Vishaan Chakrabarti is an architect and scholar, as well as the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU). PAU designs architecture meant to build up the physical, cultural, and economic networks of cities, with an emphasis on beauty, function, and user experience. PAU simultaneously advances strategic urbanism projects in the forms of master planning, tactical project advice, and advocacy. Chakrabarti is currently an Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (GSAPP). In 2013, Chakrabarti authored A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America, arguing that well-designed cities are the ultimate key to solving America’s great national challenges. For his next chapter, Chakrabarti will become the new dean of the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design beginning in July 2020. Today Vishaan is sharing five things that make his life better in Friday Five.
1. Leica M-Series Rangefinders
As a boy, my dream was to be a war photographer for Magnum or Black Star and jump out of planes with my Leica to capture what legendary photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson called “the decisive moment.” My two Leica rangefinders – film and digital – now help me to read the cities in which we design our buildings, with lenses that blow my mind in terms of sharpness and bokeh. Never did jump out of planes, but pursuing great architecture can sometimes feel like war.
2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
During the summer of 2015, I was down about how mercenary architecture had become and felt the need to escape in a book. Tartt, who immediately drew me into her world with her tight prose about a boy and a stolen painting, reminded me of the true values of the art and art history I had studied in university. Inspired to advance art again, I soon started my own firm, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU).
3. Roly Poly Glasses by Dorothy Thorpe
It is unwise to be an architect without close proximity to a stiff drink, and there is no better delivery vessel than the Roly Poly glass designed by Dorothy Thorpe. It rests perfectly in your hand, and as your touch warms and swirls the big icy rock in your scotch, the sensations – from taste to smell to touch to sound to sight – seamlessly merge to perfection.
4. Fatehpur Sikri, completed 1585
A city and citadel completed by Emperor Akbar outside of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri is a consummation of city planning and architecture, a place where void and solid dance together in red sandstone splendor. Among my favorite buildings are the Panch Mahal, which arguably presages Le Corbusier’s Domino, and Diwan-i-Khas, where Akbar from an ornate perch allowed guests an audience without the privilege of casting eyes upon him.
5. The Apple Pencil
My hands now “go to eleven” with this masterfully fluid invention. The best technology highlights what is human within us, and this pencil in conjunction with an iPad Pro allows me to draw with abandon, to sketch on everything from plain “paper” to aerial photographs to imported drawing files, and to communicate with my team visually from across the world.