Thesis : The Fallen Chinar (Space of Memories)

Thesis : The Fallen Chinar (Space of Memories)

Title of the project: The Fallen Chinar (Space of Memories)

Name of the student: Misbah Imtiyaz

College/University : Dayananda Sagar College of Architecture

Location : Shavige Malleswara Hills, Kumaraswamy Layout, Bengaluru

Year of graduation: 2020

Besides stories in the books, narrative language has a ubiquitous influence. Whether it is the colors on the canvas, hand gestures of the dancer, or the lyrical music beats, there are emotions,
symbols, and sometimes episodes conveyed by the artist. When a storyteller unfolds the scrolls of his narrative or opens his magic box like the Rajasthan ‘Kaavad’, the voice and images sweep
listeners into the story giving them a whole new experience. Can architecture, too, be a form of storytelling, using narrative language as a vehicle to form experiential spaces?

Architecture has been an ever-existing book of narratives. It exhibits a history of the past, identity for the present, and a story for the future to compare and treasure. But nowadays architecture
comprises of a single layer that tells nothing of the culture, history, or pride in a place. Instead, it’s rooted in economics and quick real estate developments. This applies to museums and exhibition
spaces too, places which are known to bear history and stories of the time are itself a box of artefacts. What we observe is that they are left abandoned to get its pages deteriorated with time.
The origin of my thesis thus centers the integration of storytelling in architecture by using narrative and its elements. The space designed need to fit the present construction technique while
maintaining the quality of space.

We encounter spatial narratives in architecture through the formation of place and meaning. Architecture narrates and spatially projects stories in space. It connects various places by
threading the narrative to form sets of physical constructs and patterns. These meaningful patterns follow a sequence to convey a sequential story. Today buildings try to be flexible in terms of function and volume which leads to the story losing its setting when reading the other way. This forms a critical difference between architecture and other media like a film or a novel i.e., linearity. To which, Charles Correa has explained the concept of sequential space with his project ‘Citadel de Goa’. He cites that there is a story within a story, the illusion of spaces and images within his
building providing a distinct encounter through ‘episodic architecture’ where stories unfold in a series of spaces.

Further clarifying the connections between the two art forms “Architecture and literature” through David spur book “Literature in Modern architecture”. It says while architecture speaks of culture and identity of a place, literature is a written and verbal representation of the life experiences and stories of culture, social, tradition, and historical values. Understanding the written texts of a place, one can explore and get to know the fundamentals of the architecture of that region. Hence, both architecture and literature have a standard ground value of historical context. Equally, Benjamin writes about the comparison between the two forms in terms of mythology. He says architecture is passive evidence of mythic content. It bears witness of the hidden mythology by interpretation in concrete form. For example, Paris, which speaks the story of consumer capitalism through the passages, read with the elements of iron and glass. “While architecture consists of parameters like the site, type, and architectonics, literature replaces these factors with context, genre, and texts or in simpler terms plot, setting and character”, quotes Pierre Bourdieu.

On the similar notion, Ole Schereen, in his TED Talk, “Why Great Architecture Should Tell a Story” breakdowns architecture as space of stories. He cites his critique explanation for Louis Sullivan “Form follows function” moniker and replaces it with Bernard Tschumi’s “Form follows fiction”. He defines architecture as an organizational structure or narrative hybrids which contains many individual stories and experiences in harmony. These individual stories thus become a character for the architecture instead of the latter acting like one. These characters function in a particular set up which forms the setting and the individual scenes all together forms the plot. Plot thus defines how to convey a story.

Moreover, as mentioned in the beginning, building developments are often linked with drastic changes that takes up the cultural identity of a place by plaguing it with cold monotonous
developments. Vishaan Chakrabarti, in his 2018 Ted talk, breakdowns the term “sameness” with the images of multiple cities which are turning to look similar with concreate shells and tall skyscrapers. He cites the cause of it being the factors like mass production, building regulation and the fear of difference. Though they form the necessity with a growing population but architecture has tended to react to these elements rather than elements reacting to the global change. This is further explained by Peter Eisenman. He posits that we witness in works of both literature and architecture an ongoing interrogation of the nature of the built environment as a design for a living. What is specifically modern in this interrogation is the notion that the built environment must be continually reinvented.

