Burrowing the Ground

Following a set of weeks of experiencing and visualising places that emoted solitude, intimacy and congregation, the task at hand was to design a hideout that included places to express all these characters: solitude for oneself, intimate gathering for a group of my four friends and congregational space for an additional fifteen people. The interesting and challenging part of it was to design it underground, whose experience would be quite different from our usual encounters in terms of the surrounding elements, quality of light in the spaces and so on.

The Shoebox exercise was the first part of the process, where a chosen shoebox was to become the miniature version of an excavation site in which these spaces were to be accommodated. I believed that a clear intent on what was to be achieved through and by the spaces would be necessary and guiding. After self brainstorming on the main focus, I identified it to be a group of spaces that occupied minimal area while retaining their individual characteristics. I was clear in wanting to locate the entire built space along the entrance side of the site, allowing this hideout to be unseen from far and only reaching the sight on moving close. With this, the model turned out to be a simple collection of space, appearing monotonous with the uniform usage of cardboard.

Iteration 1: The play of proportion and placement of the spaces were used to distinguish the spaces expressing different emotions, while grouping them within a minimal area.

Reviews are always an excellent means of gaining a new perspective to look at one’s own work, and recognising the flaws in it. After all, its the shortcomings that we always fail to see, unless someone else points it out. I could then notice the dull character of spaces owing to the material and the overall layout. So, the second attempt focused on exploring various options of creating the character of these spaces, and spending sufficient time in using different materials to represent it. As seen in the below image, different elements like a hammock floor and a slide were added to create an intimate gathering for four friends, while the stairs placed close by was screened with a perforated wall to provide enough privacy.

Iteration 2: The explosion of ideas while designing it resulted in various unique elements coming together like the hammock floor and skewed walls.

However, the review opened my eyes to notice how the intention of trying different quality of spaces led to a clutter. After each subsequent iteration, just as I felt that the design had had been resolved to the maximum extent, the next set of review etched out the parts of the design that I had neglected or not noticed. With this, the process involved back and forth between reconciling with a design choice and trying to push for betterment. I was intrigued particularly by this part of the process, as I wanted to know the limits up to which my imagination and cognitive skills could be applied. Although, each iteration was to develop on the previous, I had been careful to not compromise on the type of experience I wanted to create, which would make these spaces unique and representative of me.

In the following weeks, the necessity of adding character to each of the space became critical, and this was expressed through sketches of the views of these spaces or those that it offered. It allowed me to develop a sense of inhabitation in the space that was crucial to provide life to it. It forced me to be a part of the space and imagine the experience in order to sketch. This wouldn’t have been possible while taking in a bird’s eye view of the small scale model. For instance, the first sketch at the bottom represents a space of solitude that is suspended and replicates that experience for its user through a hammock floor. I had intended for the space to be away from the circulation of people while providing view of the outside. But sketching it made me realise how isolated it was from life of the rest of the space, and the perforations in the wall didn’t serve much purpose beyond aesthetics. The primary nature of experiencing the hammock by lying on it to gaze at the sky was lost through the solid roof covering. Thus, the process of sketching allowed me to be a better judge for my creation.

The visualisation of the spaces had to be technically resolved in order for it be practical. It was implemented by drafting plans and section of the entire underground space. Modularity of the spaces was stressed on such that each of the constructed element was a repetition of a basic unit or dimension. Grid lines acted as references for making it fall in place. While ensuring its technical correctness, it was important to ensure that the were easily readable. While, it was initially expressed through varying line weight, the later use of rendering technique to fill the different intensities of color proved to be a more suitable choice. Across the journey of designing the space, I had always been conscious of the quality of light that each of the spaces received and how they could they could be altered. This also reflected in the attempt to render the orthographic drawings using shadows.

When I look back on the journey that the design went through from the bland cardboard spaces to the monochrome model, the quality of life expressed in it significantly changed. There was an attempt to breathe life into it; plants were incorporated not just for ornamentation but to provide a companion in this secret secluded place. While the task ends with this final iteration, I look forward to being exposed to the possible potential and shortcomings of it, which would be pointed in the closure of the brief. Thus, this has been a journey that never sees the end, because the focus has been on experiencing that is created along it.

Final Iteration: It is expressed through monochromatic scheme across the model and orthographic drawings to maintain uniformity, which is also expressed through the modularity of the spaces.

I sense Light as the giver of all presences, and material as spent Light. What is made by Light casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.

Louis I. Kahn

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