Nothing dies in Varanasi
Patricia Uslé Serra @ ETSAG, Uah
Following a trip I made to India for a year, the ‘Nothing Dies in Varanasi’ project is a catalyst for my lived experiences, observations and codes learned in relation to the urban life of a culture that coexists between confluences and contrasts.
# As a place of intervention, the ancient city of Varanasi is proposed, a space of coexistence and polarity. Located in the north of the country, it is known for the passage of the Ganges River and its famous religious activity and cremation. It is considered one of the oldest cities of civilization, with more than 4000 years preserved in its plot. The city has been growing informally and naturally. With a density of 600 inhabitants per hectare in its more compact areas (historic center), Varanasi as a metropolis maintains a human scale, perhaps sometimes excessive: more than three million souls crowded on one side of the river in only a width of 3 kilometers while the other shore remains deserted. Thus appears the duality of Indian culture and therefore, the ‘Ghat’ as an intermediary element of balance.
# As a starting point for the project are, on the one hand, the choice of a ghat lacking community and, consequently, the sum of derived residual spaces, and on the other, the creation of a progressive route from the plot of the city to the ghat, with the intention of staying between the limits to make them more permeable, creating intentional porosities in the borders like systems of entrance. Thus, it is a city whose fabric has been woven based on the combination of spaces of compression and decompression, being a positive pattern that generates the first guidelines of the project the “right to informality” and the ” ‘right to spontaneity’ ‘. As a method of intervention it is intended to humanize the programs, directing them to activities that merge possible household and production scales
# This project aims to be an incentive for the recovery of the textile cultural heritage of the city by noting that industries, not always machined, but demanding artisan mechanisms, are located in the peripheries, moving away the processes of production and the market, making them invisible and unknown. In search of visibility and transparency, productive exchange structures are created for the textile elaboration with a domestic scale. From this premise arises the research that contains the project and defines a type of architecture that seeks the sincerity, that shows and that counts the processes, in which the textile typologies existing in India are studied and understanding their functions as spatial generators and, therefore, also as factions. Most of the parameters have a useful textile function and that utility not only generates architecture but also its change and accident. The edges are diffuse, creating a landscape but changing and alive. The resulting space is permeable, adding filters of textile activity that are generating a progression towards privacy. There are no interiors, it is a continuum between the public void and its program
Through a program for the textile recovery urban structures of domestic production are proposed. They appear contextualized in the urban fabric of the central limit areas to avoid the problem generated by the peripheral industry proposing a visible process between the product, its creation and the consumer. It is situated between the city and the ghat, understanding this as a stabilizing space of exclusive human scale.
Therefore, in search of a sincere architecture that talks about the processes, the walls will be the textile function itself, diluting the public-private limit. A changing architecture, that of a useful response with the least resources people-oriented.
# Highlighting in Varanasi its strong textile heritage as a cultural value in which almost 70% of activities revolve around the fabric, a problem is observed: today textile industries (which are sometimes not only machined, but also they follow artisan mechanisms) are located in the peripheries, distancing the processes of production and market, making them invisible and unknown to the consumer, with the consequent problems that this entails.
Also, a large part of the Indian population lives in rural areas lacking infrastructure and economy, thus producing strong emigration to cities. In this situation, a large part of the textile artisans who move to the cities in search of job opportunities, and because of lack of space in their homes, usually coming from small rents, many end up unemployed, selling or abandoning their looms and textile tools.
# The project appears as a permeable space, adding filters of textile activity that are generating a progression towards privacy. There are no interiors as such, space appears as a continuum between the public void and its program. Most of the parameters have a useful textile function and that utility not only generates architecture but also its change and accident. The edges, then, are as diffuse: there is no true and constant boundary between the public and private spheres. It is about generating a landscape that is not eternal, but changing and alive.
# It is a micro-architecture that combines three scales: one hybrid, one domestic and one phenomenological, with a holistic urban reading. The street is understood as an inter-tissue, where fragments of different genetic identities are added, where the event takes place. It defends a project that incubates diversity and generates entropy. In conclusion, his conception seeks to deconstruct reality to limit all those chaotic fragments that compose it, making the accident somewhat controllable, and yet, to the event something uncontrollable spontaneous.
#The structure is solved with beams and pillars composed of bamboo, textile facades and on the ground floor, raising and protecting the structure, urban concrete furniture that promote a minimal intervention in the street that thus enhances the void.
Who influences you graphically?
The graphic style of these images has no influence on anyone in particular, although it is impossible not to have referrals and inspirational engines.
Mainly, the idea of representing the void, as the lived space, has been the guideline that has guided the graphic style of the project. Hence the shades and transparencies. Another important influence has been the Indian urban space culture, where everything coexists between confluences and contrasts. Hence the drawings are a summation of layers and ideas.
Aside from this project how do you think that your experience in India will and has affected how you operate as an architect?
I think that my stay in India has changed my view of the architecture almost completely, redirecting my profession towards more concrete interests. So much I feel that I have learned in school as there, from culture to life forms to constructive techniques and, above all, creativity to solve with the least recourse. From an architectural perspective, one of the ideas that I have deepened has been the ease of its inhabitants to appropriate the public space and make the street a lived space with a purely human scale.
What is your take on colour?
I think the color has to be used as a graphic code, moving away from the decorative style. It can be used for the emphasis of the ideas or to codify them creating legends. I have tried to use no more than 3 colours in order to facilitate the graphic reading of the project. In addition the color can have connotations and meanings that invite us to reflect on certain ideas that can appear in the project.
What was your work process in terms of programs used?
Once is chosen the environment of action, defined and analyzed, starting from a 3D modeling that I realized with Rhinoceros in which the whole urban space is constructed in a faithful and coherent way with the existing Indian reality.
So 3D modeling has been the base of the images, rendering concrete points of view, that have allowed to understand, evolve and generate the ideas of the project. The “base images” were extracted with the Rhino rendering with neutral white colors, without texture, only illumination.
The technique of drawings is given by the controlled superposition of layers, with different programs and methodologies. I always work the images in two different ways: from Autocad, with nibs, vectors and measures referring to the architectural design , and from Photoshop, with lights, transparencies and textures that emphasize the ideas and concepts generated. Therefore, it is necessary to have an open mind, projecting in a holistic way. All this work has been accompanied previously and continuously by drawing on paper, freehand sketches that allow you to master and control your idea before technology takes over.