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Narrating Architecture as a Process: Two Histories of “Self-building” Golconde

L'architecture comme processus : deux récits « d'auto-construction » pour Golconde
Saptarshi Sanyal

Résumés

Le mot anglais "building" désigne à la fois le bâtiment et l’acte de construire. Cet article veut mettre l’accent sur le verbe plutôt que sur le nom, en prenant pour exemple l’ashram de Golconde, conçu et construit à Pondichéry, ancien comptoir français de la côte sud-est de l'Inde, entre 1935 et 1948. Il veut contribuer au débat selon lequel les modernités architecturales deviennent inévitablement plurielles dès lors qu’elles sont envisagées au travers des processus de leur mise en œuvre. L’ashram de Golconde, sans doute la plus ancienne structure en béton armé de l'Inde dotée d'un système de ventilation dynamique, a ainsi été largement cité dans les méta-récits sur l'architecture moderne.iste et tropicale. La question de savoir pourquoi il a fallu plus de dix ans pour le construire et quels furent les processus à l’œuvre reste posée. Estimant que ces questions sont au cœur de l'histoire de Golconde, cette étude soutient que la dynamique du projet lui-même, inspirée par la philosophie de la communauté spirituelle (ashram) qui en était le maître d'oeuvre, a exercé une influence considérable sur les conceptions de son.ses architecte.s. Des témoignages contemporains de la construction de Golconde attestent du caractère incarné et habité de l’expérience vécue par ses bâtisseurs (pour la plupart membres de l’ashram). L'examen attentif de ces aspects offre de nouvelles perspectives sur les processus matériels et sociaux de ce projet. Deux histoires interconnectées de Golconde émergent alors : celle d’un projet architectural auto-construit, et dans le même temps, "l’auto-construction" de ceux qui ont participé à sa réalisation.

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Acknowledgements

I am indebted to members of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry and its Archives and Research Library for their support in facilitating my access to the building and material related to Golconde, and permission to reproduce archival images/drawings: Shipra-di, Dr Chamanlal, Bob Zwicker, Sue Crothers, and Suman-di. I can never be sufficiently grateful to Daniel Milowich for his painstaking translation of Chandulal’s voluminous journal exclusively for my research. I thank Pankaj Vir Gupta for his candour in sharing with me his prior research/documentation experiences with Golconde. This research draws upon my doctoral project funded by the UK government’s Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. I, finally, owe my sincere thanks to the anonymous reviewers of this article for their invaluable comments and critical insights that helped to refine its initial drafts.

Between aesthetic and infrastructure: Detecting an absent narrative

  • 1 The “Global” turn features in a wide scholarly landscape, but the 1997-98 debate between renowned (...)
  • 2 This approach is seen although not explicitly referenced as connected histories in: Swati Chattopa (...)

1The recent historiography of architecture owes much to a “global” turn in scholarship on modernity, traceable perhaps to the last years of the twentieth century. Around this time, the historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam pioneered “connected histories” as a methodological alternative to avoid two kinds of pitfalls in the practice of history: “grand” (or meta) narratives with universal claims, and the tendency of “area studies” to slide into parochialism. Rather than attempting to distinguish authentic and derivative modernities, Subrahmanyam alerted us to the “many sources and roots […] different forms and meanings” of modernity, depending on the viewpoint of its narrator.1 Indeed, viewing modernity as a shared and connected field might be regarded as deeply instructive. Yet it is only relatively recently that connected histories has seen an explicit import in reading architectural cultures.2 Traversing this wider and discipline-specific intellectual context, the research presented here considers the genesis of the Golconde dormitory (1935–c.1948) in Pondicherry, a small French-governed enclave on the south-eastern coast of what was then colonial India.

  • 3 Two published pieces in the 1940s prefigured such preoccupations. Both were photo essays accompani (...)

2This essay is principally concerned with how a practice of architectural modernity evidences historical connections even in this one building project. It interrogates extant narratives on Golconde overwhelmingly predicated on a cause-effect relationship between architectural ideology and its resultant object.3 Accordingly, the study proposes a cognitive shift in the term “building” from an object to the process enacted between an ideal and the artifact. The emphasis on process allows us to imagine Golconde as a “project”: as an ongoing activity rather than a stable state. Three interrelated historical perspectives in the building of Golconde then emerge. Firstly, the philosophical underpinnings of the project’s patronage profoundly held sway over the plan and agency of its professional architect(s). Secondly, enlarging the experiences of producing Golconde’s materiality reveals certain dimensions to this process concealed by the finished product. The third perspective foregrounds the subjectivities of its workforce, primarily composed of amateur builders from the spiritual community in Pondicherry for whom the dormitory was constructed.

  • 4 See, for instance, Roni Brown, “Designing Differently: the Self-Build Home,” Journal of Design His (...)

3At the outset, how I employ the notion of self-building in the context of Golconde needs some clarification. The expression “self-build”—as widely understood in architectural discourse—originally emerged in Britain in the 1980s. It refers to modes of producing built environments where owners and/or occupiers are active participants. Recent scholarship, in fact, broadly views it in the realm of housing and domestic spaces, as “[a] practice [involving] households and groups who invest time and energy in the building of their own homes in various ways.”4 Such a mode of self-building, while also true for Golconde, presents only a partial picture of the history that I pursue. The research, therefore, brings forth an additional dimension to the concept. It argues that the process of building Golconde also acted upon the “self”—that of its human agents—in very particular ways due to how it was conceived and realized.

  • 5 Ravi Ahuja, “‘Produce or Perish’ The crisis of the late 1940s and the place of labour in post-colo (...)
  • 6 Even an important volume that covers significant ground on the subject around the notion of work ( (...)

4A further qualification must be made in this respect, given that Golconde’s workforce is integral to the history of its architectural process. The last phase of the project in the late 1940s ran parallel to major political upheaval and conflict—a crisis, as the historian Ravi Ahuja argues—concerning labor in India after the Second World War. These conditions elicited official responses ranging from reform to repression, translating into “welfarist” and “disciplinarian” policies in the newly independent Indian nation.5 In such regard, what this research uncovers about the experience of Golconde’s builders represents a departure from the normative (often industrial) labor relations that led to these conditions of the 1940s. Still, it brings a largely under-researched perspective from building and construction—albeit not as an “industry”—into economic and labor histories.6

Figure 1: Golconde from the south-west, photograph of c. 1950.

Figure 1: Golconde from the south-west, photograph of c. 1950.

Source: Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library [hereafter, SAAARL].

  • 7 Carmen Kagal (ed.), Catalogue of Vistara: Architecture of India, Bombay: The Festival of India, 19 (...)
  • 8 The publication was born of a valuable initiative to preserve and catalogue material on Golconde i (...)
  • 9 Aladar Olgyay and Victor Olgyay, Solar Control and Shading Devices, Princeton, NJ: Princeton Unive (...)
  • 10 Jeffrey Cook, “Six Evolutionary Phases toward Solar Architecture: Thermal Applications of Solar En (...)
  • 11 Mona Doctor-Pingel, Hugo Lavocat and Nehaa Bhavaraju, “Performance of Naturally Ventilated Buildin (...)

