Sem 04 / Settlement Studies

Orchha In Betweens

Anuj Daga

The second year settlement studies programme is focused at the intersection of observing typological patterns in smaller towns through the act of measure drawing. Here, ‘measure drawing’ is not approached as a colonial documentation process where emphasis was simply on a cartographic survey of land and built form to ascertain locationalities of objects in space. Rather, ‘measuring’ here is a way of understanding cultural patterns as manifested through living a place. The measure drawing programme is aimed at understanding spatial proportions and how they are connected to living forms. It is here that numbers get meaning, as opposed to the alienating universal logic of standards, allowing one to delineate the contextual specificities of social, economic and cultural aspects of a particular place in material form.

The field studied for this year’s programme was Orchha - a medieval town in the Bundelkhand region in central India, founded by the Bundela chief Rudra Pratap Singh in 1531 AD, who also went on to become the first king of Orchha. Geographically between the Yamuna and Ganga delta on its north, and the Deccan ranges on the South, the hilly remote area of the Orchha was difficult to control and hence selected by the Bundelas.  The key type of built forms found here are palaces, temples, tombs, gardens, market and

As a centre of architectural interest, Orchha has been an object of measure drawing for many studies before. However in most architectural portfolios, as much in the heritage-tourism narratives, the focus has remained on the built form rather than the life lived within, or around them. Such documentation produces the building as an insular artifact, an object devoid of life. The attention towards drawing tectonic forms, embellishments and decorations overpowers the discussion on spatial ingenuity of these spaces. Moreso they do not aim at understanding the spatial logics of inhabitation, thus also divorcing these knowledge fields as distinct disciplines of history, conservation, archaeology or anthropology.

Further, this leads to building studies get subsumed as stylistic entities in architectural processes. As a synthesizing act, the measure drawing exercise at Orchha therefore was aimed at

a. Understanding the life lived between and beyond the objects
b. Challenging the objecthood of architecture
c. Reading socio political histories in material forms.

The notion of ‘in-between’-ness was used in order to tie the overall precinct of Orchha in order to understand its contemporary inhabitation. Our focus therefore turned on how the public realm gets created in such sites of historic importance, specifically with the contours of contemporary economies. The in between ness of the site was explored at three levels:
  • The space between the monuments
  • The left over in between space of the ruins reprogrammed into contemporary economy
  • The space as it occurs in between different time scales and rhythms of events in the complex – of transitions and transformations, appropriations and adaptations.

The sites selected for within the precinct were:
  • Ram Raja Temple
  • Chaturbhuj Temple Complex
  • Macchli Darwaza Market Lane
  • Phool Bagh Hardaul Baithak
  • The Palki Mahal and Market
  • Urban Housing

While orthography was used as a method to make field drawings, the final presentation employs the form of miniature expressions of the place - seen across the visual arts in central India. Miniature drawings of south asia are able to emphasize space as an event. Here, simultaneity of events in space, a close experience of phenomenon and the performance of the bodies are held together in the drawing, which remain latent in the canon of orthography. Such a move also allowed to push the debate of in-between-ness by foregrounding events between the monuments and enlivening the otherwise stoic studies of heritage precincts.

The work from the course can also be found here.