Thinking about Design

This part of the semester, we work with design and begin our 7-week exploration of research and thinking, working with “Parts of a Whole”. Since the students pick their specialisations over the next few weeks, it is crucial that they know their options and make well-researched and thought through decisions. Integrative Seminar and Studio tackles this process of understanding design AND teaches students the methods of research and academic writing.

The Design of Everyday Objects by Don Norman ¬†is an excellent place to start and the class divided the first chapter in groups of four to read, explain and discuss it. The discussion was great– we all participated and bite-sized chunks understood the essay, which any way was written lucidly. ūüôā

For next week, we’re making formal presentations on 4 leaders of design from the specialisations offered at ISDI (Communication, Fashion, Interior, and Product), to investigate the growth of the disciplines, and how the greats became great.


Memory Narrative

I went to Dorothea to work on a project. I had to take interviews of the people staying in Dorothea. When I entered the city, the first thing that came to my mind was the hot weather. It was so hot because of the desert. The architecture of the building was beautiful. Everything about it was so well planned. The people were kind and helpful and did not resist or refused in giving interviews. They had a very simple way of dressing up. They usually wore pastel coloured clothes. Men wore plaid pants and plaid shirt while women wore long cotton blouses and long skirts. Both men as well as women wore jewelleries. They wore silver plated armlets and anklets . While I was taking the interview of a camel driver who brought me to the city from the station, I noticed some people gathering around a place. I got down to see what was happening. This is when I experienced a Dorothean type of wedding. The girl was getting married to young man of the same city but of another quarter. They families were wealthy. They gave the bride’s family expensive goods at the time of marriage. They gave them their daughter and in return the family gave them expensive goods. I asked the camel driver about the system of exchanging goods. He told me that it was a custom that everyone had to follow. I continued taking his interview. He told me about his experience of coming to the city. He came to the city when he was in his youth to earn a living.

Constructed Environment

How does Calvino describe his cities ?

Calvino describes the city by giving details of the architecture of the city. Four aluminum towers rise from its walls with seven gates on either side with spring operated drawbridges  that span the moat whose water fills four canals which cross the city.  The city is divided into nine quarters and each quarter has three hundred houses and seven hundred chimneys.

What is the role that monuments play ?

The role of the monuments is to show memory. It shows memory for instance if some person visits some place, he remembers the structure of the buildings, the architecture and it becomes a memory. Whenever he describes that city or hears the name, he is reminded of that structure and the architecture that he saw. Here the structure includes the four aluminum towers, the seven gates, the spring operated drawbridges, the moat, the four green canals, the nine quarters and the three hundred houses with seven hundred chimneys.

How does the urban interact with the natural?

The urban is being referred to the city with aluminum towers, seven gates, spring operated drawbridges, three hundred houses and seven hundred chimneys. The natural here means the moat  which is made by nature. The two interact as there is a drawbridge which covers the space overs the moat. This is how the urban, which is the drawbridge, interacts with the natural, the moat as it acts like a bridge over the moat.

How do we distinguish between nature and man made ?

Man made is something that has been made by man and does not exist naturally or is not made by nature.  Natural is something that has been created by nature and man has no control over its existence. The aluminum towers, seven gates, drawbridges. Three hundred houses and seven hundred chimneys are all man made.  Whereas the moat is made by nature.

Examining structures of the city

The structure of the city has been described by Calvino as : four aluminum towers rise from its walls with seven gates on either side with spring operated drawbridges that span the moat. The city is divided into nine quarters, each with three hundred houses and seven hundred chimneys.


Semiotics Table

Signifier                                                                                     Signified                                                                           Literal Meaning
Four aluminium towers                                              tall narrow buildings                                             tall building, either free standing or
                                                                                                                                                                          forming a part of a building
seven gates                                                                   barrier/ protector                                                  a hinged barrier used to close an
                                                                                                                                                                           opening in a wall, fence or hedge
drawbridges                                                                 passage                                                                  a bridge, especially over a moat which is
                                                                                                                                                                          hinged at one end so that it may
                                                                                                                                                                           be raised to prevent people crossing
canals                                                                             man- made waterway                                        an artificial waterway constructed to
                                                                                                                                                                       allow the passage of boats or ships
                                                                                                                                                                       inland or to convey water for irrigation
nine quarters                                                               divided into sections                                            be stationed or lodged in a specified
my eye returns to contemplate                       he is longing to go back to the desert                     he wants to go back but it is too late
the desert expanses
this path is only one of the many                    out of many, this was one path                                out of many, this is one path and others
paths that opened in front of me                                                                                                            are yet to open


The uninterrupted and intense heat of the sun

The feel of the grimy sand everywhere

The endless sea of dry desert to be travelled

This is what I had left behind there.

