Celebrating Public Spaces of Delhi : The Garden of Five Senses
Innovation, ransforming Spaces, Social Good
They say when you come to this City of Djinns, otherwise known as Delhi, you don’t go back. This city, enveloped in a smog of magical-realism, finds ways to make you stay – you can only enter this city but the djinns won’t let you leave.
I am The Garden of Five Senses and I am located in this City of Djinns. I am one of the largest heritage and cultural places in Delhi. I was designed by Pradeep Sachdeva, the architect of several iconic Delhi sites. He is best known for his works of Dilli Haat at INA market, his streetscape work during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, streets at Bhikaji Cama Place, Emporia Complex Plaza (Connaught Place), Delhi University Plaza and Botanical Garden in Noida.
I was conceptualized to answer the city’s need for leisure space for the public, for people to socialize and unwind. Such spaces add atmosphere and life to a city and cater to all sections of the society.
It was planned to be contemporary in spirit and yet draw on the traditions of the historic neighborhood of Mehrauli.
FIVE SENSES THROUGH FIVE SEASONS
The five senses are depicted through five statues by Ratna Bali Kant.
Summer is related to the sense of heat and this is represented in the Statue of Touch.
In the rainy season, the fresh aroma of the soil just after the first shower-drizzles, smells nowhere as good as here. The Rainy Season is represented in the Statue of Smell.
Autumn is associated with a lot of festivals in India and thus, with the sound of flutes and drums. Autumn is related to the sense of hearing and this is represented in the Statue of Sound.
Winter is the crop harvest time. Come to me to taste the morning dew on a leaf. Winter is represented in the Statue of Taste.
Spring Season is the season of visual treats and is associated with new and colourful flowers. Spring is represented in the Statue of Sight
FIVE SENSES THROUGH FIVE ROOMS
My rooms exist only in the landscape of the mind. The rooms of vision, sound, touch, taste, aroma are not physically separated from one another.
Room of Vision
From the moment you enter my environs, you will be stimulated by a multitude of shapes, patterns and colours in a multitude of materials. Pavers or paving stones are arranged in an interesting design. Black slates used to break the monotony of the grey stones.
The Stone family:
Stone has an old-world charm.
I have many elephants to welcome you – cut from the famous pink sandstone mined from Dholpur region of Rajasthan. The natural pink color of the stone gives a timeless, elegant and naturally beautiful look.
Dholpur Pink Sandstone Slabs are used in flooring, cladding, paneling and roofing. Its wide array of applications and easy workability make it apt for interior and exterior home décor needs. It easily lasts for years without much maintenance.
Behind the elephants you can see low stone walls – composed of golden yellow Jaisalmer stone. Jaisalmer, in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, is known as the golden city after its yellow sandstone architecture. The city has a rich legacy of ornately carved stone architecture, which acts as a source of inspiration for the craftspersons of today.
In my garden the walls, sculptures, domes, arches are all made of stones. They come together to give a semblance of one of the first cities of Delhi – Lal Kot, which is a fortified complex in present-day Delhi including the Qutub Minar complex.
My boundary walls are made up of random rubble masonry. Rubble Masonry is a type of stone masonry in which stones are used as obtained from the quarry or roughly dressed with wider joints in contrast to ashlar masonry wherein stones are given a fine finish and joints are also kept thin.
Another type of stone art I have are the stone arches. An Arch, a popular architectural element, provides a free open space with a subtle enclosure. A replica of Labna’s Arch, a symbol of expression of friendship and links between Mexico and India, was inaugurated in 2013.
The niches and the mouldings of my Labna arch are inspired by the ancient Mayans from Mexico. Labna’s Arch is one of the largest and most ornate architectural structures known to have been built by the Mayans. Niche, in architecture, refers to a decorative recess set into a wall for the purpose of displaying a statue or a vase. On the other hand, a Moulding is a strip of material used to cover transitions between surfaces or for decoration. Moldings are often used to conceal or embellish intersections between adjoining surfaces. My Labna Arch also has bas-reliefs. A low relief or a bas-relief is a projecting image with a shallow overall depth used, for example, on coins. Labna arc’s intricate facade with recurring geometric motifs make it a strong example of Puuc architecture
My garden is truly a heritage and cultural place of Delhi.
The metal sculptures created by master craftsmen are a symbol of modern art, yet the arches and domes of the building give the impression of a traditional mughal style.
The Metal Family
Metals offer an artist the strength to sculpt art pieces that can last for centuries and at the same time offer malleability to translate intricate designs into reality.
Metal Art dates as far back as 7000 BC. This makes my garden one of many heritage and cultural places in Delhi.
