Kumbh Mela: A Temporary (But Not Instant) City for 2 Million

Part of Acciavatti’s diagram “Triveni Sangam: Celestial-Terrestrial Microcosm, 2006“. Image ©

Among the many complex interactions between humans and  in the Ganges river basin, perhaps none is more awe-inspiring than the religious festival of Kumbh Mela, which every twelve years hosts the largest single-purpose gathering of people on the planet, with an estimated 2 million temporary residents and 100 million total visitors in 2013. In the following excerpt from his book “Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River,” Anthony Acciavatti recounts the history of this spectacular event, as well as the smaller annual Magh Mela – and explains why even though it is temporary, the huge tent settlement that supports these festivals is not the “instant city” it is often described as, but instead a microcosm of settlement patterns across the whole Ganges.

Dangling at the tip of the Ganga-Jamuna Doab, where the Lower Ganges Canal system terminates, the city of Allahabad overlooks the confluence of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. While the Jamuna, to the south of the city, runs deep and narrow, the Ganges, to the north and east of the city, runs shallow and wide. Where these two rivers meet (and a third mythical river, the Saraswati), is known as the Triveni or Sangam, the most sacred site within Hinduism.

Every twelfth year, the sleepy university city of Allahabad is transformed into a colossal tent city populated by millions of pilgrims for the Kumbh Mela (literally Pitcher Celebration). And it all seems to happen so fast. After the deluge of the southwest monsoon (June-August), the waters of the Ganges and Jamuna slowly start to recede. A city grid is tattooed into the banks and shoals of the Ganges. Tents and temples pop up in October. Pontoon bridges stretch from one bank of the river to the other and pilgrims begin to arrive in January. Then come reporters and camera crews from all over the world, who come to document the life of what must at first appear to be the world’s largest Instant-Mega-City: a temporary tent city with the major infrastructure of a metropolis.

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Competition Results: ‘The Next Helsinki’ Call For Ideas

#76 MUUSA / draftworks*architects. Image Courtesy of The Next

The organisers behind The Next Helsinki, an ‘anti-competition’ masterminded by architect and critic Michael Sorkin, have highlighted a number of entries from 217 international submissions. Launched as an alternative to the controversial, “imperialised” Guggenheim Helsinki project, the call for ideas asked architects, urbanists, artists, and environmentalists to imagine how  and its South Harbour could be transformed for the maximum benefit of the city’s residents and visitors. It “sought to ask first if a massive foreign museum was the highest and best use for public resources, especially in an aspiration-focused egalitarian social democracy like Finland.”

See a shortlist of eight entries that, according to the jury, “reflect the variety and depth of the submissions” after the break. “These entries are not to be viewed as refined and final proposals, but rather ideas.”

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Lacaton & Vassal’s Lesson in Building Modestly

FRAC Dunkerque / Lacaton & Vassal. Image © Philippe Ruault

The French duo of Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal are known for their delicate interventions, repurposing neglected structures with apparent effortlessness. Originally published on the Harvard Gazette website entitled “They Build, But Modestly,” this article recounts the lessons which they offered students in a recent lecture at the Graduate School of Design.

Around 1980, two young architects finished their training in Bordeaux, France, and moved to Nigeria. In that African nation’s remote regions, they were inspired by the simple structures they saw amid the stark, stunning desert landscapes. The houses were open to the air, had utilitarian thatched roofs, and were made with bits of local wood. Modesty prevailed in structures that also invited beauty.

The lessons of building in Africa stayed with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal in their Paris-based practice, Lacaton & Vassal: use what is there, stay simple, embrace open air, and honor light, freedom, and grace. They practice social architecture based on economy, modesty, and the found beauty of environments.

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What Is The Role Of Hand Drawing In Today’s Architecture?

Competitions such as the RIBA Journal’s “Eye Line” contest celebrate the importance of drawing. Image © Tom Noonan

Historically, the ability to draw by hand – both to create precise technical drawings and expressive sketches – has been central to the architecture profession. But, with the release and subsequent popularization of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs since the early 1980s, the prestige of hand drawing has been under siege. Today, with increasingly sophisticated design and presentation software, from Revit to Rhinoceros, gaining in popularity, the importance of hand drawing has become a topic of heated discussion. Even so, when we published the short article “Hand vs. Computer Drawing: A Student’s Opinion” last week, the number of people offering their thoughts in the comments was far beyond what we expected.

