Reactions From Recipients 2017-18

Khushru Irani Design Studio

Q. The TML observes a certain evaluation process to critically review projects and arrive at a ‘list’. As a finalist of The Merit List 2016-17 Cycle, what are your comments on the TML process?

I liked that the jury for the 2nd Cycle was completely different from the first one, and yet had an exceptional breadth and quality to it. I think that should be maintained as far as possible. You could consider having one jury member continuing on the jury for a period of 2 cycles to maintain some level of continuity.

I am not too aware of the inner workings of the jury process or the criteria for the selection to the long-list and then the final shortlist. I can only make guesses from seeing the quality of the projects in the long-list and from the jury comments on the shortlist.

TML is the only ‘award’ that does not categorize entries into project types. This is a strength and a weakness. It is a strength because it allows for a project to be judged on its own terms and a weakness because there doesn’t seem to be a comparative framework for a selection. On the whole I think it is a strength, as it looks at a project in isolation and allows for more than one commendation in a particular building type, as is evident in the 2016-17 cycle. But it also needs to be looked at strategically and critically as you move forward. For example, the recently concluded cycle of the Geoffrey Bawa awards has project type categories, which were not there in previous cycles.

Q. How important do you think is TML as an initiative / peer-to-peer recognition in the context of contemporary Indian architecture?

I think the TML initiative is vitally important. As I mention elsewhere, there are very few awards in the country that are worth the paper they are printed on, and new ones seem to be cropping up every day. That senior and up and coming architects seem to put so much value in these glitzy award shows and award processes, is a sign of where things are heading in our profession. We all seem to be blinded by the emperor’s new clothes.

But more than an award, what its real merit is as an archive of worthy contemporary Indian projects. And of some projects that would otherwise not get the light of day in other media. Yes, there are several projects on the two TML shortlists that have won prestigious and recognised national awards but that speaks more about the merit of the projects than a limitation of the TML process.

Q. What was your response on the width of work you saw as part of the final list of 13 projects? 

I have not critically evaluated or studied in detail the long list of projects, so it is not fair for me to comment on the final shortlist. Going through the long-list now, there are many projects that I do know and many that I do not. I probably would have found some in the long list that I would have put in the short list but that is personal opinion and not relevant here.

I had questions and opinions on some projects on the final short list. These are my personal opinions and don’t have the benefit of a collective thought process of a jury or a full understanding of what the criteria for a TML project final shortlist actually is (See response to question 4)

Q. Do you have any critical observations that we should take into consideration while we announce the next cycle? How would you recommend that we change the process for the better?

  • Currently, for the TML, projects are invited under the XS, S, M, L, XL format ie based on size. However, that cataloguing does not seem to reflect in the final shortlist projects. So that dichotomy is confusing. This was in the case in the first cycle as well. So, it begs the question: why have this size ‘signifier’ while inviting projects for future TML rounds?

Simply ask for projects that are worthy of being on TML irrespective of size, scale, location, project type.

  • The ‘power’ of TML is that it is created and driven from ‘within the profession’: by architects, for architects and for the profession. It is not motivated by anything apart from showcasing, celebrating and archiving projects that push the boundaries of contemporary architecture. Apart from the IIA Annual Awards and the JK Awards (the process of which I am not fully aware of, but they seem to be revered as an award), most architecture awards in India have little or no merit.

With the above in mind, you may want to consider making the TML an event that happens every two years, instead of every year. This will only enhance the value of the TML as a process and archive.  Sometimes, less is more. Of course, there is value in an annual TML as well, since there are many projects in India that are worthy of a deep process of evaluation.

  • For the next cycle, it would be nice for you to announce and acknowledge the jury in advance of the final announcement of the short list. This will make the process more engaging and give it more value and validation than it currently has. This will create some engagement with the TML process once entries have been received and the process of evaluation is carried out.
  • I would ask you to critically list what are the criteria that make a project worthy of the TML. This will govern your choices of both the long-list and shortlist. The criteria could be few and deep or many and broad. And you could always go outside that list you make for exceptional projects that don’t fit the mould. But you should critically evaluate and formulate what it is that you are actually doing with the TML: what is the merit that you are celebrating and archiving. This will further set the TML apart as an award/archive of thought and merit. And make it a go to resource as well as a valued award/acknowledgement to receive. I am happy to share my thoughts on what the criteria could/should be and I am sure you must have yours as well.

 Q. Any additional comments…

I am happy to engage in a dialogue or be a sounding board or of any help to the great work that you are doing! Feel free to reach out any time.

Finally, thank you to the whole team for envisioning and actualising such a huge and worthy task! Incredible and so worthwhile as a repository. Congratulations on your second trip around the sun!