Organized by the Abdullatif Alfozan Award for Mosque Architecture and the College of Architecture at Kuwait University, the 3rd International Conference on Mosque Architecture was held in Kuwait on 14-16 November 2022. Under the theme of “Mosque: a cross cultural building,” 101 architects participated in this year’s edition, showcasing their state-of-the-art designs and how they reimagined religious buildings in a more contemporary context, taking into account the importance of community, privacy, its religious significance, and the environment.
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The 3rd International Conference on Mosque Architecture in Kuwait Explores the Mosque as a Cross Cultural Building
Archaeological endeavors aimed at exploring the civilizations of the past have revealed a commonality across the world. A form of architecture developed independently on every continent. Evidence shows that Neolithic communities used fertile soils and alluvial clay to construct humble abodes, creating humankind’s first durable and solid building material. Earth architecture was born at a very early age in human history. The techniques soon suffered a gradual decline as lifestyles changed, cities grew, and industrialized materials flourished. Does earth architecture have a place in the 21st-century world?
On November 3rd, 2022, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) announced the decision to end the restoration works for elements of the campus designed by Louis Kahn with Indian architects Balkrishna V. Doshi and Anant Raje in 1962. The decision affects the faculty blocks, classroom complex, and dorms other than dorm D15. According to the statement, the institution plans to replace some of the buildings, as the complex is “facing structural damage, deterioration and have become uninhabitable, posing a safety concern for the campus's residents.” This represents a reversal of the decision to withdraw the first demolition plans following global protests, announced in January 2021.
A defining feature of the architecture of the Swahili Coast—apart from its coral stone buildings and mangrove poles used to elaborate those structures—is undoubtedly the ornamented door so commonly found across this coastal area. Richly decorated, and historically often layered with meaning, these doors, apart from serving the more utilitarian function of an entrance, were also signifiers of status and wealth. From this Swahili Coast to the Arabian Peninsula, these doors of the coast are very much markers of their location, representative of trade and migration.
In almost every Indian language, a colloquial term for “family” - ghar wale in Hindi, for example - literally translates to “the ones in (my) house”. Traditionally, Indian homes would shelter generations of a family together under one roof, forming close-knit neighborhoods of relatives and friends. The residential architecture was therefore influenced by the needs of the joint family system. Spaces for social interaction are pivotal in collective housing, apart from structures that adapt to the changing needs of each family. The nuanced relationship between culture, traditions, and architecture beautifully manifests in the spatial syntax of Indian housing.
In the mid-twentieth century, a set of South Asian countries collectively experienced a catharsis from colonizers’ rule. The period that followed sparked an era of ideas and philosophies for a new future. During this time, architects were pivotal in creating modernist structures that defined the countries’ post-colonial, post-partition and post-imperial identities. South Asian architects used design as an expression of hopeful societal visions, most of which have been actualized. With this success in nation-building, there has been a lack of accreditation for women architects in shaping South Asian histories.
Cities have been, and will always be multi-faceted, elastic sites. They are settlements in continuous evolution, molded by proximity to natural resources, by migrating populations, and by capital. Despite the diversity in the urban character of disparate cities, it has been said that cities look alike now more than ever before, a uniformity that means a glass-and-steel tower in Singapore would not look out of place in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex.
Most architects design projects in the comfort of their offices, sitting behind their desks, making decisions by looking at their flatscreens, never visiting a construction site, and managing everything remotely. This attitude may lead to a design of a sleek and even objectively beautiful building. But such a solution can’t be anywhere near a genuine response to what any given site may require. How do you even find out? Is it possible to build something new as if it were an extension of what is already there in the most innate, consequential, yet original form? The only way to find out is to start from the site itself, says Vinu Daniel, the founder of Wallmakers, an award-winning architectural practice in Trivandrum, the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala.
Architecture is often an ambitious profession, with many architects hoping to positively contribute to the social life of the communities, create emotional responses, and add moments of delight and solace to our daily experiences. However, market forces have a way of applying constant pressure on this field, often being the deciding factor in many design choices. Costs and economic value are generally a good indicator of how, when, and to what extent certain materials are being used: the standard rule is the cheaper, the better. But materials are only part of the equation. Site labor, management, and design costs are also considered, depicting a complex picture of the balance between the cost of materials and the cost of labor and its effect on the architectural product.
Indians have traditionally lived close to the earth, their cultures shaped by symbiotic relationships with ecosystems. Indian arts and crafts strongly rely on nature for its form, philosophy, and existence. Native landscapes aroused the artistic sensibilities of resident communities, evolving craft practices that met utilitarian and ritualistic needs. The intersectionality of ecology and culture is evident through ancestral forms of craft.
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