Mahesh Senagala is an architect with a universal outlook and draws inspiration from the Indian ethos.
CREATIVE INTEGRATION: Mahesh Senagala draws inspiration from a variety of sources.
HIS INSPIRATION is derived from Indian sacred literature, philosophy, astronomy and astrology through French existential literature, Latin American poetry to contemporary western post modern thought systems; and it is this eclecticism that he tries to translate on to buildings for the future. Meet Mahesh Senagala, a young architect and urban designer, presently working as Assistant Professor at the University of Texas, San Antonio School of Architecture, specialising in design and digital applications in architecture.
Born and brought up in Vijayawada and Hyderabad (his father is a well known theatre person and actor Senagala Kabir Das), Mahesh is a gold medallist in architecture from the JNTU, Hyderabad. He pursued professional architecture programme at the Kansas State University where he was also recipient of the John Helm award for outstanding professional potential. Besides buildings, Mahesh also `constructs' words - he writes poetry (deep in emotion, thought provoking and given to existential musings) both in Telugu and English. He is also deeply interested in the philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurthy.
Mahesh has designed and built institutional, commercial, residential complexes, and buildings in the United States over the last ten years, and among his noteworthy creations include the BMW car showroom, the AMC Theatres Pavilion in Las Vegas, the Citibank buildings in Chicago, and the Pegasus Plaza (space for the famed thoroughbreds) in Kansas City. Author of several academic works on architecture, some of his more significant contributions in theory can be seen in Anne Elisabeth Toft edited, Ethics in Architecture (Denmark) and George Proctor edited Thresholds, besides articles in architecture and design journals. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled Architecture, Speed and Relativity.
Mahesh was in the city in connection with a series of lectures and workshops on architecture for professionals and students of the discipline, and shared some of his thoughts on his idea / ideal to bring about a true convergence of not merely different streams of architecture but also global networking of trends in modern architecture via cyber space.
"I am drawn towards different creative activities," he says, "and I am keen on the concept of integrating, building bridges as it were; bringing poetry, film, music, art and computing techniques together in my architectural designs."
Much of Mahesh's work rests on the idea of drawing energy and life from the environs around, using the five elements (earth, fire, wind, ether, water) creatively. "Architecture finally boils down to these," he points out.
As a teacher (spending "60 per cent teaching, and only 40 per cent designing') Mahesh has been urging students to imbibe from literature, and move out of simple mathematical equations. Alluding to the Indian architectural styles (Hampi, the Taj Mahal, Golconda, and a quaint temple in Yaganti in interior Andhra are among his favourites) where creativity was the central focus, he points out - "India is blessed with a wealth of creative tradition. But if it is blended with latest technology it would be a formidable combination.
In the West buildings are technologically superior and glittery but lack in poetic soul. We are uniquely placed today in India. We must combine all these." About the education system in architecture here, he says, "in the West there is integration of many creative sources - film, music, literature."
But, in architecture one cannot lose the wisdom of the past, nor can one go back, replicating what was, as we do, most of the time. In cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Ahmedabad, there is more exciting work happening when compared to Hyderabad. Buildings here leave much to be desired. They merely mimic the West, but in the process fail to emulate the finer aspects, which results in flashy, banal structures without content. These buildings cannot be sustainable. Hyderabad tends to be insulated and isolated and not aware of happenings in contemporary architecture world over. It has been my effort to shed light on this aspect."
At a presentation held at the Institution of Engineers recently, titled, `Creative Living in a Global Village, he shared some examples of the new paradigm in architectural design, namely, Factory to File, which eliminates the use of drawings.
Computer aided designs and 3-D models are sent to contractors and fabricators via the internet to be translated into a physical structure. This helps professionals stay connected; and to design structures from anywhere in the world.
Closer home Mahesh has recently given a proposal for a guest house in Vijayawada by the Krishna river, and as all his work, this one too, is grounded on using spatial dimensions of a different nature.
Since the 12-year Pushkara cycle is an important theme associated with the river Krishna, he has planned the guesthouse with its axis based on Jupiter's movement, its path calculated through the astronomy software (Starry Night Backyard).
The idea is also that the occupants of the house can see Jupiter rising coinciding with the Pushkara cycles.
This idea he believes has elements of cultural specificity and universal concerns. For the immediate future,
Mahesh is updating a network of architects and designers the world over, through a web journal he edits, Dotarchitect.net - which focuses on use of cutting edge technology in architecture.
R. UMA MAHESHWARI
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