Stainless steel sculptures of Flying birds mounted on slate-clad pillars will greet you when you enter my environs. Stone or slate cladding is a stone veneer, or simulated stone, applied to a structure made of a material other than stone. Subodh Kerkar designed these birds. He is a noted sculptor and installation artist who has carved out a niche for himself in the fields of installation art and land art.
Another of his metallic attractions is a Pin-Wheel inspired sculpture. The pin-wheels whirr in the breeze, like the paper ones children play with. They flutter with every gust of wind and create one in your hearts too. It is a modern-art sculpture.
MJ Enas is the mind behind a bronze sculpture of a man holding aloft the arched body of a woman – named “A New Heaven, A New Earth”. M J Enas was initially trained as a Jesuit priest (a member of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests) before receiving his degrees as a sculptor from the Fine Arts College in Thiruvananthapuram and the College of Fine Art in New Delhi. His training as a priest influences the forms he portrays in his sculptures. Enas mentions that shamanism, the occult, the sixth sense, and other mystical elements have influenced his understanding of the spiritual world. Thus his sculptures appear to be engaged in an internal spiritual dialogue.
In the KS Radhakrishnan’s art piece shown above Maiya holds on to the bronze Heritage Column. Maiya is a part alter ego of the sculptor Radhakrishnan and the name of a series of fictional characters through whom he has been exploring the world and sharing his perceptions with us. Maiya is a metaphor of the mind’s lightness, of its ability to assume a multiplicity of persona or identities. She can metamorphose into an endless series of ‘others’, like children playing roles. It is a contemporary work of art with a strong sense of artistic individuality expressed in the enduring medium of bronze.
Room of Sound
Meander down and you will enter the oasis within my jungle, commonly known as Neel Bagh. Behold a grand metal spiral sculpture with several hanging tinkling bells. This art piece is designed by Kristine Michael. You will be tempted to ring the bells or chimes secretly when no one is looking. But, you will always have an audience here – the pool of water lilies and metal pergolas (an arched structure in a garden consisting of a framework covered with climbing plants). Artist Kristine Michael trained in Ceramic Design at The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. To activate the sense of sound in her own artistic style, the ceramist came up with this spiral structure which originally had several blue ceramic bells. In her own words, “Nature is encapsulated in landscapes. Certain natural shapes inspire my works. A major figure for me is the spiral.” The word “Neel” in Neel Bagh comes from the blue colour of the original ceramic bells and of the pool water. However, the ceramic bells got shattered by strong winds and were then replaced with copper bells.
The climbing plants on the metal pergolas give the appearance of a garden ceiling. Neel Bagh’s gentle-cool breeze in sunshine and music of the hand-beaten copper bells gives it a semblance of a sanctuary, an oasis in my jungle-garden. Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa’s “Eyesight isolates the object while sound invites it to contribute” and Ernst Neufert’s “Architecture is frigid music” exemplify how the sense of sound is connected with architecture.
Room of Touch
Touch the textures of weather-beaten rocks from the banks of Ganges, feel the grass and the sprinkles from the fountains.
Dotted along my spiral walkways, you would see terracotta pots – some seven-feet tall crafted by Angoori Devi and Giriraj!
Indigenous clay and mud architectures in various parts of the world are actually born of the muscular and the haptic senses relating to the sense of touch. Haptic sense particularly relates to the perception and hand-manipulation of objects. Through the Haptic sense we perceive the position and movement of our body.
Let me quote Juhani Pallasmaa, the author of The Eyes of the Skin, who believes the sense of touch ‘senses’ more than the sense of sight – “Eye touches the distance but tactility sees the closeness”
Room of Taste
Secluded, away from the heart of the garden is the food and shopping court. A variety of salivating cuisines and liquor are prepared to please your taste buds. ‘Bauji ka dhaba’ is a popular eatery.
A series of steps, having an open seating arrangement and stone tables, faces the food court. You cannot enjoy my garden with an empty stomach. A child’s sensory experience of the world originates in the interior sensation of the mouth.
Room of Aroma
Another of my great visual treats is The Colour Gardens. They have gently-terraced flower beds in rainbow colours.
It is also an aromatic treat. The sense of aroma is closer to memory than vision or sound. If the universe of knowledge has a scent, then I love to believe this scent of knowledge is deeper than the depths of any ocean – and in my garden you can inhale this scent.
As Juhani Pallasmaa believes, “nose can remember better than eyes and understands the space deeper and sharper and realizes the difference.”
Close your eyes and imagine your favourite aroma. Let’s say it’s the aroma of sandalwood incense sticks. Aren’t you transported to that early morning from your childhood – the aroma of sandalwood wafting through the air originating from the temple with the ringing sound of temple bells?
