THRONE demanded an identity. Tennali Raman giggled. The Jester was summoned – he gleamed a revelation, invited the architect. A new ERA was born. KINGDOMS became. Nations of different diverse subjects took space in time. Time measured. WEALTH filled coffers – His MAJESTY could afford. Yet FEAR ruled. Temples and Gods pervaded sense. Humiliation was the order of the day.  Offerings were not enough. The GODS demanded and TEMPLE TOWNS arose mystically – prayers and rituals with symbolic reflections of protecting, preserving and ensuring life in the other world have enshrined deep into the human spirit.

These THE ELITE sought demanded unique expressions in the built form which hovered onto the masses and in a manner ruled the subjects. Symbolism even today matters. NOW to revert to the subject of the day – ARCHITECTURE – THE MASSES – look again review every project and building that has been and is built for the PEOPLE AT LARGE – what does it – The reflect  – The BUILDER and the Expression his Architect has made for and of him, Not just in India, everywhere:- You will witness a clubhouse or community centre, which reflects the Architect subtly with an emphasis of the builder promoter STYLE, and the apartments and other mass housing a repeated soulless slaves. They OBEY. Only The Colour and the dressing – like political and religious bodies – exposed very clearly. That is the building SKYLINE.

ARCHITECTURE as IS, has very little to do with people at large. Walk or drive down any street – observe the routine – the pattern – it is obvious – except for a few individuals the rest is -. Yes, interior and within manage to reflect personal behaviours, but even that is slowly entering a pattern of the catalogue – Decoration rather that design motivates.


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