Space is the Yantra

The last issue of Urban Design journal, published by the Urban Design Group, London, focused on to urban design practice and discourses in India . Invited by the editors of the issue, Naresh, Anne and Sumandro of MOD, contributed an essay on ‘Reinventing the Indian City.’

While the full contents of the issue will soon be available at the journal website, below is an excerpt from the piece:

India is an ancient urban civilisation. The sub-continent has faced the challenges of planning cities and providing for growing populations since 2300 BC. By 700 BC, India had gone through its second urban revolution with the growth of sixteen ‘Mahajanapada’ (literally, megacities) across the Indus-Gangetic-Vetravati-Godavari plains. A unique set of codes for spatially organising the urban centres, from the city scale to that of the household, has existed since then and was applied in building the Harappan cities (BC 2600-1900).

In later years, an evolved form of these spatial logics came to be known as the ‘vastu shastra,’ variously understood as knowledge or discipline of built objects or spatial design. One of the central elements of this body of knowledge is the ‘yantra,’ literally meaning ‘machine,’ which meant a harmonious configuration of various forces towards a common goal or state of being.

Recently there have been different attempts to interpret these texts in a modern context. This essay re-visits the ancient concept of ‘yantra’ – as a practice of spatial analysis based on human experience – and re-interprets it as an analytical and visual device for studying and re-inventing Indian cities. Furthermore it takes the concepts of ‘informality’ and historicity into account to evoke productive strategies for the future cities of India.

Naresh Narasimhan and Anne-Katrin Fenk are Co-Founders of MOD and Sumandro Chattapadhyay is modbug-at-large. Find more about them in the MOD team page.



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