‘Ninety per cent of our heritage is gone’

This year\'s winner of the NDTV Grohe design and architectural award for lifetime achievement, Prof Krishna Rao Jaisim talks to Reema Moudgil about what Bangalore was and what he hopes it will become in the future

Published: 06th May 2014 07:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th May 2014 07:31 AM   |  A+A-


When a spokesperson for NDTV GROHE Design and Architecture Awards, called up Professor Krishna Rao Jaisim and told him that he had won a Lifetime Achievement Award, he hung up. Even though he is one of the country’s most eminent architects with a distinctively green design idiom, Jaisim’s immediate reaction to the good news was that someone was pulling his leg. After multiple calls, he told the caller, “talk to my wife.” And then finally at some point the news sank in. “It was a wonderful experience, “ he says of the ceremony though even now he is a bit incredulous.

Multiple articles have been written about how a young Jaisim was so impacted by Ayn Rand’s seminal book on architectural heroes that he named his architectural practice, Jaisim Fountainhead in 1970. What the printed word cannot capture is, however, his child-like rapture at the smallest of things. Like being flown to Delhi to receive his award. And the joy he gets from the constant dialogue with  young talents at his firm about the design of life. Also obvious is his immense patience with change and though he is genial and non-judgmental, his keen eye misses nothing. City Express asked him how after more than four decades in the city as an architect, did he look at Bangalore and its constant deconstruction into a seething megapolis   

How do you evaluate the changes you see in the city?

If there are not very good changes, then am guilty of them too. The change is tremendous and saddens me and I wonder, if in a city catering to the needs of the young, am I the one who is really lost? But you know, when I was young, old Bangaloreans would say, “But why do we need Double Road?”  They would complain about the traffic even though till about the mid 1980s, you could go around the city and find multiple parks dotting either the left or the right side of the car. That is how the city was planned. And if wanted to build more than one storey of a building, the clearances would be tough to get.

Does the heedless development anger you?

Sometimes when I drive long distances, I tell my wife, “I have had enough. I want to jump off Nandi Hills."  Look at the Metro, no one seems to know where it is going. But when I think pragmatically, I realise, this is a transition and will continue for the next five to 10 years before we realise the cost of this excess and then move into a more homogenous, organic way of building and living. When a building is in tune with the earth and ‘belongs’ contextually to its geography and environment, that is when it is truly green. I compare the changes in Bangalore to kids in a playground who kick up a lot of dust, create a lot of noise and are considered disruptive. But they are oblivious and having fun. As far as the growth goes, I cannot say that Bangalore is only for Bangaloreans. It is for everybody. Growth is inevitable but how we grow is what counts. 

We are losing our green cover..

The other day, someone came and cut a tree in my neighbourhood right before me. I asked him why he was cutting it and he said because the fruit falls on the ground, makes it slippery and causes accidents! Can you believe the excuses they give for cutting the trees? I have met many eminent citizens who say that we don’t need trees to co-exist with us! They want trees banished to parks and forests. They say  trees choke up drains, are a nuisance during rains and I get what they are saying. But maybe they have never walked under the shade of a tree like you and me.  

And our heritage architecture..

Heritage is dead. Ninety per cent of what we considered as heritage is gone not just in Bangalore but in Karnataka but if  you look at our religious scriptures, we do not conserve what was. For us yesterday is today and today is tomorrow so change spins fast, taking things away, redefining today, creating the future. Personally, I miss what was once known as South Parade.

I could walk in peace on the roads but how many people remember what South Parade was? The joy of walking and having an ice-cream in what is now a Metro station is gone. Today I cannot cross the narrow road near my house in less than 35 minutes. The other day, I took an eminent Bangalorean for a walk in Cubbon Park and showed her how we may be the only city that fences in green spaces from the people who are meant to enjoy them. Parks are for old people, children and young couples but we don’t want them anymore. And when the court sessions are on, the cricket matches are on, the  park becomes a parking space for one and all. That is what our parks have become. Parking spaces.

And finally..

The ethos is changing. We are losing sensitivity towards each other, towards the earth. We seem to be in a constant rush. Everyone is angry, stressed as they zip around in their fancy cars. Who is to blame for this? We need to find an answer to that question.


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