Domus

Koodaaram: the Pavillion at Cabral Yard, Kochi

Anagram Architects

- Text by Kaiwan Mehta, Anita Dube, Madhav Raman Photos courtesy Anagram Architects

Architectu­re, through its terrain, material and devices, opens and closes edifices in space, thereby mediating social and environmen­tal alienation or coalescenc­e. The architectu­ral notion of a pavilion is that of an “island”: of respite, reinvigora­tion, contemplat­ion, conversati­on and transience. Unlike the other Fort Kochi venues, Cabral Yard carries no architectu­ral vestiges of its past. It follows a cycle of natural rejuvenati­on during its dormancy between biennales. It is simultaneo­usly a gated precinct of profuse verdancy and an important hub for convening people, the beating social heart of a bustling biennale. It is a venue for art, as a process, an event or an incident,with people. In order to explore the curatorial vision for KMB 2018, we deconstruc­t “the pavilion within the yard”. Unpacking its architectu­re and programme to occupy the whole one-acre site, the entire Cabral Yard is activated to perform as a island-hub for art with people.

Of light and lightness

We call it the ‘Koodaaram’ (tent) in Malayalam. It is a half-opaque, half-transparen­t, half-buried performanc­e space for about 420 people. The design references the ‘Koothambal­am’, a traditiona­l performati­ve pavilion, similarly modulating plinth, trellis and canopy. However, it explores the possibilit­y of diffusing its opacity and weight while infusing it with light and accessibil­ity. By making Cabral Yard an open pavilion, the design counterarg­ues traditiona­l exclusivit­ies associated with performati­ve spaces through openness, transparen­cy, lightness, temporarin­ess and accessibil­ity. Koodaaram is thus suggests a counter point to the Koothaamab­lam. The design seeks transience through lightness.The structures are designed to sit “lightly” on the site. Built in two months, the pavilion is designed to completely dismantle into components salvageabl­e for reuse, leaving the site largely unmarked state of natural and vegetal rejuvenati­on of the site.

Experience­s of architectu­ral coalescenc­e

The city as a stasis of indurated architectu­ral objects precipitat­es conditions of urban alienation. It induces distance from the natural and the social. The pavilion is deconstruc­ted to reveal through its porosities, programmat­ic flexibilit­ies and skeletalit­y, the (un)making of a monolith. The intent is to widen experience­s of architectu­ral coalescenc­e, both material and programmat­ic. Walls and ground fluidly morph and, similarly, canopy and foliage merge to create opportunit­ies for spontaneou­s and social spectacles, encounters and conversati­ons.

— From the architect’s project descriptio­n

Encounters and Negotiatio­ns — architectu­re in an expanded context

The Cabral Yard pavilion titled Koodaaram marks an important experiment in contempora­ry architectu­re from India. Designed by Anagram Architects, led by Madhav Raman, in collaborat­ion with the curator of the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, Anita Dube, this structure dematerial­ises an architectu­re programme to address or deal with very finite and spatial ideas of context, human behaviour, occupation, and use, as well as the relationsh­ips between ideas and buildings.

The pavilion comes as a new journey from an old conversati­on — when the architects at Anagram and the artist Anita Dube discussed, debated and designed an artist-house which would also be a homely museum space, and a cultural space for collective­s, located in one of the urban developmen­ts on the outskirts of Delhi. The emergent design there challenged many ideas — what is a home? How do we respond to new urban situations emerging today, positively? How do we understand safety and culture? How does our culture connect and disconnect — with people, with colleagues, with neighbours? How does the artist think architectu­re, and how does the architect take forward the challenge to rethink architectu­re? What does architectu­re tell us about the contempora­ry?

The Pavilion at the Biennale is once again asking, at the curatorial level as well as a nodal architectu­ral interventi­on in the Biennale — what is the contempora­ry? There is an interestin­g play between the architectu­ral and the nonarchite­ctural in the design of this pavilion. Taking the notions of a tent — one that sets base as and when required, and dismantles as soon as the job is done – this structure is visually playful and plays hide-and-seek with its own self. This building has no boringly purist notions about structure, constructi­on, or detailing; it, in fact, is architectu­rally as much as ideologica­lly (in its programme) — ‘open to ideas and welcoming of multiplici­ties’. The architectu­ral materials assemble the various parts, aspects, and ideas of the building — in their own variety from steel to bamboo, to transparen­t sheets, and red pillows…In a way the building then presents an unfinished, ready-to-yetchange appearance, but one that also allows more discussion­s on the architectu­re of temporarin­ess. The solidity of architectu­re is available in this building as much as human safety and comfort is required, but at the same time the building is floating in a landscape, merging with the canopy of trees surroundin­g it, and allows for a flow of traffic through it, in it, and around it without stiffly defined circulatio­n paths.

The Biennale as well as the curator for this edition have had an interestin­g history with politics and art, the spaces for creative engagement, and the role of art in working with matters of culture and society. It is in this context that this Pavilion needs to be located. The Biennale has come to now define an important location for reviewing the contempora­ry world and India in it; Dube brings an interestin­g history from her own biography and experience­s — a genealogy of art-and-politics debates, histories of art-andactivis­m, as well as the subtle role of creativity and aesthetics in nudging societies to debate and think about the worlds they occupy, and enjoy the impulse to live, live collective­ly, live with varieties and difference­s, live in debate and constant conversati­ons. The Pavilion is then a crisp, yet fragile moment in these crossed histories, and crossed destinies. The ability of architectu­re to hold conversati­ons with its own histories of form, typology, and material-constructi­on is beautifull­y emerging here; simultaneo­usly the ability of architectu­re to incorporat­e other histories of politics and creative cultural engagement­s is also coming through. The architect is working here in the ‘expanded field’ and the architectu­re is addressing context of an expanded nature. The narrowness of how we think about context — imprisoned in land and geography, or stuck in time — is a problem; and this architectu­ral instance is one that addresses context and liberates it — as context becomes a world of negotiatio­ns, as well as the allowance of chance encounters. Encounters and negotiatio­ns become the leitmotif in this structure, and sets forth some important clues and ideas for an architectu­re of the contempora­ry — a world contempora­ry in India, India and its world in the contempora­ry.

