Felipe Andres Torres @ Columbia GSAPP MS.AAD Student [Advanced V Fall 2017 – Architecture vs. The City – Critic: Arindam Dutta]
In his poems Bengali author Sukumar Ray created a world of nonsense in which, through fantasy, he addressed socio-political problems that referred to the British influence in the core of Indian culture. Matters like loss of identity and social discrimination are recurrent in his works as a reflection of the times he lived in. Nowadays Calcutta (West Bengal, India), former capital of the British Raj, still faces these issues. Waves of war displacement and the decay of industry has left the city in a perpetual state of identity loss where iconic gathering spaces have been overrun by informal commerce and therefore public space, as a place for indeterminacy, is virtually nonexistent. Within this scenario Religious space have become the only escape from an overly programed city.
Addressing these matters, we propose a ‘Nonsensical’ public space that hacks into the city fabric. Setting a boundary for the overrun commercial space the project creates a series of spaces that isolate the user from the typical city experience leading them into a world of indeterminacy that is only suited for leisure and reflection.
Based in the work of Ray, the project uses the poems as mean to give the project a ritualistic approach, a place where the city can start to recognize its identity through the use architecture as cultural identifiers.
Who influences you graphically?
I usually try to look for a graphic style that has itself something to do with the thematic of the project while trying to imprint my own interests. For this project, I wanted to express the non-sensical aspect of the poems. For this, the ‘architectural’ video game Monument Valley provided the atmosphere for the project. Russian Constructivist Illustration, in particular Mikhail Belov’s bridge across the Rubicon River, was really influential as they were examples of ways to express architecture in a non-traditional way. The 80s are a huge influence for me. Lately I’ve been really interested in Artists like Yoko Honda and 80s style illustration and advertising that connects the project with my personal interests and pop culture references.
What was your work process in translating and developing the poems into an architectural speculation?
The poems of Abol Tabol by Bengali author Sukumar Ray while being ‘non-sense’ are charged with political and social underlines about colonial India. While reading I noticed an organic distinction between the poems. Ones are purely non-sense and describe more of an atmosphere, a feeling rather than an actual story. Others are political or social comments and address specific subjects. With this in mind I went on to design each Monument either from an atmospheric feeling (Eg: Abol Tabol) or from a way of formalizing the issues it addressed (Eg: Noteboi). However, in order to have coherence throughout the project I defined an aesthetic grammar for the project. This language was inspired by Indian religious architecture, Mughal architecture and Khan’s architecture in India and Bangladesh.
What defined the method of representation through which you articulate the project?
Throughout the design process two things that were crucial for me were, time and clarity. The project is ultimately based on a system of layers (Monuments and Promenades) and I needed a representation that expressed this logic in only a few drawings while creating a spatial effect. Ultimately, I thought of the project as an architectural translation of the Abol Tabol and the drawings the maps to “wonderland” you would find in a Lewis Carroll book. Something that would help you navigate the story being offered.
What is the effect and purpose of the colour palette?
The colour palette was selected mainly because of material purposes. The Monuments are to be very heavy, petrous buildings and India has a long history with brick that is usually overlooked. I wanted the illustrations to express very quickly the materiality of the buildings, the atmosphere. Through the use of shades of the selected orange and its complementary colors I could eliminate lines from the drawings and express space through shades and surfaces that are supposed to intensify the materiality and the ambience I was trying to achieve.
If you had one more month to work on the project, where would this take you?
This is a large project that covers a big part of downtown Kolkata, the time limit for the reviews made me focus in few specific Monuments and the Promenades that connect them. However, it was an urban view. If I had more time I would like to develop the project in a smaller scale, developing drawings that allow understanding of the effect it has in the street space.