A German architect’s vision for India: From creating far too many Engineers to Governments' Apathy

A German architect’s vision for India: From creating far too many Engineers to Governments’ Apathy

Kochi: A house painted in white with geometrical shapes all around it. A beautiful gallery on its first floor with stunning views to the backwaters in Allepy and moreover the owner has been working in Kochi for last 18 years. Dr.Klaus Peter Gast is a German architect working for development at grass roots level.

The journey to his place is a mixture of roadways and waterways, a silent place with a personal office room of glass walls that gives you the view of backwater for relaxation when you are stressed, the breeze that gives you energy be however tired you are and that’s the description of his home.

He is a certified architect and worked in Germany till the age of 34 and then as the boom of architecture in Germany ended with a crash, he took a flight to his favorite place in India, Kerala. The first thing he noticed in Kerala was the potential for development, its cultural diversity and silence in the arms of nature.

He is now the Dean of a school of architecture located in Silver Sand Island and also a working architect. His ideas are beautiful integration of western culture and nature’s beauty and each house he builds has geometric shapes in it. ”Geometric shapes are not man made; it was there even before the advent of Homo Sapiens. These shapes in one’s house gives him a sense of relaxation and positive vibes. It helps me in creating simplicity without any complexion,” says Mr.Gast.

Above all, it is his ideas for planning a city that amazes one about how innovative they are; coming from a man who worked to create the eastern Germany upon reunification of Germany after the fall of Berlin wall. “India is yet to see a confluence of modern art and old culture,” he says siting on the gallery looking at the setting sun as he sips his black tea with a biscuit in other hand.

As the interaction enters various topics ranging from the welcome he got in India back in 1994 when he landed in Ahmadabad in a make-shift airport build of barracks and shacks to how he was enthralled by the hospitality that he received in India,we got to know more about his life journey. He arrived in India to research Luis Kahn’s work, which many architects consider as the supremo of architecture to the world. For those who don’t know this, it was Luis Kahn who built IIM Ahmadabad.

Hopping from one intriguing topic to another, as we discussed the new metro being built in Kochi, he suddenly appeared disappointed. Not because he did not want to talk about it, it was because he was disappointed with the kind of architecture being done by the governments now. “Politicians don’t think about long run, all they want is to show something to people in 5 years and play vote bank politics,” he added with grief. 
His ideas are more about how the city planning should be done, something he learned and researched while visiting Chandigarh, perhaps the only city planned and built by French legendary architect Le Conbruiser. His proposals seem practical and suddenly we realize how ignorant our government has been and how disillusioned and comfortably indifferent we have been. According to him, India lacks city planners, i.e., architects. City planning is not to be done by engineers. It is an architect’s job, but India flocks millions of Engineers, most of them try to find out some other profession. This excess supply of engineers in the market means that engineers come cheap. Unfortunately, they end up becoming planners while the architects either remain jobless or fly out to a better place in the world.
His vision is “traffic has to serve people and not the other way around”. Well this is what we forget when we want to create something to be shown in the next 5 years rather than in the long run.

-Varun Warrier
  Times School of Journalism 

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