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New College of Architecture, Planning & Design exhibit explores South Asian architecture

Friday, Nov. 15, 2013


MANHATTAN -- Now appearing in Seaton Hall's Chang Gallery at Kansas State University's College of Architecture, Planning & Design is "Spatial Synergy: Evoking Ethos of South Asian Architecture."

The exhibit was created by Vibhavari Jani and Dustin Headley, both associate professors of interior architecture and product design. It is on display through Nov. 29. The gallery, in Seaton Hall's east wing, is open 8 a.m. to 5 pm. weekdays. The exhibit is free and the gallery is open to the public.

According to Jani and Headley, the messages and the meaning in South Asian architecture express the social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual ideas of its people. They say it's hard to decode the symbology and messages manifested in built forms unless one knows the context and the sociocultural and religious traditions of the country. This is true especially in South Asia, where built forms deliver different messages depending on building typology, location and time, rousing different emotions and feelings.

Ancient South Asian architects, designers and builders used various spatial tools, including organization and sequencing of space, space-making elements and their proportion, scale and form, as well as the symbolic articulation of surfaces to communicate specific messages the patron or the community wanted to deliver. In doing so, they encouraged the communication between the viewer or the participant and the building, according to Jani and Headley.

In "Spatial Synergy: Evoking Ethos of South Asian Architecture," Jani and Headley explore the qualitative aspect of South Asian architecture to understand how decorative motifs and patterns from the traditional architecture of South Asia can be adapted to create spatial synergy in modern context. The idea is not to copy or imitate the traditional ornamentation, but to adapt and develop abstract patterns based on the traditional ornamentation that can then be applied to create and control various spatial qualities, including light, shade and shadows, and color.

The designers have employed various digital technologies for fabrication of the objects as spatial constructs to develop an experiential environment that each viewer can move within to experience the space to understand these spatial qualities.

To familiarize the viewers with the South Asian architecture, on one side of the gallery wall the designers show various patterns and motifs utilized in South Asian architecture on one screen, while on the other screen, patrons can view how these patterns and motifs are embedded in architecture. Since the patterns and motifs are not limited to South Asian architectural facade treatments, the designers explore how these elements can guide movements within the space. The main central screen of this space explores some of these questions. The video captures a student dancer's understandings of these issues through her dance movements. The movement of her hand and feet represent the patterns, motifs and forms that she has perceived while viewing this spatial construct.

Jani and Headley say that the main goal of this exhibit is to engage design students in discussion about South Asian architecture and its spatial qualities. Students were involved in folding and assembling the exhibit parts to understand the pattern and motifs as important articulation strategy in South Asian architecture and to develop an appreciation for the spatial qualities it can provide. The exhibit helps show students how these patterns and motifs can be adapted in abstract format to assist them in designing environments that incorporate these spatial sensibilities. It also provided them with the exposure to the new technology and how it can be utilized to enhance spatial constructs.


College of Architecture, Planning & Design


Vibhavari Jani is Vib-ha-var-ee Jah-nee


Written by

Thom Jackson