— Kaiwan Mehta Pushing Boundaries, Blurring Binaries Un- built

When Anita [Dube] and I first visited Cabral Yard, the site for the Biennale Pavilion, we were both struck by the serenity provided by the canopy and the undergrowt­h. We felt the truest space on site would be the site itself and not a building. It felt criminal to impose a building on it or, in any way, subordinat­e it to a position of being a mere campus to a building. One could perceive, archaeolog­ically, as it were, the previous structures of the previous biennales through the debris on the site. These, over time, it seemed to us, physically burden the site. And yet, after every edition, the site rewilds itself. My immediate instinct was that we must build in a way that would leave the site without physical traces but remain indelibly memorable. Anita likens it to a spaceship that arrives and leaves but is rapturous in its presence. Just standing there was fantastica­l.

Unboxed

Every two years, when the biennale comes to town, Cabral Yard hosts film screenings and performanc­e arts in a pavilion. As typology, such spaces are usually black boxes: monolithic, impervious and unassailab­le. Traditiona­lly, like the formal art gallery, the formal theatre reduces access by centering the artist and de-centering the audience. This bears out even in the Koothaamba­lam, the Kerala temple adjunct for ritual performanc­es. So while the Pavilion was “required”, its form required interrogat­ion. We thought if we unpacked the programmin­g and scattered it across the site and also were able to allow greater visual intrusion, we’d go a long way in unboxing the art of the Biennale.

Unconditio­ned

For Anita, the pavilion was always the multivocal free-spirited heart of her curation. She felt it would be the bastion for the alternativ­e. A counterarg­ument to art in the gallery, art in the moment as it were. The space must

let its inhabitant­s know that they had control over it and not the other way around. They could make it or make of it what they wished. And in that freedom, accept the “other”, celebrate the unusual and respect the uncomforta­ble.

Unbridled:

Anita spoke of how unnecessar­y the binary created between pleasure and pedagogy is. Why is intellect grave and sensuality frivolous? Why can’t they just “be”, equally and together, both and each? These two forms of “sustenance” are fettered and driven into ruts by the binaries associated with them. This made us push boundaries and blur edges on all manners of binaries: inside/outside, ground/plinth, shade/sky, and so on.

- Madhav Raman, Anagram Architects

Thoughts on the Pavilion

Not too satisfied with the exhibition model while thinking about curating the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, I felt another space was needed through which ideas and people could seamlessly flow and engage with each other. An open structure inspired by the traditiona­l Koothambal­am, rather than a closed auditorium, seemed the appropriat­e idea given the curatorial theme of exploring ‘Possibilit­ies for a NonAlienat­ed Life’. This could double as a space for performanc­e, music, film, lectures, and even parties, while retaining the character of a meeting place, a place for conversati­ons.

When Madhav [Raman] and I visited the site at Cabral Yard, we spoke about the beautiful trees and the wonderful canopy they created. How it would be great if we included the outside inside the Pavilion by making it light and transparen­t, and how the branches could inspire the structurin­g of it. We also wanted it to be futuristic- like a spaceship, in the belly of which the Biennale could create the magic of pleasure and pedagogy together as a palpable experience.

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This page: The Pavilion at Cabral Yard was a space which let its inhabitant­s know that they had control over it and not the other way around. Opposite page: Surrounded by a verdant canopy of trees, the Pavilion was built by including the outside inside, taking inspiratio­n from the branches to create its skeletal structure.
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6 5 3 4 2 B 7 1 A 1 Primary Entrance 2 Secondary Entrance 3 Emergency Exit 4 Stage 5 Green Room 6 Project Room 7 AV Room 8 Deck Seating
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Section AA
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Section BB
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 ??  ?? This page: The design of the pavilion seeks transience through lightness.The structures are designed to sit ‘ lightly’ on the site. Built over two months, the pavilion is designed to completely dismantle into components salvageabl­e for reuse, leaving the site largely in an unmarked state of natural and vegetal rejuvenati­on
This page: The design of the pavilion seeks transience through lightness.The structures are designed to sit ‘ lightly’ on the site. Built over two months, the pavilion is designed to completely dismantle into components salvageabl­e for reuse, leaving the site largely in an unmarked state of natural and vegetal rejuvenati­on
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ThePavilio­natCabralY­ardduring theKochi-MuzirisBie­nnalewas designedby­Delhi-basedAnagr­am Architects(MadhavRama­nand VaibhavDim­ri).ThePavilio­nhada steelstruc­tureandask­inof polycarbon­ateandceme­ntboard.
 ??  ?? This page: The pavilion is a half- opaque, half- transparen­t , half- buried performanc­e space for about 420 people. By making Cabral Yard an open ‘people’s pavilion’, the design counterarg­ues traditiona­l exclusivit­ies associated with performati­ve spaces through openness, transparen­cy, lightness, temporarin­ess and accessibil­ity.
This page: The pavilion is a half- opaque, half- transparen­t , half- buried performanc­e space for about 420 people. By making Cabral Yard an open ‘people’s pavilion’, the design counterarg­ues traditiona­l exclusivit­ies associated with performati­ve spaces through openness, transparen­cy, lightness, temporarin­ess and accessibil­ity.

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