Bangalore International Centre had arranged a talk on “Otto Koenigsberger: Memories of an architectural legacy in Bangalore and Mysore State”by Dr. Rachel Leeon Tuesday, 24th September, 2013 at 6.30 PM.Mr. V Narasimhan, Principal Architect, Venkataramanan Associates chaired and moderated the discussion.
Dr. Rachel in her presentation talked abouta forgotten architect, Mr. Otto Koenigsberger, a German Jewish refugee from Berlin, who worked in India from 1939-1951. After almost 10 years as Government Architect of Mysore State, he was appointed as the Director of Housing in the Central Government in Delhi. In Bangalore Mr. Koenigsbergerhad built a large number and variety of buildings that reveal his commitment to locally rooted, sustainable architecture. As Director of Housing in Delhi he was responsible for attempting to solve the refugee crisis that accompanied independence, establishing a low-cost prefabricated housing system and developing a new town policy that attempted to economically stimulate underdeveloped regions of the country.
His years in India significantly impacted his later career at the Department of Tropical Architecture at the Architectural Association in London, and the Development Planning Unit at University College, London, and his work as advisor to the UN. He was among the first housing and urban planning experts to question the appropriateness of static master plans in rapidly growing urban areas in countries such as India, proposing the use of ‘action plans’ instead. He was also a pioneer in tackling slum problems, advocating slum redevelopment and introducing concepts such as the ‘roof loan scheme’ whereby the local municipality provided financing for roofing material – the least affordable, but most important part of the shelter.
The talk concentrated on Koenigsberger’s career in India discussing a selection of projects from Bangalore and beyond, and revealing the network of clients, collaborators and friends, including CV Raman, HomiBhaba and MokshagundamVisvesvaraya, who helped Koenigsberger rise from virtual obscurity to perhaps the most significant architectural post in the newly independent nation.
The Q & A session which was largely attended by architects and students of architecture was informative and interesting.