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Article "Metamorphosis of Contemporary NEPALESE ARCHITECTURE" - Prof. Bharat Sharma.

Posted On: September 06, 2017

 

Metamorphosis is basically change or transformation in character as per any standard dictionary.

In architectural metamorphosis, there is always an element of dream; though dream, it has to be pragmatic and realistic. Dream leads to the opening of frontiers and the expansion of incremental knowledge of the field and its application. Expansion or progressive knowledge leads to dynamic or utilitarian changes, serving the society.

If we care to ponder over Metamorphosis of contemporary Nepalese architecture, very often very chaotic collage of architectural products are physically visible. I wish it was just paper mosaic and not the tangible one. The mushrooming of mostly anything but creative architectural products, though called contemporary in developmental time frame, are bad
testimonials. Basically quite a number of them cannot be termed as architectural product. Really, it does not mean that all the products are anything but architecture, few are creative and aesthetic too.

In geological Metamorphism, the key elements to transform the related entities are pressures, heat and chemical action. If we were to draw interesting analogy in architectural metamorphism, the key agents could be professional heat (professionalism), societal affinity and ethical pressure.

Broadly the contemporary Nepalese architecture is having the octopus growth. Taking some exceptions among so called senior and junior practicing architects, most of us are the bunch is doing anything creative. I am not very sure about functional aspects of the various contemporary buildings; most so any skilled 'Dakarmi Naike' could very easily deliver that kind of substandard architectural services; what to talk of sustainable architecture.

It is not my intention to undermine contemporary architectural works of any designer when I am myself not a practicing architect. Nevertheless, it is vivid enough for us to judge that most of the architectural works are simply not on par with creative architecture.
However, all is not dismal; there are few amongst the seniors and juniors who are defi nitely practicing good architecture. The products are obvious for any critical but phenomenological observation.

While most of other mushrooming works by many degree holder architects are in limbo.
This scenario is obviously the self-inflected wounds, and no one else is to be blamed. The need of hour for us is to put our acts together and practice some really innovative architecture which could be based either on cultural national identity could very well be modern or post modern, crossing over the national domain. However, the bad imitation of the past leads us nowhere and is cancerous for the profession.

So back to start, talking about Metamorphosis in the absence of the key activators namely the professional heat, societal affection and ethical pressure, an ideal transformation is not very likely to happen until and unless the overwhelming present trend is consciously stopped by Nepalese architects, and the society is taken into confi dence by arousing awareness in good architecture. That era will usher towards true dream, and in the real sense there will be dawn of healthy metamorphosis of Nepalese architecture.

Metamorphosis of Contemporary Nepalese Architecture
"……..our architecture in the past was definitely talking – that too in a loud, clear and creative social way for any sensitive ears and eyes"
Talking architecture, as I view it has dual implied meaning. One could be "The architecture which talks and is not dumb" metaphorically. When we flip through the pages of time, the metamorphosis of Nepalese Architecture – modern or post looks pretty erratic and very inconsistent without any defi nite direction like a boat sans sail and rudder. Obviously, one cannot make a model out of the chaos.

De facto, Architecture does talk to us provided we listen and observe. Creative and utilitarian Architecture as well as junk one does talk to us and we do talk about the good one and the bad one with clear distinction.

Utopianism – society's daydreaming is not much evidently rooted in our eastern history. Perhaps, closely related to utopianism is the type of environmental determinism which is very likely to influence architecture. As a creative designer, an architect is supposed to condition the characteristics of physical environment so that the socio – cultural and physical goals could be realized through the built environment. Kathmandu valley experienced this aspect in the past.

In the distant past, it would not be an exaggeration to state that our Architecture was definitely talking – that too in a loud, clear and creative social way for any sensitive ears and eyes. They were testimonials of high, intrinsic and pervasive status of built environment of Kathmandu valley as one symbiotic entity. It is not to say that there should be dogmatic continuum of the past for ever and we should be glued to the past glory of our art and architecture. Now is the dynamic age of transformation and transition powered by all kinds of socio - culture revolution taking place throughout the world? With tremendous stride in art, informatics and technology, the globe is no more compartmentalized and has shrunk into close connectivity and interaction.

Things are no more tied down to one particular geographical location or one specific culture. In other words, human achievements are getting globalised since last few decades. This is so true in case of architecture too. Hence, architecture should not be confi ned to
national boundary or should not be tied to so-called slogan of nationalism which we brag a lot without much substance. I guess there is no barrier between good architecture and national political boundary. Good architecture belongs to world heritage and is pride of Homo sapiens at large. Past glory as distinct identity should be cherished but we should move along with contemporary modern and post modern trend in proactive and creative way.

But for some unknown reasons, we tend to cling to the past without doing any justice to the present. It is desirable to conserve the architectural heritage of the past in workable and pragmatic manner but simultaneously we have to keep pace with the modern trend and movement of architecture in global context too.

In early sixties, a symposium was held in metropolitan museum of New York which deliberated on "Modern Architecture Death or Metamorphosis". What Siegfried Giedion branded as 'play boy architecture' in which architecture is treated the way a play boy treats life with sensation, where as contemporary architecture was taken worthy of the name in context of its task of interpreting the way of life of the period, with objective of evolving a new tradition.

As it is said, history is defi nitely not compilation of facts but rather an insight into marching process of life or society Giedion's observations on "constancy and change in primeval art and in Architecture" in the west is equally valid in our case too. Interrelationship of space time and architecture is too close to be separated apart. Contemporary art and architecture was born out of determination to go back to elemental expression.

For some time now, Europe and USA has been source of wind blowing the development of contemporary architecture. This is what is called universal architecture which has yet not begun developing in Nepal. In Nepal, the trend of architecture is very much like a crow that loses cardinal direction in the fog. Very few architects are producing creative and good contemporary architecture. Rests are bogged down to playboy architecture. Jigsaw puzzle solving approach in architecture is largely en vogue. Before pondering into what is happening in the current architectural scene of Nepal, let us devote our attention on global context. Normally, there were three distinct stages (phases) of architectural development in the west. In first stage, space was brought into being by interplay between various volumes and this was fi rst conception of space. Interior space was not given due regard; example could be that of Egypt and Greece. But during the second phase, the formation of architectural space was synonymous with hollowed out interior space. This second stage space conception covered the Roman period (eg.Pantheon) and ranged to the end of Eighteenth century. Nineteenth century forms are branded as intermediary link. In this stage, elements of all previous phases were intermingled.

Distinctly, the third stage of space conception entered with optical revolution with the onset of 20th century which eradicated the single view point perspective.
This stage had far reaching consequences for the conception of architecture and urban space. The space radiating qualities of buildings were freed from bounds of wall barriers. Interpenetration of inner and outer space and interpenetration of different levels came into play.

In Nepalese context, we do not have distinct phases as in the West and things are jumbled up with hazy situation. Numbers of the public sector institutional buildings have been dragged along the old eclectic architecture which need not be the case. Undoubtedly we should conserve and protect out old heritage but simultaneously we should break away from limbo of imitated cardboard architecture which is quite predominant these days. It is high time to get along with contemporary creative and utilitarian Architecture. This is the call of the hour. Those who are creatively and devotedly involved deserve our applause.