Thursday, May 27, 2010

Concrete Geometries

Few weeks back Me and Kostas participated in a call for exhibition put out by the AA, called Concrete Geometries Spatial Form in Social and Aesthetic Processes.
Below is our entry which consisted of repackaging of our Master's thesis. We didn't get through, which may be one of the signs that we need to stop hamming around our thesis and find something new....I have also a put some text along which was submitted for the competition.

The world as we know it is being rapidly shaped by two major processes Globalization and Urbanization. These two processes are able to bring about social, cultural, political and physical changes within geographies that they touch . These changes in turn transform the geography into yet another specialized terrain constituent that fits within the mega mechanism of global processes, developing in trajectories different from rest of the surrounding region.

Metaphorically the form and mechanism of the Rubik’s cube allowed imagination of an object that drew parallels with this condition of transforming and shifting terrain through globalization. This was imagined to be a spatial experiment, where we could simulate conditions of symbiosis or parasitism between two or more geographies and social structures that cross path due to the turning of the Rubik’s cube. Each surface was imagined to be a city designed through Italo Calino like narratives designed based on our present conditions of existence and at the same time fractured by the rotational mechanism of the cube, that allowed for a deconstruction of these narratives similar to Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller” opening up numerous possibilities of interpretation based not only on the object to be read but also on the reader, the authors and the city outside.

Each surface of the cube was to be one city, thus the 6 cities were:
1)Panopticon: The city of Surveillance
2)Heterotopia: The city of Gardens
3)Noah: The city of Archives
4)Alice: The city of Labyrinth
5)Leviathan: The city of Hierarchy
6)Celestial: Struggle against gravity

In the book “The Architecture of Deconstruction” by Mark Wigley the writer traces the architectural translation of the philosophical term deconstruction based on Heidegger’s rethinking of building in Destuktion und Abbau. Destruktion means “not destruction but precisely a de-structuring that dismantles the structural layers in the system” and Abbau means “to take apart an edifice in order to see how it is constituted or de-constituted”
With the above abstract as a prologue it is easier to clarify what the cube supposed to insinuate as form and structure. In remobilizing these terms we are trying to advocate that the cube is trying (at least) to construct first a series of contradictions between systems and forms.

Creating these crucial conditions of ambiguity each one of the cities that occupy the 6 faces of the cube they don’t remain attached as binary systems but they are subjects to external forces of un-building. Near the edges of the cube where the cities form the first inaccessible limits, each organism-community reached points of weakness, Weakness of adapting and merging with the other. So for us the process of contamination through the transformations of the Rubik’s cube is the construction of inner penetrations cracks and flaws. This is an operation that demonstrates the extent to which the structures depend on both of these flows and the way that are disguised.

The 6 cities were designed as narratives where one of the many forces that shape a city became crucial and amplified to an extent that it shaped the social and physical geography of the city. Thus the cities have been designed to a detail of a day in the life on a citizen in each of the city, witnessed by an observer who travels along all the cities that shift, collage, and re-assemble to generate parallel geographies of our global landscapes and at the same time speculative geographies that are in waiting....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kochi (Cochin) and Kozhikode (Calicut)


(The Chinese fishing nets along Kochi coast look like elaborate apparatus to do something more than simply catch fish, but this is one of the many living artifacts that have survived and become a part of everyday life here.)
Nora's first time visit to India started with us taking a fast-short trip to Kerala, specifically to two very beautiful town-cities Kochi and Kozhikode with travelling Sahil as our host, translator and glocal guide. This was my first trip to Kerala and had the best time.

A continuous blanket of dense tropical cover growing over red laterite soil, every now and then sparing space for houses, roads and small town centres that occur with calculated uniformity throughout the state get purged together by the heavy humid air that seems to blur boundaries between forest and the city. The two cities mostly lay hidden among the multi-storeyed emerald green foliage anchored to the sky by coconut palms and towering over a lush ecosystem inhabited by purple crested, yellow winged, orange bottomed birds, lizards and mammals all chirping, hooting, singing and laying equal claims to this "gods own country" and all spotted, classified and explained in precise detail by Sahil. The climate and soil lay the stage for fertility and its worship, nature grows and devours at the same pace that all man made gets eroded, corroded, mossed over adding to the green that seems to envelope and seep through just about every thing.

Kuttichira Jami Masjid in Kozhikode with its skew that changes the axis of the street.

(Sahil explained that this mosque, one of the many old mosques present in Kerala built by the Arab traders who were then provided to settle and have families here by the then ruler the Zamorins comes up in a time when Islam has not formalised its Islamic Architecture and so these mosques look completely different from present day mosque. Moreover the architecture of these mosques is also influenced by the local artisans and craftsmen more at comfort with making boats & Asian temples.)
Both the cities are port cities and have their genealogy influenced by global trade that assured their place in stories by travellers, map makers, explorers and historians. A place visited by Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Jews and many more people from different places which hadn't become nations, belonging to faiths that hadn't become religions and all in search of places that hadn't been seen on world maps. These two cities certainly took roots in a time when the world had a place for curiosity and cultures mixed more seamlessly, with one of the oldest Jewish synagogues having its floor adorned by Chinese tiles, some of the oldest mosques having pitched roofs and ornamentation done by Hindu boat making artisans, Portuguese churches responding to tropical climate, fishermen using Chinese fishing nets and Indian spices unifying all these differences, that got traded and bartered along the silk route.The experience of seeing oldest institutions, housing typologies, neolithic carvings, endemic flora and fauna and many other artifacts from a stage where man, nature and civilizations were swimming in primordial soup of forming our present is no short of magic, like an archeologist's dream of time evidenced by living fossils.

(The pedestrian path to the Jewish synagogue presently serves as a flea market for tourists but has very interesting shop and house typologies that contain elaborately carved and conserved smaller artifacts like wooden posts, statues, doors, windows, brass handles etc.)
The Jewish synagogue is a very good example of one such architecture formed out of mixing of historic and cultural narrative. The synagogue was originally built around 4th century by the Malabari Jews who had come to be a prosperous trading community in Kerala. This synagogue was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1500s. The second synagogue was built through Dutch patronage and with protection from the Raja of Cochin and so came to be known as Paradesi synagoge which translates as foreign synagogue.

(A houseboat on the Kochi backwaters.)
The Backwater is a labyrinth of lakes, canals, dykes, islands, rivers all separated and connected by nature and man strategically to channel tidal sea water and inland freshwater to form a very unique ecosystem of fantastic natural beauty. This was one of the highlights of the trip, that allowed us tourists to voyeur into this ecosystem while the locals went about their everyday lives.
P.S. Somewhere out there in Kerala is a grandma who makes the best prawn pickle, which I prescribe as the top of the list food that you pack in case of a nuclear winter, apocalypse, or in everyday life. Happiness guaranteed even if you don't see the sun for the rest of your life!