Fig 1 River: near Rajahmundry

Fig 6 Rishikesh: The foot hills of the Himalayas

Inspiration in India

Architecture embodies a response to place. To see a site with fresh eyes, to gain understanding the character, rhythm and energy of that place is a necessity for great architects.

As with most skills practice helps to improve ability. Seeing and responding to new sites helps to distil our observations. I have used a trip to India this summer to practice seeing, to try and capture the feeling and rhythms of place through both photography and sketching. Each medium captures a different quality of a space. A photograph takes an instant in time, the light, energy and colour. Sketching requires that you slow down, stop and become absorbed. A sketch can be a quick impression or a detailed study, both will record the essence of your impression of place.

The river was wide and calm (figure 1). Sandy banks flanked its sides with rugged mountains dictating the curves and bends of its course.
This sketch focuses on the soft hazy colors of the landscape and day. The mountains, wide river and sandy banks blend with each other to express the calm balanced atmosphere of the river.

The Taj Mahal (figures 2-3) is as impressive as it is hyped up to be. None of my drawings or photos come close to capturing the essence of the truly incredible place.
My sketch is from a roof top out side of the walls. Drawing I was to learn is prohibited inside the grounds. The sketch attempts to contrast the low, crowded and chaotic city with the spacious and majestic Taj beyond.
The photo offers a drastically different facet of the same subject. The blue sky allows the white marble to glow with light and shade. The birds in the background give the Taj a sense of scale and the minaret dramatically stretching into the sky identifies the cultural affiliation of the Muslim religion to this place.

Varanasi,(figures 4-5) again the two mediums capture different aspects of this holy Hindu City. The sketch contrasts the dense built city with the openness of the wide river. The overwhelming city breathes (and every other aspect of life and death) where it meets the water.The photo takes a moment of the morning rituals of the city. It captures the color and movement always present where the river and city meet.

In the foot hills of the Himalayas the pace of India slowed. Rishikesh (figure 6) is located where the River Ganges first flows out of the mountains. The Mountains and the River dominate the landscape of the town that clings to each side of the steep riverbanks. This sketch picks out the orange color denoting the Hindu temples. The only other hue is of the mountains behind, towering over the temples and mimicking their peaks. The city merges into the rocky banks of the river, which flows below reflecting the stillness of the sky.

The impressions of India that I have taken home with me depict a vast and at times overwhelming country. The places where I sat and sketched allowed me to connect to the places, cultures and people that I was visiting.

For architects to connect to the places that they visit enables them to design in ways that enrich and highlight the currents existing in that place.  The application of this ‘seeing’ of a place for residential architects allows us to observe the rhythms and culture of families and to design homes that enrich and engage with the life of the family.

Fig 4 Varanasi: The holiest Hindu City in India

Fig 2 Agra: The Taj Mahal

Fig 5 Varanasi: From the River Ganges