Heidegger, on the other hand, says in his book “Dwelling and Building”, that architecture is a form of art, like imaginative literature, which must renew itself to retain its vitality. This doesn’t imply that we should replace the history of a place. Instead, adaptions can suit present needs. This suggests if putting the idea of prefabricated modules for constriction technique, they shouldn’t just have industrialist approach rather also bear the essence of the place of which the story is being told. Therefore, to demonstrate the translation a narrative into architecture, this thesis aims to design spaces that can bring the public memory of a place. The story to exhibit is about Kashmir’s unheard tales and cultural experience, the place which otherwise has become a topic of dispute. The memory of Kashmir has evolved from being a place of meadows, springs and snow-covered mountains to a label of a terror camp. The latter may sound true to an outsider but is not a reality.
Kashmir has a beautiful historical story and it needs to be retold to replace the negativity of place with positive memories.

The thesis thus focuses on exhibiting Kashmir’s tales and cultural experiences through prefabricated exhibition spaces, aiming to bring awareness of Kashmir’s identity and acknowledge people about Kashmir beyond what they see in the media. This is demonstrated through considering public memory as a subject matter in space making. The factors used are memory and place, projection of memory, imagination and materials linked memories.

Practically, the study attempts to identify ways in which memory informs the way space is conceived by designing modules (storytelling capsules that can be prefabricated and placed at any
site for exposition) of varying scales. The modules encapsulate the story and let the audience experience it through rewritten public memory. The story is divided into events that are placed
under suitable typology for the demonstration. The four typologies are Inserts, Pavilions, Museum Plugins, and Biennale segregated into two categories of the cultural and thematic group. Inserts are set of the capsules which speak of a narrative with the story elements incorporated in it. Inserts depicting cultural history plus retail plugin forms the pavilion. Biennale consist of inserts considering urban connectivity and sequential spaces within the context.

The demonstrating site for the same is in Kashmir. Museum Plugins are the inserts within museum or exhibition spaces. These plugins are the spaces within the space and are flexible enough to take any site specifications. For the thesis the site chosen is National gallery of modern arts (NGMA), Bangalore. Each typology consists of definite set of prefabricated modules whose construction is inspired by Kashmir’s vernacular architecture of Dajji and Taq construction system. The design thus uses the spatial language that reverses the past, fits present needs and is adaptable to future use. The spatial modules, created, are flexible and change with the conditions of the site.

Thesis Gallery

[1] Book Reference: David Spurr, (2014). Architecture and Modern Literature. Location: ResearchGate.
[2] Book Reference: Sir Walter Roper Lawrence, (1895). The Valley of Kashmir. Location: H.Frowde in London.
[3] Book Reference: Prem Nath Bazaz, (1941). Inside Kashmir. Location: Kashmir Publishing Company.
[4] Article Reference: Sarah C. Rich, (2012). Smithsonian Magazine. The Architecture of Memory, Location:
[5] Article Reference: Mindspace, (2018). MindspaceArchitects. Architecture and Storytelling. Location:
[6] “Buro Ole Scheeren Web page.” Buro Ole Scheeren., Accessed April 21, 2019, https://
[7] Scheeren, Ole. “Why Great Architecture should Tell a Story.” TED., last modified September, accessed January 4th, 2019,
[8] Heidegger, Martin and David Farrell Krell. 1993. Basic Writings: From being and Time (1927) to the Task of Thinking (1964) San Francisco, Calif.] : Harper San Francisco, 1993]; Revised and
expanded edition.
[9] Chakrabarti, Vishaan. 2013. A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America Metropolis Books.
[10] Bachelard, Gaston. 2014. Poetics of Space