5Golconde has been written about rather widely. Its finished appearance of exposed reinforced concrete with façades of openable louvre blades has, unsurprisingly, tempted commentators to see in it an image of a modern(ist) aesthetic or a piece of tropical infrastructure (figs. 1-3). Its histories commend its Czech American architect’s remarkable achievement: “…a near-perfect expression of the design philosophy of Antonin Raymond,” asserted one.7 Even a relatively recent book-length work seems fixated with indexing Golconde’s formal and stylistic pedigree to the modernist canon.8 Additionally, the building has long captivated experts on “architectural science.” Aladar and Victor Olgyay, founders of the Princeton Architectural Laboratory in the 1950s, featured it in their hugely influential survey of seventy-seven paradigmatic modern buildings that achieved thermal comfort.9 At Perth’s 1983 Solar World Congress, Jeffrey Cook, another renowned advocate of passive-climatic building design, endorsed it as a prime example of a “Bio-climatic period (1933-63)” of solar architecture.10 Golconde’s evaluation in such terms continues to persist as professionals committed to climate- or environment-sensitive design, distil (or perhaps, reduce) the built object—the way the Olgyays do—into diagrammatic and quantitative codes through purportedly neutral rubrics of climatological data.11

Figure 2: Golconde’s main entrance area (interior).

Figure 2: Golconde’s main entrance area (interior).

Source: Photo by Saptarshi Sanyal.

Figure 3: Golconde’s openable louvres and northern garden, looking east.

Figure 3: Golconde’s openable louvres and northern garden, looking east.

Source: Photo by Saptarshi Sanyal.

  • 12 This is evident in the confusion regarding Golconde’s construction period. Early commentaries, as (...)

6Across such tropes applauding Golconde as a finished object, the process of realizing this object receives little consideration.12 Jeffrey Cook, however, introduced the “Golgund” dormitory in his keynote at the influential Perth conference in an intriguing manner:

  • 13 Jeffrey Cook, “Six Evolutionary Phases,” op. cit. (note 10), p. 8. Cook too gives the construction (...)

In one of the most remote parts of India, one of the most advanced buildings in the world was constructed under the most demanding of circumstances concerning material and craftsmen. This reinforced concrete structure was completed primarily by unskilled volunteers with the most uncertain of supplies…13

  • 14 Martina Hrabová, “Between Ideal and Ideology: the Parallel Worlds of František Sammer,” Umeni Art, (...)

7This vignette offered an opening to explore histories of Golconde’s making, but the curiosity of its architectural interlocutors appears not to have been stirred. Why it took over a decade to build a structure largely conceived in reinforced concrete, a material optimized for efficiency in construction, was not asked. This question assumes currency in consideration of two recent studies that focus on each of two architects involved not just in Golconde’s design but also its construction, František Sammer and George Nakashima. These studies indicate that the project was transformative for their respective protagonists due to the manner of its execution within the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.14 Such personal transformations suggest that important correspondences existed between Golconde’s patrons, its architects, materiality, protracted construction process and its builders. Tracing these correspondences is then indispensable to the endeavor of viewing Golconde through its connected historical experiences.

The affective agency of a project

  • 15 (My emphases): Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: outline of the theory of structuratio (...)
  • 16 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, [First published as La production de l’espace, Paris: Éd (...)

8Foregrounding the agency Golconde had as a project, right from its conception, is one such way to trace its history. A notion of agency usually pertains to human actors’ power to act in discursive, embodied, habitual, reflexive and creative ways. Yet agency is also characterized by a “projective” dimension, endowed with possibilities of combining “imaginative engagement” with the “effort of human actors.”15 This dimension is central to Henri Lefebvre’s explanation of the fashioning of a “(social) product.” In his view, such a product encompasses “a means of production; networks of exchange and flows of raw materials and energy” that “cannot be separated either from […] technology and knowledge, or from the social division of labor which shapes it.”16 These formulations help to critically view the Golconde project as a mutable, human as well as non-human complex that vitally configured exchanges and enactments of intent, knowledge and labor. They also prompt a closer look at the kind of labor—creative, intellectual and manual—invested in the project.

  • 17 This is how he was identified henceforth, and the remaining part of this essay refers to him by th (...)
  • 18 Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, Pondicherry  Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2011, p (...)

9As mentioned earlier, Golconde’s patron was the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Members of this eponymous spiritual community in Pondicherry saw a former nationalist revolutionary who had withdrawn from political activities and turned to spirituality, Aurobindo Ghosh, as their leader and guide. Although a well-known intellectual, poet and writer, Aurobindo withdrew from public life in 1926 to concentrate on his spiritual practice (sadhana) in seclusion. Those who revered him began addressing him as Sri Aurobindo at this time—the honorific preceding his first name “Sri” implied “majesty” or “beauty”.17 Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner was Mirra Alfassa, a Turkish-Egyptian Frenchwoman, painter and former occultist, who had left Europe and after a prolonged time in Japan, taken up residence in Pondicherry in 1920 as his disciple. After being inscribed by Sri Aurobindo as the “Mother” to look after the “inner and outer lives” of seekers (sadhaks), she gradually organized the community and managed its practical and financial matters. Besides one or two attendants, the Mother was among the few who had access to Sri Aurobindo in person. Only by around 1930, “for want of a better word,” did the community become known as an “Ashram.”18

  • 19 Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System: the History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Oxfo (...)
  • 20 Sri Aurobindo, Letters, op. cit. (note 18), p. 599-601, 705-706.

10The term Ashram connoted an ascetic hermitage in Brahmanical religious tradition. But it was re-worked and re-cast by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as a space to foster richer and immersive forms of “engagement with life” rather than detachment. This was a practice of Karmayoga, the Ashram’s own critical ethic of modernity that significantly bore upon the Golconde project. It nurtured “aspirations and affections” in the sadhak’s own seeking (yoga) to pursue higher consciousness through work (karma) by being and knowing within “the field of action”.19 Sri Aurobindo did not consider the Ashram as a utopia, underscoring each individual’s freedom to work in ways he or she saw fit. Recognizing that disagreements would indeed occur, he prioritized “humanity being variously represented” over “imposed fellowship.”20

  • 21 Peter Heehs, The Lives, op. cit. (note 17), p.359, 377. The Mother wrote of the budget and its val (...)
  • 22 Antonin Raymond, An Autobiography, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1973, p. 94-95.

11A crisis in accommodating the Ashram’s growing membership by around 1934 was a pragmatic reason for a new building. Finances were woefully inadequate, but a follower of Sri Aurobindo, Akbar Hyderi, then the prime minister (Dewan) of one of India’s wealthiest princely states, Hyderabad, committed 100,000 (one lakh) rupees upon the Mother’s request for assistance. It was the largest consolidated donation the Ashram had received until then. To put the amount in historical perspective, it equaled the Ashram’s entire annual budget in 1933, about 650,000 francs.21 Hyderabad’s financial plenitude came from its Golconda diamond mines and the yet-to-materialize building was named “Golconde,” its French elocution. Funds assured, the Mother asked her secretary “Pavitra” (Philippe Barbier Saint Hilaire) if a certain architect friend of his was “willing to do some work” for her. This friend was Antonin Raymond. Pavitra had sheltered him and his wife Noémi during the devastating 1923 earthquake in Tokyo when he was in Japan prior to joining the Ashram. The couple and he had grown very close since.22 Curious about the Ashram their friend had dedicated his life to, the Raymonds knew of the Mother through Pavitra; the Mother, in turn, was also familiar with their architectural work through him.

  • 23 Ibid., p. 71,76-77. Wright later came to deeply appreciate Raymond’s work when their friendship re (...)
  • 24 Ibid., p. 158,399. Letters to and from his Tokyo office in the second half of 1938 suggest the run (...)

