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Cinema for the Blind

Part 2 Project 2009
Anuj Daga
Rachana Sansad Mumbai | India
The purpose of the dissertation was twofold – the primary objective being exploration of the (mental) space of the blind while the larger inquiry was to question the relevance of the capitalist driven image that architecture creates. Though the city shows signs of globalization and development, it blinds us with its image imposing structures. Cinema and the Blind became the metaphors for image and the insensitivity respectively.

The cinema was intended to offer experiences through the medium of a film, interpreted as a story. If visual attribute is removed, then, architecture can only be experienced. We remember experiences in architecture like stories, narratives. These narratives in space may be completely non - visual. The Cinema for the Blind was an attempt to create a structure of such a spatio-temporal space. The audience is taken through a series of pauses like the Elephant Court, The Introductory hall, the Cinema Maze and the exit pavilion which reflect the urban paradoxes.

The site chosen for the intervention was a derelict cinema hall in the city of Mumbai – The Imperial Cinema in Grant Road. The architectural form of the building was buried inside the ground. The cinema hall was a hollow box with passages piercing through its void. The maze of these passages guided the blind inside the building. The audience would interact with the installations placed inside to create their own experiences and develop their own stories which would be then archived in the audio library open to the city.

Anuj Daga

The “Cinema for the Blind” project works at two levels – firstly at a pragmatic level, where it painstakingly works out an architecture for the blind without the luxury of the visual dimension. Anuj’s skill in redefining programme and working out innovative architectural strategies is best demonstrated here. The cinema hall is reprogrammed as a place where the blind make their own stories (either write or create an audio) which are archived and then edited by a specialised agency to create the film which is an installation of aural and tactile nature.

The other level where the project works is as an urban insert. It is here that the ideas of non-building are explored. The project is proposed in the dense inner city area of Mumbai. This area has seen some of the loudest transformations in recent years, where the old city fabric of streets, shops, low-rise dense housing and industries are rapidly changing into flashy malls, multiplexes, sky-scraping apartments, etc. The cinema for the blind is proposed as an underground structure on a site of an old derelict cinema theatre, the Imperial Cinema in Lamington Road, which would have otherwise been converted into a multiplex. In doing so, Anuj not only takes on the challenge of making a building that does not have (nor require) an image, but also develops an extremely sensitive urban insert. The project plays with perceptions of people on the street, drawing them in and creating a sense of surprise not by awe, but by its sheer non-existence.


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