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Mystical Ecosystems in the Age of Data


Compiled by Alisha Raman Sarvesh Singh

© all rights reserved

Our own body is in the world as the heart is in the organism: it keeps the visible spectacle constantly alive, it breathes life into it and sustains it inwardly, and with it forms a system, and sensory experience is unstable and alien to natural perception, which we achieve with our whole body all at once, and which opens on a world of interacting senses Merleau-Ponty


01 Introduction 02 Context 03 Sound of Silence 04 of Algorythms 05 Processes 06 Urban Ecologies 07 Material Metabolism 08 Photo Tectonics 09 Archeology of the Future Bibliography

Listen to the silence. It has so much to say. -Rumi

Landscape with banyan tree beside a river 19th century, British Library


For eons, trees have shared significance and spiritual meaning across various cultures, all over the world. In Norse mythology, the Yggdrasil is a mythical tree that connects with all Nine Worlds. Across the Indian sub-continent, ‘Kalpataru’ or the Tree of Life has been a timeless metaphor for peace, wisdom and enlightenment, extolled in iconography and literature as the wish-fulfilling Divine Tree. The Banyan is the ancient tree under which the Siddhartha became the Bodhisattva, thus attaining enlightenment as the Buddha. In some cultures it is symbolised by the deep-rooted Shami Tree, in others by the versatile Coconut, but universally recognised as the Banyan, amply providing for human needs, silently across eons.


3 1. medieval painting of Kalpavriksha, Jain Basadi 2. in temple complex, Bilara, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 3. a flowering Kalptaru, Ranchi, Jharkhand


Banyan Tree in Knowledge Consortium Campus, Ahmedabad

Gravity is the most real thing we know. No matter where we go, it is already there. It is only in the sanctuary of imagination that we float free and unshackled. The tangibility of materials is another integral aspect of reality. Modern materials are engineered to last forever. But, at what expense? They have a kind of hardness or plasticity which makes it difficult for the human vision to penetrate them. This is the very reason why we embody our cities in a detached way, often running errands mindlessly. Our disconnectedness with the environment is the root cause of our collective somnambulance. The alternative to this paradigm remains harmonious with the passage of seasons, and is elegantly rooted in a simpler way of life - it respects an aging and decay of materials, a maturing of life. Softer materials, being susceptible to erosion, are innately organic. They make an environment that imbues in its inhabitant an ecological selfawareness - a hope of life better lived because it is always fleeting. Such materials permit the vision to penetrate them, invoking what is called a ‘haptic trigger’ – an intensely human desire to touch the story, rather than just see it.


time internet relationships trust


Imaginaria gravity idea

city data

person consciousness


network graph of hyperlinks

In early 2020, the Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat served as a venue for the Abhivyakti City Arts Festival. We collaborated with sculptor and curator Vyom Mehta, to design an experience in an intimate courtyard. Here people can put aside their differences and come together to interact in an immersive forest, asking questions:

What if reality itself were a figment of our imagination? What would such an Imaginarium comprise of? This project explores responses to gravity through one simple re-interpretation: what if the whole forest is levitating on air - floating free and unshackled?

urban data nature


digital spirit biomimesis banyan tree


aerial roots cosmos open to sky



Imagi immersive

visual experience

light synesthesia

harmony rhythm music aural






flow sway wind context

expression interactive tactile



inarium non-invasive






cnc assembly

interacting sensibilities: a word cloud

Sound of Silence

Sight isolates, whereas sound incorporates; vision is directional, whereas sound is omni-directional. the sense of sight implies exteriority, but sound creates an experience of interiority. I regard an object, but sound approaches me; the eye reaches, but the ear receives. Buildings do not react to our gaze, but they do return our sounds back to our ears. Juhani Pallasmaa

We tend to express through words and sounds, whereas trees share silence. Imaginaria behaves as an environment, very much alive, that can communicate both ways. Ghungroos (tiny bells) are grown out of a labyrinth of aerial roots - they articulate the rhythms and harmonies of Nature, whilst sharing a silent sway of leaves and branches, invoked by passing winds. Weighing over half a ton, the immersive biome floats gently, without touching the ground. Designed computationally for an open courtyard, it becomes a place of immersive mindfulness parsed in data, music and light. When we enter the forest, its softeness allows our vision to penetrate it, inviting to touch and interact. The tiny ghungroos are hidden away in its chaos. Immersed in a floating world, their shimmer takes one by surprise - inhabiting us within. It invokes a childlike curiosity, urging us to navigate the depths of a dense, floating labyrinth seeking out the source of its music.


sectional elevation


3 4


2 1. custom detail anchors non-invasively to buildings’ parapet 2. 8mm steel core cable and U-clamps


4 3. gridshell floating overhead 4. mystical forest

Visual Scripting leverages data for optimisation of structure, workflow and cost, where aspects can be tinkered with to generate many structural options. In digital space, the code has defining labels to keep the model chaotically organized in real space.

of Algorythms

levitating forest is densest on diagonal pathway in courtyard, for complete immersion


d c



Urban Ecologies

The City, as a Tangible Internet, is composed of diverse ecologies. For Imaginaria, its materials are sourced from different outlets, having been identifed by relevance in various zones: a. Industrial (GIDC): Created for securing the organization of industrial estates in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It constitutes several MSME manufacturing outlets. b. Heritage (Old City): The historic walled city of Ahmedabad, founded by Ahmed Shah in 1411, was a political and commercial centre of the region. Today, it houses many ancestral enterprises, exotic spice markets and heritage buildings. c. Craft (Gulbai Tekra): Popularly known as Hollywood Basti, a settlement of a travelling Marwari Community, skillfully engaged in idol making. It is a craft micro-environment that has grown and evolved over the years. d. Academia (University Area): A range of academic institutions, become a fertile ground for innovation and creative thought.


site workshop



Material Metabolism

A living entitity requires food to break into energy, to thrive. This is its metabolic process. In the context of a tree, it constitutes the nutrients and water absorbed from the soil, and converted to energy through photosynthesis. In a city, it is the metaphorical framework which ensures the sum of flows of materials across the urban fabric, accomodating the energy of different human activities. In an almost literal sense, we tend to associate metabolism with digestion. It involves a disintegration of food-stuff by peptic acid in our stomach. Raw materials are brought into facilities (workshops/fabrication labs), where they undergo intermediate processing. On being transported to the Venue from the Industrial Belt, the overhead steel shell is treated/digested with nitric acid on-site - a metaphorical process for urban metabolism. The cotton sourced from the Old City Market, is brought into a make-shift workshop. Here it is computationally processed, not with cold-cut machinery, but with the warmth and craft of the Gulbai Tekra’s community.


Archeology of the Future

The essence harmony with

of WabiSabi is a time, linear or not.

Materials speak their own truths, and through decay, record the passage of time. Levitation is a metaphor of an age yet to come. The structure has come into its context as an environment of the future. What we perceive as its rusting is simply a phenomenon of reverse aging - the accumulating of patina, up to the present. Centuries from now, the Imaginaria were constructed as an ancient industrial forest, its ruins only excavated today. What secrets of our futures are encoded within its shimmer? Which lifeforms will eventually inhabit it? Where does it belong?

Bibliography 01 www.wikipedia/tree_of_imagination 02 03 Eyes of the Skin, Juhani Pallasmaa

Thanks all our friends at Gulbai Tekra Spacica Workshop, GIDC Murtaza Bhai Raman Bhai Lalit Bhai Srinidhi Prakhar Pranali Austin Anjali Garvi Vyom

the Infinite expanse of the Cosmos thank You

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