Architecture & Design

The Gathering Dust

November 2013 – Indian Quarterly

Six years before he helped to found the Bombay Stock Exchange in 1875, Premchand Roychand donated 2 lakh rupees to the University of Bombay for the construction of a clock tower on the express condition that it be named after his mother: Rajabai. Built of local Kurla stone and designed by English architect Sir George Gilbert Scott (best known for his Gothic Revival churches back home), the tower rose 85 meters, looking out over the palms and the maidan to the sea. The clock tower and its scrolls of Venetian Gothic masonry surmounted the university library; it was Bombay’s tallest building.

For years, visitors could enter and climb the tower for about one rupee. Then in the 1970s, having already lost its privileged position on the skyline to the blunt modernist towers at Nariman Point, the tower was closed to the public. There had been suicides; the university authorities realized they couldn’t control who came in (nor, apparently, how they left). (more…)

Kochi: Seeding a City

May 2013 – Architectural Digest India

Kochi’s ‘Bypass Road’ no longer bypasses much of anything. Designed in the 1970s to carry traffic around the city centre to the airport, the road now traverses and, to a large extent, decides the next big spots for development here in Kerala’s commercial capital. Billboards, rough and geometric, emerge along the roadside from stands of palms and tropical underbrush, rise on metal stilts over canals and creeks, and jut from the sides of new-ish aluminium-sided commercial buildings. Most advertise one of three things: gold, silk or real estate. (more…)

Beautiful Chaos at Kolkata’s Durga Puja

November 8, 2012 – The Atlantic Cities

KOLKATA, India — There are two things about Kolkatans, my friend Santanu tells me. “We’re work-shirkers and we’re anarchists.” I can’t speak to the local work ethic, but there is a strain of anarchic fervor in the celebrations surrounding Durga Puja, the City of Joy’s most important festival. (more…)


June 2012 The Caravan

Were it prettier, you might call the town of Filadélfia mirage-like. To arrive here, you’ll drive six hours from Asunción, landlocked Paraguay’s sweaty capital, through the vast flatness of the Gran Chaco, a region stretching from northern Argentina across half of Paraguay and into Bolivia and Brazil. Every gust of wind here lifts a sheet of dust from the parched April ground. Flat-bottomed clouds slide by as over a sheet of glass. The sky’s not a dome, it’s a lid. (more…)