The Shadow Spaces: Invisible Sacred Landscapes of Indian Cities

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The Shadow Spaces: Invisible Sacred Landscapes of Indian Cities
– An Architect’s critique on the existing Indian Crematorium Spaces.

Sanchit Arora_Renesa Architecture 

An Ode to My Grandmother.
The whole idea behind the architect’s vision of THE SHADOW SPACES has been to examine the journey of the crematoriums in India so far and how architecture can bring about a pradigmal shift in the perception of such invisible landsapes in the Indian metropolis. The project tries to provide a design solution to an almost defunct ,rundown and underutilised space and create a space worthy of a proper farewell to the loved ones.
‘The Shadow Spaces’ observes and remedies issues related to all stated inadequacies, taking instead a holistic approach that considers physical, metaphysical, emotional, and spiritual notions.


Who influences you graphically?

The genesis of the concept of architecturally renovating or improving a social space like a crematorium would often lead an architect or a designer to understanding the real importance of design lines. All architects think twice before drawing a line on a paper, with that understanding , I chose to understand and read on the philosophies of architects before they start working on such powerful spaces. From the honesty of spaces by Carlo Scarpa to the minimalistic architectural tendency of Mies Van Der Rohe to the sensation of colors by Barragan leading to the monumentality by Mr. Niemeyer to the modern age sophistication by Mr.Ando , every architect with his/her different philosophy teaches you a very different graphic skill set and output altogether. The idea was to read on all the rituals of Death in the Indian society and climatize/adapt those rituals in accordance to the graphic skill set theories that I was absorbing from the theories of all the above mentioned architects. There is a big difference in plagiarism and taking inspiration graphically from an architect . The idea is to learn from all their theories and try exhibiting and modifying them in today’s architectural world to your own aesthetic benefit.

What is your take on the photorealistic render especially when addressing such a ‘real’ and delicate topic as that of death?


Death is unknown and it is final. The rituals of death and the spaces they are conducted in, have a deep significance to the living as well as the dead. For it is through these rituals and these spaces that the rare intersection of life and death takes place, where the living are forced to encounter and contemplate the mortality and fragility of life while simultaneously putting them in touch with the sublime of the absolute. These spaces and rituals are thus , simultaneously for the living and dead, public yet intimately private and personal.
The spaces of cremation therefore could be relevant as sacred landscapes that find the connection between the varied conceptions and in a culturally constructed geography or help develop a complex symbolism exploring the poetic , narrative and ritualistic aspect of architecture. This raises the argument about the appropriate role of these spaces in the current cultural geography of the Indian Metropolis and could there be a distinct typology , that transforms these formerly invisible and marginal landscape of places that have a more visible cultural and secular role.
The argument led to the genesis of the Shadow Spaces, an architect’s vision of the change of perception of such spaces in the society (photo-realistic renders). From learning and adapting from all the inadequacies in the present day crematoriums and translating the old Hindu rituals in the modern day context to provide a befitting space for the final honor to the departed soul. “The Shadow Spaces” observes and tackles all the social and architectural issues at the macro and micro level in an Indian city.

Whilst death rituals in India are rich in colours, your image reveal a different atmosphere and potentially a whole different approach to the ritual. Where do you position and the project position yourself with respects to the past and rituals of places like Varanasi? 

There are a lot of taboos, misbelieves and superstitions associated with the spaces of death i.e. crematoriums in India. While India seems to be a decorated artifact to the world , the event of Death has a certain variable aura attached to it , which may force you to rethink the image of a colorful atmosphere in association to the unlikely event of death.
The Shadow Spaces provides a fresh , cleaner and greener approach to the same set of hierarchy of ritualistic events being followed in India since ages i.e. Varanasi (Kashi , Uttar Pradesh , India)
The idea was to create a design module for such spaces to counter question the old rituals that are still followed in places like Varanasi and provide an intelligent solution to the much needed PARADIGM SHIFT in how the crematoriums have been viewed in the Indian society so far.
The Shadow Spaces revolves around the two simple ideologies of death and birth with the later being associated to the hospitals . The study of hospitals along with the crematoriums provide a very interesting take on the whole aspect of designing of such spaces in the Indian society.

“Just like the hospitals are for birth , similarly the focus should be on planning the detailing of spaces and the basic inherent meditative nature of the crematorium which needs to be addressed in a much cleaner , hygienic and systematic way. “The attempt should be to provide clarity and design meaningful spaces , where going to such spaces is no longer a taboo in the society and fill the heart with prayers and remembrance of great memories of the heavenly soul.”

What dictated the choice of materiality? How does it relate to its context? 

An architect always has to power to dictate the audience in accordance to his design moves. Hence the materiality of The Shadow Space was kept as clean, simple,minimalistic , straight and maintenance free as possible keeping in view that it’s under the public sector jurisdiction. The use of subtle grey concrete finishes with the combination of different greens at the site provide a certain relief for the deceased families. The idea is to overpower the audience with the space quality not overburden them with the heaviness of materiality. The slight essence of the water system with the certain white-grey monochromes provide smoothness to the audience path. And the obvious use of environmental friendly materials keeping in view the sustainability concept of such an important public realm space.
The Nature along with the safe bet of concrete will never fail anyone.

What is the effect of revealing the proposal from an aerial perspective?  

The Hindu “way of life” and the journey of soul beyond death gets best encapsulated by a Bird’s Eye View. This view is the most comprehensive as it helps explain the ” five elements” which form the core of the existence of any “HUMAN BODY”. The human body ,as per the Indian Hindu Belief is made of AIR,WATER,ETHER,EARTH AND FIRE. An overall aerial view does justice in reinforcing the belief of GOD WATCHING OVER US FROM TOP and help generate the 4Dimensional connect with the story.




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