Through his latest exhibition, Delhi-based architect Gautam Bhatia questions the premise of architectural practice in India.
The exhibition is about the non-arrival of architecture, because nothing is as it seems. There’s a town in a WC, which Bhatia calls WC City, or World Class City, while Bisleri Stepwell is a section drawing of a traditional stepwell fitted with a giant mineral water bottle. “It was ironic that during our travels to Gujarat and Rajasthan, we found stepwells empty, and people travelling to these traditional water sources with bottled water,” he says. The Courtyard City, he shows subterranean houses on a grid, almost like a chess board, each locked within their own cube. “Drawings give you an advantage of sketching things you can’t build. One way to question the premise of practice today is through such a medium,” says Bhatia, backed by nearly four decades of practice.
Those in the business of building cities too feature in Bhatia’s work. Emerging Power shows a potbelly emerging from a fibreglass block and sequentially the entire frame of a politician appears, the quintessential portrayal of one with a Gandhi cap and khadi kurta. Bhatia’s bronze sculptures are a nod to the living and working conditions of labourers in cities, living in cheek by jowl homes, pushing paper to get work done and forming queues for their daily wages.