Stereotomic and Tectonic : 01

“These virtues of shelter are simple, so deeply rooted in our unconscious that they may be recaptured through mere mention, rather than through minute description. Here the nuance bespeaks the color. A poet’s word, because it strikes true, moves the very depths of our being”

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

In the process of teaching second semester design studio, i have had the opportunity to revisit some of the fundamental ideas in architecture. In a table discussion with a student, once i casually used the analogy to imagine a ‘cave’ like space to talk about a room which looked inwards . And this word led me to the term ‘pavilion’ to mark the other end of the spectrum in the ‘degree of enclosure’. The remembering and recognizing of these two terms ‘cave’ and the ‘pavilion’ marked an important transition in articulation about space for me. It was a small moment of clarity.  In teaching process one is constantly in search of such didactic devices to illuminate ideas about architectural space. In speech, we use the phrase going into ‘cave’ mode, when we want to focus intensely on some given activity. To look inwards. These two ‘phrases’ led to interesting directions in the second semester studio. The students had to choose particular professions for their user groups (say like writers or painters). So in the design discussions, we had the opportunity to speak through these analogies better. Would the painter or the writer would like to work from a ‘cave’ or a ‘pavilion’ like space. Would this preference of enclosure say something about the character? Or add value to his working environment?Talking about a ‘cave’ like space leads to discuss further conditions of openings, views and light. The ’pavilion’ idea leads to the conditions of privacy, translucency and boundaries  Enquiring the dialectics of the ‘cave’ and the ‘pavilion’ allows one to investigate the conditions of the interior – exterior relationships in a palpable manner .

In later extension to Kamala House, Doshi adds a ‘cave’ like bedroom which extends itself into the garden in the back. And he adds a ‘pavilion’ on the top of the bedroom. These two situations of the enclosure demonstrate well the extreme conditions in the spectrum of degrees of enclosure. From the maximum enclosure of the ‘cave’ – the phenomena of light, view and weather can be precisely framed. This condition is emphasized by the load bearing brick walls punctured by the doors and windows allowing precise connections to the garden. Wherein in the case of the ‘pavilion’ the singular concrete ‘frame’ marks the boundaries of implied ’space’. Sitting on an elevated level, the ‘pavilion’ pronounces the vantage angle of viewing the garden from the terrace. 

Image Source : From Iwan Baan’s portfolio on Doshi

The terms ‘stereotomic’ and ‘tectonic’ came much later into my vocabulary and helped to make the notions of the cave and the pavilion more precise. In a series of posts I am planning to share this enquiry, which led me to sharper readings of space and thus perception of it. 

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