Profile & Tributes
Mohammad Shaheer: About the one who now rests under a tree
LA 46
Landscape Architect, Mohammad Shaheer (1948-2015), fondly remembered by Geeta Wahi Dua, Dr Priyaleen Singh, Samir Mathur, Vinod Gupta and Yogesh Kapoor.
Geeta Wahi Dua |
"No one is God. You should treat all of us like normal human beings with our own faults. " While reacting to a title of a tribute article for a senior professional who had passed away few months back, this prolific statement had come from a mentor who is revered by hundreds of his students and colleagues alike of landscape and architecture fraternity in India for almost four decades now - Mohammad Shaheer.

Prof. Shaheer had an overwhelming presence in our students' lives during college days at the Department of Landscape Architecture at School of Planning and Architecture way back in 1994. He had a towering personality, seemingly cold expressions and a reserved nature. His lecture Orientation on day one, was able to instill a sense of new worth, purpose and confidence in all of us. With imaginative and highly intellectual discourses, he was able to evoke a deep sense of love and reverence for the subject in our minds.

Dr. Priyaleen Singh |
"I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think."
-Socrates
In remembering and paying tribute to Prof. Shaheer one is flooded with memories of an association of over thirty three years, first as his student, then as a fellow professional. Through this entire period he was my mentor and well wisher who shaped my life in more ways than one, as perhaps he did for most of his students. We were one of the fortunate batches to have had him as a teacher for all the four semesters of our two year Masters programme in Landscape Architecture in 1982-1984. A teacher par excellence, he raised the discourse in the classroom to a level compelling us to constantly think, innovate and question the state of the landscape profession, even as it was evolving in the 80's. It was this inquiry in all the classes - be it studios, seminars, history and theory classes which veered me on a journey, under his guidance and constant support, to explore the Indian landscape design traditions.

This association continued well beyond my graduation, into my professional career, where it became a habit to run by him my presentations and papers on landscape, before a conference or a publication. And his boundless generosity in sharing and giving constructive criticism and insightful comments was always so heart-warming and hugely confidence giving. One was always amazed at the breadth of his scholarly knowledge in diverse subjects as he proceeded from the art of Mark Rothko, to the prose of Kalidasa, to the philosophy of Buddhism, all in the course of the same discussion!

Samir Mathur |
Arguably one on the most influential figures in the field of landscape architecture in India over the last three decades, Mohammed Shaheer's sudden demise is shocking to all those who knew him. Most people have remembered their intense personal connections and interactions with him. Eulogies about him resound with raw emotions.

In many ways Shaheer was an incurable romantic, superficially cynical, forever seeking the 'evocative' in his designs, sketches, cartoons, art and craft. However, it may be interesting to recall his contribution at three levels - the nationally recognized furtherance of the ideals, idiom and art of landscape architecture; the many institutions that have benefitted from his guidance; and the intellectual rigour and creativity he brought to bear as an individual.

Great nations write their autobiographies
in three manuscripts - the book of their
deeds, the book of their words, and the
book of their art
John Ruskin
St Marks Rest, 1884

Vinod Gupta |
Although Shaheer was only a year junior to me in the B.Arch course at School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, I did not really know him. He joined the landscape department of SPA a few years after I joined the architecture department as lecturer. I got to know him when we worked together on a very small project of a house in Chandigarh. We made several site visits together to Chandigarh. The client used to pay Shaheer his fee in cash for each visit and on one occasion, as luck would have it, his pocket was picked on one return journey so he returned with no fee at all. Although we worked together on many other projects, the first one was always remembered and discussed.
Shaheer was an artist who trained as an architect and then urban designer at SPA. Recognising his potential, Prof. Jhabvala the then Head of Department of Architecture at SPA, sent him to Sheffield University to study landscape architecture. Upon his return to India he started teaching at the newly created department of landscape architecture. Amongst the architects trained at SPA, Shaheer was one of the tallest-physically and metaphorically.

Yogesh Kapoor |
The passing away of Prof. Shaheer has been devastating for all of us. It has uprooted us from our lives, deviating it to the road that we never would have taken. Looking from up there, he never would have wanted us to grieve and mourn but, rather would have wanted us to carry forward his ideals, principles and architectural legacy.
My association with Prof. Shaheer has been for more than two decades. I first came to know him as an extraordinarily charismatic teacher who could effectively communicate with each one of his students. Not to be attentive during his lectures was never an option as he was so captivating. He was an exceptionally blistering critic but for us who have known him as a teacher would definitely agree with me that it was that criticism that took us towards professional maturity.

 
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