12Even though Raymond did not share Pavitra’s spiritual aspirations, he was eager to contribute when Pavitra reached out. While excited by a new, unfamiliar context to design in and an independent patronage that brought with it much-valued creative autonomy, he was also drawn to the project for other reasons. Previously, in the 1920s, Raymond had suffered a bitter fallout with his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright while working on Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.23 Parting ways with Wright, he set up an independent office there, which was receiving a few residential commissions. But just as this practice was being consolidated, the build-up to the Second World War in the mid-1930s compelled him to consider taking flight from Japan with his family, given its politically unstable conditions.24 Around this very time, an architectural project for what appeared to be an inclusive, experimental, community of spiritual seekers came as a welcome relief. Raymond enthusiastically sent Pavitra his earliest sketches in October 1935 (fig. 4) accompanied by a cost estimate and a long letter in French, in which he outlined how his design resonated with the Ashram’s own values:

  • 25 Antonin Raymond, Preliminary Proposal for Dormitory, 9 October 1935. Pondicherry (India), Sri Auro (...)

We are laying the foundation of a new kind of architecture based on principles, not habits of the mind. As you are doing in your philosophies: first of all, comes [a mind that is] a free spirit, open and, to the extent possible cleared of preconceived notions.25

Figure 4: Raymond’s first sketches of Golconde’s exteriors and interiors.

Figure 4: Raymond’s first sketches of Golconde’s exteriors and interiors.

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.

  • 26 Shraddhavan, “Golconde: a look behind (part 3),” Mother India, March 1989, p. 176.

13Raymond was appointed as Golconde’s architect in mid-1937 upon Sri Aurobindo’s approval. Although the promised funds from Hyderabad were awaited, he was sent a generous advance. The project might have progressed as just another exchange between an architect and a client, but it took a different turn. Raymond had planned Golconde’s execution within a six-month construction schedule by employing a specially-trained crew of about five hundred. Sri Aurobindo himself intervened when he learned of this. His objection was two-pronged. He did not want the Ashram’s “atmosphere” being disturbed by en masse “labour movement” and the chaos that would entail.26 Beyond such practicalities, it was also a steady assertion of his own critical position on architecture, and his belief that a spiritual process was central to it. Contending an intellectual, emotional, or aesthetic preoccupation with form alone, architecture drew “all [its] meaning and value from the spirit,” argued Sri Aurobindo:

  • 27 Sri Aurobindo, The Foundations of Indian Culture, New York, NY: Sri Aurobindo Library, 1953, p. 23 (...)

…every line, arrangement of mass, colour, shape, posture, every physical suggestion goes beyond itself to the less definable, but more powerfully sensible reality of the spirit which has excited these movements in the aesthetic mind and passed them through into significant shapes.27

  • 28 The sadhak Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, who recalled these events in his memoir (see note 36) on Golconde (...)
  • 29 (My emphases), Antonin Raymond, An Autobiography, op. cit. (note 22), p. 162-163.

14The Mother, the only person privy to Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts on Golconde’s construction, met with Pavitra and some other sadhaks immediately afterwards. She delicately but firmly communicated that despite the architect’s pragmatic proposition, Sri Aurobindo’s view was justified, and non-negotiable. Rather than hundreds of trained workmen, the building would have to be undertaken by the sadhaks themselves and a few hired workers, “in tune with the Ashram atmosphere [who] had become like part of the family.”28 This stipulation as to how Golconde would be and indeed was built also emerges in Raymond’s reflections. The “client,” he recalled, was not interested in “efficiency,” “exactitude of estimates,” or “working schedule.” “What was important,” Raymond continued, “was that the process of building should be a means of learning and experience […] through which spiritual and all other aspects [of human nature] must be developed.”29

  • 30 Sammer wrote to his parents about his employment at Tokyo and travel to Pondicherry on 27 July 193 (...)
  • 31 He wrote to Raymond about resigning on 26 March 1938. Ibid., p. 147,159-160. Agnes Larssen, Note f (...)
  • 32 František Sammer, Description des travaux à exécuter à Golconde, [Translated by Shraddhavan], 1941 (...)
  • 33 Udar wrote to Sammer on 18 April 1946, reporting that “the building is not yet complete. The floor (...)

15Such a process also deeply affected the architect František Sammer, who had first met Raymond in 1935. Their mutual compatibility prompted him to solicit employment in Raymond’s office in 1937. Raymond agreed and soon after starting with him, Sammer informed his parents that he would be traveling to Pondicherry by January (1938).30 These dates suggest that, when he had asked Sammer to join his office, Raymond had already received the Ashram’s advance confirming his commission. But Sammer did not remain Raymond’s employee throughout the project. Once at the site, he was quite moved both by Golconde’s mode of construction and by the Ashram’s life. He severed himself from Raymond’s practice in March 1938 but remained faithful to the overall design while working independently for the Ashram.31 Significantly, Sammer also adapted Golconde’s details to maneuver real conditions on the ground, working out ways in which its workers, largely unfamiliar with the construction’s technicalities, could best be utilized. Before departing from Pondicherry (in 1942), he left detailed notes to guide the project through to completion.32 Looking closely at this document, a “description of works to be executed at Golconde,” and a photograph from the time, is revealing (fig. 5). Together, they suggest that much of the concrete casting had been completed by 1942, and what remained to be done were operations of “assembling”—its finishes, the fitting out of services, and also putting in place the movable louvres. Yet the building was far from finished even in 1946, as evident in a letter from the sadhak Udar Pinto to Sammer.33

Figure 5: The state of completion of Golconde in a photograph circa 1942.

Figure 5: The state of completion of Golconde in a photograph circa 1942.

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.

  • 34 He mentions the refusal of salary in his autobiography, George Nakashima, Soul of a Tree: a Master (...)
  • 35 George Nakashima, “At one with nature,” in Derek E. Ostergard (ed.), George Nakashima, Full Circle(...)

16Sometime in 1935, Raymond sketched out an idea for Golconde and gave it to an inexperienced Japanese-American assistant architect to detail out. This junior professional had joined his office after recently graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Thus began George Nakashima’s intimate association with the project, right from its earliest proposal. Since his first 1937 visit to Pondicherry itself, to study the site conditions as a member of Raymond’s office staff, Nakashima felt a strong kinship to the Ashram life and ethic. When news of how its leadership had elected to build Golconde reached Tokyo, he feared that Raymond might refuse the job. Consequently, he seemed to have pressured Raymond to continue and depute him on the project, failing which he would resign and work for the Ashram. Subsequently, while working at the site, he became a sadhak and refused wages as he felt he was gaining more from the project than he could give to it.34 Nakashima’s autobiographical accounts portray his experience in the project as a “training period and a great challenge.” He recalled how “Karma Yoga, the path of action” helped him to realize the “sophisticated building” without being “inactive, negative or pessimistic.”35

17Viewing Golconde as a project thus reveals how its history is far more textured than a causative translation of ideology into a finished product. That it took shape in a small French enclave in colonial India also proves how territorial boundaries of government did not preclude cross-cultural thought and, as the forthcoming section illustrates, even physical materials. Raymond had sold an architectural idea to the Ashram based on a certain view of its philosophy. Yet this very philosophy deeply inflected his own ideology and approach; it swung the project away from a calculated professional transaction towards the Ashram’s Karmayoga. Equally, the Ashram employing Raymond at a difficult time in his career, its leaders’ response to his proposal and the project’s impact on his associates, together demonstrate the contingent and translocal nature of connections integral to Golconde’s history as an architectural process (fig. 6). The collective hindsight of Golconde’s key professional actors underscores their submission to its unusual construction process. It is apparent that the exchanges and enactments on which the project’s agency prevailed were affective; key individuals shaped, and were shaped by, Golconde’s making. But these recollections laced with fondness must be viewed cautiously. They do not represent the sole set of perspectives related to the project. It is imperative to recognize other, more expansive accounts of Golconde’s realization that connect its production to its builders’ Karmayoga. Such accounts help to investigate further precisely how the project unfolded. The forthcoming discussions use them to examine Golconde’s material process and, furthermore, concentrate on how this was also a social process that affected its builders.

