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Moulee Basumallik | Enivronmental & Architectual design

Maryland Institute College of Art ‘12



Thesis Project: Calcutta/Kolkata

The genesis of my thesis was to use the experience of the Indian Durga procession in the city of Calcutta and its symbology with the structural system of bamboo tradition. in Asia I went back into the structure of the ritual, the mythology. More than the goddess herself, I was interested in the experience of the people, the movement, the significance of the linear path of the masses within narrow streets. The three important parts of the procession are the beginning Chokku daan, or the giving of sight to the clay idol, a huge ceremony before the holiday, then the act of community where everyone celebrates, communes to take part in the rebirth of themselves and the goddess, and eventually the bisharjun which is the immersion of the goddess. My design idea occupies three sites, the original pandal where the ritual starts, where the gift of sight is given, then the middle where the gifted sight is taken advantage of: the area of spectacle where everyone comes to see and be scene. The structure would reflect the pandal design but with the alteration that this is a sort of rest stop so this forum is built around the idea of the goddess being able to fit into the architecture even though it mainly acts as a forum to the community. The third site is the site of the loss of sight, the experience of the narrow and wide, reflecting the journey through the city. The intervention would keep the gradual slope of the landscape but structurally harness the procession to slow the immersion process into a gradual release. “Festivals create a forum through which the fantasies of the subalterns are articulated and even organized into political action.� - Rahul Mehrotra

Observatory Axonometric

The Four Observatories.

The two sites are at the middle point and destination of the procession. Curzon Park is the the filter of the two processions so this is my linchpin site where it facilitates the two processions as well as a busy intersection of public and private transportation, trams, autos, scooters, rickshaws and people. The site is a filter; people are slowed down here, eat here, a theme of an urban spectacle because of its exposure to the traffic even though it is a fairly wooded park.

This is a place to see and be seen.

Context Diagram of Curzon Park and Perspective Diagram of each of the Observatories

Curzon Park is at the cusp of boundaries and rituals but it is also a center for the busiest district. The Observatories center on the four sights of the procession and the everyday (River/City, Park/ People). The design includes a bridge in the middle which harbors an elevated walkway that lifts the Durga procession up once a year as she crosses the boundary line as well as a rest stop for the chosen few who carry the idol to the river. The Observatories would reflect the pandal bamboo structure that is ubiqutous in the city, placed in the colonial center.

South Section of Observatories

South Section of Riverside elevated promanade

The Riverside.

This site is also important because it reflects this line of boundary-- Bentick street had a metaphorical line of boundary but the rail line right along the riverside cuts the people off from the sacred waters of the Ganges. All along the coast are spaces riddled with immersion of ceramic idols at the end of a holiday. My intention for the riverside site was to re-symbolize the water for its sacred properties, introducing some infrastructure that creates a smoother transition from street, rail line, and river.

The Riverside is the site of the loss of sight, the experience of the narrow and wide, reflecting the journey through the city. The intervention would keep the gradual slope of the landscape but structurally harness the procession to slow the immersion process into a gradual release. The concept of the elevated walkway begins again shortly before the ghat, reaches up to the nearby train station and crosses the rail and lands onto rammed earth waterfront. The procession transitions from the earth to the water-- a causeway that creates the moment of the lingering sight as the people watch the immersion of the Goddess into the water; a sineous dock that slowly brings the final parts of the festival to an end. The waterfront is a first step into re-symbolizing the river as a beautiful and sacred destination.

Design|Build: Shelter Project. MICA’s Design|Build studio efforts in developing a design for a transitional shelter prototype to be used in disaster relief. The project now spans the better part of nine months, evolving from an intensive research effort that ended with a trip to Haiti, where a few students got the opportunity to see what was currently being offered to bridge the gap between emergency relief and situational rebuilding for the 1.5 million people who were rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake.

In design, we discovered that the issues are more complex than simply providing a new shelter option - seemingly a reactive response without any clearcut considerations for the culture or the needs of the social condition. Every arena is different, with a new set of standards that should be considered… so our latest design concept revolves around the notion of assessment – understanding conditions prior to a disaster can provide an intimacy with the post-disaster situation that few shelter designers take into account.

Winning Design: GABE

GABE is constructed in three stages:

GABE is immediate relief with potential for permanent shelter. GABE is an easily constructed “skin and bones” structure, with a load bearing steel frame and a combination of wood and gabion “skins”. Gabion construction converts endless piles of hazardous rubble into an invaluable resource in relief and rebuilding efforts.

Immediate Stage (ALLEVIATE)

1-2 days

Transitional Stage (BUILD)

1-2 weeks

Permanent Stage (ENLIVEN)


“LA FAMILIA” & Community Layout Communities are organized with an emphasis on “la familia”, the family, with community bathrooms, kitchen, outdoor eating area and playground shared amongst five families.

GABE’S ADAPTABILITY Gabion cages can be filled with rubble in an earthquake scenario, or with sand, soil, rocks, or gravel. In the case of a flood, the second level can stand alone within the frame. Second floor skins can be constructed with wood, or wire mesh with bamboo, twigs or banana leaves woven through. Shelters can stand alone, or share common walls. The advantage of “skin and bones” architecture is its adaptability to different disasters and different cultures based on their local materials and traditions. GABE is not just a shelter: it is a comprehensive approach to disaster relief that can be employed any time, anywhere, by anyone.

