“Can we take art out of architecture? If we do so then what are we left with? Soulless buildings?”

A recently-concluded exhibition at Delhi’s Bikaner House explored the various points of convergence between art and architecture. Displayed at the show were drawings and marginalia by five of India’s best-known architects, writes Bhumika Popli. 

Artworks by Gautam Bhatia.
Artworks by Gautam Bhatia.

These are some of the questions Gayatri Singh, director of the Gurgaon-based gallery ArtPilgrim, is addressing to the public through her exhibition, Connecting Lines, which recently concluded at Delhi’s Bikaner House. The show was aimed at diminishing the boundaries between art and architecture, and it featured works by five of the most prominent Indian architects of the contemporary age: Gautam Bhatia, Rajeev Kathpalia, Brinda Somaya, Martand Khosla and Rohit Raj Mehndiratta.

Historically, architects were also fine painters and hence art was very much an integral part of their practice. Singh says, “If we look at the Renaissance period, architects like Michelangelo and Baldassare Peruzzi among others, were architects as well as artists. There was no segregation between the two disciplines. But over time, art has been detached from architecture with the latter moving towards more of a scientific side. The whole idea of this show is that we shouldn’t be looking at architecture as something separate from art. We are trying to bring that old connection back, and architects back into being artists.”

It was Gautam Bhatia, one of the participants in the show, who came up with the idea of bringing this historical link between art and architecture to public view. Bhatia, known for his work on buildings across Delhi and Udaipur among other cities, is also renowned for his paintings, writings and satire.

He says, “This exhibition tries to show to the visitors the way artists think, draw and build. The idea was to engage the general public, rather than only architects. And the show records the thought process of architects through various drawings, models of the buildings they made, installation pieces, sculptures and so on. In my drawings, too, I have shown work that I will never be able to do due to a number of hindrances. You can see lopsided buildings and structures below the surface of the earth.”

According to Bhatia, his drawings express “his unhappiness with the city”. In his recent book, titled Stories of Storeys, he wrote, “The impoverished Indian city is poorer for the contribution made to it by architecture.”

Speaking to Guardian 20, he says, “What we build in the city, is much less than what we can build. It makes more sense to show people new ideas of how we might like to live. You move away from reality because the reality is sometimes depressing. There is much greater hope and optimism in an exhibition—something which is missing in real life.”