V. D. JOSHI MEMORIAL LECTURE 2020
In Conversation: Shabbir Unwala and Ajit Rao
An event organised by ROAD (Room Open to Art and Design). At the BORI Auditorium, February 14, 2020.
Late Vishnu Diwakar Joshi, Papaji as we fondly remember him, was born on 14th February 1927. He graduated from the College of Engineering Pune [COEP] 1948 batch. He then joined MES and worked on NDA project Pune. He later went to Cambridge, England for Post-graduation in Structural Engineering. After working in England for a few years, he joined Master Architect Joseph Allen Stein’s studio in Delhi, where he worked on landmark projects like American Embassy School, Escorts Scooter Factory, IIC Delhi Auditorium, India Habitat Center, India International Center, Triveni Kala Sangam and Express Towers Mumbai. At the peak of his career with Stein, in 1973 he thought of setting up a workshop for ferrocement-his passion in Pen near Mumbai under the name of Sarang Ferrocrete and seahorse as symbol. Ferrocement was originally invented and patented by Joseph Louis Lambot in 1855 in France. Who first constructed a boat and exhibited at Exposition Universelle at Paris. Ferrocement as construction technique was made popular in India by Joshi Sir. He is a pioneer of ferrocement in India. During his experiments in Pen, his wife Malti Tai became a strong support. Both together continued to work for next fourteen years. Then he shifted to Pune. The use of woodwool slabs, concrete block construction techinique now popularly known as Vishnu Padhat, Poured rubble masonary for village in Maharashtra and ferrogami [taken from origami] a word made popular by Joshi Sir for the art of Ferrocement. He worked on watertanks, boats for Fisherman, grain store, Septic tanks and shelter for Poor. All this was near to his heart and kept working on his belief that “it is most suitable technique for developing countries, which could help in employability of unskilled labour.” Architect Narendra Dengle from Pune who worked with Joshi Sir on projects like Shri RamkishnaMandir, his studio and house, archeological museum in Shrinagar and workers club at Deccan Florabase, first met this pipe smoking English Gentleman in 1973 in New Delhi. He says, “I have known him to possess a very keen mind – eager like a child – seasoned like a very experienced engineer – and uncompromisingly authoritative about his design, which comes only from deep conviction.” His other known buildings using ferrocement are Doshi Hussain Gufa, Ahmedabad for Balkrishna Doshi. His own Arunoday complex in Pune and 30 M tall Pyramid in Narayangaon for Girish Doshi. Triveni Ashram at Markal Pune, by Arjun Doshi is inspired by his teachings and built by his second generation adivasi team from Pen. After his demise in 2011, it was decided that in memory of this visionary structure engineer, every year on Valentine’s Day which happens to be his birthday, V D Joshi Memorial Lecture will be held.
Architect Shabbir Unwala
Graduated in 1986 from Rachna sansad in Mumbai. After working for couple of years in Architecture offices in Mumbai, ennui with staleness in the way Architecture was practiced led me to the Mountains of Lonavala . After shifting to Lonavala, worked with Nachiket and Jayoo in Pune for a year. It’s here, besides Architecture I was exposed to movies and movie making. It was here that started my Architecture journey , exploring at the intersection of the subtle art of story telling in movies with the explicit art of architecture.