Sunday, June 24, 2012

The First Encounter with Gond Art


For both of us it is important that our architecture speaks of our deepest collective memory...while the executed commissions differ in response to particular clients’ needs and the challenges and opportunities posed by individual sites and topography, the structures recall something that we all share:  'our common origin as species' - a reminder of what we first built in the forests from which human communities emerged.

Aesthetics, for us, evolve from the idea of reclaiming old dreams with the use of 'down to earth and found' materials which have a rich tactile quality.  Of course, architectural 'styles' can be transient and ephemeral and the way a building ages in its cultural as well as physical environment is critical...Over the years, we have developed an attitude that enables us to look at all our projects and see what we once were, and what we might once again become.

In 2005, Deepak was lucky enough to meet with His Highness T S Singhdeo of Sugurja.  One casual conversation led to another, and later the same year, they had their first round of formal talks that saw us embark on a exciting new journey in a new direction. It appeared that His Highness had a piece of land with a partially constructed plinth. This was in the Tiger reserve of Bandhavgadh and His Highness was keen to reinitiate work on the project. The project was a wild life jungle resort and we were all excited and daunted at the many opportunities and challenges this represented.

Deepak made several visits to the site…I was by then carrying our second child, Siddhant and could not accompany him on these off road, bumpy, bouncy recces…!

Deepak  read up extensively on  other jungle resorts and nature holiday destinations in India.  Honestly though, the real inspiration for him came from his childhood memories…. He was lucky enough to have grown up in Dehra Dun in a sprawling colonial bungalow besides the Rispana river. This was in that part of old Dallanwala that had houses built on lots in excess off a couple of acres...(Sadly very little of Dallanwala now remains.) Being the only child, it was not uncommon for him to wander off on his own in the woods and across the river to admire the majestic Himalayas. It is this early memory of an unfettered nature, that still tugs at his heartstrings.

Researches on various architectural styles, building materials available, finally resulted in a concrete plan that was approved by His Highness and work began  on Kings Lodge in Bandhavgarh in 2006. www.kingslodge.in  His highness  was delighted  with Deepaks vision,  and the finished work is evocative of Deepak’s passion for wood and stone, and for sumptuous mineral hues inspired by the outdoors….

An integral part of the research was also a hunt for indigenous arts and crafts for the interiors.  This really was our first flirtation with Gond and Bhil art. Thanks to my advanced pregnancy, it fell upon me to stay in the office to set up meetings with the many artists and go through canvas after magnificent canvas!! Perhaps I got a bit carried away, because I must have looked at the work of over 30-40 artists! Deepak too was as mesmerised by the rich vibrancy of the artwork we were looking at. We finally zeroed in on Dilip Shyam, using his work all over Kings Lodge.

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