Architecture is a Living Tapestry

“And of everything We have created in pairs.”

-The Holy Quran [51:49]

“Glory to Allah, who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own(human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.”

-The Holy Quran [36:36]



No element on the life sustaining earth exists without its complement. For example, the complement of zero is one; solids and voids; light and dark; if one did not exist, the other would lose its meaning.
This refers to both in terms of the one who sustains as well as the energies sustaining them. The balance among the elements of the entire universe is maintained through the various visible as well as invisible energies which in turn exist in pairs.
The energy could be classified as the ones within the human who sustain the energies of the earth and the other being the natural forces of the universe that aids the universal equilibrium which further keeps the physical and psychic activity in balance.
The harmony of the earth is controlled by the physical as well as the metaphysical energy forces of the cosmic energy. The energy takes part in influencing all the occurrences on the earth be it at architecturally large scale element like a city or a small scale architectural structure as a home. Both would be classified into the microcosmic level of the energy.

“Space is nothing, yet we have a kind of vague faith in it.”

-Robert Smithson



The existence of energy occurs in the place of nothingness. Voids hold the highest sources of energy. The architectural design is nothing but a technique of designing voids to show a flow of spaces making a way for the flow of energy among the various spatial arrangements. Most of the people in the Indian Society prefer Vastu Vidya to be incorporated while designing a space. The major reason being the energies that is considered to be flowing through the designed spaces and to create the balance between the concrete mass and the natural elements. Humans occupy the voids yet they fail to understand the meaning of the unseen energy forces that is felt through the experiences they encounter while inhabiting that particular personalized void that is the physical manifestation of the memories and imagination of their own. The metaphysical aspect of architecture lies within the fact that it influences the user experiences of their inhabited voids in the line of time. It connects the past to present and brings about a psychological and emotional connection.

An environology master, David Koh, stated, “When people built the house, the energy inside the house is static. Once the people live in, the energy inside the house is dynamic. People may affect the building, and the building may affect the people. And it’s not positive thinking that the people need, but it’s energy that makes people think positively.”
The energy flowing through the various spaces creates an imbalance due to the dynamism of the humans living in. This in turn, creates a flux within the dialects of energy within the physical, emotional and psychic connectivity of the people.
Architecture is a living tapestry and a constantly changing phenomena. The connection of the energy within the human body and outside, impacts not only buildings but other elements too that together builds the abstract and hypothetical whole.
The spatial fabrication of the concrete masses and the multiplicity of the same in diverse alignments as a whole builds the city fabric. A city is a spatial and temporal dimensions of architecture on a vast scale. The physicality that a city comprises is, districts, landmarks, streets, edges and nodes. The streets become the prominent defining thread of the city, connecting the different entities through its networks. They show a directional shift in motion of spaces with respect to different frames of reference exploring more than what is comprehended by the senses with the metaphysical lens to look behind the abstraction.

To represent the extraordinary within the ordinary, the light is put forth to a street in Kolkata, Topsia, recognized by the number ‘90’, has not yet been identified as one of the most alive streets of the city of joy yet they have the metaphysical fundamentalism. The street is particularly a connectivity to one of the Muslim populated locality of the place. The majority of the population living in the locality belongs to the middle class strata of society. They adapt themselves to the concept of ‘less is more’3 and seek the intangible aspects of the spaces that they use.
Considering the theories relating to the energy sources, streets becomes the most dynamic element that could be considered as the life of the whole city. They deal with more than the vehicular and pedestrian movement. The streets deal with the dialects of dynamics of metaphysical consequences.

Figure 1: Layout of Streets of Kolkata; source: author.

Within and outside the realms of architecture, streets pave the way at the microcosmic level for the energy distribution network similarly to the way it functions for the crowd and vehicular activity. The metaphysical lens from different frames of reference gives an opportunity to analyze the impact of the metaphysical link and how it is evoked with the crowd in context to the existing surrounding. Different users feel a variety of different emotions in consideration to one particular space.

Figure 2: The Street ‘90’ on 12th June, 2019; source: author.




A resident of the place when asked about her experiences with the place said, “We have been staying here for about 15-18 years now. It has an essence of familiarity and home. The existing buildings, the shopkeepers, the vendors, and when I say vendors I really mean it. They are accurate with their location of stalls and wouldn’t trade it with anyone. Ive seen a lot of changes in the place. The building in red and white was built after demolition of an old 3-storey building for commercial purpose yet the upper floors still remain untouched after being built for so many years. The chaos is the essence of this place and without it, this street will lose its essence and identity.”

