Touching The Life Of The Inhabitant
Aftab Jalia
BLUEPRINT by Gautam Bhatia Mapin, 2018, 352 pp., 2500
July 2019, volume 43, No 7

Gautam Bhatia can very easily be misunderstood. The Delhi-based artist and architect’s discomfort with mediocrity in Indian architecture has been poured out through scathing critiques over the past decades. One could dismiss Bhatia as being cynical if not for his prolific inspired artistic and architectural output that counterbalance the despondency found in his literature. This book, Blueprint, compiles his lifetime creative endeavours, making his special talent apparent while leaving no doubt that the Indian architectural milieu could only have benefited from more like him.

In more ways than one, Blueprint is a misfit and deliberately so it seems. The first thing to strike you is its slender long format, atypical for architectural monographs which otherwise tend to maximize the landscape spread to flaunt large drawings and photographs. But Bhatia chooses to present his works on a more humble scale, albeit at the expense of leaving us yearning for more. Perhaps more importantly, his tone of presentation is that of a chronicler than promoter.

Replete with photographs of his sculptures, paintings, sketches, models and buildings, the format of the book is set with the drawings occupying the upper half and text the lower. Throughout, his drawings are presented as bygone blueprints—line-work in white ink on blue-tinted paper. One may say that the book is organized through ‘ideas’ (or vaguely under typologies) rather than chronologically. Starting with ‘Palace’ (Devigarh) and ending with ‘Mountain House’ that Bhatia built for himself—there are in all 21 types of projects that we are presented with. These also include competition entries, built works and unbuilt projects. We are spared details within some of Bhatia’s architectural drawings but the numerous assemblages bear the mark of a consistent hand.

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