One Step in Creativity and a Leap in Passion…
When second-and third-year students of SCMS School of Architecture won CREA, the national level students installation competition for a design called Aazham, during the IIA Young Architects Festival 2022, hosted by the Indian Institute of Architects Kerala Chapter, it evoked not just pride and joy in the students and faculty of the college. It revived the love for architecture and the built form, optimism for more creative collaborations between students, faculty and practicing professionals along with a renewed sense of purpose for the entire institution. By Sindhu Nair
The IIA Young Architects Festival organised in Calicut was an immense success with bigwigs in architecture and arts attending the events. The line-up of “star” architects, the interactions each of them had with students, the sense of bonding between stalwarts and the new generation on the similar podium of a common profession, were all very addicting for the students who attended the festival, and a celebratory atmosphere for all those who practised this great profession.
The students who participated from SCMS School of Architecture and went on to win the much-coveted prize were Geethanjali Prathap, Kiran Kuruvila, Nasma Kamarudheen, Aravind Santhosh, Mrudhula Mohandas, Ninvin Chackalackal, Richu Abraham, and Sidharth Reghunath, guided by their Assistant Professor Vinayak Menon.
For the second-and third-year students of SCMS School of Architecture, winning the CREA Award, was surreal. For Sidharth Reghunath, to rub shoulders with names like Nikhil Mohan of Thought Parallels and Vinu Daniel of Wallmakers and then have these architects explore their installation and interact with them, is a dream come true.
Geethanjali Prathap says, “We really didn’t think that the third draft of our design would reach fruition. Winning the award was not in our scheme of things. Participating in such a competition, the entire process of planning, detailing and the final execution, were satisfactory enough for us.”
Explaining the process Prathap says, “We students started with a typical approach. Guiding us through “design thinking,” our faculty, led by Assistant Professor Vinayak Menon, streamlined our thought-process to bring in mystery, engagement and a material that was easy to obtain as well as to manipulate. We started thinking of a solution for the problem through a design that evoked participation and engagement while giving it a context of the place it was meant for.”
The installation was planned as an inspiring multisensory path, maximising the possibility of public engagement and interaction since it was installed in the premise of Urban Angadi, the flea market which was open to public as well.
And thus, was born “Aazham,” or depth, a journey towards the inside, within minds and history of Kozhikode.
“As the word signifies depth is a journey within the minds of a traveller who is much familiar with the metamorphosis of the eventful cultural history of the iconic ‘Koyikodu’,” explains Prof Menon.
The path throughout the installation symbolises a journey from being a beach city that is self-sufficient in terms of its rich produce to the Kozhikode it is now.
“But today, we understand that this journey was not an easy metamorphosis, the intuitive evolution of the city from an archive of traditionalist temples, mosques, warehouses, and other rustic buildings giving way to crowded modern streets, echo the void in narratives or folklores. And we wanted to fill the void of this transmutation through the installation,” explains Menon.
Aravind Santhosh says, “What we proposed was a bio-installation as a framework of coir threads that supports the growth of a spice much loved by the native folk of Kozhikode – the black pepper, also known as the Malabar Gold due to its popularity. Metaphorically, this installation aims to engage its audience by allowing them to nourish it, thereby professing that the present generation needs to deeply nourish the roots of Kozhikode.”
Menon, their mentor, explains it further, “There was a gap of about 10 days during which they had to prepare for the installation execution. They built a 1:2 scaled model and explored the central idea by trying out various materials and understanding how are they going to make the people feel the essence of Kozhikode through this.” The installation is made from coir threads locally sourced from the ‘Angadis’ or markets of Kozhikode.
“When we finally executed our installation, when we understood the scope of the built form. The installation was much more than what we had imagined, the process and the final product was a revelation for us,” says Sidharth Reghunath.
The students seem to have learnt much more than what they set out to with this project, making a live installation seemed to have pushed them much closer towards their final destination of being a design professional.
“We learnt that what is utmost important is to plan. The preparation for the installation, which we had to finish in two days, had to be perfect, as time was crucial,” says Prathap, “It is not only the idea, but the execution of it that is important.”
Coir was tied from the top to the bottom on the mesh that was attached to the steel frame on both sides. This created the space for a path through the grid with a central portion sporting a black pepper plant that reflects the history of spice trade and brings in an element of nature filling the central void which is not revealed from outside, adding an element of discovery.
“Realising that Kozhikode is a hotpot of cultures; the story of its metamorphosis could not be shown in one dimension. The installation thus, contains a path of emergence, and discovery and showcases the journey via a multi-sensory experience. The plethora of internal and foreign influences brought by the thousands of sailors over several centuries is largely responsible for the city’s rich legacy, and hence the coir ropes are scented with various fragrances synonymous with these factors. Material-wise, the much eventful journey of Kozhikode is marked through obstacles and hence the hangings of ropes bring an experience of the tactility of truth, sounds of the breezy sea, and the routine play of light and shadow- all tied to the roots of rich cultural heritage,” explains Nasma Kamarudheen.
One contributing factor for the students to reach such a rich cultural celebration through their installation, was the freedom that their mentors left them with.
“While we were given a thread of thought and introduced to the concept of design thinking, we had the freedom to come up with ideas, explore whether it would work. And while this let loose our imaginations, the college and our mentors helped us streamline our design ideas, steer us to arrive at a design solution and then investigate the detailing of it. We realised the importance of the saying, “God is in the details” and this is one important lesson we learnt in the process of making. Every small detail needed to be finetuned to arrive at a perfect design,” says Prathap.
“This has been a very meaningful journey for them,” says Menon, “right from deciding to participate, to ideating and then to execution, this journey, especially after the difficult Covid years, has given the students a glimpse of the possibilities that is open for those who take the first step.”
Prof. Anil Ravindranathan, Principal of SCMS School of Architecture, while commending his faculty and Prof Menon for the right mix of mentoring and freedom of design, says that the energy of the students has been infectious, “ The students have ignited a hope within themselves and in others within the instituition who have now believe that it is not the name of the college or the popularity of it that matters, but working towards their dream can itself be a catalyst in reaching great heights.”