Sem 09 

Spatial Arguments

Prasad Khanolkar
The research dissertations undertaken by the students of 2023-24 cohort investigated a range of phenomena and spatial practices, using different concepts, analytical frameworks, and methods of narrating, drawing, sensing, and writing. Six large conceptual interventions emerged from their work that could help further architectural theory and pedagogy.

One, architectural forms are sensoriums of smells, textures, fear, sounds, color and affects, all of which need attention to break away from the rational cartographic notions of space in architecture. Wholesale markets, street markets, malls, and department stores are not just spaces of economic transactions but rather sensoriums that affect how different kinds of bodies experience space, move and occupy it, and respond to the sensorial elements. Public spaces, similarly, are not simply spatial containers that hold public life of humans, but instead are publics composed through sounds, tastes, textures, and smells.
Second, architectural forms are interfaces as well as mediums, which mediate between bodies and entities, both near and far, extending to the cosmos. Facades, skins, surfaces, corridors, rooms, staircases, elevators, as well as infrastructures such as water pipes and electric wires are mediums in which different kinds of socialities are produced. Skins of residential buildings, their materiality, and the levels of porosities shape the relationships between neighbors and strangers, between inside and outside environments, between private and public life. Thus residential types are not just about spatial configurations, but also the skins that mediate relations.  However, architectural forms are not the only mediums, but rather operate in congruence with other mediums, particularly digital mediums. Today, there is a continual relay between the digital space and “physical” space. Increasingly, the digital publics are shaping public spaces in cities in terms of their use, imaginations, as well as their relations of inclusivity and exclusivity.
Third, architectural forms are accretions– accretions of legal battles over property, of small incremental improvements by families, of conflicts and convivialities among families and friends, of changing economies and economic conditions of occupants, of floods and climate change, of imagined utopias, of ideologies of life, of memories of loss and love. These accruals often find their traces in the built form in terms of changing types, dilapidations due to overuse or abandonment, as well as extensions and subtractions to the form.

Fourth, these accruals imply that architecture should attend to space as an intersection where multiple lives intersect. Residential units are thus intersectional spaces that are cohabited by different species, including humans. Urban spaces such as coasts, marshy lands, beaches, water edges, creeks, and public spaces too are intersections wherein multiple species cohabit with frictional relations between each other. The more-than-human species have spatial practices of territorialisation, appropriation, expansion, and production that tie them to other species, and depend on the materiality of space and its affordances. Architecture thus needs to attend to space as an intersection.
Fifth, everyday relations of power are spatial and operate differently in homes, neighborhoods, public spaces, temporary spaces, as well as institutional spaces. In homes it operates in soft ways. The dominant narratives of gender differences structure how different parts of homes, particularly kitchens, are occupied, used, and lived. At neighborhood level, specific religious communities are slowly accumulating space through spatial practices that bring together religious ethics, legal systems, everyday routines, and capitalist logics. In class rooms, power operates through performances, whereby teaching as a disciplinary form requires a dance between the teacher and the students. In the abandoned post-industrial urban spaces, power is omnipresent in the precarious life of its inhabitants in the form of looming fear of displacement, redevelopment, and rehabilitation that could get activated at any point.
In public spaces, increasingly, one finds the integration of security and surveillance systems installed in the current context of ‘terror attacks’ that shape how crowds move and occupy public spaces.

Lastly, these different dimensions of space need inventing new methods of studying as well as drawing out space. Often, the sensorial, the emotional, the soft forms of power, the other species, do not find their space in the “rational,” “logical” and “sensible” understandings of space. Making them visible requires inventing new research methods, drawing onto other epistemologies, as well as devising new ways of narrating and drawing out space. These inventive methods are always on the edge of what we consider non/sense.
Collectively, the research work thickened the notion of space. The spatial arguments course thus culminated in an Undergraduate Thesis Seminar titled Architecture of Thickets. The seminar drew together the research inquiries of SEA’s 2023-24 cohort to read and explore space as a thicket, that is, a dense, opaque gathering of moving bodies, matter, ideas, and capital that are in contingent and incongruous relationships with each other.