Dorothea, my escape from it all

Thought I would settle down

Away from the grit and the grime

But after so many years I was still dissatisfied.

Once again longing for the feel of the sands

The bumpy camel rides across the miles

The golden sun warm against my skin

The music of the low hum of the voices in the caravan

As we travelled across to unknown places

Miles to be covered, destinations to be reached

Meeting new people discovering new places

An endless journey, this is where I belong, this is what I want.



Final Passage

I came to Dorothea when I was eighteen years old. Before coming to Dorothea, I used to stay with my family in Zaire. My family consists of my mother who is a housewife and would at times help my father in the farm, my father who is farmer and my brother who shifted to Dorothea two years back. I came here in my youth to fulfill my desires, in order to earn a living and support my family. My brother with whom I stay, in Dorothea, is a well known priest. When I came here, the first thing that caught my attention was the people and the clothes that they were wearing. Men usually wore plaid shirts with straight pants and the women wore long skirts with plain coloured blouse. Most of them spoke in their native language as well as English which was a universal language. They did not dress up too fashionably. They are very helpful as they helped me in locating the address that was given to me by my brother. There was a wedding that took place and my brother, being a priest was called for it. He gave me the address and had asked me to come there directly as soon as I got down of the station to witness a Dorothea type of a wedding. The mornings were usually hot and the evenings were a little chilly because of the desert. The architecture of the city cannot be compared to Zaire, which was a rural area. The buildings are so well maintained. The towers, the gates and the drawbridges act as if they are guarding the nine quarters with three hundred houses. The houses were usually one or two storied.  I reached the place where the wedding was taking place. I met my brother after a long time. There was so much joy which could not be expressed in words. He introduced me to everyone. They were all very kind and polite. The bride was getting married to a young man of another quarter. This was a custom that was followed by everyone in which the girl had to get married to  men of other quarters. This helped them to grow as a city. The families were quite rich and it was more like a barter system that took place. They gave their daughters in the name of marriage and received expensive goods that the families possessed. I came to the city with a desire to earn and support my family. Before coming to the city , the only routes that were familiar to me were the desert and the caravan routes. But it took me years to  realize that the decision that I had made which was to stay ,was not the right one. I found myself yearning for the desert and the caravan routes. I have been longing to travel across to unknown places , to feel the sand and the warm sun.This was only one of the many paths that Dorothea offered me and others are yet to discover.

Fedora- Curatorial Note

Week 7: 7/3/16

Curatorial Note

Invisible Cities, the book by Italo Calvino, describes different cities through a common perspective. In the entire book, the cities either visually or metaphorically represent different traits. Such traits, habits or concepts that are depicted through different elements in the cities. These scenarios in each of the cities in the book eventually lead into portraying a single city. Similarly, while leading a certain kind of life, it is inevitable to experience and go through different circumstances but eventually life and the person remain as it is.

Fedora, one of the cities from the book, can be understood through various lenses. The globes can be assigned different meanings. They maybe memories, hopes or dreams. The changes in the cities might depict different circumstances. To each person the story induces a different feeling and hence a different perspective.

To think of the globes as memories, or a collective memory, each and every small aspect of the city which might not exist the very next moment starts holding an important value. The cities in the little globes, portray what one once desired and how it was visually.

The city which the inhabitants desired were spaces, as the time passes by the city grows and so do the desires, there is a change observed not only in the dimensions of the city but also the how the time has shaped different desires. The only certainty about Fedora is the fact that it exists. On the map of Fedora, there is a space that is occupied by Fedora. This space is made up of not only the actual city but also the imagined and desired forms of the city.

When the city is viewed through visuals only, we understand the different elements mentioned in the passage hold a meaning which can be related metaphorically. To understand the city through signs, simple elements are taken into account and studied deeply. In Fedora, different aspects of the city like the elephants, or the minarets depict how the city have surroundings that differ every now and then.

Finally what Fedora portrays and means differs from person to person. To me, Fedora is a an experience. We all have some sort of desire of how we want things to take place and how they should proceed according to our wishes, but it never really works that way. We repeatedly think of these situations and hence they are etched into our minds. Even if we were to visit Fedora, we would have at least one memory or desire that we would remember amongst all the changing phases of the city. That one desire, so vivid, that would soon be the only memory we hold of Fedora. This memory or desire, to its inhabitants are the globes. In the mayhem caused by the repeated changes in the city, the inhabitants have one place to go to, where their minds can be at peace and their desires can be revisited till some extent. Hence, these globes in Fedora hold a lot of importance, rather than just keeping a record of desires and memories.