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July 28, 2012

Sangath: Lose track to come back



Surely, I lost my way!

I guess it was in 2005.  I stood on the front lawn facing the Sangath searching for the ceremonious entry into the much famous studio of B V Doshi. The entrance itself was deceptive, to say the least. I was very excited to visit the place as a part of an architectural ‘pilgrimage’ to Ahmadabad which also included great buildings like Sangrahalaya, IIMA, Mill owner’s Association building etc. 


Then to my surprise, none other than B V Doshi came out of the building. He spotted me. I was a bit hesitant to meet the master and was literally ashamed to ask for the way. To my surprise, he asked me whether I am looking for my way to get in. With a smile on his lips, he pointed towards a circuitous pathway that disappeared behind the greenery. Upon my request to see his studio, he told me to take a look around, taking my time.


"YOU HAVE TO LOSE TRACK TO COME BACK. AND THIS IS WHAT GIVES YOU THE CHANCE TO THINK AGAIN. ANXIETY, UNEXPECTEDNESS IS THE KEY TO ARCHITECTURE."


I heard him explaining about the strange way of leading (or misleading?!) one to his building in a later interview of his. The interviewer himself could not find the entrance and went the other way and he replied: “A lot of people do. But then that is what I find in India. The ambiguity, where the destination has to be searched. You have to lose track to come back. And this is what gives you the chance to think again. Anxiety, unexpectedness is the key to architecture. Corbusier always talked of going back. He would always take the circuitous route to come to any place. You go straight and your conversation is over.”

He went on with his discourse about the transformations along the path(s) towards a destination.

“If you look at the Madurai Temple, the gabhara is very small and the gopuram is far away. It is like a city but the sequence, the layering makes you feel that you don’t have to necessarily go to the inner sanctum. You can take your time. But those layers make you feel that you are going in a certain direction. There is a route to follow, you can go alone, you can go in a procession. You can go anyway, you can meander or you can stand next to a column and look at the beautiful statue of the goddess, go back in your mind regarding the history of the deity, be content and come back. What happens is that it transforms you slowly before you reach the destination. There is no sudden shock. So the first thing I learnt is that transformation is necessary but it should be gradual, giving the person time to change, to adapt, to think.”

Very profound observation.


About Sangath:
Sangath is a fragment of Doshi’s private dream: a microcosm of his intentions and obsessions. Inspired by the earth-hugging forms of the Indian vernacular, it also draws upon the vault suggestions of Le Corbusier. A warren of interiors derived from the traditional Indian city, it is also influenced by sources as diverse as Louis I. Kahn, Alvar Aalto and Antonio Gaudi. A work of art stands on its own merits and Sangath possesses that indefinable quality of authenticity. Even local labourers and passing peasants like to come and sit next to it, enjoying the low mounds of the vaults or the water-jars overgrown with creepers.”  [Rethinking Modernism for the Developing World: The Complete Architecture of Balkrishna Doshi]



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