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Video: Crane.tv Celebrates the Work of David Rockwell

© Crane.tv

“In architecture, in buildings, in a restaurant for instance, we extract the story.”

In the latest from Crane.tv, New York City is examined through a miniseries highlighting the work of David Rockwell in celebration of the Rockwell Group’s 30th anniversary. The retrospective collection visits the original Nobu restaurant, industrial Shinola store, innovative Chef’s Club, and groundbreaking Imagination Playground, while Rockwell shares his approach to creating spaces that are responsive to their occupants.

Watch all four short films, after the break.

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Patrik Schumacher Actually Makes a Good Point

Galaxy Soho. Image © Hufton + Crow

Last week Patrik Schumacher, director at Zaha Hadid Architects and the practice’s frontman in the field of architectural theory, took once again to Facebook to disseminate his ideas – this time arguing that “the denunciation of architectural icons and stars is superficial and ignorant.” In the post, Schumacher lamented the default position of the architectural media which he believes sees success and reputation as “a red cloth and occasion to knock down icons,” going on to outline his beliefs on why stars and icons are useful and even inevitable mechanisms of architectural culture.

Schumacher has made headlines via Facebook before, with a post last year in which he argued for an end to the “moralizing political correctness” that has led to the popularity of socially-conscious design – a post which attracted almost universal outrage from architects, critics and social media users of all stripes. However this latest post had a very different feel; many people, myself included, seemed to find themselves at least partially agreeing with Schumacher. After all, at the most basic level he was asking for designs to each be judged on their individual merits – what’s not to like?

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AR Issues: Architecture That Goes Beyond Style Wars

Courtesy of The Architectural Review

ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this editorial from AR’s March 2015 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor discusses the phenomenon of ”architects and magazines pursuing content rather than style,” arguing both that architects should be raising the bar and also that the media, by nurturing their critical stance, should be a part of the solution, not the problem.

In what style shall we – or indeed, should we – build? Historically, architecture’s relationship with “style” is complicated and vexed. We can easily identify the formal attributes and origins of specific styles that attest to why Gothic cathedrals or Victorian train sheds look the way they do. But beyond the constraints of such historical determinism, Postmodernist and Parametricist multiplicities have allowed a hundred flowers to bloom, and their aroma began to stink the place out long ago.

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In Conversation With Will Hunter, Director Of The New London School Of Architecture

Will Hunter, founder and director of the LSA. Image © Simon Harris

The great schools of architecture have been around since time immemorial, or at least that’s how it can often feel. In London, a city particularly dense with institutions of this calibre, this is perhaps felt more acutely. How, then, do you develop an entirely new school in this tightly packed environment which has the potency and capacity to compete? Will Hunter, former executive editor of the London-based Architectural Review, began a process to do just this with an article in 2012. Following this, he set up the ARFA—Alternative Routes For Architecture—in order to explore different models for architectural , calling upon professionals and academics to contribute to a series of informal discussions.

“When the tuition fees in the UK escalated to around £9000 per year in 2013, it got me thinking about different models for architectural education,” Hunter recalls. The casual meetings held around this time gradually become more serious until, “at a certain point, we decided to test them: to make a school.” The project gathered momentum from that point on and now, two years later, the London School of Architecture (LSA) are preparing to take in their first ‘trailblazing cohort’ of postgraduate .

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10 Things The “Cities: Skylines” Video Game Taught Us About Modern Urbanism

Courtesy of D. Wheatley (in-game screenshot)

Ask a random person in the street about their favorite hobbies, and it’s unlikely that they’ll say “urban planning and traffic management” – yet when video games began to take off in the late 1980s city-building was one of the first breakout hits, in the form of ’ SimCity series. The huge success of the “Sim” series in general drove conversations about the value of simulation, as part of the general 1990s optimism about virtual worlds being the future. Sim games became the subject of academic critiques of their philosophy of the world, while city builders became a lot more than a game: in 2002, SimCity 3000 was used as a semi-serious test for mayoral candidates in Warsaw.

