His deepest influences have been Laurie Baker with his austere,
true architecture and Louis Kahn of the IIM Ahmedabad fame, with
his architecture imbued with the poetry of light.
The book, a unique
genre of its own, is neither a scholarly tome nor a flippant
paperback, but a private testament. "For an architect,
architecture is a kind of memoir. A piece of construction, the
making of a building, even the viewing of a monument, is a form
of autobiography — as personal an autobiography as an
architect can write."
Bhatia walks in
the footsteps of Le Corbusier, who undertook great travels in
his younger days and filled up volumes of sketchbooks,
observing, sketching and recording his impressions of the
classical edifices he saw. The book is enriched with exquisite
charcoal and pencil sketches by the author of the buildings that
come under his gaze. The text and the sketches complement each
other to convey his message and mission. The beauty of the
mosaic of words melded with the visuals is enough to make it a
collector’s item. After all, our lives revolve around
buildings, both inside and from outside. "Architecture
conveys its intent to those who are to use it, before they use
contemplating its forms, play of light and shade or the tapestry
of its textures, the building is a perennial source of
architectural inquiry for the writer. "It is the nature of
brickwork to stain in the rain and over the years turn its red
face into black, the petrification of a ruin."
In his writing
style and sensibilities Bhatia is the Ruskin Bond of
architectural prose. His affinity with nature and its
relationship with the organic built forms comes out vividly in
his ode to the hill home. "The hut … learned to live
without the company of a tree; to be alone most of the time and
know only the wind and sun and rain as passing friends. The hut
had solved its problem of survival. It was at peace on protected
At times, Bhatia’s
pen seems to run away with his heart, making his writings
enigmatic and perhaps emotionally overloaded, but the intent is
never under a cloud. Even though metaphors like "Parker-ink
skies" may leave you wishing for less poetic overkill, the
spirit of innocent wonder always resonates. Also, the sentences
are at times exasperatingly abstract, long-winded and laden with
mawkish overdoses, even if rich in poetic cadence. "Can the
tree ever release itself from its surroundings? Can it let its
earthly captivity become a sound in the inner ear?" is a
case in point. Even if the book is a "personal memoir"
it is now in public domain.
point about this "moment of architecture" is its
eternal quest for understanding true aesthetics of architecture.
When our cities are being overtaken by the blight of the nouveau
rich who have turned into patrons of this age-old, noble
profession, the dividing line between ‘building’ and ‘architecture’
is getting rather blurred. Architecture in the final analysis is
only a matrix of society and its values.
elegant ode to the ‘art of buildings’ is, therefore, timely
and a much-needed crusade. It may rekindle the sacred light in
bricks and mortar and separate it from the garish gloss of
granite and marble. His message is clear: "The idea is not
to make ordinary buildings out of beautiful materials, but
beautiful buildings out of ordinary objects."