|Name:||Architect Emran & Associates|
From the Architect : Among the oldest of architectural forms, the Stupa is a universal symbol of enlightened mind and they are considered a 3-dimensional model of enlightenment. We were tremendously fascinated with these structures. They are considered as energy generators and transformers. They take energy from nature and focus and redistribute it. Stupas became a multi-purpose symbol, a real treasure of knowledge about phenomena, the universe, the nature of our mind and the way leading to the state of full development or enlightenment.Through its form, and through the ‘jewels’, which are placed inside of it, a Stupa works with us on many different conscious and subconscious levels.
They take energy from nature and focus and redistribute it. Stupas became a multi-purpose symbol, a real treasure of knowledge about phenomena, the universe, the nature of our mind and the way leading to the state of full development or enlightenment.Through its form, and through the ‘jewels’, which are placed inside of it, a Stupa works with us on many different conscious and subconscious levels. When the Buddha was at Rajgir, at that time he was addressing about five hundred bhikkshus and seven thousand two hundred Bodhisattvas. At that congregation the Bodhisattva Maitreya put a question to the Buddha. Maitreya asked, “In the distant future there will come a time when it will be very hard for people to practice Dharma. Due to the enormous number of negative forces and many types of interference they will not be able to practice as they would like. What conducive factors will be needed to ward-off and pacify all these negative forces?” The Buddha explained that five factors would be needed. If these five factors were present, people would be free of interference from negative forces and they would live long. As well, these five factors would gradually contribute to the practitioners’ attainment of enlightenment.
:: The first factor is to give Dharma constantly with the intention of helping others.
:: The second factor is constantly to give sentient beings a sense of security, or freedom from fear. This means to constantly save beings whose lives are at risk, and provide them with security and peace of mind.
:: The third factor is constantly to reflect on the four types of immeasurable. [ The Four Immeasurable(compassion, loving-kindness, empathetic joy, and equanimity)]
:: The fourth factor is constantly to repair old stupas or to commission or construct new stupas.
:: The fifth factor is constantly to maintain the mind of enlightenment, Bodhicitta, the universal altruism to want to achieve the state of enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. One needs to maintain this in one’s mind all the time.
It is the fourth factor (new stupas) that interested us here; for a different kind, or form, of symbol, a codex of the space and time of our present world, was the basis of our project for the Visitor’s center at Lawachara. Originally a codex was a Christian manuscript written on both sides of leaves of parchment. This differed from traditional Hebrew Scriptures, which were written on papyrus scrolls that could be inscribed only on a single side. By the second century, Christian iconography depicted evangelists holding codices, while Hebrew prophets were shown with scrolls. Codices, or manuals, in the secular arts and sciences did not appear until the fifteenth century. Among the best known of these are the codices written by Leonardo da Vinci. Many of Leonardo’s codices are written backward, from right to left, and can only be read in a mirror. In his combination of imagery and text, Leonardo introduced the secular idea of a code into a text through his reversed writing, which displaced the established means of reading. The “code” itself was a signal that one must read differently. Because codes are intended to disperse meaning in such a way that even the display of language in itself is questioned, they also require a different kind of writing (e.g., writing backward) or a rewriting. This rewriting in essence changes the original writing, thereby producing a “new writing”. Our codex, our rewriting, for Lawachara was a play on the words index and code. It signals a movement from an index, which is an internal writing of an action, transformation, or mutation, to a code, which is a rewriting, that is, a reorganization from an external source of an internal organization without necessarily leaving a trace of the activity. Codes operate differently from ordinary language (excluding poetic and literary forms) because they have a different interiority, a different relationship of sign to signified. In a common shared language, the sign-signified relationship is supposed to be transparent; in a code like poetry, its more opaque, creating a strangeness in the text and thus questioning familiar methods of both writing and reading. Today the idea of a code, or coding, is important because while the index has become conventionalized, there is still a need to counter the production of spectacular effects. This is what the writing at Lawachara attempted.
