The Garden and the Field: Sites of Ritual and Exchange
The garden is formal, rigid, precisely bound, and top-down. The field is porous, locally interconnected, open to change, and bottom-up. If the garden is static, the field is kinetic. The static city, like the garden, is formal. Made of concrete and brick, it resists time and endures. By contrast, the kinetic city is informal. It is exemplified through the event, the ephemeral, and the rituals of life that leave no ruins. This thesis takes the position that both the static and the kinetic are equally important in the production of space.
The site for the project is in Chandigarh, Punjab. Within the seam between Chandigarh and its periphery, the proposal seeks to frame new possibilities for the site and connect different parts of the city. The proposal reimagines the edge of Chandigarh as a large urban park, where productive landscape, markets, ritual and recreation spaces coalesce with the site’s existing programs to create a hybrid, plural landscape.
Simple formal structures, based on the city’s vernacular, provide meeting places for people from Chandigarh and its periphery. Ponds of lotus flowers and fields of marigolds produce crops sold in markets which bisect the site. Fields of mustard, lentil and orchards of guava and mango are grown adjacent to the site’s existing Gurdwara (Sikh Temple). Within the gardens and fields, large common spaces for picnicking workers and visitors are designed.
The site’s hydrological system, based on the gravity fed Qunant, provides low tech irrigation of flower, fruit and vegetable crops. These crops feed the events and everyday activities of the site. Following the North – South Quanat system, pools are established along a pedestrian and cycle path. Here children from the city and periphery gather to splash around. While children play, women wash clothes and hang them out to dry in the hot summer sun.
Who influences you graphically?
My graphic sensibility draws from a divers collection of sources. From the atmospheric photographs of Luigi Ghirri to the abstract spatial works of Rothko and the foreshortened canvasses of Indian miniature paintings. I am interested in hybrid assemblages which mediate between abstraction and specificity.
What is your take on the art of collage?
Collage allows me to engage with drawing as process. Through the collapse of architectural elements, imagery and texture – an narrative space emerges. I am fascinated with the drawing’s potential as an exploratory tool for uncovering and unfolding potential relationships. The art of collage allows me to challenge assumptions embedded in rigid representational techniques. Instead of insisting on what is, collage points to what might be.
You talk about framing new possibilities, how does the notion of image as frame for the proposal define what views and aspects were important to reveal?
The frame is an important formal device in both the architectural proposal and the representational construction. The frame creates a space in which the informal may unfold. Each vignette imagines a potential exchange scenario with the proposal. These are tied to the activities of the everyday, the event and the seasons. Interestingly, framing suggests an inside and an outside, but also a space between. The images work as parts, but also as a larger set. For example, the proposal imagines that the mustard seed (Mustard Field Collage) grown on the site is processed into mustard oil. This oil is then burned in Diwali (Diwali Collage), the Indian festival of light.
How and to what extent did Indian culture influence the construction of the images?
The proposal began during a study term in Chandigarh, Punjab. The culture of the place was the main generator for the content and quality of the images. The collages combine elements of Indian miniature paintings with contemporary photographs from the site and surrounding areas. Illustrated elements of pattern, texture and colour reference the rich atmosphere of Chandigarh and its periphery. There is a level of ambiguity and nuance inspired by the hybrid and plural landscape of the site and the city.
What is the effect and purpose of the ‘flatness’ of the images?
Study of the Indian miniature paintings revealed how flatness, or the collapsing of spatial and programmatic elements within the picture plane, could communicate the hybrid, simultaneous and shifting nature of the place. As Rahul Mehrotra has described, the Indian city is kinetic, it is a city in constant motion. The flatness allows the collapse of these layers of activity within the picture plane. It is important that the images acknowledge their own fiction, they are propositional and point to some of many potential outcomes.