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‘Thought structures’ that exist in the virtual space form a part of the exhibition, Martand Khosla: Possible Worlds I-X, currently on display at Nature Morte’s online viewing room at Nature Morte. It is grounded in the sketch -- the purest idea of an architectural intention—, with the Delhi-based architect envisioning new types of spaces, untethered to materiality, reality or rebuke.

The idea has its roots in the advent of the pandemic when mobility within the public space was curtailed. Galleries across the world began to find newer ways of showing work, much in sync with how the rest of the world was trying to figure out avenues of staying productive. The art world, in a bid to continue the interface with the visual object, went about this either by creating a web page, which required the viewer to browse through the content, or galleries tried to replicate the physical experience by getting architects to create three-dimensional rendering of spaces. “They would then hang the artworks within that. And much like a gaming experience, viewers would navigate this space," says Khosla. Some even created virtual buildings, with viewers having the option to look out to the gardens.

That sketch is the first draft of built intent. It becomes the testing ground for shifting ideas. Photo: courtesy Nature Morte
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That sketch is the first draft of built intent. It becomes the testing ground for shifting ideas. Photo: courtesy Nature Morte

However, Khosla, a practicing architect, wasn’t comfortable with the idea. Of course, in his work, he would use the virtual tools to represent and communicate designs meant for a physical site. “Say, we were creating an office building in Okhla. We would be guided by several parameters such as the temperature during summer, rainy months, and more. The building would serve the first and foremost function of being a shelter and one would choose the materials according to the climatic realities," he explains. The same building in, say, Sydney, would be designed very differently.

However, within the virtual space, these parameters no longer hold true—there is no sun, rain, no concept of the inside and outside. “So, while thinking of this exhibition, the first and foremost question facing me was if you are not designing for a geographical location, should the same principles of architecture apply? Do you need to replicate the skin of a concrete brick?" Khosla questions.

The architectural gestures of adding enclosures and material becomes irrelevant. So, then what is the process of designing for a virtual space? It is not the same as creating vistas for gaming or a movie, in which the imaging is still rooted into certain physical realities. This opens up a world of possibilities with infinite freedoms. Khosla has drawn upon the way human beings understand a space—through perspective, spatial relation and the aspect of time. “For this exhibition, I didn’t want to do an abstract concept or a theoretical process. From my experience as a contemporary architect, this could be best achieved by the sketch. When you have to make a building, that’s the first thing you do, either put pen to paper or create a sketch on the iPad," he says.

That sketch is the first draft of built intent. You play with the ideas of walls, roofs, different shapes and ideas of overlaying. It becomes the testing ground for shifting ideas. “Often a single sketch can hold within it all of these thoughts simultaneously. The sketch as a symbol for architects holds meaning of exploration, intent, thought and tentativeness. Cyber-architecture is the thought of the sketch, the proposition of thought and intent," mentions Khosla in his artist note.

These sketches overlay lines one over the other, and create wireframe drawings of potentially solid objects. These wireframe sketches can exist as virtual buildings in cyberspace as ‘thought buildings’ and ‘thought structures’. You can walk through the lines, float in space or arrive at places. “In the first edition, I have created a grid on the ground with a number of pavilions populated across it. There is one distant pavilion, which you sometimes find and sometimes you don’t. It alludes to the idea of getting somewhere. In the next eight to ten editions, we will continue to create new abstract ways of moving through space," says Khosla.

Martand Khosla: Possible Worlds I-X can be viewed on Naturemorte.com till 31 December

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