By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Believing that a crisis is an opportunity to start again, by thinking anew, she feels that there will be a shift in the spatial typology of our institutions in an age of a new awareness of viruses and human safety. Considering it to be the perfect time to have a long radical view at our accountability and stewardship of the ecology of our specific landscapes, Nisha Mathew Ghosh, curator of India Pavilion at the London Design Biennale scheduled to take place in September, but currently postponed to June 2021 owing to the Covid crisis adds, “It is a fundamental right as a human being to breathe clean air, use clear fresh water and grow vegetables on clean earth.”
Titled ‘Small is Beautiful: A Billion Stories’, a multi-sensory installation, conceived by Nisha, with collaborative inputs from Sandeep Sangaru and Soumitro Ghosh is India’s response to the biennale’s theme of ‘resonance’. Stressing that the project is the outcome of the previous 24 years of work in exploring how architecture could talk about ecology at a deeper level than just the very visible opportunity to use a certain kind of material palette, she adds, “My experimental work in home textiles as well for the last 12 years using bits of new scraps of end-bit-cloth retrieved from small manufacturers of silk and waste textiles from swatch books resulted in a body of work of textile stories. ‘Small is Beautiful’ coalesced these very different explorations, when the opportunity to design the India Pavilion at the London Design Biennale arose. It represents at one level the potential of ideas of people and communities even though they may presently be lonely beacons, but imagine the potential when we get to see ideas, collaborate and inspire each other to create a billion stories. This is that foundational first step when we map and document to make visible all the hero-ecology stories of our country at a glance.”
Talk to this Bengaluru-based architect about roadblocks when it comes to adoption of sustainable design practices in India where major architects complain that even well-educated clients are hard to convince for the same, and she says, “Yes, it is still such a lonely story, and yet this proposed building up of inspiration, collaboration and an ecosystem in which these ideas can eventually become mainstream, is the only way that we can begin to forge the way for an ecologically resilient India of the future.”
For Nisha, who has always been fascinated by Le Corbusier’s work, the fact that it was primarily about ideas that were seminal for his time makes him extremely interesting. Adding that whether we agree with them or not, he had a way of making everything stand on its head, and could see its potential years ahead, she says, “I like the fact that he worked like a true sculptor with space and form; within the topology of the idea there is a richness of spatio-formal experience, and very often — surprise!”
When it comes to her process, Nisha is clear that it is about research, prayer, more research, a desperation to get the idea expressed when for that moment she may lack the tools to express, a to and fro exploration via the tools of an architect, and finally the synthesis and rest when the idea begins to find its resolution for that moment. “I sometimes think that the best idea always remains in one’s imagination and to express that abstraction and bring it forth to the concrete is a labour of love and hard work,” she smiles.
Stressing that to have large-scale consensus today is a challenge until a big crisis comes; she feels that we are currently staring at a future ecological crisis if we don’t quickly build community mandates to build systems for clean water, clean air, clean energy, etc. “This is where we want the advocacy and inspiration of such an exhibition to go — to build consensus, to give the courage to dream. The impact of community based movements thus far has been exactly that — to challenge the status quo, and build vision and give courage and dignity to ideas .. the courage of women hugging trees touched an emotional chord. We are quite led by emotions as a nation, and to build consensus for a good thing by touching the hearts of our communities as we seek to be accountable to a cleaner India for the next generations to come, is crucial.”
At present working on setting up a larger collaborative platform that can mentor and build people, communities and bring design-thinking, to local problems with an especial focus on the threshold between design and ecology, Nisha concludes, “The power of the collaborative is tremendous.”