An exhibition on contemporary architecture

by Team ACF
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Located within the poignant spatiality of Jawahar Kala Kendra (JKK) in Jaipur, the exhibition, When is Space, intends to converse with the ideas of Sawai Jai Singh and Charles Correa that produced the cityof Jaipur and JKK. Through provocations that emerge from the ideas of these key figures, the exhibition looks at architectural marvels and deals with the notion of space through works of thirty artists and architects. The curators, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, urbanists and researchers examine the practice of space making in India. The exhibition is on until March 31.
What relationship architects have with space?
As botanists work with plants, zoologists with animals, chemists with chemicals, historians with archives, etc. architects work with space – they are in the business of crafting space. The philosophical traditions across the world have grappled with the term ‘space’ for centuries. One can identify broadly four kinds of ideas of space – Space as a container (from Euclid, Descartes, Newton etc.); Space as a continuum – which includes time (from many Indian traditions as well as Einstein); Space as a lens to understand the world (Immanuel Kant – what he calls apriori); and Space as a social phenomenon of the everyday made through claims, power, living, etc. (from Henry Lefebvre, Gilles Deluze, etc.).
What do you aim to achieve through this exhibition?
Since independence in India, the pursuit of making space appears to be trapped in the binaries of modernistic pursuits and revivalist tendencies. On the other hand, the discussions on contemporary architecture have been largely around its economical / technocratic production or how it is a product of capital movements, informal processes, etc. The most convenient and popular way of evaluating it has been by asking the question ‘does it work?’ – Utility and function seem to have become the key. The other journalistic discussions have often been rhetorical and un-validated through any means.This exhibition invites architects and artists to go beyond these and ask fundamental questions on space and its making – the first questions.
What brought you together for this exhibition?
We work independently but have also done many works together. Our own conceptual journey has moved from an urge of mapping cities and developing corrective interventions, to looking closely at urban conditions, formulating newer ways to speak about them, and developing engagements to live and find delight in them. Our work both independently and together often crosses disciplinary boundaries and takes different forms – writings, drawings, mixed-media works, storytelling, teaching, conversations, walks and spatial interventions and curation.
How do you view contemporary architectural practices in India?
A large part of the emerging architectural practices in India (i.e. explorations in form and space) appear to be structured around three broad imperatives: first, computational and mathematical logic that are aided through a variety of digital media devices; second, environmental and cultural responsiveness that manifests as new typologies, engagement with materiality and technology, explorations in craft and folk practices, etc.; and third, concerns regarding city and public that produce urbanistic practices of research and advocacy.
How have Sawai Jai Singh and Charles Correa inspired this exhibition?
What was interesting was that in many ways, these three imperatives were also central to the works of Charles Correa and as well as Jai Singh’s city of Jaipur. In both cases, you see the obsessions with the mystical mathematics of the universe; the desire to reinvent every building type to make it culturally and environmentally responsive, and the aspiration to create an ideal, just and sustainable city. A whole series of works comes to mind while thinking about Correa and Jaisingh – the Shunya and the Jantar Mantar, the grid of Jaipur and of Jawahar Kala Kendra, the water systems of Jaigarh and the air systems in the tube houses, the arcades of Jaipur and the proposals for enabling street infrastructure in cities, etc.
Can you throw some light on a few works that will be showcased in the exhibition and how do they respond to immediate space issues?
Parul Gupta’s and Teja Gavankar’s work folds the wall by redrawing new lines; Dushyant Asher’s floating roof provides new dimensions to the entrance space by precariously hanging above; Sameep Padora’s new internal skin changes the Sphatic gallery’s internal experience completely, Samira Rathod’s Wall house changes the typology of a house and a wall simultaneously, creating space within. Abin Chadhuri’s pavilion creates a temporal festive space.
What are the threats metros or developing cities in India are facing due to internal migration?
The nature of urbanisation in the last ten years has not been through the growth of existing cities, but has been through the emergence of new urban places. On the other hand, the existing cities are undergoing a transformation due to change in the economy, which is creating greater intensities. For example, the transformation from the industrial base to service-oriented base is creating new types of movements in cities which we are not geared to adapt to these so easily. That is the reason for the stress felt in cities – It is not necessarily migration, but a change in the economy really that is making this happen.
What are the challenges India is currently facing in terms of design and construction?
There is much more to do in terms of design and construction in India – we do things in a fairly ad hoc way and celebrate the jugaad unnecessarily. This has to change and more rigour and precision is required. However, one thing is that we have to find ways to mobilise the existing sensibilities and capacities to encounter the emerging world. This is not to protect identity, but to contribute to the diversity of things happening in the world. This means to develop capacity in research and production of new knowledge and methods.

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