Visibility of Concrete Structures and Invisibility of Power Structures

Human civilization is built on a history of spatial control; the territoriality of national boundaries is a clear example on a global scale. Colonization is a method in which control has been asserted over space to exploit resources and/ or exert domination. On a less political and smaller scale, experiences of power structure begin at home.

The terms like Master Bedroom, Head of the Table and a Housewife/Homemaker implies authority, privacy and leisure. It is always stated that a woman's place is the house but do women even get complete freedom in the house? Gendered spaces themselves shape and are shaped by, daily activities. Is it through these ideas of difference and power that the architecture of a house is determined?

‘What is becomes what ought to be, which contributes to the maintenance of prevailing status.’ (Spain, 2000)

The power structure that exists within the house is projected at a larger scale within the city. These everyday celebrations of untold hierarchies have receded in the background as we have gotten used to seeing them.

The power of the visual architecture of the public place is defined by the concrete structures that force us to change our path, like the colonial monument on our drive to work or the streets we walk that were named after former slave traders, they have been intentionally inserted in our path of daily visual culture to make injustice easier to defend and harder to see.

Power demands that it be actualised, rendered visible to an audience – its abstract reality must be made manifest. A space as public as a railway station, there are indicators /sign boards demarcating class of spaces through compartmentalisation of rail coaches into first class and second class, creating an invisible wall and promoting silent hierarchies between people.

How does a public space remain ‘public’ if restrictions are implied on that space. Then, what is a public space, if it isn’t public?

The very notion of a museum implies physicality. The word itself implies a built structure, where the activities on offer revolve around human motion through articulated space. But, museums are more than just physical places designed to house collections. Their purpose is to shape identity and memory. You still have to remember that, however invisible they may be, there is someone directing you around that space, shaping your interpretation, and choosing what you may look at and how.

It is the orientation and configuration of the formal architectural element that generates a sense of an environment and depicts power of authorities.

The configuration of the spaces starts enforcing authority that keeps an eye on us and it starts from our journey of entering the museum to exiting it. We are always surrounded by sign boards that read ‘do not touch’, cctv cameras, scanners and people that watch our every move. The etymology of the word ‘visitor’ dictates that we are there to only see. Hence, we must behave ourselves. While a museum is a place for authoritative pronouncements and restricted behaviors, an art festival or a biennial is said to be the ‘Disneyland’ of art. The freedom to curate our experiences of art through the lack of a mandatory path, biennials have allowed for ambiguity and inquiry.

What is the architecture of a public building which eliminates the power structure and one feels less intimidated? Can a house start becoming home?

Authors: Kinnari Saraiya and Devarsh Sheth