Figure 6: Cross-cultural networks underlying the conception of Golconde through the interpersonal connections between the Mother, Akbar Hyderi, Pavitra, Antonin Raymond, František Sammer and George Nakashima.

Figure 6: Cross-cultural networks underlying the conception of Golconde through the interpersonal connections between the Mother, Akbar Hyderi, Pavitra, Antonin Raymond, František Sammer and George Nakashima.

Source: George W. Bacon, Bacon’s New Chart of the World, Mercator’s projection. 1908. National Library of Australia. URL: https://blog.nus.edu.sg/​connectedhistories/​. Accessed 10 October 2019.

Golconde as a material process

  • 36 Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, A Look Behind: The How and Why of Golconde, Pondicherry, 1980. Udar Pinto, T (...)
  • 37 George Nakashima, Notes on Golconde’s Ccnstruction (1938-39); Chandulal, Notes on Golconde’s Cons (...)

18Golconde was chiefly produced by the Ashram’s sadhaks and, in narrating its history, available accounts representing their experiences cannot be ignored. Mrityunjoy Mukherjee and Udar (Pinto) are two sadhaks who have chronicled such experiences, apart from Shanti Doshi who exchanged some notes with the Mother when she assigned him to the project.36 Additionally, two “notebooks” from critical years of ongoing work track Golconde’s construction in detail on a regular basis. Nakashima documented the building process as a sadhak-builder from August 1938 until October 1939. The other diary (written in French) follows the project from June 1937 till the end of 1940 through the experiences of Chandulal Shah, a sadhak who was the Ashram’s “engineer.”37 Both of these journals were addressed to the Mother, since she had the crucial role of overseeing and guiding the project. They served as reports to and written conversations with her on the work’s progress, occasionally on technical aspects but mostly about organizing workers and their roles. Her voice too is thus ever-present in annotated comments or suggestions in the journal entries, signed off unfailingly with “My blessings” or “Mes bénédictions.”

  • 38 Mrityunjoy mentions how she undertook the management of Golconde along with “the rest of the Ashra (...)

19Parsing through records spanning nearly four years of Golconde’s production in Chandulal’s journal, fourteen months in Nakashima’s, along with the manuscripts by Mrityunjoy and Udar, helps to excavate names and roles of various actors and the tasks they contributed to. A database of these individuals as well as their co-dependencies was generated using digital methods (fig. 7). Those involved were assigned unique identifiers. Strengths of interactions between them were gleaned from the written accounts. This process helped to interpret textual evidence as a network graph to reconstruct clusters of tasks and people in the project (fig. 8). Fifty-four sadhaks, two masons, eleven carpenters and eight laborers appear in these records cumulatively. In the web of interactions that thus emerge in Golconde’s making, it is apparent that the Mother was connected to each sadhak involved.38 The numbers might not be exhaustive, nor do they suggest that all these individuals were involved over the entire trajectory of construction. But with only a nominal proportion of hired workers, they do represent a significant departure from the five-hundred-strong specialist workforce that Raymond had proposed.

Figure 7: Digital database of individuals and their interrelationships in Golconde’s construction mapped from written records in Golconde’s archives.

Figure 7: Digital database of individuals and their interrelationships in Golconde’s construction mapped from written records in Golconde’s archives.

Interactions and tasks these actors were involved in was incorporated in a source file as comma-separated-values (csv) and imported into Gephi’s data laboratory, where algorithms were applied to generate a network graph.

Source: Saptarshi Sanyal.

Figure 8: The network graph, a socio-spatial map, of the agents involved in the conception and making of Golconde representing clusters of tasks and groups of individuals involved in them, generated in Gephi.

Figure 8: The network graph, a socio-spatial map, of the agents involved in the conception and making of Golconde representing clusters of tasks and groups of individuals involved in them, generated in Gephi.

Source: Saptarshi Sanyal.

20Such a visualization of interpersonal connections is not without limitations, however. It might appear to be a rationalized “model.” But it is actually quite inexact in some respects. A single line connecting any two figures does not represent much more than the strength of a relationship, often in a particular process of the project. It cannot express whether these relationships were agreeable or fraught. Similarly, the weights of these connections are also based on my qualitative interpretations as a reader of the archive. Such readings too can be subjected to questions. A final aspect that is missed through this “socio-spatial map” is how affects or actions were directed from one actor to another. It does not represent whether some actors’ views prevailed over others and their actions, which was also indeed the case in the Golconde project.

  • 39 Katie Lloyd  Thomas, “Rendered Plastic by Preparation: Concrete as Constant Material”” Parallax, v (...)
  • 40 Udar Pinto, “Connected and Unconnected,” op. cit. (note 36).
  • 41 Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), His entry of 30 July 1937 outlines arrangements with the shi (...)

21Golconde’s material process was hinged on other significant external conditions. Notably, its conception around 1935 signals how the use of reinforced concrete in buildings, while not commonplace in India, was more prevalent in a colonial setting that in the metropolitan British context39 Nevertheless, a building’s fabric exposing the reinforced concrete as a design aesthetic would have been quite rare in an Indian architectural project at the time. Consequently, Golconde’s construction was also dependent on flows of building materials and equipment that were either difficult to procure or prohibitively expensive in what was predominantly British India. Therefore, it is also of note that the import of items into French-controlled Pondicherry by sea could bypass British customs. Given the project’s 100,000-rupee outlay, high-grade Japanese cement and structural steel from France were reasonably affordable at about rupees 25 and 200 a ton in 1937, respectively.40 Chandulal had been working out logistics with Raymond, for which the French merchant shipping firm Messageries Maritimes was employed in mid-1937. In addition to building materials, motor parts, hardware, and electrical samples, concrete carts and mixers, and even equipment for concrete tests, were brought into Pondicherry until May 1938.41

22Difficulties emerged as the project progressed. The last-mile of material transportation took an odd route: goods from a cargo ship in the open sea were lowered onto fishing boats or barges made of tree trunks to be brought ashore. The method was not fail-safe; on one occasion, several packages fell overboard. As Raymond noted, the accident occurred “in the difficult transfer from ship to barge in the strong surf.” Nakashima also recalled that “by the time they were unloaded, the steel rods had been bent so that they looked like a mass of spaghetti” and needed to be hammered straight. During his brief stay in Pondicherry (February-July 1938), Raymond built a working model, as his design was dependent “entirely on the local labour […] with neither any modern tools nor know-how.”

Figure 9: The model-room (or model-house) built as a prototype of the main structure of Golconde.

Figure 9: The model-room (or model-house) built as a prototype of the main structure of Golconde.

Source: Photo by Saptarshi Sanyal.

