by Manu SharmaSep 12, 2020
At the Jawahar Kala Kendra, Correa uses the Navagraha, the 9-square mandala based on the mythological offerings of the Hindu Vedic texts to define the enclosure of the museum. The squares correspond to real and imaginary planets, such that each becomes the symbolic representation of the setting. Externally, the planets appear on the red sand stone facades as symbols inlayed in white marble and granite, while the plan configuration of nine squares corresponds internally to the mythical qualities associated with each planet. Mars signifies power, so the place of Mars, or Mangal Mahal, houses the offices of administration; Guru represents knowledge, and so forms the museum library; Venus as the artistic sign encloses the theater complex, and so on. At the very center of the universe, and imparting to the planets its creative energy, the sun manifests in the stepped tank, a reservoir of knowledge and confluence, of meeting and reflection.
The journey through the building, the movement through its celestial divisions is marked by a diversity of spatial densities. Individual buildings inside coalesce into a kind of cellular reordering – random accretions of requirements, that either lean against the surrounding high walls like architectural parasites, or group and regroup in independent formations. Such accretions create their own peculiar definitions of court, suggesting the qualities and scales intrinsic to the functions housed within.
The actual experience of the museum – unstructured though it may be – begins to redefine the very act of cultural display. Heritage, as the design conveys, is a matter of accidental encounter and discovery – a process that relies on the natural instincts and inclinations of a person moving through space, between the stage set of walls, past recreated incidents and rituals of art and craft. Such a design conception - suggesting perhaps a multitude of internal variations - questions the very conventions of museum design and presents a physical rethink of the idea.
“The primordial has become a fecund source of the mythic,” says Correa, “This is why Picasso and Matisse in their paintings, Stravinsky in his music, and Le Corbusier in his architecture intuitively searched out the primitive.”
The design of JKK comes from the city (of Jaipur) itself, which was based on the nine squares each representing nine planets. –Charles Correa
It is easy to accept the inherent arbitrariness of this internal occupation because the external confinement is formed by so reductive, so severe a delineation. Within the setting of the nine squares is an architecture of wit and whimsy, as singularly playful in its creation as it is specific to the functions demanded of it. Enclosed by high parapets, life goes on inside in the numerous demolitions, insertions or reorganizations. But the exterior, irresolute in its material joining – like the wall of the old city - remains undisturbed. Like Jaipur, enclosed by high sandstone walls and approached through framing portals, the Jawahar Kala Kendra too relives a more contemporary historical destiny.
Project Details:Name of the project: Jawahar Kala Kendra
Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan
Client: Government of Rajasthan
Architect: Charles Correa Associates
Built-up area: 9.5 acres
Construction: 5 Years (1986 - 1991)
(This article was first published in Issue#19 of mondo*arc india journal - an initiative by STIR.)