AN ERODED PRIVATE REALM: P Venugopal

In this comment, P Venugopal objectively observes our changing architectural perceptions of homes as a society and the subjective dimensions of the missing levels of humanising factors shaping the designs.

Museums are regulated environments. Artifacts on display are confined to tight frames of glass, and watched under spotlights. Curios in glass boxes are hermetically sealed. Relieved from the incessant gaze of the spectators, if they are taken back to the store, after the day’s work, they may recoup in the warmth of their ordinary storage alcove and breathe! They too can enjoy the privilege of a private realm.

The “Museum space” seems to have permeated our private realm. Often, some Residences designed to meet the aspiration for exclusivity of an affluent owner, combined with the Architect’s desire to produce a “publishable” work, tend to involuntarily convert the private realm into a domain for display. This results in simultaneous erosion of, enclosure and destroys the promise of refuge for the inhabitant returning home from the city.

The long term psychological well being of occupants, in an all concrete house, finished in brute exposed concrete or all over only in cuddapah slabs, is suspect. Residences designed as “Statements “representing some ideological leaning and the idiosyncrasies of the designer, tend to be frozen sculptures lacking in warmth. Museums after all, are enclaves for frozen memory. Living in a sculpture, under the designer’s continuous vigilance may be difficult though!. Notwithstanding the design vocabulary, or ideological allegiance, over bearing presence of craft and technique, deter creation of fluent and unassuming dwelling environments.

Many contemporary residences, with long white planes as walls, and floor to ceiling frameless glass, enclosing large spaces sparsely studded with furniture, compound a sense of emptiness. With a floating plinth detail, LED lit, and overlooking a still water pool, this photogenic “Picture frame” space making is in vogue, with healthy publication support from many Architectural magazines. Inhabitants seemingly walk in and out of this frame and through the furniture exhibits on permanent fixed display. In the process, occupants poised to live in these refined exclusive domains themselves seem like spectators. These spaces, content in themselves, meticulously crafted, appear delicate and intolerant to any variation or intrusion that may result while using them. They seem much like fragile objects to be handled with care. Self-conscious environments inadvertently exclude any bonding with their occupants. The alternate paradigm of extremism in construction detailing using alternate materials is equally alienating.

Blame it on modernism, or indulge in an analysis of the transformation of our dwelling type, or critique the role of a home in getting right our existential bearings, what we have at hand are a good number of abstract ethereal cubes with eroded private realms, and orphaned inhabitants. Current heightened tendency for permanent display, of one’s private living spaces, may reflect a societal condition; Yet, Architectural design can play the difficult role of balancing aspirations with restraint and meaning.

About the author:
Venu Gopal
Architect- Urban Designer

Architect P Venugopal is a scholar-practitioner with about two decades of professional experience. His studio practice in Hyderabad encompasses work on a wide range of projects. The design of NALSAR University of Law campus in Hyderabad is one of his well known works. He is recipient of few prestigious awards and some works were published in National Architectural Design magazines. Also a writer, few of his articles are published in a reputed academic journal and news papers. A good part of them though, have so far been among colleagues for informal circulation.

Venu Gopal has also been engaged in teaching as visiting faculty continuously over the last fifteen years in various educational institutions. He is an alumnus of Urban Design programme, 1991-93, CEPT Ahmedabad and has been actively involved in Urban Design advocacy in Public fora and advisory, notably with urban local bodies. He has recently authored a book titled ”21st century Global Thinking and concerns in city building”.

 

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