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Reflecting The Imprints – A City In Its Museum

Part 1 Project 2004
Neha Sabnis
Oliver Chambers
Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute Mumbai India
We might have a tangible wrap of fabric covering us, but in the absence of that fabric also there is something wrapping us, something that is intangible, something that has been developed over years, something that is developing as of now, something that we cannot strip ourselves of. ‘Memories’ are a timeless wrap that we carry with us wherever we go. Our past determines our present, which paves the path for our future. Every person, every house, every institute, every city, every country is wrapped with its past memories and experiences. We are like paintings, where we all have started with blank canvases, which are now composed, and are being recoated at every stage of our lives. This timeless wrap preserves the old coats that become the base for the new layers.
Considering the act of wrapping, the wrapped as ‘people’ and applying the operation of time, got developed into a conceptual model representing memory. The model was a mirror, where one looks at oneself through a screen of negatives, that is, one always looks at one’s present through one’s past.
The design of the museum also evolved from the same concept…. that of being wrapped with memories.
Thus it was necessary to define the memories, the museum being for the people it got based on memories of a collective, thereby extending the context to the city. It took the form of museum of memories for Bombay! Again the memories needed to be generalized and not particular, leading to all the images associated with Bombay: the chawls1, the mills, the sea face, the heritage buildings, stone arcades, the local trains, the food etc. and of course the most important part of the city that gives it, its fast and vibrant outlook: its people!
Thus collective memories of the city and the personal memories of its people got incorporated in the architecture and the program for the museum. The museum was a ‘negative archiving center’, where the people would submit their memories and the artists would work on them, develop and display them. Every program was defined by this larger program, thus library became a negative-storing center, the workshops become photo studios, the additional program becomes an open air amphitheatre to project old movies, and display walls display memories of people than tooth-paste or soap advertisements. The café gets divided into the new developing glass box café and the conventional ‘hawker stalls’ type of Bombay!
The architecture also emerged from the images associated with Bombay. A stone arcade bar penetrates into a huge wall, which houses the administration functions. Then there are concrete blocks, stone walls, open air courts, a gallery that gives the experience of a train, workshops with north light trusses resembling a mill, a food court like the hawkers at the beach, the footpath entering into the museum, and parapet walls like on the marine drive2 forming seating along the edges by the hillside. The element tying together all these elements was a continuous huge red blank wall that wrapped the building. The red wall wrapped parts of the building along the road as well as the hillside. The wall starts with a small height continues to grow, and it diminishes as it leaves the building. The wall becomes the backdrop where people’s memories get displayed. These memories, which the artists develop and print, using negatives, get displayed facing the road as well as the hill. Thus the hillside gets developed into this band of red surrounded by sea of green trees, displaying memories of the people. Also the built forms become reminders of Bombay, thus it is as much a museum internally as it is externally.
While encountering the museum from the road or from inside, one is constantly reminded of the city, what it is famous for, its people and their own memories…. Thus…. Reflecting the imprints – A City In Its Museum

1. chawls: local housing typology in Bombay, emerged during industrialization for housing workers, currently inhabited by the lower middle class
2. marine drive: promenade along the beachfront in south Bombay.

Neha Sabnis
Oliver Chambers


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