Room of Nature
In order to create a sustainable public space, the architect Pradeep Sachdeva of this iconic Delhi site didn’t try to cut through my natural landscape. There are large areas where the existing vegetation, consisting mostly of trees such as the local Kikar and thorny Ber bushes, have been left untouched. I have a lot of murals too. A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall or any other permanent surface – basically a mural harmoniously incorporates the architectural elements of the space it is in rather than being a separate installation – street art, graffiti art are examples of murals.
When you would see my Bamboo Court, with dense bamboo shoots emerging out of an eight pointed star (an Islamic motif) and blanketing the space, you’d realize that my garden is more of a jungle. You will see the sunlight filtering in through the thick canopies overhead. You would realize you are in the lap of nature. In the Bamboo Court, see the colonnade (a row of evenly spaced columns) that supports stone semicircular lintel having stone sculptures above it. Witness the marriage of intricate stone art with fresh soft greenery.
I have a lot of herb gardens too – aloe vera, lemon grass, lavender, Tulsi – you name it and I have it!
I even have a Solar Energy Park that has various exhibits of solar powered vehicles. This has made me feature in the Limca Book of Records in 2004.
Room of Soul
You are encouraged to touch the rocks, metal and terracotta sculptures. The fragrance of flowers nestled within my flower beds will stimulate your olfactory sense, the landscaping will appeal to your eyes, the tinkling bells create a soothing sound and the food courts serve a variety of cuisines to please the tongue.
I try to awaken the five senses of the human body through diverse material textures in a variety of colours, sounds and aromas but most importantly, in a variety of emotions. Without emotions and soul there is no art.
Prayer awakens the soul. My garden invokes a grateful prayer for the gift of touch, vision, sound, smell and taste . This is embodied in the art work “Prayer for Peace” by Kamal Narayan – a grid of white statutes of praying children behind a statute of an open book
Public Space of Delhi
The architect Pradeep Sachdeva has made use of my garden’s natural undulating slopes and at the same time has connected the many hidden pockets of my jungle-garden spread across 20 acres. My spiral meandering Walkway-Maze serves both the purposes.
The spirality and spontaneity of the walkways are in contrast to the geometric discipline of my very own mughal garden – Khas Bagh.
A mughal garden typically has a Charbagh Indo-persian layout and is divided by walkways or channels of flowing water (symbolising the rivers of water, wine, milk and honey) into four smaller gardens, representing the four gardens of Paradise as mentioned in the Quran. This intends to create a representation of an earthly utopia in which humans co-exist in perfect harmony with nature.
South Asian mughal gardens are known for their highly disciplined geometry.
Mughal garden inspired ‘Khas Bagh’ has a unique bronze tree sculpture called Fountain Tree or the Tree of Infinite Knowledge – by India-based sculptor John Bowman.
If you look closely, this tree is oriented upside-down – with its roots flowing skyward and the shoots flowing groundward. The water (knowledge) sprinkles from the roots (heavens) giving life to the shoots – leaves & flowers (Human’s earthly life).
In my garden, you can also spot Topiary Art, that is, the practice of clipping shrubs or trees into ornamental shapes.
I also have an Amphitheatre (an open-air venue used for entertainment and performances). It has sandstone blocks, serving as a seating area, nestled amongst the natural slope of my landscape. This makes my garden a sustainable public space . People come here to unwind, chat a little and take in the scenery.
The Garden tourism festival (February), food festivals, different melas, Dandiya festivals and other cultural programmes are held here at different times.
At the back of my garden, there is an open exhibition area. It is a platform for showcasing art works by budding Delhi artists. An artists’ corner is also created within the garden where visitors can interact with artists who have contributed to its design and landscaping.
You can also spot Rajasthani Phad Art by Shri Shantilal Joshi. A 700-year-old legacy passed down over generations within a single family, Phad finds its origins in Shahpura, near Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Phad is a type of scroll painting that narrates elaborate religious stories of local deities and gods
The Conflict (Epilogue)
I am one of the few sustainable public spaces in Delhi. I want you, the designer in you, to really think about the values you have now and what values you would like to have going forward.
Do you only want to make your consumers feel good? Don’t you also want to make them, through art, aware of the things that are brushed under the carpet?
This is a big responsibility. In your journey as a designer you have to take with you all the chaos, pain, discomfort along with the beauty in yourself! You have to be willing to see the unseen, listen to the unheard, touch the untouchable, smell the pungent and taste the forbidden. You have to first create your own mind-garden before you can help others create theirs.