Monday, September 10, 2007

Aesthetic Nonsense

Click to enlargeBeauty, they say, lies in the eyes of the beholder. So does ugliness, I suppose, for some people must have felt that this matchbox-like structure (photo on the left) was the best design for the new building for The University of Calcutta. Why else would this incongruous new wing be constructed in the beautiful garden of the beautiful old university building (photo on lower right)? Click to enlargeThe new building obscures a large portion of the lovely old building as well. I know some people will mutter something about effective usage of space and resources on reading this. I ask them: is the effective usage of space enough? Then probably Shah Jahan should have built a 6'x3' grave for his wife instead of the Taj Mahal. And as anybody can see, even the old building makes effective use of space, only adding a little bit of aesthetic value.

This visual onslaught is not limited to constructing ugly buildings next to beautiful ones. It includes making the beautiful ones ugly as well. Take the St. John's Church beside the Sealdah Station for instance (picture below).
Click to enlargeWhile the large paintings covering the windows are not ugly, they do not do justice to the beautiful facade of the building. There should have been stained glass windows in their place. Although I do not know the details about this building, I think it is safe to assume that the windows were stained glass earlier, but due to some reason were covered up like this. Even if they were covered with blinds, like the topmost windows, they would have looked much nicer. And apart from the paintings, the hoarding advertising a shopping mall is an eyesore. I wonder why nobody says anything about such advertising.

Click to enlargeSpeaking of advertising, we hit a new low with this Mother Dairy advertisement near Manicktala(picture on the right). Large red and blue letters on what must have been a lovely domed building once proclaim that the time you see in the clock is "Mother Dairy Time". I agree, that Mother Dairy must be paying for the maintenance of that clock, but does that give them the right to deface the building with their advertisement? Next they'll paint the Victoria Memorial red. Sponsorship does not mean you cover everything with your advertisements. Advertisements must be put responsibly, and the government must ensure, if needed, that the beauty of the surroundings is not affected. And this trend of ugly advertising is not limited to buildings alone. Take a look at this tram I photographed in College Street.
Click to enlargeWhat do you think of that? As it is, Kolkata's tram fleet looks ungainly enough. Do we need to turn them into moving clowns just to keep them running? This time it's Dabur doing the deed. Also notice the building in the background. Once it must have been a palace in "The City of Palaces". Today it lies in shambles. There are many such buildings all over Kolkata, some even more beautiful. Trees have grown out of their cracks and the paint has peeled off. Nobody looks after them, or even if they do, they only make sure that they do not fall down.

Click to enlargeTo end this post on a lighter note, I will now present a building which is not a famous landmark, though it ought to be! I can't remember when I have last seen a building with such a revolting facade. Although I should not be judgmental about personal choice, as this building must be beautiful to its owner, I really can't help it. The fact that it is a stone's throw distance away from the beautiful Science College building doesn't help either. I heard that in some European countries, the government has to approve the paint on your house so that looks good among the other houses on the street. I wonder whether we should take a lesson from that, because our goal should be to build beautiful cities for the future generations, not just cities.

(I posted briefly about the ugliness of modern architecture here before.)


  1. This is a very nice photo essay, Sugata!

  2. Nice one dude. People in general do not know how to live life. They are just breathing and passing time untill die. aestheticness is something which is left in art galleries and in minds of some exceptions like you.

  3. Umm....concepts like space saving/cost cutting have always been rival to art and aesthetics..the social message is relevant create "beautiful cities" rather than just of palaces turns to city of of gardens turning to city of buildings....i mean ....its time some balance sets in.