Selected Entries 2018

An Experiment in Freedom

Pranav Thole
K.R.V.I.A | Mumbai

an experiment in freedom is an enquiry in urban life,  told through people’s bodily experiences; the way they experience their cities; how they encounter other bodies and how it affects their notions of freedom and liberty.

Urban life has enabled us to coexist with one another inspite of the differences we share. One is constantly seen not only as an individual, but is also subjected to a collective  (groups, caste, religion) that is used as a tool to control societies.  The way we have designed our cities through history has been with the hope to empower our individual freedoms; to liberate us!

However, does architecture curb freedom?  What is the architecture of freedom?

What is the role of Architecture today?

Very often, the state creates a sense of order within which we are shaped, and our identities constructed. These frameworks are crucial to the functioning of any society and come in varied forms like laws, policies or institutions drawing a relationship between the governing and the governed, I.e the state and the citizen. All nation states in some ways are trying to build communities of various kinds, and in their making, sacrificing individual freedoms. However, it is also this very state that is set out to enable individual freedoms.

Is this an inevitable contradiction?

The thesis attempts at reclaiming citizenry and individual freedom from the nation state and understanding this conflict of freedom and space.

The symbol of power that is largely associated with the Indian nation state, in terms of its physical manifestation, is the Rajpath. Built as a symbol of the Empire’s supremacy, the Rajpath was designed to reinforce their superiority and curb the growing sense of revolt. The post Independent Indian governments directly inhabited the offices of the Empire’s administrative set-up, treating them as inherited heritage, without altering the associations of these spaces. Ironically, we now celebrate our Republic day with a parade on the very axis that was meant to keep us out. The spatial organisation of this geography is imposing, dominating and architecture has been used to exude power. The landscape is designed in a manner that prohibits its use, is inaccessible, and the vista is focused towards Rashtrapati Bhavan.

What is the role of citizens in this space of power now?

What is the new form of engagement that can be imagined?

Can there be a dialogue between the state and the citizen?

Architecture is being used as a metaphor to demonstrate power. Similarly the project looks at using architecture as a metaphor to escape that power, to build a more comfortable relationship even with the most powerful. The thesis aims to re imagine the relationship of citizens and governing bodies by devising new forms of engagement.

The project is designed as a pause in the journey from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan, an opportunity to look elsewhere; between the Parliament House and the North block, forming a bowl, an introvert space and a landscape of mounds and depressions. This is in stark contrast to the inaccessible landscape of the Rajpath, almost polluting it, but transforming a citizen’s way of life. It looks at shifting scales to change the way these untouched monuments are perceived, to alter the associations and interactions with the people and create opportunities of expression, use and discourse.

Various objects are designed as extensions of the Parliament and the North Block; intersecting and dissecting them at different conditions, offering multiple ways of engagement. These objects sitting in the park; temporary and unstable; are programatically an extension of the role of the Parliament. The nature of these institutions is inverted devising a new role for the public.

The multiple objects are imagined as a fragment of the city growing around the Parliament; entering it perpendicularly forming a new skin around it. The amphitheatre imagines the Parliament as the backdrop for live broadcasting and concerts; the new entry now takes the visitor to the courtyard through an open air exhibition; the viewing deck an extension of the complimentary programs of the Parliament elevates the visitor and allows them to look at the park and the parliament; the referendum research institute enables live testing of a new tool to empower the citizen; the student radio network is an independent broadcasting house; a special exhibitions court is designed to enter the North Block. The Park has multiple smaller pavilions providing spaces for people to linger around, dance, play music and express their voice.

Now accessible to its own people, Rajpath will transform into a space where citizens can freely express themselves! A space which is now of protest, of alternate views, of expression and dissent, a paraphernalia of protest, a part of everyday life and most importantly accessible to all.

Is democracy now alive here as people run into each other by chance,  opinions are voiced and attempts made at snatching back our individual freedoms?

The thesis is merely a possible projection of the future, with the intent of asking a question and not necessarily offering a solution and therefore called,  ‘an experiment’.