Participants were asked to list down five emotions – preferably feelings evoked in them by their site and the prospects of creating a place of performance in it. They then had to successively translate each of these emotions into a graphical or sculptural form within seconds, using colours, paper and whatever other resources available at hand. The translations were then discussed, without naming them. All of us tried to guess what the graphical or sculptural form represented. Many-a-times we hit the bullseye, while sometimes we missed. It is fascinating, however, that there was a multitude of grains of truth in expressions for everyone to relate to. We discovered a few common associations such as a jumble of soft, rounded squiggly lines denoting confusion and a maze of sharp, zig-zag lines showing anger or frustration in addition to confusion – as though the act of the drawing was embedded in it. We are aware of colour temperatures – as per their wavelength – having a corresponding warm or cool effect on such; consequently, the sky blue colour expressing peace, deep warm colours expressing darkness or gravity and so on.
Each translation was then sequentially placed on a blank canvas to eventually create a collage. We discussed how each act takes into consideration and responds to the preceding condition, so much so that even the first element on blank canvas responds to emptiness and the locations of centre, sides and edges. We always already have a relationship with empty space. This realisation is a significant step in the breaking of our obsession with the blank slate. The process of adding each successive element followed two primary methods or a combination of the two:
- association by meaning – where the participant held on to the meaning of the preceding element and placed the next accordingly
- association by composition – where the participant followed the suggestion of the previous form and placed the next in a compositional relationship
A very intriguing question emerged from the discussions around the process of the collage. Even small forms presented in two or three dimensions are very nuanced and layered in the facets that they share information through: material & texture, light and shadow, colour and form. Imagine how complex then is the creation of a space, which, in addition to the qualities enumerated above, also includes the dimension of inhabitation (enveloped by the elements making the space) and time (movement and pause). Such complexity can be overwhelming.
However, we process this incredibly complex set of information within a matter of seconds because we have decades of experience in inhabiting myriad spaces in body and in mind. So the overwhelming complexity is actually not around the question of creating or inhabiting spaces. Instead, it is around the question of representation of spaces and of inhabitation. For instance, as a grown adult, unless under extremely hostile conditions, I am adept at carrying out everything necessary for survival. However, if I were to find myself in a foreign land with an unfamiliar language, it would make it very difficult for me to carry out even the basics, which may be second nature to me in a familiar environment. It is the inability to communicate, which makes it difficult to carry on normally. Given the capital-intensive nature of prevalent architecture (at least the contexts that I am embedded in), our training and practice primarily deals with its representation – we make models, drawings and digital renderings of our projects – instead of actually building and breaking and evolving spaces through trial and error. Let alone communicating with others, we need representation to even explore ideas for ourselves. Representation requires the choices and practice of appropriate language. And the language of orthographic drawings and models and other visual & spatial representation is very peculiar and requires continual rigorous practice to embody. This is one of the most challenging and fascinating dimensions of this comprehensive medium of architecture. This should also make all educators and architects sensitive to the struggles of young learners – that their struggle is one of articulating their experience, and a little encouragement can help them find their own language.
Charvi’s iterations of her collage
Ketki’s iterations of her collage
Mugdha’s iterations of her collage
The individual collages only reached the half-way stage of the process where each participant has added more elements to the initial five emotions to complete their collage. We did not complete the second half of dynamically suturing the four collages to make them one work.