ARCHITECTURE RENDEZ-VOUS Indo-French perspectives, 25-30 September 2011

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Garden in Aramon, © Pascal Cribier, French Landscape Architect

Indo-French perspectives

25-30 September 2011

Architecture Rendez-vous is France’s dialogue with the architectural domain in India in a contemporary context, the renewal of a relationship forged by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret and even earlier. The French experience in architecture in a global scenario was showcased in New Delhi all week from 24-30 September, mainly at the Visual Arts and Open Palm Court galleries of the India Habitat Centre.

The main focus of the week-long action revolved around three exhibitions, one on the landscape architecture of Pascal Cribier, a second featuring French architects overseas who were part of the Grand Prix AFEX 2010 and a third exhibition which presented the work of 14 architects and landscapists, all laureates of the 2009-2010 edition of the “New Albums of Young Architects and Landscapists” 2009-2010.

Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas’ film, Dilli aptly launched the architecture week in the city through the story of the city. Eminent Indian architect and Chairperson of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, Mr. Raj Rewal opened the week and shared his experiences of having worked in France and the increasing space for such exchanges in the architectural scenario in the country.

The following two days were replete with film screenings, both Indian and French, fiction and documentaries. The popular film, Dhobi Ghat was viewed in a new light and was included in the festival around architecture since architecture is not only about buildings; architectural objects are full of the life of the people who inhabit them. The architectural diversity within a city is also an indicator of the social diversity of the various areas of the city. Moreover, every human space is appropriated, filmed with the memories of the inhabitant, and the memory of the entire city. The French Embassy wanted to include this fiction since it was an artistic vision of a town.

Three other documentaries were screened the following, including portraits of Jean Nouvel and Paul Andreu, thereby introducing to the audiences two major figures of Architecture in France. One could have chosen more recent films on the latest projects of two famous and prolific architects, but instead, the festival showcased portraits in order to be able to focus on the intimacy & the professional life of these “artists” along with a personal analysis of their masterpieces.

Avijit Mukul Kishore’s Vertical City, was screened in between to illustrate the deep social impact of architecture. Whereas high buildings worked well in France, at least for a while, here in Mumbai according to the film director, the same experience seems to have misfired. As the film director says, “Vertical City is a visual essay on the architecture of a dystopia”.

Two conversations were showcased during the week each of them sharing varied nuances related to the profession and the practice. In a first talk, curated by architect-author-film maker Jagan Shah, was shared the works of French architects working in India: French architect from Auroville, Mr. Satprem Maini’s simplistic, elegant, economic approach juxtaposed with Stephane Paumier’s more urbane, bold and innovative approach, each experimental and dynamic in their own way. The conversation brought out the challenges of contemporary architectural practice, and the specific issues of how architecture defines or erases national identities and upholds collective traditions, be they of community, an individual or a profession.

The second conversation the following day engaged with the projects undertaken by architecture Major Mr. Raj Rewal and French architect living in India and working across the world, Mr. Olivier Vidal: two very different contexts, two very different professional languages, two very different intensities, but leaving behind thoroughly enlightened audiences, including non-architects. The finale of this interaction did bring out the fact perhaps that “stardom” in architecture in India, for better or for worse, had arrived!

29th September was a dedication to landscape architecture, or more appropriately understanding the difference between garden, nature and landscape. French landscape architect or rather “gardener”, Pascal Cribier shared intensely with a group of 40 architects, landscape architects, art historians, curators, journalists and others his emotions and practices and approaches to landscaping. Supported by the Design x Design forum of Studio IF and the Delhi Chapter of the Indian Society of Landscape Architects, this day-long session saw an interaction around a very different approach to viewing landscape architecture in such a perspective. An Indian classical music interlude only reiterated the fleeting character of landscape and music as against built architecture. Unfortunately, the workshop had to exclude many more interested aspirants in order to retain the format of a workshop. The evening presentation by Pascal Cribier took us on a picture postcard pretty journey of haunting and idyllic projects undertaken by the master gardener amidst questions of sustainability, perspective, conservation and more. His affinities!

A final platform was designated to exchange on Indian and French educational practices in the domain of architecture. Mr. KT Ravindran from the School of Planning and Architecture, Mr. Jagan Shah of the Sushant School of Architecture and SPA Designs interfaced on the prospects and challenges for future cooperation in education. With the objective of guiding student and faculty mobility between the two countries, experiences of studying and working in France and in India was also shared to provide the students with a well rounded and real time picture of what to expect. This, in a scenario, where France would like to focus special attention on scholarships for Indian students to study in eminent French architectural schools.

More than 1500 people participated and attended the different interventions in Delhi over the period of a week.

From a first rendezvous to regular encounters, Indo-French perspectives in architecture has set the path towards continued long term dialogues and exchanges in the years ahead.


Architecture Rendezvous continues its journey to Goa, Chandigarh, Pune and Bangalore right through December with more visits by French experts and architects descending into India to share, exchange, discuss and debate. One hopes this will open up a dialogue with India in the context of its burgeoning cities and overall economic development.

Architecture Rendez-vous in other Indian cities:

- Ahmedabad: 9-16 September 2011

- Goa: 10-15 October 2011

- Chandigarh: 11-25 November 2011

- Pune: 2-9 December 2011

- Bengaluru: 14-22 December 2011

A bit a background: The earliest attempt to understand contemporary architecture in India dates back to an exhibition that was put together in 1985 for the Festival of India in France, wherein tradition and modernity were counterpoised within the over-arching framework of ’Indian Architecture’ contrasted against the backdrop of the works of Le Corbusier in India. This and other exhibitions soon after were influential within the profession in India, because for the first time, in a comprehensive manner, they enabled a wide body of architects to view the grand themes of architecture in India.


For photos, please visit the photogallery.}

Last modified on 21/03/2013

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