Experiencing Indian Culture at Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT), Ahmedabad


Last week on CEPT* campus in the occasion of the Navratri Dance Festival, the creative energy was even more tangible than usual, if that is possible. From the workshop we heard the metal clinking, the hammers and drills beating in rhythm; some strange paper flowers growing everywhere, and few glass bottles choosing a wild life, hanging from the trees. But these creatures only revealed their secrets at night.

To see that, people reached the campus at night after work again with a lot of pleasure ; as CEPT does not feel only like a school but also a place to actually live, meet, rest, create and enjoy at all times.

Only a few steps inside from the main gate and we could see the metamorphosis: the paper flowers wonderfully lighting the path, creating subtle shapes on the ground and brick walls. The bottles, filled with colored liquids, shining and attracting the eye on the trees, looking alive. More and more lights and ground ornaments inviting to proceed to the central sandy ground of the campus, where the students, professors, faculties, friends melted together, were executing the moves of Garba. Everybody dancing in circles all around the central statue of the goddess, held by a contemporary metal structure, also made by the students’ and artisans’ hands. All of them so well connected that it seemed as though they did not even have to think about it, while their bodies moving together in the same rhythm. All the creative energy we felt during the preparation days was at this very moment concentrated in the dance; impressive to see, amazing to feel.

But the best point of view to appreciate the whole is from the inside. So even I joined the dance; after few rounds to get the steps I let myself feel the energy and was totally a part of it.

This experience was not only about dancing and having a great time; it was also for me a way to complete my experience in CEPT. Where I realize better how art and architecture are linked to life. The campus is alive. The walls, stairs, windows, plazas.. Everything is built as an invitation to interaction. Not only human interaction, but also with the architecture itself, and the earth by extension. In some areas you can even forget you are in a school and appreciate a peaceful public space or a fresh garden. And from this interaction comes creation. It is all connected and interdependent, as a continuum. By taking a walk around the campus you will find studios, workshops, work places, huge library resources, quiet areas to rest your mind, exhibitions to share inspiration, trees to take a deep breath and canteen so your body follows the rhythm. It is almost like you do not need to go anywhere else.

Thus, just like the best way to feel and understand the “Navratri effect” is to join the circle and dance, the best way to learn about architecture and life is to experience the space from the inside. This campus is giving me that lesson like no other school I experienced or architecture book I have read. Of course I am not giving up on reading, but I have to say that being in Ahmedabad since only one month – and seeing few places like CEPT, NID, Sanskar Kendra, Gandhi Ashram, Old City and its huge heritage – I feel like I could just sit somewhere in the city, looking at people in the streets, and I would still be learning a lot. I must admit I used to be a bit irritated by some modern architecture aspects; I do not like the speech of a revolutionary way to build, coming only from some genius modernist mind. To me every movement starts not just as a new alternative for the future but as a criticism of the past and present at the same time. We should not deny that a new idea, even mind blowing and very clever, takes its origins in all that has been made before. But after experiencing a few modern architecture master pieces here I have to say that I do not feel such a speech. Like mentioned before it is built as a continuum and it is still efficient as living places, and well integrated in the ways of living. Architecture and art are thus tangible here. Modern building techniques interact with crafts, religion and tradition. The whole is shaping the city itself, and above all the way people live in it. The ancient monuments and craft skills heritage are not only a great source of inspiration and something to admire in museums. They are still alive and influencing the contemporary world, the development of societies, and in a larger scale, of the whole country. A treasure from the past and a tool for the future at the same time.

*Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT) is a premier academic institute located in Ahmedabad, India.The CEPT website is resource for faculty, staff, students, visitors and prospective students. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the areas of natural and developed environment of human society and related disciplines. http://www.cept.ac.in/

A4 student and Intern, Helene Thebault.


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