Traversing Geographies

By Anuj Daga

This thesis aims at situating the architecture produced in contemporary India in the rapid and transitory field of images and media across the globe. The title, In the Place of Images presents thus, a subtle contradiction. While the notion of ‘place’ is borrowed from the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who understands it as a primal location through which a being operates and locates oneself in a particular physical setting, technology and media have brought this relationship into dialectic with image production. By challenging the fixed idea of ‘place’ with the flow of ‘images,’ one recalls the categories of the ‘scapes’ given by anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, which restructure the conception of the world through flows of technology, media and capital instead of the established cartographic boundaries. In the process of architectural design, different formats of media from this fluid space get tied together, and morphed into physical reality – a “place” of sorts – in unexpected ways.

How does architecture become the medium, an instrument through which such scattered imaginations touch ground in a country like India? How do these floating processes actualize into a tangible object? What new vectors of space or spatial orientations do they produce? This thesis will closely consider the processes which inform the design of buildings in this contemporary mass mediated environment and manifest themselves in the visually charged field of the present. I shall argue that the speed with which information, ideas and people circulate today has changed the fundamental perception as well as construction of place. At the same time, it has trapped architects (as well as the public) into fragments of multiple worlds that restructure our very own associations with the notion of place. Four lenses resulted out of viewing of the material in the perspective of mobility, and were used as the chapter-themes, namely ‘misreadings,’ ‘misprisions,’ ‘confluences’ and ‘leakages.’ The formulation of these lenses, or themes helped in drawing the attention of the research closer to the otherwise hybrid, illegible environment. They help to scrutinize and unpack the ways in which circulating images find expression in built architecture in Indian cities.