In order to open the question of identity, Derrida sometimes speaks of identity by deconstructing the circle of semantics, where… “identity is a sign by which a proposition is recognized as self-evident; and identity is recognized when a proposition can be translated into terms which return to those very terms, the same is the same!”
The Benaras Ghats, as an example of traditional Indian urban public space; can be viewed as one opportunity for such understandings. As elements of significance to the populace, they have remained contested territory throughout a history which, being so burdened specifies it’s own mode of forgetting. A history which is not monolithic and uniform, rather, composed of many layers, from the history of origins [and Benaras has many], in the deepest of all embodiments: myth; to the history of beginning(s) : the chronological. A long narrative of domination is to be written here. Starting from the neolithic inhabitation of the forests that were here to their transformation into urb, it's consolidation into the various strategic |identities| since the 1100s, it's self-organization in the face of imaginary realities and the symbolic, appropriation of the river front in the 1850s and reformation of the Ghats under the colonial……. to their expropriation by the ‘new’ Indian urban elite (e.g.; in the name of “conservation”).
No attempts have been made to really understand the terms and conditions by which the Ghats exist in the city, and constantly reconfigure (without any help from the aforementioned elite) in the face of emergent realities. No attempts have been made to understand the urbanity of the Ghats and their significance – their law, amongst other things – of the constant deformations of that normative. And to a trained eye, consequences of this lack of understanding seem grievous. Especially as one sees the recent attempts at conservation and (partial) restoration of the Ghats. Even if one accounts for the common difference between a professed intention and intention-in-use, this is as sympathetic a surgery as the one the allies recently performed on Baghdad.
This is not surprising. As traditional city cores represent that area of urbanity that “we” the so-called elite have left behind – we are no longer home within. With that, we have lost our sense of what could be considered desirable in terms other than of Governmentality.
I propose a one-year long design exercise in responding to the urgencies posited above. The question is how to architecturally represent ‘ourselves’ within traditional Indian urban spaces in anticipation of things to come? And how to let the traditional pose questions to our (often mediocre, often complacent) design methods?
The pedagogical value of this exercise is in a) our learning to assess the significance involved in the city, and its history of the last 400 years or so. b) In our empowering ourselves in comprehending, analyzing and acting within this milieu. C) In developing capability to translate the knowledge of this world into a professional idiom of action. And I would ask two things of the participants. A will to not despair in front of the ‘realities’ they observe, and a will to develop the skills to live with obligations demanded by the powers they would (inevitably) assume in the process.
OBJECTIVE: Using the notion of habitus (taken as a root word to habit-e.g., of dwelling in the city – or habitat as in TVB School of Habitat Studies) in both its linguistic and spatial sense….”
I would control the design exercise with the following three junctures of control. These, in Foucault's terms, would emerge as ‘unities' of discourse.
Architecture and the questions posed of an embattled mind have affinities, consider the following.
One rejects the doctrinal urban design strategies – utilising information/knowledge and determination, translated into a plan – e.g. master plan (operationalization on a broad, generalized front). And execution of plan on an orderly manner.
I rather a logic which finds its scale and meter in the on the inside: it is Irruption. Where the strategy itself its operationalization, operations are left to the battle, is left to mobilization. Mobility is of the essence, as is the retention of goals in the abstract, objectives are obtained through a fluid, disruption of the previous technologies of design. Hierarchies are flattened on all sides.
In substituting irruption for the eye-head (thinking) and concentrating for eye-hand (drawings), we can articulate this technology in other words, we arrive at the architects equivalent. Where the production of destruction (art if war) meets it nemesis.
We will begin with the following studies:
The analysis of the language born (serial) forces of domination operative in the history of the city and their operative codes. These would be identified by observing propensities of locational logic of architectural programs in the city, and mapping its particulars in Benaras.
And a tissue analysis of the city, using a method derived from typological studies. This incorporates Foucault’s modes of mapping history.
The two would provide an initial notion of the codes of the city.
It follows that the exercise would consist of three stages. Of which, the stages a & b are to be completed within the period of one semester. After which students may opt for the stage c……
A critique of this translation and re – representation of the architectural product. Also refer the schedule. In which the funicular |)(|represent the design exercise proper, the grid is a conceptual metric unfolding in time.
In keeping with the professed intention an inspection of the disposition of habits within the city, the site is considered a strategic zone. Within the phenomena of territorialisation will be inspected