  • 42 Georges Nakashima, Soul, op. cit. (note 34), p. 4. Thomas H. Creighton, “Antonin Raymond and Mrs. (...)
  • 43 Martina Hrabová, “Parallel Worlds,” op. cit. (note 14), p. 140.
  • 44 Georges Nakashima, “Notes,op. cit. (note 37), entry of 5 November 1938. Chandulal, Notes on Golco (...)

23Raymond’s statement typifies the architect’s perception of what the “proper” kind of labor for his project must be. It betrayed a gaze not uncommon in the colonial milieu, prefiguring the kind of remarks Jeffrey Cook made nearly five decades later. Meanwhile, the shipment that fell overboard in transit was actually part of the first batch of steel for a chambre d'essai (test room) meant to prototype the actual structure (fig. 9).42 Despite prior Moscow-based experience with reinforced concrete, Sammer too felt underconfident in Pondicherry.43 In November 1938, he was forced—with the Mother herself—to make an urgent visit to the construction site. A column’s footing had been cast at the wrong location: off by half a meter, thus blocking the entrance corridor! Chandulal too was losing sleep over this incident since he, with the sadhak Uday Singh, had caused the error by misreading Nakashima’s sketch.44

  • 45 Katie Lloyd  Thomas, “Rendered Plastic,” op. cit. (note 39), p. 275-279. On his 1986 visit to Pond (...)

24How does such an event motivate us to probe Golconde’s finished form, the focus of most object-centered narratives about it, to make the hidden aspects of its material process visible? Seventy-eight of 136 discrete entries in Chandulal and Nakashima’s diaries together are principally concerned with issues of reinforced concreting. This makes concrete an appropriate material for reading the historical experience of Golconde’s production. Katie Lloyd Thomas posits how the object, such as the flawless-looking Golconde, sustains a notion of “concrete [as] amorphous matter that can be formed perfectly into the orthogonal shapes described by the architect’s modernist concept.” The “dream of form shaping [homogeneous] matter,” Lloyd Thomas asserts, selectively retains or erases imprints on the concrete surface. Seen this way, Golconde’s immaculate exterior veils the vicissitudes of its process; it is collusive in “the forgetting of operation.” Examining the contemporary experiences of its construction offers precisely the opportunity to pierce this veil, to remember the overlooked humanity present in its material process.45 For instance, how Golconde’s workers knew very little what they were /dealing with is evident in Nakashima lamenting to the Mother about a great deal of fumbling about during the casting of structural foundations:

  • 46 George Nakashima, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 30 August 1938.

When I was holding the needle for vibration practically all of the workmen and others left for the next footing. As Shanti was standing beside me and I was in a tight corner and tired, I gave it to him to hold for a minute or two. Another time there were no workmen, so I asked him to put his foot on a board as the concrete was coming [swelling?] up.46

25Moreover, what was acceptable quality remained unclear. Nakashima’s disagreements with his co-workers on the accuracy of vertical levels in the concrete’s face in December 1938 is revealing in such regard. He complained about Chandulal’s “carelessly done” job in a “most elementary practice,” but his indignation extended to Sammer as well:

  • 47 (My emphasis): Ibid., entry of 14 December 1938.

It is chiefly a matter of the standard of work. Usually, outside about 5 or 6 mm is tolerable. Sammer says even the 10 mm is not serious and we could leave it […] but I have been trying to achieve as exact and fine work as possible […] Sammer accuses it of being “academic” […] the ordinary work plasters over the concrete but as our building is to have a natural concrete […] precise, accurate work seem to be of prime importance.47

Figure 10: Nakashima’s sketch for the formwork (c. February 1939).

Figure 10: Nakashima’s sketch for the formwork (c. February 1939).

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL, Drawing Office.

Figure11: Nakashima’s drawing for the formwork (date obscured); his annotation at the top states how ‘in principle’, the first floor’s formwork should be re-used.

Figure11: Nakashima’s drawing for the formwork (date obscured); his annotation at the top states how ‘in principle’, the first floor’s formwork should be re-used.

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL, Drawing Office.

  • 48 Ibid., entry of 5 March 1939.
  • 49 Katie Lloyd Thomas, “Rendered Plastic,” op. cit. (note 39), p. 272-278.
  • 50 Adrian Forty, Concrete and Culture, op. cit. (note 45), p. 178-180. A concern with formwork in Gol (...)

26This defense of “natural concrete” warrants closer attention. Nakashima’s diary is replete with a preoccupation with formwork as the apparatus to control such naturalness, for which he prepared explanatory sketches for the Mother and detailed construction drawings (figs. 10-11).48 This dogged perseverance in pursuing a finished image of the structure represents a paradox that Lloyd Thomas terms concrete’s “matterization”: a “conceptual framework” that edits, erases and “renders invisible” its heterogeneous and variegated attributes, using “complex chains of operations prior, during and often after casting.”49 Adrian Forty, in different terms, sees this as concrete’s “double process.” Forty points out the parallels of concrete with analogue photography: “like a positive image from a previously exposed negative […] a work in concrete is a form cast from a negative mould.” Furthermore, he suggests how we can comprehend “a concrete structure as the trace of a now lost object”: its formwork. But while a photograph’s “authenticity” in witnessing a moment that has passed is lauded, with concrete, “so much truthfulness can be more of a burden,” Forty suggests; “every blemish is recorded for posterity.” These insights help to see Golconde’s formwork as a now absent, but integral, historical reality in its material process.50 In this regard, other entries in Nakashima’s journal are revealing:

  • 51 George Nakashima, Notes,op. cit. (note 37), entry of 8 December 1938.

…we are applying crude oil to preserve the wood and make removal easier […] The mango [wood] becomes quite unruly–shrinking and warping even after being used once […] the oil is hoped to save them to a certain extent…51

  • 52 Ibid, entries in 1939 on the following: shuttering needing repair (29 January), its re-use (12 Feb (...)

27Myriad such problems resurfaced. The formwork often “needed a good deal of repair,” since shortages of material and workers compelled the re-use of shuttering units. Holding the vibrator incorrectly damaged the formwork, or clumsily done vibration exposed and broke the inlaid electrical wiring. Sometimes, the heads of “reused nails” broke off during removal, leaving undesirable imprints.52 The formwork’s fabric also had a significant impact on the concrete finish:

  • 53 Ibid., entry of 18 July 1939.

One column showed graphically how the present wood acts. One portion of the column was of old wood and one portion of the new. Under the old the concrete was hard, clean looking with the corners sharp and intact. Under the new there was a layer of cement dust and a crumbly surface. The worst thing was the corners were fractured […] this wood is so porous and subject to contraction and expansion that the concrete is disturbed as the wood absorbs water like a sponge […] it [the concrete] adheres to the edge of the planks which expand thereby breaking off the corners. The dust shows the water was absorbed so fast from the concrete that chemical action could not set in.53

  • 54 Ibid., entries of 8, 12 March 1939
  • 55 Andrew Benjamin, “Plans to Matter: Towards a History of Material Possibility,” in Katie Lloyd Thom (...)
  • 56 See Richard Biernacki, The Fabrication of Labor: Germany and Britain, 1640–1914, Berkeley, CA: Uni (...)

