In the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) 2018, the largest contemporary art festival in Asia, the curator Anita Dube commissioned Anagram Architects to design the Biennale Pavilion. In earlier editions, the Pavilion had served essentially as an auditorium for cinematic and stage performances. This year the curatorial brief envisioned a more intensive and inclusive programmatic use, of both the structure and the campus. This included workshops, lectures, social performances, conferences and book launches. Further, the pavilion kept its media and connectivity open for public use between scheduled programming. Other than the Pavilion, this time the campus housed two eateries, a children’s art space, an ATM, public toilets and an organic waste recycling plant.
The architectural notion of a pavilion is that of an “island”: of respite, reinvigoration, contemplation, conversation and of transience. Unlike the other Fort Kochi Biennale venues, Cabral Yard carries no architectural vestiges of its past. It follows a cycle of natural rejuvenation during its dormancy between biennales. It is simultaneously a gated precinct of profuse verdancy and an important hub for convening people, the beating social heart of a bustling biennale. It is a venue for art, as a process, an event or an incident,with people.
In order to explore the curatorial vision for KMB2018, the studio deconstruct “the pavilion within the yard”. Unpacking its architecture and programme to occupy the whole one acre site, the entire Cabral Yard is activated to perform as a island-hub for art with people.
A Space For 420 People
We call it the Koodaaram or tent in Malayalam. It is a half -opaque, half transparent, half buried performance space for about 420 people. The design references the Koothaambalam, a traditional Kerala temple adjunct used for ritual performances, similarly modulating plinth, trellis and canopy. However, it explores the possibility of diffusing its opacity and weight while infusing it with light and accessibility.
By making Cabral Yard an open people’s pavilion, the design counterargues traditional exclusivities associated with performative spaces through openness, transparency, lightness, temporariness and accessibility. Koodaaram is thus suggests a counterpoint to the Koothaamablam. The design also seeks transience through lightness. The structures are designed to sit “lightly” on the site.
Built in a record time of two months, the pavilion is designed to completely dismantle into components salvageable for reuse, leaving the site largely unmarked, to allow for its rewilding over the coming two years.
Project: KOODAARAM: the Kochi-Muziris
Biennale 2018-19 Pavilion
Client Name: Kochi Biennale Foundation
Location: Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi, Kerala
Architect: Anagram Architects
Design Team: Madhav Raman, Vaibhav Dimri, Khyati Kohli, Abhishek Semwal, Narkant Negi.
Site Area: 5,000 sqm
Pavilion: 760 sqm
Material: Steel, Bamboo, Composite cement board panel, Cement pavers and Polycarbonate sheet.
Programming and Curation: ANITA DUBE
Structural Design: B L MANJUNATH
Furniture Design: STUDIO WOOD
Initiation of Project: September 2017
Completion of Project: December 2018
Photo Credit: Suryan//Dang
About the firm
Anagram Architects is an award-winning architectural design practice established by Vaibhav Dimri and Madhav Raman in New Delhi in 2001. The firm specializes in architecture, installation, urban design and material innovation.
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