Genealogical and Ontological Inquiries in Form:  What is a Museum?

Course Mentors: Rupali Gupte, Shreyank Khemalapure, Rajeev Thakkar, Samir Raut

This course becomes important for students as they understand that architecture is an intrinsic part of culture, informed by historic processes of architectural production as well as contemporary everyday practices. It asks ontological questions around modern institutions and their programmes that have come to principally shape the nature of our lived experiences in the last two centuries. (Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of objects, things, institutions, etc. It is a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them.) This studio takes up one contemporary institutional programme that has emerged historically over the years and asks students to trace its genealogy. Architecturally it traces different spatial configurations that have developed across history under the same programme through case studies. With the help of these case studies students are asked to speculate on the societal structures for each spatial configuration, establishing the relationship between societal structure, programme of the institution and spatial configuration. Through this analysis students learn to ask the question ‘What is?’  What is the genesis of the programme? What is the deep structure of space? Was this configuration produced by the society? Did it produce the particular society? (For example: What is a School? What is a home? What is an Archive? What is a Clinic? What is a factory?  Where did these come from? What is the next stage in their development?)

Hence, instead of starting from a given programme through precedent studies, and standards, the studio through its What is? provocation asks students to critically understand the programme and its relationship to the institution’s deep spatial structure in order to be able to rethink the configuration for a new institution towards a more egalitarian spatial structure. From the above analysis and a study of a contemporary site, students are asked to speculate on possible emerging societal structures and develop a corresponding new programme for the institution that produces new spatial structures. This design process will be undertaken through exploratory drawings and models, drawing on the genealogical studies.

A parallel seminar course will take students through texts in art and architecture theory that ask ontological questions about institutions, power structures and the psycho spatial dimensions of architecture. The seminar course will also look at references of other genealogical studies in architectural history and theory.

This studio chooses to look closely at the museum, its genealogy and its ontology. Through a careful analysis it seeks to ask what might a contemporary museum be?