Winter Electives 2020

Electives at SEA this semester brought in diverse intersections with the design discipline through the varied courses of visual storytelling by Sunil Thakkar, urban ecology by Anand Pendharkar, bamboo weaving by Pratik Dhanmer, appreciation of  Indian classical music by Anita Kulkarni, urban farming by Julius Rego, ethnographic studies by Prajakta Palav Aher, theatre by  Shivani Shah and Eloise Maltby Maland  , and dome architecture by Neesha Mewada.

Here is a summary:

Visual Storytelling
Course Conductor: Sunil Thakkar
Text: Nirmohi Kathrecha

The visual storytelling workshop oriented us to oversaturation of visual information and went on to inquire into what images one sees and how they remember them. It led us to further discuss who is a photographer today? The intentions of photographing were different for different people. A series of exercises helped us understand techniques of framing   an image and how  it subsequently may be perceived by the audience.  We got introduced to a range of guidelines (like the rule of thirds, frame within a frame, leading lines, etc.) for photography. These can be followed or ignored to compose and narrate a particular story through the image.

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Urban Farming
Course Conductor: Julius Rego
Text: Neha Keshari 

The aim of this elective was to learn how forest isa dynamic self sustaining system. By carefully observing and understanding the way it functions, one can learn to grow their own food. The elective began with understanding the process of making good quality fertile soil with the help of forest floor soil-building method. We also explored different ways of calculating the volume of soil mix without using any measuring tools. Further, we learned about the basics of setting up a sustainable garden. The process started by designing a trellis for creepers followed by a kitchen garden and making compost pits. The trellis would act as a green roof for the sitting space beneath it. The plants chosen for the kitchen garden were papaya, guava, coconut, spinach, banana and ivy gourd. The kitchen garden was designed in such a way that trenches made at its periphery  would act as a self-watering system for the whole garden. Compost pits were made using 3 different methods (using earthen pot, buckets, and a siporex pipe) in the kitchen garden to make the soil more fertile over time. . Apart from gardening, learning to make a rocket stove to cook food and a filtration system for kitchen grey water was also something that we engaged with.

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Portraits of Erangal
Course Conductor: Prajakta Palav Aher
Text: Megha Jhawar 

‘Portraits of Erangal’, a five-day workshop aimed at  understanding the small community of Bhandaris situated near the beach in Madh, Mumbai. The idea was to bring out the different networks formed within and outside the social structure of the community.  At first glance, the village opens up as a large family that is anchored around the various festivals in the village, the feast that takes place near the Church and the various families in the village. The village is like a series of stories that revolve around the celebrations, giving an understanding of the tight-knit community and their practices.

The documentation  mapped the cultural and the daily practices of the people, presenting stories of how they constructed their own houses, and their everyday routines that have developed as a result of it. The first three days were spent in the village interacting with various people who spoke about festivals and the events with joy and excitement, the commonalities and the diversity in the village. The last two days in the village were spent by all the students individually , where each tried to document different aspects of the village and the community while stichting our own narrative of it. In interacting and creating our own network with the community, the students developed their own method of documentation on-site; tracing stories, objects, households, architecture, narratives or the systems that the village adopted to frame different portraits of the village.

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Performing Site: Learning from the body
Course conductors: Shivani Shah and Eloise Maltby Maland
Text: Vibhavari Sarangan

What is a performance? What is the line that divides an action from a performance?

What creates an act out of the seemingly mundane, what conjures up characters from and of a regular market street? The negotiations between the site (Borivali station market), the performers (people on the street) and their movements as intrinsic individuals and a mass of active humans and vehicles was investigated in this course, through constant studio sessions filled with various exercises and site work, scouting for material. This workshop culminated by blurring the idea of a ‘performance’ and the ‘mundane life’ into interactive acts.

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Sinan: Genius of Domes
Course conductor: Neesha Mewada
Text by Nidhi Mehta

Mimar Sinan is one of the greatest architects of the Ottoman period. He was the chief architect and civil engineer for sultans Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, and Murad III. Sinan has constructed around 400 major structures in his career of 50 years. The workshop introduced the participants to  the Ottoman Empire before Sinan. The theory sessions elaborated on Sinan’s works were divided into three phases of life – the apprenticeship period, qualification period and mastery period. This course provided deeper insights of his revolutionized architectural form & space in conjunction with geometric purity of structural form, materials, natural light & seismic engineering. A comparative study of world’s greatest masonry domed buildings intrigued one to evaluate Sinan’s position in architectural history – “History” that largely glorifies the ‘west’ missing out the rest!

