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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Green Haven of Quietude


By Marina Correa
Photography: Nina Mascarenhas and Soumitro Ghosh


When one thinks of a memorial in India, the mind’s eye conjures up an obelisk with an inscribed narrative or statues of stone soldiers. Breaking away from the conventional, the National Martyr’s Memorial in Bangalore, India, is a green oasis of quiet remembrance and homage.

“After engaging with the client’s brief and pouring over various case studies of memorials in India and abroad, we settled on expressing solemnity primarily through a landscape gesture, where the built form is incidental,” explains architect Nisha Ghosh.

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The ceremonial path of commemoration begins with inscribed, free-standing slabs of granite amidst thick vegetation that bear the names of 21, 763 martyrs chronicling the struggles and triumphs of the courageous soldiers lost to war -- pretty much evoking images of standing open pages in a forest like those seen in fairytale books.

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Continuing on this path through large open courts via amphitheatre-like steps one proceeds below ground into a motivation hall, where abstract tree motifs on walls are juxtaposed against plaques carrying information on martyrs and finally culminates at a towering flag post. Using a reference from the past, an impressive 19.6 meters ‘Veeragalu’ (a naturally-occurring rock in Karnataka used historically to honour martyrs) sits besides the flag pole.

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Taking the green initiative forward, the motivational hall is designed to disappear into the ground and the structure below meanders between roots of trees; sublimely showing off great maturity as a lovingly patted mound of earth. Also noteworthy is that though the site measures a whooping 6.5 acres, the built up area totals a mere 1,300 sq mtrs, indicative of the strong sentiment of preserving the vast green cover.

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In keeping with the overall inconspicuous built form, stepping through the nondescript entrance of the hall feels like slipping through the cracks and into a bunker with exposed concrete walls. Light and ventilation filters through natural openings and skylights.

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Atop the structure, miniature models of fighter jets, submarines and missiles contributed by various defense organizations, are a solemn reminder of why memorials come into being in the very first place. 

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4 comments:

  1. What an exquisite space.

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  2. When it comes to memorials I believe "less is more; " it should lend itself to contemplation and reflection. The original Vietnam war memorial in Washington D.C., USA is a prime example. A stark wall with all the names of the fallen etched into the black granite wall. So many men and women have broken down emotionally when coming across the name of a friend, family member, or comrade. Personally, I feel that there is nothing glorious or magnificent about war; a lot of good people die on both sides. If there is a simple way to respect these individuals without "glamorizing" the conflict I am all for it and, personally, the Vietnam warr memorial by Maya Lin is the most eloquent to that end. In response to IAnD's discussion thread: What really guides a design for reverence?

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  3. A beautiful journey!

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  4. A place harbouring a sense of a fusion of impacts - that of space, time, the now, the past and the beyond - and the mind-boggling vastness of eternity and of the universe!

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