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Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Road Less Traveled is the overarching title given to a  yearlong series of exhibitions programmed at the Kohler Arts Center to celebrate its 50th Birthday Anniversary  – including a major exhibition on Indian artist and visionary environment creator, Nek Chand. The Arts Center has the largest collection of Nek Chand sculptures outside of the Rock Garden in Chandigarh – and they’ve put 200 sculptures on show in an extraordinary exhibition.

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Curator Karen Patterson was looking for a more collaborative and creative approach to curating the shows and selected a responder for each exhibition to bring new and unique insights to the work and the final shows.

Karen asked me to send her a few ideas on how Nek Chand’s sculptures might be presented and exhibited. We met in Liverpool and discussed a range of concepts, including developing a virtual reality film of the Rock Garden [something I’m really eager to do]. We spoke about the experiential, almost cinematic nature of the Rock Garden – and how it is arranged as a series of distinct ‘outside rooms’ or events. Moving through the space and watching the sculptures being ‘revealed’, hidden, and glimpsed through this process is crucial in Nek Chand’s work.

It was also a decade since I completed my PhD research – and I felt it was a good time to revisit my measured drawings and catalogue of the Rock Garden. Karen agreed to exhibit my survey work and I got the catalogue reprinted at A3 size and its 250+ pages hard bound. I really enjoyed ‘re-discovering’ my old work. The survey drawings had been kept rolled up in a plastic tube for ten years, and I carefully extracted the coil of drawings, not knowing in what condition they might be in. Thankfully, they were exactly as I’d left them- tattered at the edges, full of rips, holes and dog-eared corners. I sent them off to the Arts Center, hoping they wouldn’t get lost in the post…

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The catalogues of Nek Chand’s work

 

I arrived at the Arts Centre a few days before the official opening, having seen the CAD drawings of the proposed show, produced by the exhibition designer and co-curator Amy Chaloupka. There’s always a disconnect between an architectural drawing and what it represents – and this was no exception. The scale of the exhibition is vast – and the amount of work required to produce, install and prepare the ‘terrain’ is incredible. One really gets a sense of what it is like to be in the Rock Garden – without there being any sense of pastiche or mimicry. The sculptures are arranged according to type on a series of terraced podiums that sweep through the space, compressing the visitor into a narrow gorge-like passage where the sculptures are densely arranged facing into the walkway. This approach puts the sculptures at eye level and really enables a dialogue to emerge between the viewer and the figures.  As well as the concrete sculptures there is a collection of the cloth works – an often overlooked component of Nek Chand’s work – they are again arranged as a group and tightly gathered so that they read as an ensemble of works that need to be walked around, and examined.

In addition to Nek Chand’s sculptures there is an archway reminiscent of the Phase-3 part of the Rock Garden. Contained within this segment of the exhibition are four panoramic photographs, the catalogue and the survey drawings.

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Installing the Drawings…

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Panoramic photos and drawings. The catalogue sits on the perspex stand.

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Survey drawings of the Rock Garden

You can find out more about the other wonderful exhibitions here: https://www.jmkac.org/exhibitions/theroadlesstraveled and there will be a conference on 26th-28th September 2017. None of this is to be missed….

 

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The modern usage of the term infrastructure has gone through a series of permutations from early emphasis on logistics, organisation, and the expanding scope of technological networks to more recent interest in the intersections with landscape, ecology, and alternative theorisations of urban materiality. In this event we will explore questions relating to the meaning and conceptualisation of urban infrastructures. The question of infrastructure will serve as an entry point for wider reflections on the changing experience of nature, modernity, and urban space.

This event is part of the Urban Salon – a London-based seminar series exploring urban experiences within an international and comparative frame.

Speakers:
Dr Jiat-Hwee Chang, Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore
Professor Dr Jochen Monstadt, Chair for Governance of Urban Transitions and Dynamics, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University
Dr Manuel Tironi, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, P. Universidad Católica de Chile
Professor Jane Wolff, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto

Chair:
Professor Matthew Gandy FBA, Professor of Cultural and Historical Geography, University of Cambridge

To book see: http://www.britac.ac.uk/events/imagining-infrastructures

Lou Moon:   Viewing tropical materials, renewable technologies and local community engagement at a coastal resort.  

Ola Uduku Writes:

Climate responsive, tropical architecture using locally sourced materials remains a rarity in West Africa, therefore setting foot at the remote coastal Lou Moon resort was a revelation. At first glance this seemed like yet another ‘safari-architecture’ beach resort on the Ghanaian coastline [20 minutes drive from Axim]. The first view of a dining area with non-local thatch roofing initially suggesting a copy of an aesthetically pleasing safari ‘hang out’ for expatriates and daring local tourists willing to get to this off-the-beaten-track location.

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“Are we nearly there yet?” The track to Lou Moon

On closer inspection and conversation with Lou Moon’s designer and owner Paul Ramlot, it was explained to us that the roofing is not indigenous to Ghana’s coastal communities but was indeed an import from the middle to northern part of Ghana. He had worked with northern Ghanaian thatchers and local craftsmen to ensure the construction of a watertight roof covering. He explained that this had been achieved successfully, and the only problems that had been encountered since it had been completed were with with local bats and grass cutters, that from time to time nest and forage in the thatch. Catching them was tricky  – but sonic deterrents were now being successfully used.

