Martand Khosla: Experiments of Urban Enquiry

Through his art and architecture, Martand Khosla has created a niche that lies at the intersection of the two fields. His installations embody philosophies from this undefinable space, as he extracts questions using art as a voice, and architecture as principles, to raise concerns about humanitarian aspects of societal and political systems.

The practice of Martand Khosla inhabits a transitional space between art and architecture, which enables him a platform to address concerns that transgress architecture as independent habitable spaces. He co-founded, and is a partner of the architectural practice RKDS (Romi Khosla Design Associates), which has obtained both national and international recognition through its award-winning designs.

Khosla pursued art independently as a tool to address larger analytical interrogations of the relationship between society and its built environment. The connection between art and architecture becomes more prominent here – as an ‘intellectual link’ between two fields of varied levels of abstraction. Exploring this link requires astute perceptions of the human sub-consciousness, and the ability to voyage into areas where the two fields are held more loosely without the perceivable limitations of individually inhabited realms.

Fundamentally, the guidelines which architecture adheres to are different to those that drive art, and still through careful calibration they can mutually co-exist, by feeding each other with an artisanal understanding. This relationship resonates throughout Khosla’s practice, as the architecture language of plans, sections, elevations and axonometric drawings becomes a spring board to other forms of art and sculpture abstractions, as ideologies that exist in installations like ‘Vanishing Point, 2013’, and ‘Inventory of the Possible, 2012’. Art and Architecture are perceived as two mirrors placed against each other, directly casting reflections within themselves.

Relationships are also forged between the observer and the installation.

The driving force of interaction is the individual, and because of this, no two people perceive a piece of art in the same manner. Every installation created by Khosla seeks to confront its observer with a variety of questions, with different degrees of appeal. Modulating scales, objects cultivate different senses of interaction; some sculptures are massive, some engage the observer with abstract, miniature landscapes which request a moment of habitation, while others connect with the viewer modestly drawing gaze to minute details. Varying degrees of comfort are imagined in the many installations, each one causing unpredictable reactions based on individual psychological reaction to the nature of a sculpture.

The crux of Khosla’s practice lies in the field of bridging the city and its people where the city is regarded as an organism that enables life to prosper within it. He devised a three-part system under which most aspects of a city can be categorised.

It begins with a Macro Domain, defined by the power structures of the city. This includes roads, sewage and electrical lines, the railways and airports, hospitals and institutions as the key inflection points, including structures of administrative power and the judiciary. The Micro Domain is composed of the individual space occupied by residents of the city including households, dwelling units, apartment complexes, commercial establishments, etc; as a reflection of the relationships between the individual and the society at an intimate level. Arguably the most important system is the Meso Domain, eponymous with his installation.

Power is given to the idea of materiality, where the material is a reflection of the observer and vice versa.

It is through manifestation that a material imbibes meaning, and its character can be extracted. In Khosla’s experiments with brick dust portraits, this hypothesis was conveyed with greater meaning. He creates objects that draw attention to the casual eye, but it is through materiality that he is able to connect more powerfully with an observer.

The conversation with materials begins with the ubiquitous resources easily available on construction sites, such as bricks, steel and wood. As the engagement gets more complex, there is innovation in the manner in which the same materials garner different results. For instance, the installation ‘Twist and Shout’ portrays the use of steel with softness and organic subtlety, while ‘The Continuum’, incorporates the rusty, robust and heavy nature of steel to convey a different energy. A comprehensive understanding of these materials was forged in this process, and it has since become the central core to his artistic practice.

This respect for materiality can also be seen progressively more and more in his architectural practice, the more his experiences with them grew. More surfaces and materials were left exposed and bare, to enable a contact between the inhabitant and the soul of a built space. The depth of understanding of physical materials and their relationship with the human conscience serves to inform these sculptures just as much as the architecture. Art and architecture become tools to aid the explorations that transcend pure expressionism, as every installation intends to tackle a subject of a humanitarian agenda. Just as buildings have construction and design constraints, similar narratives and restrictions are generated to challenge the creation of his sculptures. The pursuit of ideas is enhanced by the capacity to ask fundamental questions of societal concerns where all the fragments meet- the planned and unplanned, the inclusive and exclusive, and all-encompassing chaotic parts that make our societies♦

MARTAND KHOSLA was born in New Delhi in 1975, where he continues to live and work. He earned a Diploma from the Architectural Association of London in 2001 and is a partner in RKDS, which develops a wide range of architectural projects. Khosla’s practice is deeply involved with the process of construction and the dilemmas of urban India, exploring both continuity and transformation. He worked with the term “MesoDomain” to refer to the space in between known areas, without boundaries, self regulated and intangible. MesoDomain formed the title and crux of his 2016 solo at Nature Morte consisting of installations and sculptures using different materials and forms, each responding to issues such as planning, shelter, and migration. Khosla’s art works have been featured in three solo exhibitions in New Delhi (at Seven Art Ltd and the School of Art and Aesthetics, JNU in 2012 and Nature Morte in 2016) as well as in group shows at venues including GallerySKE, Bangalore; SESC, Sao Paolo; and Hangar Bicocca, Milan.

This editorial was originally authored and published as part of a series of articles for the [IN]SIDE Journal.

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