28Closely studying Nakashima’s position demonstrates how he wished to bend the sociality of the Ashram to prioritize Golconde’s material process. In this context, the Mother’s voice through her annotations in his notebook is steady and astute. Her succinct interventions nudge him to recognize how social arrangements were substantive for technical successes. In separate instances, she advised him to use the same carpenters who erected the formwork for its removal, personally arranged for more hired workmen, and allocated them on a daily rather than hourly basis. Nakashima admitted that these rearrangements (of people) led to major improvements in the workflow.54 But his journal, on the whole, reveals how Golconde’s material process demanded that its workers be organized or deployed in certain ways—not always predictable or familiar. This is not unlike how Andrew Benjamin argues that: “the nature of practice [bears upon] the status of a plan.”55 It is, therefore, pertinent to turn to how the experiences of other sadhaks appear within this shifting, unstable practice. The “plan” for Golconde was the intellectual labor of Raymond’s “design” perpetuated through Nakashima. But the experiences of its embodied labor—to use Richard Biernacki’s term (given Nakashima’s concern with productivity)—inflected this very plan as the thinking, feeling, bodies in the act of building.56

Golconde as a social process

  • 57 Mark Wigley, “Foreword,” in Michael Bell and Craig Buckley (eds.), Solid States: Concrete in Trans (...)

29If the production of Golconde’s materiality is viewed through the felt experiences of its workers, as Mark Wigley points out, the material medium might cease to be “solid and inert [but] an ever-evolving set of relationships.”57 This section of my essay examines how such relationships can be viewed from the other side. The narrative frame is inverted to foreground the palpable social space that existed in parallel to the material process, which was neither wholly dependent on, nor independent of it. Much of Chandulal’s diary and the Mother’s comments in it focus on social organization at the worksite. The material process is largely a backdrop in his notes. Nakashima’s diary entries, by contrast, seem to indicate he was torn between operating as a sadhak and as a professional architect. A conversation Chandulal relayed to the Mother between himself and Nakashima, shortly after building work had commenced, represents their divergent approaches—as an older member of the Ashram and one who had just been accepted into its fold. When Nakashima advised Chandulal to take into account ideas of other sadhaks (Krishnalal, Shanti, and Romen) at the site, their exchange ended awkwardly:

Sundarananda: There seems to have been a complaint that some people interfered with the work not assigned to them. In our office (I presume he meant Tokyo office) everybody does everything or he does nothing. There should be a liberal spirit on works. To do only the work assigned to one is bureaucratic…
M.F.D. [Chandulal designated himself “Mother’s Faithful Disciple”]: That is a discipline that Mother demands. You have only to ask Mother directly and verify it for yourself. She does not permit people to interfere in the work not assigned to them.
S: If it is so, I have nothing to say…

  • 58 Chandulal refers to Nakashima as Sundarananda in journal entries after 17 July 1938). Chandulal, N (...)
  • 59 “Young Sadhak’s Correspondence (20),” op. cit. (note 36), Shanti’s note and the Mother’s reply are (...)
  • 60 A principal message from her was how this was primarily an embodied engagement. When construction (...)

30Chandulal often asked the Mother how she felt about his attitude. In this case, she endorsed his explanation as “what should have been said.”58 When Shanti complained to her about the organization of work on the model room “getting complicated,” she attributed it to “the resistance of ego in some people.”59 Even through her brief responses, it becomes clear that the Mother was the sadhak-workers’ spiritual compass. It is unlikely that many of them would have appreciated Golconde’s larger “architectural philosophy.” But she never wavered from reminding them of their own seeking through a focus on their respective, even if small, contribution to the process of building.60

Figure 12: The Mother’s long admonition in Chandulal’s notebook.

Figure 12: The Mother’s long admonition in Chandulal’s notebook.

The Mother’s long admonition in Chandulal’s notebook, directed at the key workers about how their quarrels and confusion at the worksite was wasteful and unnecessary.

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.

  • 61 Chandulal and the Mother conferred regularly with Jyotindra, the only sadhak who had prior experie (...)

31The Mother was extremely firm about not being kept in the dark about decisions made at the worksite. In October 1938, a muddling of roles and opinions between Sammer, Chandulal, Nakashima, and the sadhaks Jyotindra Baul (also a key engineer in the Ashram), Uday Singh and Haridwari, caused errors in concreting that later needed substantial reworking.61 She was deeply upset about all of this not being reported to her in advance.

32Her exasperated response to Chandulal’s report of these events was scratched out forcefully over a page and half (fig. 12). It is the longest of her annotations between his own as well as Nakashima’s notebook:

  • 62 Ibid, n.d. entry between 21 September and 19 October 1938. Underlined words follow the actual anno (...)

The constant quarrels and secrecies are insufferable […] they create a disagreeable atmosphere […] when Raymond left, he entrusted the execution to you […] Sammer and Sundarananda are to make the plans and details; as for Jyotindra, I’d asked him to complete all the calculations–it was never even on the table that he would direct or organise. If everyone wants to direct and organise, the only thing that will come out of it is confusion. Everyone just thinks of themselves and tries to prove that they’re right, and as a result the work is badly done, the money is frighteningly wasted, and time is spent in vain […] if this were to go on like this I would rather close down the construction site and stop all the work […] you can show all this [to others] if you deem it relevant! 62

  • 63 George Nakashima, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), the Mother’s annotation to his entry of 14 December 1 (...)

33The social space that underpinned Golconde’s making was, therefore, highly contested. Nakashima appeared unrestrained in the incident of vertical surface levels in the finished concrete. Soon after expressing doubt in the abilities of his co-workers, he proclaimed “we are stopping the erection work for the time being.” Despite her consternation, the Mother is seen attempting to ensure that the worksite be as inclusive as possible, distributing everyone’s roles clearly.63 Chandulal, the direct recipient of the Mother’s long admonition, deferred to her in this respect, however, alluded to dangers of his own attitude:

  • 64 Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 16 December 1938.

Levelling: Regarding the precision of the instrument, and the valuation of the established benchmarks, I leave the floor to Pavitra […] I recognized that wanting to not allow the change of reference [for the vertical levels] comes from self-love.64

34After the column footing was wrongly erected in November 1938, Chandulal told Sammer, Jyotindra and Nakashima what the Mother had said after her rare in-person visit to the site, about the workers. Through his voice (cited in the original), we get a glimpse into the Mother’s own position on the plight of the workers:

  • 65 Ibid., entry of 3 Nov 1938. O Douce Mère (O Gentle Mother) is how Chandulal referred to the Mother (...)

Ce soir sur le chantier j'ai rencontré le triumvirat avec en tête la remarque de Douce Mère lors de sa dernière visite: “la main d'oeuvre n'est pas mécanisée”.
(This evening on the site I met the triumvirate [referring to Sammer, Nakashima and Jyotindra] with the observation of Gentle Mother during her last visit: “the workforce is not mechanized.”)65

35The French la main or “hand”, used by the Mother to imply “workforce” (la main d’oeuvre) is deeply suggestive of her sensitivity to challenges in achieving the envisaged high standard of construction through a process of manual work with an unfamiliar material (figs. 13-14).

Figure 13: Raymond’s photograph (1938) of ongoing work on the model room: seen in the picture (left to right) are the sadhaks Shanti, Chandulal and Naik.

Figure 13: Raymond’s photograph (1938) of ongoing work on the model room: seen in the picture (left to right) are the sadhaks Shanti, Chandulal and Naik.

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.

Figure 14: Nakashima (in Kimono) with key sadhaks who worked on Golconde.

Figure 14: Nakashima (in Kimono) with key sadhaks who worked on Golconde.

Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.

  • 66 Ibid., entries of 15 June 1938 and 8 December 1938.