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Gandhaar: Exploring the beauty and meditation in Indian classical music
Course Conductor: Anita Kulkarni
Text: Veeravalli Vikram

Gandhaar, the third  swar of the saptak in Hindustani classical music is considered swayambhu or self existing. This workshop focused on exploring various aspects of the same and breaking down some of the components of classical music. Its link to architecture was established through a connection between the vocal and the visual. Initially, the students learnt the basic blocks of any musical compositions – sur, raag, taal and laya. The next few days were spent understanding what each of them meant and how they came together to create a composition or a bandish. Each bandish is a combination of surs that have different spaces between them. Depending on one’s perception of that space, a complete bandish renders a form or gives a new meaning to it.

Music has a unique way of inspiring thought aimed at form thinking or designing. It may evoke an emotion that lets one generate a space that reflects it. Different ragas create specific reactions and responses. Initially, it could help in diagramatizing the form or the space and to articulate it through non visual means. It could also aid in association of tones and colours to spatial context. For example, softer, pastel colours blend easily giving rise to a subtle new space. The bolder colours on the other hand give rise to a completely new colour that offers a new experience altogether. The students went through an exercise of looking at a few projects from around the world and identifying possible connections to classical music. The final day of the workshop included a performance by the students where the group sang some alankars, or exercises, aided by diagrams in the background, developing and talking about a very basic connection between the two. A deeper exploration of Hindustani classical music, or any music for that matter, by an individual could give rise to numerous possibilities of creation of spaces and experiences.

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Urban Ecology
Course conductor: Anand Pendharkar
Text: Darshan Dedhia

The urban ecology elective took off with a walk in and around the college campus with the aim of sensitizing us to the variety of life we see and pass by everyday but never really observe. We walked with ecologist Anand Pendharkar identifying different trees, flowers, birds, insects etc around our own campus. It was a biology-packed day. We learnt many things about the flora, fauna, insect life living along the flora, various special inter-relations of nature whose existence has now become vital. Later, we interpreted our first impressions of ‘urban ecology’ based on what we saw on the campus in the forms of drawings and sketches. The first day ended here with me confused about how biology (a subject I personally do not like) is intertwined with architecture. But I was hopeful and excited for the next day.

The next morning, we visited Aarey colony. The plan was to observe and document some locations in the aarey forest in the form of notes, sketches or images. Observations could include anything from the various biodiversity of that ecosystem or the built structure and the occupations happening there. In teams of three people, we covered places like the New Zealand hostel, aarey central dairy, butterfly garden, amphitheatre, chota kashmir boat club, aarey VIP guest house, prakash bhoir’s house (an important figure among the tribal residents) and aarey fish seed breeding centre. When afterwards, all teams shared their observations, we learnt how the city is gradually entering the forest and natural habitats. We discussed how the built structures between the forest function. We discussed the impacts of increasing the number of built structures in aarey. This discussion took place at 10 PM. It was planned for night time to observe the difference in our surrounding environment compared to daytime. We went for a short fifteen-minute walk around the neighbourhood. Understanding about the different diurnal and nocturnal biodiversity, its inter-dependence and co-relations developed our interests furthermore. The next day at 7am we started with a walk on the Juhu beach shore for about 3 kms, observing the marine biodiversity. We collected, identified and observed around 30-35 different varieties of sea shells and oysters. The week ended with presenting and sharing our learnings, findings to the other students and teachers collectively.

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Bamboo Weaving
Course Conductor: Pratik Dhanmer, Nilesh Dhangada and Amol Satavi
Text: Ronak Soni

The Tokar team, an organisation led by Amol and Nilesh in Dahanu village conducted the module with Pratik Dhanmer with an attempt to explore the traditional bamboo craftsmanship of the Warli tribe. The week began with an exercise of making sticks from bamboo with an aim of conceptualising and designing an everyday product . We learnt making sticks from bamboo of various diameter which allows its different uses based on varying strengths and eventually learnt how to weave these together . Students designed a variety of objects like compass box, bags, sketch book cover,  folder, laptop stand, lunch box cover, and toys through the learnt techniques. This exercise allowed the local artisans from Dahanu to get engaged in the design processes along with helping students to build on the skills of working with bamboo at a domestic scale.

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