First’s are always overrated. But not in this case. This entry is not about contents of the book per se, which was the initial intent of this piece, but experience of buying the book itself. Its entry into my life, is a bit theatric. I would like to talk about the first non-photo-copied book in my bookshelf : Louis Kahn’s Essential Texts (I am excluding Banister Fletcher here intentionally, because like everyone else, i did not have much inclination to to pre-modernism history as a student, which i regret now). And also may be, talking about Banister Fletcher, is not an animated idea for a blog. And I realised just now, for this book how we use the authors name always as replacement for the books title ‘History of Architecture’. Like xerox or dalda.
Kahn is simply everyone should seek, if one is underwhelmed by architecture. Both experientially and intellectuallly. Kahn had famously opened a graduate studio at Penn by uttering the words “Design a room” and walking out. This book give you that edge. An edge to read into the fundamentals.
I remembering buying this book as a student after finishing my professional training. It is a proud possession, as i bought it from own earned money. My father would disagree to this point, as he paid for room rent, food, fuel, movie tickets. Somehow I have a strong memory of buying this book. May be because I bought it in a physical book shop. Thats sounds so antique already, with all the bookshops closing.
I had a great experience buying it from Art Book Centre in Ahmedabad. Its one of a kind beautiful little bookshop near Ellis Bridge in Ahmedabad. The books here are arranged like the streets of the old city itself. Structured chaos, deep Interlocks. No recognisable sectors or clarity like Chandigarh. One had to find their way in selecting the books. Only the shop owner knows where each book is placed in this matrix. Unfortunately i don’t remember his name, but i add him in the list of few people who would understand the significance of not having a real copy of Lang-Miki’s Architecture of Independence. The unfortunate ones like me need to move on with the life with the photocopy of the book (in which the words will be missing towards the centre of the binding, as the original CEPT library book could not be pressed further). If there was a survey of the most photo copied Indian book on Architecture, this would be in the top five. Because of the missing words towards the centre, the photo-copies have a ‘enigmatic’ edge over the original ones. Attaining a shade of ‘Kanhnian’ in the process.
It costed me 1000 bucks when i bought it. To put this in context today – Amazon rate: 3500 (For Non-Architects who are reading this piece, ‘Context’ is a artificial trope architects use to validate their design, even though if the buildings is covered by glass on all four sides, 1.5 times more expensive that clients budget) As a trainee i was paid per hour (This is a particular Ahmedabad strain, like their acquired taste to exposed brick and concrete ) , i used make around 1500 a month at 6 Rs per hour (like Ola rates). I was the highest paid trainee, as put in more fruitful hours hatching the CAD Plans, making area statements, folding large drawings for site etc. So the cost of the book amounts to 166.6 hours of working as a trainee.
Its inevitable here, i need to mention when i bought this book because of mentioning the cost. It was a decade ago. (The reader, if any, he or she is in their apprehensive 30’s like me will share my anxiety. The anxiety goes like this: Every year when you hear about the graduation day of the college, instinctively you count the years since one has graduated vs your productivity over the years) And I am told after 40, life soothes you and this anxiety is diluted. I hope so.
The following things happened to me after i bought this book:
1. Had the license to use the following words ‘mesurables’ and ‘unmesurables’ more frequently (more for flamboyance during my post graduation)
2. Started putting all the services in one core. I know, it is a shallow understanding of the ‘served’ and ‘servant’ spaces idiom . But to my convenience, design started working better.
As i am new to writing and having made all the trivial notes above to overcome the anxiety, I want to share the deepest pleasure when I read these lines from the essay ‘Form and Design’ (1960) in this book :
/ “A young architect came to ask a question. “I dream of spaces full of wonder. Spaces that rise and envelop flowingly without beginning, without end, of a jointless material white and gold.When i place the first line on paper to capture the dream, the dream becomes less”.”
/ “I once learned that a good question is greater than the most brilliant answer”
/ He talks about the “the realization of what particularizes the domain of spaces…”
/ Another one “Every space is intended to be dark should have just enough light from some mysterious opening to tell us how dark it really is”
/ “A great building, in my opinion, must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through the measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be immeasurable.”
- Searching in Google for the photos of the book, I found a delightful blog on the Art Book Centre it self. Credit and link to the first image: https://talesalongtheway.com/2013/08/29/art-book-center-ahmedabad/
- Credit and link to the second image if from this webpage. This link more photos of the bookstore : http://www.cityshor.com/ahmedabad/art-book-center-ahmedabad/