Sketching Experiences of the Mind

I don’t think that architecture is only about shelter, is only about a simple enclosure. It should be able to excite you, to calm you, to make you think.

~Zaha Hadid

Solitude. Intimacy. Congregation. Discussing the interpretations of these terms with my peers and tutors, it dawned upon me that these three words convey a similar abstract, yet are so different. While solitude stands for contemplation and relaxation by yourself, intimacy represents a deeper idea of a space that invites deep conversations and the effortless sharing of emotions and ideas, often with a confidant, and sometimes, even with our own selves. In both cases, each exposes us as vulnerable and ensures a certain degree of transparency in our thoughts. Congregation, however, unlike the contemplative vibe of the two words mentioned before, brings an image of a space in mind where people meet, laugh, talk, and gather without being forced and out of free will. This can be accredited to the welcoming ambiance of a space or its layout, location or décor among other factors which urge the users to assemble here.

Through various sketches and experiences, I contemplated more about my interpretation of these terms. I was coaxed to dig into memories in my mind that I associated solitude, intimacy and congregation with, and then stretch my imagination more to fully understand the experience and atmosphere in the space owing to factors like enclosure, location, elements etc. For example, the memory sketch depicting solitude reminds me of when I would spend hours sitting on the swing in the balcony of my old house. Having previously lived in a joint family, this is the one place I’d go to find peace and read my favourite books or unwind to music while watching the sun set over the beautiful city of Mumbai. Different iterations of the same space allowed me to understand and relive the experience though it has been 10 years since I’d done this activity. Similarly, the sketch of the corner of the café reminds me of the intimate conversations I had with my mother three years ago over a delicious meal. Though the details are unclear, the overall vibe and elements of the nook have been portrayed in charcoal.

Solitude: My favourite corner in my last house, where I would come and read books or listen to music for hours on end all by myself.
Intimacy: I recollect fond memories of intimate and fun conversations with my mom over food in this inviting corner of a cafe.

Coming to the second part of the exercise, I drew spaces around me that I felt represented the three feelings. In my interpretation of a space to congregate, I sketched a long flight of steps leading to the SID building in CEPT University. Tucked away in a corner of the vast campus, it serves as a good setting for people of all age groups to gather. Why? The stairs are located along a usually secluded pathway and the mutual shading of the foliage of the tree and buildings present the perfect opportunity for taking a break to gain respite from the chaos and heat. Furthermore, the design on the stairs appeals to the eye and distinguishes it from other stairs elsewhere in the campus. I was able to comprehend these factors and decode each element thoroughly through the plan and section of the space, which highlighted shadows, scale, texture, form and anthropometry. These sketches also allowed me the opportunity to explore with different mediums- I realized that though time-consuming, micron pens allowed me to show more details in terms of form and shadows, unlike charcoal, where shadows were pronounced but the subtle details went unnoticed.

Congregation: Frequented by students and faculty every moment of the day, these stairs act as a hotspot for groups of people to gather and have a fun time.
Congregation: Plan of the above mentioned stairs.
Congregation: Section of the above mentioned stairs.

In both these exercises, if I had to do something differently, I would shift my focus from the ambience of the space to the user experience. I initially looked at each space externally as a viewer, which focused on the experience of the space and I missed out on incorporating the experience of a user of the space. This change gave me a better understanding of my relation with my surroundings and how the different elements there invoked different emotional associations of my mind with the overall space.

Talking about the abstract collage that represents the relation of my mind and body with the world, I used mixed media and several elements to portray the same. The layering of cut newspapers symbolizes the complexity of the human mind where we process hundreds of thoughts everyday, each more absorbing than the other. The use of crushed blue gelatin paper and textured folded green crepe papers depict how man is made of nature itself, and this also adds a tactile dimension to the collage, denoting the physical relation of all the five sense of the body with the world.

Collage: Interweaving my mind, my body, and the world.

Through this exercise, I realized that body, memory, emotion and space are directly linked with each other. Though not evident at first, on pondering deeply, the mind discloses tangible and intangible experiences that culminate the past, present and future. Through these sketches, I was able to recreate the environment and sentiments of a space I was emotionally associated with, which helped me relive the place and also provide the viewer with a similar experience I had.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s