Suburbia |

Ecological Utopia

Shilpa Gavane

Meanings are made more believable when placed in a perceived photographic reality
that would otherwise be ignored. Removed from the chaos of the city of Delhi lie the suburbs of Gurgaon, an area dotted with residential structures of all shapes and sizes, interspersed with barren plots of land. People move here from the humdrum of the metropolis looking for the luxury of space and an affluent lifestyle away from the congested city centre. But along with this ‘luxury’ comes isolation, a feeling of being away and distant.

This is partly caused by imagining ‘suburbia’, not only as a place, but a reaction. To me, it isa large area of single land use, an urban sprawl that ignores resource utilization – where there are no people roaming the streets, but cars parked on deserted roads; where there is no connect with nature, and trees seem to fulfill only a dreamy ideal.

As an architect I have often thought about how our built environment can be made sustainable, futuristic and yet, aesthetic. The drawings portray an imaginary environment born out of ideas of sustainability projected onto the dry, desolate suburban landscapes of Gurgaon. They are best explained by the term ‘ecological utopia’, defined by Wikipedia as “new ways in which a society should relate to nature. [They] react to a perceived widening gap between the modern Western way of living that destroys nature and our own traditional way of living that is thought to be more in harmony with nature.” They are not essentially practical but fuel a kind of creativity for investigating solutions to urbanity. Thus, an ecological utopia or ‘ecotopia’ is an imagined ideal world that functions perfectly for both people and nature.

These sketched interventions, when merged with photographs, give rise to alternative ways of seeing spaces. To me, they are subtle yet thought provoking, allowing the viewer to relate and interpret them with their own notions of space and architectural understanding. The landscape that was dull and devoid of people comes alive through a re-fabrication of space. Again, to me, this is optimistic.

All images from the series Ecological Utopia Gurgaon, 2010 Pen and ink drawing on digital image.

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