Porosity, Paradox and Practice - A Conversation Between Balkrishna Doshi and Kazi Khaleed Ashraf

Balkrishna Doshi and Kazi Khaleed Ashraf partake in a converstation organised by Goethe-Zentrum Hyderabad

In a video from the series titled DIE BAUKUNST – Art, Aesthetics and Architecture, Balkrishna Doshi and Kazi Khaleed Ashraf engage in a conversation on the themes of porosity, paradox and practice.
The title porosity, paradox and practice refers to inherent ways of absorbing situations as they arise through notional counterbalance of nature, life-death, day-night to continue the cyclic order.

Out of the three themes, the one that jumps out at Kazi Ashraf is paradox. In case of architecture, the paradox is simply a wall, an emblem of architecture. And architects are given the responsibility to deal with this paradox. A wall’s existence and absence are both equally desired. To quote Louis Kahn, “Walls part and become columns”. This paradox or perplexity is the basis of what architects do, and Ashraf wonders if paradoxes like this promotes critical thinking and creativity. He also believes that the wall brings up the notion of both paradox and porosity.

Balkrishna Doshi discusses the idea of porosity. He talks about his childhood, when there were no restrictions. Doors of houses would remain open. Windows of the houses stayed open as well, conversation across the road was easily carried out. “One hardly thought of less of an abundance, trust and belief existed,” he says. Choices were limited but one never felt those limits. This is what life was and what life should be. Each activity in life seemed to be like a flow and one never felt constrained or obligated. Which is what porosity seems to be. But in today’s world, doors and windows are no longer staying open. There are rules and regulations, which makes us become outsiders in our own realms. Suffocation occurs, so we find artificial ways of dealing with situations we have unintentionally created in our society. This is how the social structure suffers loss. So porosity has robbed us of our life, choices and joys. But things like technology and the power of internet has reintroduced porosity in our lives. Without moving from our place, we can meet and interact with others, which liberates us.

Ashraf says architects are trained in clarity. The magnificance behind ordinary things and a fusion of masses with landscape can lead to complexity and ambiguity. And often such inherent complexities and paradoxes give rise to a richer experience in architecture. He questions if we have moved away from this notion.

Doshi agrees that paradox is not the origin, it is the opposite of it. Words like ‘less’ and ‘more’ and ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are all paradoxes, but they have a deeper meaning. Because of that, and because of how architects are educated, they are unable to look at the opposite side of the paradox. And architecture is no more a shelter, but an isolation. Buildings no longer have doors and walls, they are also gated communities. This shows how far removed the architecture profession is from where it began, the notion of openness, of porosity.



Originally recorded: 24th September, 2020
Video published: 4th October, 2020

Written by: Farhat Afzal