I have been visiting the United Nations Building by Joseph
Allen Stien for a while now. And I am
always struck by the studied expression of the central fenestrations that hold the building together. It to me is a simple expression of the buildings relation to the
ground and how it seeks lightness as it moves upwards. An expression made by a
very careful manipulation of three materials, and a triumph of proportions!
I am at once
reminded of the intricate wood lattice work facades of the fortresses and
temples of the Tibetan tradition of building that one sees in the architecture
of Bhutan, Tibet and Ladhak. Where a desire for lightness and seismic stability
yield a façade of a somewhat similar ordering as we move from the ground to the
air. Of course the effect is markedly
different in the case of the UN building, where it is one façade of narrower entry block, as compared to that
of Dzong or Lakhang (temple) but the
similarities are so apparent.
Do I find it beautiful and meaningful because I have
encountered it before and it is familiar and I am able relate to it as well as
recognize it from my past? Or is it beautiful because it has meaning and
expresses a relationship with the site / ground it sits on and the sky and
acknowledges these elements in different ways, and also explores the
possibility of a different inside-to-outside relationship at the different floor levels?
(There is no tour-de-force of architectural gymnastics or herculean structural
achievement, that seems so much the
requirement for being considered architecture in this day)
It is beautiful, in a quiet, will-not-take-your-breath-away
kind of way.
Is it beautiful because of nostalgia? Or is it the poetic expression?
Labels: architecture, Architecture in delhi, Fenestrations, Indian Architecture, J A Stien, Lodhi Estate, nostalgia, Poetics of Architecture, Poetics of Construction, Stone, UN Building, Windows