36Chandulal’s perspective does reveal a degree of trial and error (le soin de tâtonnement) but in stating that there was “no chance to dance (pas la chance de danser),” he was also conscious of the small margin for error. Nevertheless, as the person responsible for safety of the workers, he could not overlook the considerable strain and peril involved, for instance, in physically holding steel bars in place by hand while tying stirrups to them: one of the many distractions that was compromising precision in the work.66

  • 67 Shraddhavan, “Golconde: a look behind (part 3),” op. cit. (note 26), p.173.
  • 68 Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 4 September 1937: “l'acceptation de la lumière que (...)
  • 69 Ibid., entry of 26 April 1939.
  • 70 Ibid., n.d. entry between 16 December 1938 and 28 March 1939 of 26 April 1939 (this is the longest (...)
  • 71 Ibid., entry of 17 July 1940.

37Chandulal’s journal reveals the angst of someone tasked with managing a diverse group of largely inexperienced workers in a complex, unfamiliar endeavor—a duty rendered still more onerous by his own inadequate expertise. Mrityunjoy recalled that “the Ashram laborers had never seen a reinforced concrete building, let alone worked on constructing one.”67 As the man responsible for managing them, Chandulal sought “acceptance of the light that Gentle Mother gives,” confessing his inexperience with the type of construction they would undertake.68 Some of those he oversaw were more technically competent than he was, which explains why he referred to the three trained professionals in the project as a “triumvirate.” Musing on such frustrations, Chandulal wrote: “the lack of joy in work originates in me refusing to recognize my faults, which had been exposed during the work at Golconde.” The Mother annotated beside his introspections that while they were desirable for his “awakening,” he must be vigilant against negativity.69 She exhorted Chandulal to take charge of the work outwardly and, inwardly, his own spiritual growth. She chided him for attaching overt importance to what others thought of him, pointing out how his “hypersensitivity” caused pain to himself and misunderstandings with others.70 She once received a note from the sadhak Rishabhchand on Chandulal’s demeanor, pleading for him to be more communicative at the worksite, which she quoted in full, and wrote: “I must add that I fully approve of what he says—it is in other words, what I have so often repeated to you.”71

  • 72 Ibid., entries of 3 November and 6 December 1938.

38The social disarray that accompanied Golconde’s making was handled by the Mother by always counterbalancing tendencies of one individual to have power over others and making everyone submit to the power of the work they were undertaking. Juxtaposing the dissimilar positions of a shared experience in Nakashima and Chandulal’s journals, it is clear that the Mother never overlooked the immaterial dimensions crucial to the process of Golconde’s making. She reminded Chandulal how the higher purpose of the work must always be in sight: “the view point of sadhana is prime,” and how “no one is superior or inferior to the Divine.”72 When Nakashima accused Chandulal—as the “manager” of the job—of showing “characteristics of a spoiled rich boy; a rich boy he indeed is to be in Thy grace,” she immediately defended the long-serving sadhak:

  • 73 George Nakashima, Notes on Golconde’s Construction (1938-39), op. cit. (note 37). The Mother’s ann (...)

It is a well-deserved grace gained by many years of faithful, devoted and obedient service and consecration. These are titles that must not be overlooked; but they can be gained with time and perseverance by all who choose to acquire them.73

  • 74 Ibid., n.d. entry, before 30 August 1938.

39Finally, it is difficult to overlook the fact that errors at the worksite, such as the wrongly located column footing or levelling of the concrete face, were actually written down. Pages of Chandulal and Nakashima’s journals reveal that many such problems were not uncommon, even if not as major. Why was the construction chronicled in a manner that made its mistakes explicit? Would it be wholly out of place to expect that the diaries served as their chroniclers’ recognition of their own attitude towards the work, apart from practical accounts of progress? Indeed, Nakashima wrote in the opening entry of his journal that he had been advised by the Mother, through Pavitra, to keep: “a notebook of things which pertain to Golconde.” He stated poignantly: “May I be more and more an instrument by which the work may be done. May my ego be overcome.”74 These words powerfully indicate a purpose to this journal that went beyond the utilitarian. It is hard to determine if others working on Golconde recorded their experiences the way Chandulal and Nakashima did. In Chandulal’s journal, intermittent references of other sadhaks being in oral conversation with the Mother appear. But except for the brief appearance of the Mother’s conversation with Shanti in a publication, no exhaustive accounts such as these are found even in the Ashram’s abundant unpublished and published papers. Furthermore, no definitive evidence on the Mother’s perspective in this respect is accessible. As a result, whether the journals were consciously designed to be records of the sadhana of Golconde’s builders remains a speculation.

40What is clear, however, is that the Karmayoga of the Ashram as intellectual, creative, collective and individual, embodied work was indubitably embedded in Golconde’s realization. As with Chandulal and Nakashima, the Mother compelled Golconde’s builders to traverse intention and attention: the greater purpose of making and the minutiae of everyday tasks, respectively. The fraught experiences of its workers in enacting what lay between its conception and finishing reveal how affects within the project were as conflicted as they were agreeable. They affirm how the sadhaks persisted through anything but an easy venture. Many might have continuously navigated the sort of insecurities and ambivalences that Nakashima and Chandulal’s accounts express, even if the latters’ feelings seem amplified due to the intensity of their responsibilities. Golconde’s history, then, also emerges as one of a modern spiritual practice—a social process—of its worker-participants in an active interface with the building of an unfamiliar, and, in this sense modern, architecture. Regardless of being professionals or otherwise, it was the kind of practice that had no accessible precedents for them.

Architecture as, and at, work: an unfinished history of Golconde

  • 75 Antonin Raymond, “Autobiographical note (typescript),” Kenchiku, vol. 10, October 1961, p. 20-21. (...)
  • 76 An exemplary, and recent, research that examines these ambiguities over a vast swath of time in th (...)
  • 77 Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed.), “Introduction,” in Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed.), Towards a New His (...)

41Raymond, absent through all but the first few months of Golconde’s execution, recalled later that he felt free in the project not being “pinched between a client and a contractor.”75 Crucially, his own reflection upends the very narratives that confer on him the dominant agency as Golconde’s architect. Instead, his brief experience—even Sammer’s and Nakashima’s longer ones lasting four and two years, respectively—affirms how the project’s agency was in dialogue with that of its architects. Both in the late colonial period as well as several decades after independence, the term “architect” itself was nebulous in an architectural project, as far as its Indian agents, even those in the building trades, were concerned.76 The orientation to Golconde’s history that this essay adopts has therefore moved away from the propensity of tying the project exclusively to achievements of its architect(s). Additionally, I have also argued that, at its core, Golconde was not a mere transaction of products or services. It is thus appropriate to understand the project through a notion of “work.” Work, as Sabyasachi Bhattacharya posits, is a more open and inclusive concept, transcending the provider-receiver or employer-employee relations that theories around “labor” are predicated on.77 Golconde was, then, an architecture as work: one that the Ashram’s sadhaks materially realized as a process of “self-building” through their Karmayoga. Equally, the experiences underlying its making operated as the “self-building” of these sadhaks; it was also an architecture at work.

42Self-building Golconde was thus operative in building the selves of those who worked on the project, and these are the two histories of its self-building that inhabit the narrative of its architecture being a process. In thus decentering the figure of the bona fide modern architect from the history of Golconde, does the emergent narrative dilute its status in “global” architectural modernity? I argue that it does not. Rather, such a history helps to both nuance and free up the field and range through which global histories of modern architecture can be narrated. The approach of connected histories that this research adopts has proved to be both multi-scalar and portable in exploring Golconde’s architecture as a process. By working outwards from a notion of the situated project of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, interpersonal networks of thought and knowledge are rendered visible in it across cultures and geographies. Concurrently, so are the material, technical and social uncertainties, contestations, dialogues and negotiations imbricated in processes of shaping a modern architecture.

