Congregation, intimacy, and solitude denote a different number of people inhabiting a space. When a body or several bodies come together to inhabit a space, a relationship is created within the bodies coming together and also with the space they inhabit. This exercise probed me to observe these relationships. While doing so, a few questions arose – What is the intent of these habitations? What different relationships do these bodies create with each other? What is (or can be) the nature of spaces which can hold such inhabitation? I discovered that I see inhabited spaces to be open to other people or to be closed to other people.
A person undergoes a lot of emotions ranging from mundane to overwhelming throughout the day. The presence of certain elements can help to process/hold/express a certain feeling. For example, say if a person is feeling overwhelmed, a place to sit or to rest one’s head can help ease a bit. There is an array of emotions and feelings. Different emotions might need different requirements of the space. Also, when one gets together for a conversation (or even is alone) the tone of the conversation and the emotions can change throughout the conversation. Does this mean that people will keep on changing spaces with the change in emotion? Well, maybe! I had done it once. But not all, not every time people might prefer to do that. It might not be feasible in some cases.
A state of solitude can have an option of cutting off or can be available for a short / brief opening up to others / interaction
When one wants to feel safe and secured, one wants to be away from everyone’s gaze or wants to be right in the middle of everyone’s gaze. This is indicated by blue and red in the plan. The blue spaces are secluded due to vegetation cover, hedges, compound wall. They demarcate a different area. These might have a visual connection; they are not entirely hidden. The red spaces are right in the centre of everyone’s path. The red spaces also indicate chaos.
When one is withdrawn and wants to cut off, one needs to be away from everyone’s gaze and may be not wanting to see others as well. These are marked in deep blue in the plan. These are the spaces which are secluded due to vegetation cover and compound wall. These spaces are partially or completely visually inaccessible from the entire site.
When one is relaxed, fresh, slowed down, when one wants to seep in the energy of the environment or observe one’s energy, when one is not clouded by any extreme emotions, one wants to be alone but not secluded. One is open to environment but might or might not want to engage with others. The engagement with others is a possibility. This is indicated by yellow in the plan. These are the spaces which are at the edge. Not covered and secluded, but a sense of envelope is present.
In intimacy, people are being vulnerable while being with one another. The space needs to ‘hold’ the vulnerability. The opening up can be vulnerable or in the spirit of adventure or something else.
Intimacy has various degrees. To understand better, intimacy is categorized into two degrees: open to others and closed to others, depending upon the willingness of those in intimacy to be open to other people or to be by themselves.
The orange and the brown in the plan indicate spaces which can be open to others. The orange indicates spaces which provides the possibility to open up and interact but also has a sense of envelope. This envelope is created by the hedges and the vegetation cover. These spaces are visually accessible. The brown indicates spaces which are not totally out there but has a less sense of enclosure than the orange ones. These spaces are near the tree trunks under the foliage.
The blue and the deep blue in the plan indicates spaces which can provide for need or want to be aloof. Both these spaces are enclosed by the vegetation, hedges, and compound wall. The blue indicates spaces which are visually accessible but has higher degree of enclosure than the orange and brown. These spaces are physically separated by hedges or vegetation. The deep blue indicates spaces which are physically separated and partially or completely visually inaccessible.
Solitude and Intimacy
From above one can see that the different ways in which Solitude and Intimacy can inhabit are similar. In the broad category it can be seen that the inhabitants to be either willing to be open to interact or needing privacy – closed. these can be further enabled by visual and physical accessibility. Following are some points which emerged during the group discussion after the exercise regarding what kind of a space can hold Solitude and Intimacy.
- Cover the back- should feel protected, have come for privacy
- At the edge – need least 2 or 3 faces of envelope
- Visually secluded- the faces of envelope should cover the bodies/faces- the envelopes can be translucent, partly covering (jali like) or fully covering
- Cover from above- protection from sun and rain
- Away from the entrance
- Intensity of the light also plays an important role. If one wants to be open , wants to be seen an ample amount of light is requires. If one wants to be cut off , be private, a less intensity can help to cover the visibility of the face. (these do not consider the light requirements for the activities)
Following are some explorations after discussion on criteria for space of solitude/ intimacy. It’s a start of thinking about envelopes and their character-solid, porous, transparent, etc.
While dealing with the congregation, the first question is how many people one is talking about? 3-4 people coming together feel like a small group. 4-8 people feel like a medium-sized group. In this, people can be together all the time or be together in a group of 3 or 4. 8-12 people feel like a large group of people coming together where the number of subgroups is more but can still relate to each other. More than 12 people feel like the subgroups are too many to be able to relate to each other. Whenever a number of people get together, there is a sense of purpose to the gathering. When we are talking about more than 12 people, it feels like a crowd. A congregation of such a scale is surely purposeful. Maybe to be a part of a large group or an idea or to belong!
What kind of space can hold such a congregation? Going through the exercise and discussing each other’s exercises led to extracting a few points about such space.
- Need enough space to hold the number of bodies coming together.
- The space doesn’t necessarily need to be one big chunk- the gathering can happen in smaller chunks and have multiple foci.
- Need for openness in terms of expanse and also spill-over areas
- A sense of enclosure to demarcate the holding of the congregation as one.
At first, it was very clear. That the groups would need open space and the availability of a large space to congregate. But then thought just struck my mind. Do large groups deal with vulnerability, or it is dealt with in only small intimate groups? How do people deal with sensitive things as a group? If yes, if large groups are vulnerable together and they want to deal with vulnerability, then what kind of space can hold this?
Discussing these points with the group brought back two memories which I had absolutely forgotten. Both the memories were of dealing with loss during college time. One was where half of the class had failed. We were not going to be able to be with half of the people with who we had spent every day for three years. We all were sad and coping to different degrees. The classroom was the space where people consoled each other in different groups or the decision to fight back was discussed. The classroom was enclosed. It felt like a protected space. The other memory was when our theatre group got disbarred from the competition for exceeding the performance by 30 seconds. As our ensemble had members from the architecture and art department the common steps at the entrance were the place where we used to meet, sit, and cry together. This place was a place where everyone used to pass through. It somehow felt okay to cry in front of all the passers-by because everyone who passed through that space was a part of our college. We did not know them personally (students, faculty, support staff) but everyone knew us and had witnessed our effort and enthusiasm and they got crushed. They were not a direct participant but a witness. These were two different kinds of spaces one enclosed and another out in the open which could hold the vulnerability.
Thus in the congregation, different sizes of groups come together for a purpose. Depending upon the purpose, the groups may want to be open to other people joining or want to be secluded. The green patch shows where the groups can be secluded. The red shows the spaces where different group sizes can gather.
Overlapping the inhabitations
The above image is the overlap of Solitude, Intimacy and congregation on the site. It emerges that the inhabitation which requires openness is at the centre of the site (the pink part in the centre). The inhabitation which requires seclusion but not privacy is enveloping the open pink part. This is denoted by bright orange, yellow, brown. In a way the secluded but not private parts are holding the congregation together. The inhabitations which require privacy are the blue parts which are secluded by compound wall and secluded part on the other side.
With this in mind, the further explorations of the site shall start.