Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Space for Engagement: The Indian Artplace and a Habitational Approach to Architecture by Himanshu Burte

'Adorno said that architecture worthy of human beings thinks better of them than they actually are. For far too long, in modern India, our place-makers have tended to think worse of us than we are.'

'Values that have emerged in one place and situation. . . may be translated in toto to another very different situation—say Chandigarh—in ways at odds with local cultures of habitation.'

On the Capitol Complex, Chandigarh:
'Scale and emptiness can sometimes suppress the bonds that join us, and having weakened that solidarity, render each more vulnerable to those seen to be in control of that space. . .  exaggerated scale constantly invokes an exalted conception of 'freedom' even as it denies any foothold for habitation. Ironically then, instead of exhilaration in this monument to spaciousness, the dweller realizes the impotence of his/ her own humanity faced with the majesty of the space itself. . . The architect glories. poetically, in the tragic irrelevance of the individual to the larger order of the universe.'

On Habitational Poetics (After Gaston Bachelard):
'To dwell successfully in a place is often to be able to forget it and inhabit instead the feelings, possibilities and actions that the space enables . . . Habitational poetics [is the] possibility of being distracted away from the autonomous qualities of architecture. . . It is impossible to be part of the everyday life of a space as well as concentrate exclusively on its intrinsic qualities. . . Through the gaps of perception, memory and habit falls the unique qualities of our habitats.'

— Himanshu Burte is an architect and writer, based in Goa, presently engaged in promoting a critique of present-day architecture in India by means of constructing a domain of public opinion concerned with public space in the country's cities. Offering a critique of contemporary architectural and institutional approaches to 'place-making', Space for Engagement (Seagull Books, 2008) proposes an alternative approach to thinking about architecture, centred on our experience of inhabiting spaces, inspired by Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space.