Spaces Of Encounter Workshop: Day 2

Day 2: Friday 10th January 2014

The plenary session of the day two of the ETIC workshop featured two papers on Chandigarh from Professor Kiran Joshi (School of Architecture, Chitkara University) and Dr Iain Jackson (School of Architecture, University of Liverpool). Professor Joshi presented ‘Envisioning Chandigarh: The Making of a Modern Utopia on Indian Soil’. Having started documenting the architecture of the area in 1997 her work sought to clarify ideas of Indian modernity. Using examples from Ambala near Chandigarh and the Solarium at Jamnagar, Professor Joshi spoke of an indigenous modernity that borrowed technologies and modes of thought from the West. The utopian vision for Chandigarh was discussed in the context of this modernism. Plans by Le Corbusier in the early 1950s were presented as consistent with this modernism. The use of local building materials, labour and the suitability to climate demonstrated Le Corbusier’s adherance to Nehru’s ideology of independence for the new town.

‘Fry and Drew’s contribution to Chandigarh: health and education’ introduced by Dr Iain Jackson focused on the European planning of the Chandigarh as envisioned by the British architects, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew. Concerned with the development of a healthy city, characteristic of the Modernist project, their designs were based on sanitation. Ventilation spaces and communal squares were planned to respond to this challenge. The Leisure Valley built in 1951 created a ‘space of opportunity’ that accommodated exercise stations, alpine trains and art collections to improve the health and wellbeing of users. Dr Jackson credited Drew with driving this socially motivated design, citing her ethnographic style of research within the community.

Government College for Women, sector 11, Chandigarh

Government College for Women, sector 11, Chandigarh

 Professor Nandini Das (School of English, University of Liverpool) closed the morning speaking on ‘Goa, 1583’. Her interest in the memories encapsulated in a city and how a foreigner mediates this view had led her to Goa, a port city: a portal to India. The paper examined Goa as a space of contact, a site of negotiation between cultures detailed through the narrative of three groups of travellers. The detainment of the first Englishmen in the city arriving in December 1583, John Newbery and Ralph Fitch by the ruling Portuguese and subsequent release by Jan Huygen van Linschoten demonstrated the city as a space of contact. The arrival of these Englishmen was particularly significant since it established the basis for the foundation of the East India Company approximately twenty years later. Recovering Goa as a city-palimpsest, Professor Das provided details of the memories of these multiple agents. The arrival of a group of Japanese teenagers sent to the city by the Jesuit missionaries during the winter of 1583, demonstrated the city’s rich history and importance as a site of encounter during the Renaissance period.

The afternoon session addressed Pondicherry as a site of French encounter. Dr Ian Magedera (School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool) presented ‘Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Cultural Flows’. Discussing the site as ‘une fenetre ouverte sur la France’, the paper provided a historically based analysis of Pondicherry. Regarded as a cultural implant of the French in 1955, Magedera discussed the city as a hub of heritage. The contemporary city was posited as a complex of cultural flows. Citing Appadurai, the social dimensions of these flows were discussed. The continuation of the site as a cultural commodity was emphasised through the global representation of the city as anti-modernist. Swati Bhattacharya (Research Scholar, Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Development) continued to detail the French presence in Pondicherry. Her paper, ‘Spaces of Encounter in Pondicherry’, focused on the identity politics of the site as reflected in the division of the built environment into black and white town. Her research intended to redefine the colonial encounter.

The second day closed with Pramantha Mohun Tagore’s (Postgraduate Student, Jadavpur University) paper, ‘Architecture, Memory and the Changing Civic Sphere: A Study of Selected Houses of North Calcutta’. Concerned with the preservation of colonial heritage after the abolition of the Zamindari rights in 1956, the paper focused on the ‘Great Houses’ of Calcutta. Two residences built by Maharaja Nabakrishna, commonly known as Nobkissen, were presented as examples of often overlooked native architecture. The buildings dated from the 17th to 19th century were described as enclaves from which the Calcuttan elite propagated art and culture. The paper was followed by a short talk on ‘Musical Cultures of Calcutta’ by Professor Amlan Das Gupta (Director, School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University) and a sarod recital by Pramantha Mohun Tagore in Vivekananda Hall.

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