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Intervention of the 'Mirror’ at Haji Ali, Mumbai

Part 2 Project 2009
Awni Patni
Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute Mumbai India
The project began with questioning the idea, concept and perception of space, this investigation was carried forward using the body as an apparatus for this construct of space through its sensations. The paintings of the Impressionists and the Expressionists were understood as an exercise of mapping what they “saw”. The Situationists drift was another method of understanding the relationship of a body (myself as a subject) with its surrounding space (of the city). The drift was performed by the Situationists as an act of liberating oneself from the functionalist city. The surrealists also believed in the idea of liberation through one’s passions and desires. They also understood hysteria and dreams that lie at the crux of this liberation (juxtaposition of one’s conscious and subconscious). Foucault describes madness as a result of the inability to control one’s passions. Foucault also describes civilizations that construct itself by keeping the insane or the ill away from “civilization”. This generation of institutes whose duty is to keep the ill away from civilization, then later transforms to correction houses. He also terms these spaces as ‘heterotopias’ as these other spaces, real spaces that exist; he also describes ‘utopias’ as these desired, unreal spaces that do not exist. The next exercise was to locate a site possessing this disjunction between a ‘utopia’ and ‘heterotopia’ having the potential for the liberation of the two spaces. The site chosen is the island of Haji Ali in Mumbai, the dargah is located away from the city in the sea as an act of sanctifying the dargah and on the same island lays the sanatorium that is an act of keeping the ill away from the city and near the dargah as an act of curing the ill. The idea for intervention into this disjunction was taken forward from Foucault’s idea of ‘the mirror’ as a mixed joint experience in between the two spaces. The space of the mirror was understood as an in between space through the act of “seeing” the other side and being “seen” by the other side. This space was programmed by a psychiatric museum, gallery, occupational therapy rooms and library. The existing language of the dargah is retained with its grid and a north south grid that is imposed upon the sanatorium allowing for the language of the ‘mirror’ to evolve through the weave from the two forms. Spaces are created keeping in mind the subjects gaze, allowing to “see” the other side and to be “seen” by the other side.
Awni Patni

Awni started exploring the project by understanding through personal experiments her questions about space and experience- in terms of the sensual. The exercise further extended into understanding similar artistic movements and readings.
Culminating in an architectural exploration based on Focault of Other Spaces

The project is imposed in an industrial, functionalist society where the idea of the ‘other is defined and distinct. These boundaries in socio-cultural context of a cosmopolitan city, Mumbai, are irony thickened as well as blurred due to multiple projections of desire. This space of the boundary is where the intervention places itself in an introspective manner. The choice of site heightens the experience- since the site, the Haji Ali Durgah, is connected to the mainland by a causeway, where it is a part of the city at the same time can objectively view the city. The function being a sanatorium-the other space where the ‘others’ are healed and then accepted back in the society, and the Durgah’s association with the act of healing.

The project revolves around the act of gaze with reversible roles for the viewed and the viewer. Thus the metaphor of the mirror is cleverly explores the subject object relationships at different scales and the idea of the heterotopia with a sensuous architectural play of spaces, materials, and functions.
The project successfully treads from a personal space to a collective space of multiple realities and throws open many interpretations of the ‘felt’ experience itself.

Manoj Parmar
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