After a slump caused by a difficult transition to 3D graphics, city builders are back in vogue. Following what is widely considered as a disappointing SimCity reboot in 2013, ’s Colossal Order recently released Cities: Skylines to critical and financial success. But simulations require assumptions; they are, after all, written by people who have their own conscious and unconscious views on how and why cities work. The limitations around designing a video game – the fact that each asset must be modeled and textured, and that each transport option requires a huge amount of work to simulate – mean that Cities: Skylines is as stripped down and streamlined an articulation of urban philosophy as Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse or the New Urbanists’ models, and just as interesting. We investigate 10 things this game tells us about 21st century urbanism, after the break.

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6 Proposals Revealed for Oslo’s New Government Quarter

Courtesy of

Nearly 100 architects, designers, and consultants have been developing designs for a competition for the new government quarter in Oslo. Drawing an initial 24 entries, the intent of the competition was to generate viable solutions for the future relocation of all government ministries (excluding the defense ministry), emphasizing an urban atmosphere and public elements. In the six shortlisted proposals from both local and international firms, including BIG, Snøhetta, and MVRDV, the themes of building tall and introducing green space emerged.

Now a ten-member committee of industry professionals will assist Statsbygg, the public construction advisers collaborating on the government’s behalf, with the evaluation of each design. Take a look at the six proposals after the break.

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Inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial Announces 2015 Participants

Chicago Biennial to feature photo series by Iwan Baan. Image © Iwan Baan

A 60-strong list of international studios has named the official participants of the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial - the “largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America.” Chosen by Biennial Co-Artistic Directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda – who are supported by an advisory council comprising David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, Sylvia Lavin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Peter Palumbo, and Stanley Tigerman - each participating practice will convene in Chicago to discuss “The State of the Art of Architecture” and showcase their work from October 3 to January 3, 2016.

“The city of Chicago has left an indelible mark on the field of architecture, from the world’s first modern skyscraper to revolutionary urban designs,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “That’s why there’s no better host city than Chicago for this rare global event. The offers an unprecedented chance to celebrate the architectural, cultural, and design advancements that have collectively shaped our world.”

A complete list of participants, after the break. 

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Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River

Courtesy of Anthony Acciavatti

Few geographies in the world nurture such a rich and complex imaginary as the Ganges River Valley. The heart of Indian Culture, and home to over one quarter of India’s population, the Ganges is one of the most fertile and infrastructure-heavy river valleys in the planet. Its many physical, historical and spiritual natures defy a single interpretation: always in flux, source of life and destruction, and venerated as a Hindu Deity, the Ganges fully embodies the complexities and excesses of the Indian Civilization.

In “Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River,” Anthony Acciavatti orchestrates a magnificent portrait of the Ganges River Basin, and its continuous reinvention as a test-bed for infrastructural innovation. Through the hybrid genre of the Atlas-Almanac-Travelogue, the book unfolds the many nested spatial and temporal scales that characterize this highly contested territory. Those captivated with the planetary urbanization of will find in this book a timely and relevant volume of encyclopedic ambition and exquisite design.

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Are Computers Bad for Architecture?

The parametric method works well if a problem is well understood – but in the early stages of a design, you often learn what you’re solving while you solve it. Image Courtesy of Daniel Gillen

In his articles for ArchSmarter, Michael Kilkelly often praises the value of computers and automation, a sometimes controversial viewpoint with plenty of supporters on either side. In particular, his previous post on ArchDaily, “5 Reasons Architects Should Learn to Code” provoked a significant discussion. But what is the value of this automation? In this post originally published on ArchSmarter, he expands on his view of what computers can be useful for – and more importantly, what they can’t.

I write a lot about digital technology and automation here on ArchSmarter, but deep down inside, I have a soft spot for all things analog. I still build physical models. I carry a Moleskine notebook with me everywhere. I also recently bought a Crosley record player.

I can listen to any kind of music I want through Spotify. The music world is literally at my finger tips. Playing records hasn’t changed what I listen to but it has changed how I listen to music. There’s more friction involved with records. I have to physically own the record and I have to manually put it on the turntable. It’s a deliberate act that requires a lot more effort than just selecting a playlist on Spotify. And it’s a lot more fun.