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Architect and owner of Lou Moon, Paul Ramlot with Ola Uduku

After a good lunch from an impressive menu boasting  European – Ghanaian ‘gastro’ cuisine and the option of good French wine (which we declined) we were shown more of the resort. The owner had worked hard to tame the land jutting out to the sea and create a number of secluded chalets, using locally sourced building materials and oriented to allow local ventilation and lighting. Whilst specialist bath fittings were imported, 90 % of the materials were sourced locally and the owner worked  with local craftsmen to develop the accommodation at the resort. This was a textbook demonstration on what is possible but has rarely been achieved in contemporary West Africa.

By working with local craftsmen, and employing local staff at the resort he had also both given employment opportunities in a part of Ghana where there are few such opportunities available. He also had a working arrangement with the ‘chief’ and ultimate owner of the land on which the Lou Moon Resort has been built. A share of the profits is paid to the chief and his community.

Resort chalets had solar photovoltaics incorporated into their design, and wireless communication, and electricity were freely available along with a large satellite dish in clear view. Interestingly on arrival we noted a number of vehicles with diplomatic number plates, possibly the remoteness of the location had in the past made it the perfect retreat, one wonders whether this remains so appealing, now that it is hooked up to the world via its telecommunications systems. Judging by the resident clientele at the resort in the January off peak season this didn’t seem to be the case.

We left musing that it took a Belgian expatriate to rediscover local materials and encourage local design talent in this remote part of Ghana. His design model had been so successful that he was in conversation with local elites to develop a similar resort on private land to reap these benefits. What was his most serious problem we asked him? He responded that it was the noise from the local community at funerals and other festivals…

We hope that a cordial arrangement can be agreed to secure the serenity of this snapshot of tropical architectural paradise. We made ‘design attribution’ peace with the non-local indigenous thatch roofing, we saw no vermin, enjoyed the shade and couldn’t fault its aesthetic contribution to what had been a truly revealing ‘Lou Moon’ experience.

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Testing the Timescape Bengaluru app at Kempegowda Tower in Lalbagh Park. Watch the video here

In November and December 2016 Rachel Lee and Anne-Katrin Fenk were in Bengaluru working on the augmented reality Timescape app that the Envisioning the Indian City team developed for Kolkata in 2015. Supported by Goethe Institut Bangalore (Max Mueller Bhavan) and MOD Institute, and partnered by Bygone Bangalore and Centre for Public History at Srishti, we spent five weeks looking through image collections, selecting locations, conducting interviews, geo-referencing photographs, writing entries and testing out and evolving the app in the city. We discussed our progress and the interim results at a public presentation at the Max Mueller Bhavan on 16 December.

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Real time transparency corrections at the Ashoka Pillar with Martin Winchester of Liverpool University

Timescape, a smartphone/tablet app, draws on the real, existing fabric of India’s cities, combining it with archival image material and historical data to communicate urban heritage through an immersive augmented reality experience. Using geolocation services and push notifications Timescape is a serendipitous tour guide, an armchair heritage portal, and an educational resource. Informative and easy to navigate, the AR app brings evocative, vintage photographs from museum collections, such as the British Library, online databases, like the Facebook group ‘Bygone Bangalore’, and family archives to India’s streets, living rooms and classrooms. Images of tangible heritage, such as buildings, are complemented by documents relating to intangible heritage, for example music recordings, poetry, and recipes. Timescape aims to become an innovative forum for recording, exchanging and remembering the evolving urban cultures of Indian cities across the subcontinent. Timescape will develop an infrastructure that enables people to upload their own historical photographic collections and stories.

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Screenshots of the app taken while walking up Avenue Road

As Bengaluru continues growing at an unrelenting pace, the historical fabric of the built environment is increasingly threatened. When, for example, nineteenth century bungalows are demolished to clear space for office towers, places that contribute to the foundations of the city’s and its citizens’ sense of collective identity and public memory are destroyed. In Bengaluru we focused on a central area including Chickpete, the Fort, Jayanagar and MG Road, which is particularly threatened by redevelopment. Features on buildings, such as the Rice Memorial Church or Krishna Rao Pavilion, were augmented by cultural institutions like the Indian Institute of World Culture, monuments like the Ashoka Pillar or the statue of Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar X, and legendary local cultural hubs such as MTR Tiffin Rooms, Vidyarthi Bhavan and Koshy’s. As well as historic images, textual descriptions accompany the points of interest and in some cases sound files were added. We would like to expand the app to include edited oral histories collected in the neighbourhoods. Some of the points of interest have been archived on the MOD blog.

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Google map showing chosen points of interest and a screenshot of the app showing geolocated images in map mode

The presentation at Max Mueller Bhavan began with Anne-Katrin Fenk giving an introduction to archiving and curating urban history. Rachel Lee followed with a report on how the time in Bangalore had been spent and what progress we had made on the app, then Kiran Natarajan of Bygone Bangalore talked about the need for the app through his rather amusing “shock therapy” presentation, and finally Avehi Menon from Centre for Public History discussed the importance of oral history and how it could be integrated into the app through sound files.

In 2017 the next step is to apply for funding to move up a level and be able to devote adequate time to the development of the content and technology. We have a great team in Bengaluru, Berlin and Liverpool who are very enthusiastic to take it further.

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The Timescape Bengaluru team and friends celebrating in Indiranagar after the presentation at Max Mueller Bhavan. From left to right: Kiran Natarajan, Anne-Katrin Fenk, Avehi Menon, Katerina Valdivia Bruch, Vivek Jain, Cop Shiva and Rachel Lee

A short video of Anne-Katrin Fenk and Kiran Natarajan testing the app in Lalbagh Park is available on youtube.

Article in the Times of India from 20 December 2016.

Article in The Hindu from 10 January 2017.

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