Considering the quantitative aspect of the street, it is about ten meters in width, with two meters of it occupied by the street vendors. An analysis of the street was done in three different phases of the day. When the morning struck, the silence is disturbed only by the daily activities of parents dropping off their half-dozed children to schools either by private or public convenience, which here is the auto rickshaws, who typically place themselves along the edge of the building as shown in Figure 2. Slowly and gradually as the time transcends the vegetable and fruit vendors take the edge of the street as their potential business spot. The traffic becomes evident by the noon with children coming back from school, having there go at the Sharbet waalas. As soon as the sun goes down, the street has an overwhelming response by the users creating itself in a chaotic mess of disoriented vehicles and people trying to make way to get out. Simultaneously, the sequence of functioning of the streets inflects thrrough its natural course. The female crowd encircles the ‘puchka waale bhaiya’, drooling over the smell of the tamarind water. A few steps towards the east would bring us to a smellscape of a multi-cuisine food corner with a large hot plate with parathas being fried, a traditional clay barbeque for the kebabs being cooked upon the coals, another man assorting the shelves with momos, fried crispy chicken and another struggling with delivering the order to the respective customers superimposing each other tones in a competitive streak to get their order first. The edges of the streets are defined by the utilities of all kind such as a pharmacy, general stores, grocery shops, food kiosks and corners, markets within a radius of a hundred meters, a shopping complex built few years back, occupied only the ground floor of the building structure. A fruit vendor defined the street as, “It is a metaphor of how our life is, always moving and moving in the forward direction. Despite the chaos we love our life so do we love this place.”

Figure 3: The Feeling Mapping of the Street (red-chaos, green- rejuvenation, orange-action, blue-contentment); source: author

The rhythm of the basic functioning of the street is inflected during the festivities, such as the two Eids and Muharram. The zeal within the crowd becomes evident and the streets stop serving as a vehicular access instead it becomes a hub of utilities as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: The Street ‘90’ on 4th June, 2019 (On the Eve of Eid); source: author



In terms of architectural analysis, the flaws couldn’t remain unseen, but what the architects couldn’t see is the intrinsic experiences that the users have with the place. The elegance of the street is a culture of contentment and containment. It depicts the unification of the users belonging to all strata of the society interacting with each other whatever the purpose may be. The dynamics of the streets and the humans represent a whole of the community be it the rich or the poor. In a simple world, the whole of the world can be explored. The local architectural vocabulary of the streets shows motions and emotions of all colours. It depicts joy as well as sorrow. The chaos and the peace, all the comedies and tragedies. The energy drained is rejuvenated with the constant flow of energy on the street. The essence of the chaos in itself shows the intrinsic connection between the built and the unbuilt. The street evokes the intangible aspects of the userrs. The user activity is the result of the concentrated energy source at the micro cosmic level connecting humans with the space at a deeper level. Configuration of the whole of the city is determined by the streets that becomes the highest sources of energy flowing throughout.
The built is to exist what the unbuilt is to life. The boundaries defined by the concrete is a personalized space to exist in harmony, but to co-exist, an undefined yet the key that holds the city together. A street has a potential to turn itself into anything it wants. The street is an induced public space. The street has evolved through the line of time of urbanization inflecting the course of its motion. Due to the increasing number of concrete massing, the spatial contraction of the streets are taking place in localities like Topsia in Kolkata whereas due to the urbanization, the expansion of streets also take place with putting an end to the life of the city creating it in a block of monotony and regularity only used as an access not as a space for creating an interaction between the built and the unbuilt, the known and the unknown. Spatial expansion and contraction taking place to accommodate structures. Street is one part to the whole that encapsulates the built and the user.
People have a tendency to experience voids hence, they hold human sentiments. We are dehumanizing the streets by making it lose its existence by the loss of depiction of culture and tradition. It is a lost element with the thoughts drowned in hues of grey unaware of how to survive in the chaos. The task of an architect is to blend imagination with practicality by balancing ideas and reviving the true nature of the streets in context to human activities.

REFERENCES

1. The Holy Quran

2. Mustofa, 2011. According to Dr. R Tatang Santanu Adikara, the Head of Bioenergy Research Centre in Surabaya, human gets energy from two sources: inside the human body and outside the human body.

3. Metaphysical Approach for Design Functionality in Malay-Islamic Architecture, article in procedia-social and behavioral sciences-aug 2015

4. Mies Van der Rohe

5. Lynch, Kevin. Image of the City.

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