Final Collaboration:

The shelter therefore becomes a tool capable of providing stimulation in the form of jobs or work. Our trip to Haiti taught us that flat-packed shelter concepts certainly do provide quick access to shelter, but typically fail to provide other needed provisions – like jobs or steady labor. A shelter erected in 12 hours lacks the sustainable capacity for continued work stimulation – but a shelter that can be assembled quickly, and still have several days worth of effort to complete the exterior skin can offer the population in distress a much-needed service. We laid out an ideal size for the prototype that we thought would adequately provide sleeping quarters for a family of 3 to 4 individuals at product delivery. The floor is designed as 4 pallets that will be used for shipping the components of the shelter. Some will carry building materials, others will carry aid distribution packages that we hope to provide through future partnerships.

At the delivery site, the pallets are set up on a system of piers with cast-in-place steel brackets that allow all 4 pallets to mate up, forming one floor plate. That is why the community design concepts are ultimately as important as the design of the shelter itself – the ability to realize cultures in transition, how they change, and how they adapt is critical to providing a solution for transitional shelter that can evolve with the circumstance. We could have proposed solar panels, but transitional shelters typically have little need for power. A simple battery station for cell phones can be provided. We could easily add a water collection system and filtration tank, but the community layout allows for an accessible clean water tank that can be serviced by water delivery trucks. A small tank for hand and feet washing would do the trick. We used the lessons we learned from post-disaster conditions in Haiti – design within reach with recognition of the services already provided. This makes for a much simpler, and more durable finished product.

Object Design II: Henana Shoe

As an alternative we employed sustainable materials in our products such as banana leaves and hemp. Banana leaves are grown in over 107 countries and are readily available to the local public. Hemp is also a great substitute for cotton due to its use of less land-space, durability, and does not need to use chemical fertilizer to increase production. Both materials are malleable and sustainable. By exploring the materials limitations we were able to develop a product that revolutionaries the common materials in shoe design. Our process includes making an absorbent, comfortable padding as the insole and basis for this all-natural sandal. The padding is made through a long process of chopping up, boiling, blending, and cooking hemp and banana leaves to create a softer texture. We then put the pulp in a blender to combine both materials into a consistent mixture. Our next step is to submerge the pulp in a vat of water for the fibers to settle over night. The next day the paper making process begins, with a large screen we drain the contents of the vat cup by cup to create a relatively flat plane. We transfer the pulp from the screen to a drying area where the paper is sun dried in the next two days. The insole is designed to be disposable and interchangeable as well as comfort the foot and absorb sweat. It slides in and fasten to the outsole of the shoes. The outsole is braided from hemp rope and its sister material, jute. We then attach the braids by sewing and dipping them with wax to unify the shape. This shoe could be mass produced due to its simple technique of braiding and coiling.

Architectural Visualization: One Grain of Rice My design is based on an old folklore about a greedy king who took all of his subject's rice and kept it to himself and a young girl who out smarted him. Gaining a favor from the king, she requested one grain of rice-and double the amount after every day for one month. The next day, Rani was presented with two grains of rice. And the following day, Rani was presented with four grains of rice. On the ninth day, Rani was presented with two hundred fifty-six grains of rice. She had received in all five hundred and eleven grains of rice, enough for only a small handful. “This girl is honest, but not very clever,” thought the raja. “She would have gained more rice by keeping what fell into her skirt!” All together, Rani had received more than one billion grains of rice. The raja had no more rice to give. “And what will you do with this rice,” said the raja with a sigh, “now that I have none?” “I shall give it to all the hungry people,” said Rani, “and I shall leave a basket of rice for you, too, if you promise from now on to take only as much rice as you need.” “I promise,” said the raja. And for the rest of his days,

My design is a visual representation of abstract forms that succeed from interpreting the story. With the concept of exponential growth and some influences from South East architecture, I created a design that took over the city-- just as Rani steadily accumilated the rains of rice from the Raja.

Graphic Design:


“Observe the street. Apply yourself. Note down what you see. Set about it slowly, stupidly. Force yourself to write down what is of no interest.” -George Perec We learn a lot about the city by moving through it, but there is also the potential to learn a lot by staying in one place, paying attention to how the same space changes over time. Observing street life makes us more likely to pick up on the manifold rhythms of the city. Exhaust the subject. As Perec would say, don’t write ‘etc.’” There are thousands of rhythms out there! My rhythmanalysis of Cafe Doris & The Buddha data in a bound edition, a perfect travel companion for the wanderer.

:A Type Specimen: Eureka Eureka is a contemporary humanistic typeface family suitable for traditional high-resolution print purposes, office application and multi-media use. The typeface has economic (space-saving) proportions. The space thus gained was used to create a looser spacing, since it is the white space that we unconsciously read, not the actual letterforms. Looser spacing helps to avoid the typographic noise inside a text, and retains the individuality of letters. Eureka’s letterforms sufficiently differs and create a pleasent color of a text. Eureka has rather long ascenders and descenders [low xheight], which gives breathing space to accomodate accents. Hence, it may be perceived smaller within the same physically measurable point size compared with similar typefaces.

Contact: 917.291.4813 Please visit for more.

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