An exhibition of art and architecture at the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur sits on the intersection of public and private space

 As visitors walk in, a 12x12m floating roof crafted with nets catches their eye. The dense moving datum is like a metamorphic organism, changing shape with every gust of wind. Some try to jump up to reach it, others try to bend under it—but each time, the viewer’s interaction with the roof is unique. “Some say, it’s like a cloud, others say it’s a jaala (web). One gentleman, in his 60s, told me it’s like the net that his father would use to fish,” says architect Dushyant Asher of The Urban Project, who has created the floating roof to question the relation between the fragile nature of public and private in a space. It is also an investigation into the spatial experience of temporality, which we observe in our built environment. 

It is unique works like these that can be seen in and around the JKK as part of the exhibition When Is Space? Thirty-two participants, including Anagram Architects, Architecture Brio, Dhruv Jani, Parul Gupta, The Busride Design Studio, Raqs Media Collective, from across fields such as architecture, art, urbanism, design and philosophy, have come together to discuss contemporary architecture and space-making practices. “As one architect explained to me, ‘Normally, architectural projects take nearly one-five years to complete. Here, an architect can work on concepts, articulate them in scale and material, and also test them with the public,’” says Pooja Sood, director general, JKK. “An exhibition of this scale has never happened over a shorter period of time in India before and that’s what makes this exhibition unique.”

It all started when the curators, Mumbai-based architects-artists-urbanists Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, asked the participating artists to converse with the ideas of Sawai Jai Singh II, the 16th century ruler who founded the city of Jaipur, and Charles Correa, India’s foremost modern architect, who designed JKK as a modern interpretation of Jai Singh’s nine mandalas. Gradually, artists began to respond to the three underlying ideas: first, the pursuit of the mathematics of the cosmos—the navagraha that formed the basis of the nine sectors in Jaipur and the nine squares at the JKK; second, rethinking typology by experimenting with craft and the environment; and third, looking at emerging forms of city life and ways of bringing the public back into urban spaces. These threads have acted as provocations for some of the seminal works on display.