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Architecture, Economics and Aquariums: Can ICM Revive the Bilbao Effect in Asia?

Acquario Ceara, Fortaleza. Image Courtesy of ICM

The “Bilbao effect“ was once viewed as the savior of the other cities; a way for post-industrial cities in the 1990s and 2000s to not only replace their economic reliance on failing industry with , but to reinvent themselves as capitals of High Culture, enriching both body and soul. This has long since ceased to be the case, and many now see it instead as an ironic monument to hubris. But while architecture in the west is attempting to find a viable successor, rapidly expanding economies in Asia and South East Asia seem poised to embark on a new wave of architectural and cultural flourishes designed to attract tourists and Thai Baht.

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Patrik Schumacher: “The Denunciation of Architectural Icons and Stars is Superficial and Ignorant”

’ Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton + Crow

In the latest of his provocative posts on Facebook, Patrik Schumacher has come out in defense of iconic design and star architects, arguing that the current trend of criticism is “superficial and ignorant,” and “all-too-easy point-scoring which indeed usually misses the point.”

Schumacher says that critics “should perhaps slow down a bit in their (pre-)judgement and reflect on their role as mediators between the discourse of architecture and the interested public.” In the 1,400 word post, he goes on to elaborate that so-called icons and the star system are inevitable results of this mediation, adding that “explanation rather than dismissal and substitution should be seen as the critics’ task.”

Read on after the break for more highlights from Schumacher’s argument

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Light Matters: Learning From Vernacular Windows

Window in Osaka, Japan. Image © VELUX Group

Before computer daylight simulations were used to optimize the atmosphere and energy in buildings, generations of builders developed simple principles to create the best windows for their site. Two lighting experts have studied these traditional openings in buildings to find inspiration for more sustainable designs today. Francesco Anselmo, a lighting designer at Arup, and John Mardaljevic, Professor of Building Modelling at the School of Civil & Building Engineering of Loughborough University, have analysed the sun and skylight variations from northern regions like Stockholm down to the equator in cities like Haiti or Abu Dhabi.

Read on to learn more about the variety of traditional windows.

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The Architecture Of Death

At the 2014 Venice Biennale, away from the concentrated activity of the Arsenale and Giardini, was Death in Venice: one of the few independent projects to take root that year. The exhibition was curated by Alison Killing and Ania Molenda, who worked alongside LUST graphic designers. It saw the hospitals, cemeteries, crematoria and hospices of interactively mapped creating, as Gian Luca Amadei put it, an overview of the capital’s “micro-networks of death.” Yet it also revealed a larger message: that architecture related to death and dying appears to no longer be important to the development of architecture as a discipline.

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For and Against All-Nighter Culture: ArchDaily Readers Respond

Forrest Jessee’s Sleep Suit. Image © Forrest Jessee

Nearly three weeks ago, the editors at ArchDaily reached out to our readers to help us investigate one of the most difficult challenges of architecture education: what do students and teachers think of the 24-hour culture that has come to pervade the architecture profession? As we mentioned in our original post, the idea that all-nighters are simply an unavoidable part of an  in architecture has come under fire recently, with some schools attempting to combat them by closing their studios overnight. Is this the right approach to reducing the hours that students are (over)working? If not, what should be done instead? Perhaps there are some people that still think a 24-hour culture can be beneficial to young architects?

The response we got to our question was astonishing, with 141 comments on the article itself and over 100 more on our Facebook post. From this discussion, two overriding themes emerged: firstly, many commenters seemed to believe that architecture students have too much work in the first place; secondly, there was almost complete consensus that closing the studios achieves nothing but moving the problem of all-nighters from the studio to students’ homes. For the sake of brevity we’ve chosen not to include the many responses that mention these themes ideas in this post, but for anyone interested in seeing the evidence of these opinions, we encourage you to visit the original article.

As for the remainder of the comments, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting contributions. Find out what 15 commenters had to say about the 24-hour studio culture – taking in arguments for and against it as well as discussing its wider consequences and ways to avoid it – after the break.

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