In the first part of our operation, we placed a tree (bodhi tree, ficus religiosa) inside a cube, which conceptually is representing nature as a whole. And we were considering this as a “treasure chamber” with symbolic object inside. Here the encasement was done with the interest “compulsion to repeat (Rossi)”. The compulsion to repeat may manifest a lack of hope, but it seemed to us that to continue to make the same thing over and over in order to arrive at different results is the unique freedom to discover. Here repeating fulfills a productive function. To make the same form or idea was the decision consciously taken by us, where the aim of which was to produce “difference”. Here the “compulsion to repeat” turns one’s attention to unconscious processes to explain the relation of the self to the making of architecture and to account for the experience of objects by a historical subject. Repeating is interpreted as an activity aimed at subduing un-pleasurable experience; for example, of the departure of a loved one. Our repetition might be interpreted rather literally as a means to master unresolved aspirations from the past or to retrieve ideas from the past. In either view the symptom signals a compensation for a loss or lack of fulfillment experienced in the present Rossi cites as precedent a self-referential moment in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni to claim that the appearance of fragments from an earlier work within a new one is not a sign of imprisonment but of choice and as such indicates a degree of freedom. If we surmise that an author’s freedom lies in repeating a particular composition, then the choice to repeat a previously used or known form posits an idea of creative self freed from the burden of inventing a new.
Our second part of the operation was to occupy the earth, as Heidegger would say, first entails creating a new artificial ground, a platform. This was an important consideration of the entire architectural process. We also had a keen obsession with establishing a clear, fundamental distinction between ground and building. The construction of the horizontal plane was the critical event from which this architecture emerged. Space, that which the construction contains, was reduced to minimal expression; instead we focused on enclosures and roofs, which became key elements of the materiality that engendered the building.
Our third part of the operation was to explorer the formal potential of materials and we considered the work as a celebration of matter, where form was but the vehicle that made it possible. For us, architecture is visual unfolding of construction. Neither the floor plan nor the section nor any concept of space was our referents here. The important thing was to make the construction visible and tangible. It is the skin of the void generated by the rectangle that we manipulated. So the floor plan is laconic and minimal. Here the space was the direct consequence of its construction. Wall and roof, generated by the rectangle, were the primary and primordial architectural elements.
We believe that if architecture offers the best it has, by giving materials the capacity to show all they are capable of, then any subjection to form, whether dictated by language or by other intentions, must be energetically rejected. We intended to make materials talk, and for this it needed only the most elemental volumes. And in doing so, we chance upon new proposals, new ways of using the same material (stone as masonry, stone as cladding). The role played by the different materials, concrete and stone, was crucial in defining the position of the openings, the connection of the ceilings to the walls and so on. The materials helped define the structure, which is exposed to view. The concrete frame practically disappears in the exterior north wall, taking on an ambiguous double role. On one hand, it can be understood as a mere joint for the stone surfaces, which needed it for stability. On the other hand, we think it serves another, very different purpose when we see it become a subtle grided surface, governing the vertical plane by establishing different quadrants that define the formal structure of the stone surface. The openings on north wall can also be understood as a breather from the rigidity comparing with the southern wall. Another thing was the range of sizes of the stones on the floor would match those of the sidewalls so that one surface appears like a miniature of the other. We think if the material here was just appliqué there would be a lack of tension or pressure in the space, the whole construction would be flaccid and the space would not be convincing. We hope further interventions, with a sensual rather than a formal character, will emphasize the dense stoniness of the ground, the nearby presence of the lake (Jaflong), and the airy height inside and outside the volume. These insertions have little physical presence but serve to amplify auras.
Once again, the choice of material was crucial for us. It determined not only the character but also the appearance, the physicality that gave life to the building.
Design Team: Mohammed Emran Hossain, Shahidullah Faruque, Mania Tahsina Taher
Firm: Architect Emran & Associates; House-15 (Ground Floor), Road 05, Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka-1209, Bangladesh.