43The methodological approach of connected histories does, however, complicate and subject to questioning the privileged monopoly of closed, professional—or perhaps, vocational—vantages in narrating global histories of modern architecture. By doing so, it aims to make a case for a wider scope and audience for architectural histories. If the overarching concerns of such histories are limited to architects, or the ideology and technology that artefacts purportedly signify, as with the many narratives about Golconde, they remain narrow in reach and partial in content. The present essay has moved away from these concerns by foregrounding the critical subjectivities as well as affects that underscored both the patronage and workforce in a culture of architectural modernity. But Golconde’s history is still far from finished. How did sadhaks who occupied its built spaces after the project was completed experience them? How was the structure’s impeccable materiality maintained over time? These are also vital questions on its architecture’s lived experiences, and hence, legitimate perspectives to narrate its history with. Such and many more perspectives are yet to enter the empirical field of global histories of architectural modernity. Until connections between such perspectives and architectural cultures are forged, these histories, just as Golconde’s is, will continue to remain unfinished.

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Notes

1 The “Global” turn features in a wide scholarly landscape, but the 1997-98 debate between renowned historians David Washbrook and Peter Van Der Veer in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient is particularly revealing: David Washbrook, “From Comparative Sociology to Global History: Britain and India in the Pre-History of Modernity,”Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (JESHO), vol. 40, no. 4, 1997, p. 410-443. DOI: 10.1163/1568520972601495. Peter van der Veer, “The Global History of ‘Modernity,’” JESHO, vol. 41, no. 3, 1998, p. 285-294. DOI: 10.1163/1568520981436228; David Washbrook, “The Global History of ‘Modernity.’ Response to a Reply,” JESHO, vol. 41, no. 3, 1998, p. 295-311. DOI: 10.1163/1568520981436237. Viewing modernity through pluralities is argued to be exigent in: Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia,” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 31, no. 3, July 1997, p. 737-742.

2 This approach is seen although not explicitly referenced as connected histories in: Swati Chattopadhyay, “Fungible Geographies” in Unlearning the City: Infrastructure in a New Optical Field, Minneapolis, MN; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2012, p. 199-241. More recently, the National University of Singapore’s Department of Architecture organised a conference on 7-8 November 2019: “Connected Histories, Cosmopolitan Cities,” Blog.NUS, 10 September 2019. URL: https://blog.nus.edu.sg/connectedhistories/. Accessed 25 November 2019. Also see: Jiat-Hwee Chang and Imran bin Tajudeen (eds.), Southeast Asia’s Modern Architecture: Questions of Translation, Epistemology, and Power, Singapore: NUS Press, 2019 or, in a recent issue of this journal: Jasper Ludewig, “Mapoon Mission Station and the Privatization of Public Violence,” ABE Journal, vol. 17, 2020. DOI: 10.4000/abe.8032.

3 Two published pieces in the 1940s prefigured such preoccupations. Both were photo essays accompanied by brief descriptions of Golconde’s spaces and materiality; they set the tone and audiences for later narratives. “Dormitory, Pondicherry, India (designed and built 1937-38), Architect: Antonin Raymond,” Progressive Architecture Newsletter, no. 3, March 1949, p. 45-50. “The ‘Golconde’ guest house of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry,” Indian Concrete Journal, vol. 23, no. 6, June 1949, p. 142-143.

4 See, for instance, Roni Brown, “Designing Differently: the Self-Build Home,” Journal of Design History, vol. 21, no. 4, December 2008, p. 359-370, and the different dimensions of self-building explored in the volume Michaela Benson and Iqbal Hamiduddin (eds.), Self-Build Homes: Social Discourse, Experiences and Directions, London: UCL Press, 2017 (p. 3 for the cited text).

5 Ravi Ahuja, “‘Produce or Perish’ The crisis of the late 1940s and the place of labour in post-colonial India,” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 54, no. 4, July 2020, p. 1048-1112.

6 Even an important volume that covers significant ground on the subject around the notion of work (as critically set apart from notions of labour or action), does not include a single empirical case involving building or construction: Sabyasachi Battacharya (ed.), Towards a New History of Work, New Delhi : Tulika, 2014.

7 Carmen Kagal (ed.), Catalogue of Vistara: Architecture of India, Bombay: The Festival of India, 1986, p. 11. Jon Lang, Madhavi Desai and Miki Desai, Architecture and Independence: the Search for Identity - India 1880 to 1980, Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 73-174; Kurt Helfrich and William Whitaker, Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noémi Raymond, New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007, p. 170; Peter Scriver and Amit Srivastava, India, London : Reaktion, 2015 (Modern Architectures in History), p. 118-119.

8 The publication was born of a valuable initiative to preserve and catalogue material on Golconde in Pondicherry’s archives. But despite access to hitherto untapped primary materials, its narrative celebrates Golconde’s formal and material characteristics, while the evidence on historical experiences in the project are only marginal to it. Pankaj Vir Gupta, Christine Mueller and Cycus Samii, Golconde: the Introduction of Modernism in India, Delhi: Urban Crayon, 2010. The background of this project is documented in an earlier research report: Pankaj Vir Gupta and Christine Mueller, Golconde: The Introduction of Modernism in India, Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin, 2005, AIA Report on University Research, p. 143.

9 Aladar Olgyay and Victor Olgyay, Solar Control and Shading Devices, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957, p. 188-189.

10 Jeffrey Cook, “Six Evolutionary Phases toward Solar Architecture: Thermal Applications of Solar Energy in Buildings,” in S.V. Szokolay (ed.), Solar World Congress: Proceedings of the Eighth Biennial Congress of the International Solar Energy Society, Perth, 14-19 August, 1983, New York, NY: Pergamon, 1984, vol. 1, p. 47-48.

11 Mona Doctor-Pingel, Hugo Lavocat and Nehaa Bhavaraju, “Performance of Naturally Ventilated Buildings in a Warm-Humid Climate: a Case Study of Golconde Dormitories, South India,” Architectural Science Review, vol. 60, no. 3, 2017, p. 205-214. Daniel A. Barber, “The Nature of the Image: Olgyay and Olgyay’s Architectural-Climatic Diagrams in the 1950s,” Public Culture, vol. 29, no. 1, 2017, p. 157.

12 This is evident in the confusion regarding Golconde’s construction period. Early commentaries, as in Progressive Architecture, suggested (incorrectly) that it was built in 1937-1938. This is also true of Golconde’s date designated as 1937 in the obituary of another one of its architect-builders, František Sammer: Jindřich Krise, “František Sammer, ein Architekt, Stadtbauer und Philosoph 27.10.1907 - 8.10.1973,” Arch+: Zeitschrift für Architektur und Städtebau, vol. 95, August 1988, p. 86. The Vistara exhibition corrected the error, acknowledging a more plausible timespan in which the structure materialised (1936-1948).

13 Jeffrey Cook, “Six Evolutionary Phases,” op. cit. (note 10), p. 8. Cook too gives the construction date as 1938-1942.

14 Martina Hrabová, “Between Ideal and Ideology: the Parallel Worlds of František Sammer,” Umeni Art, vol. 62, no. 2, 2016, p. 144-148. Christine M. E. Guth, “Crafting Community: George Nakashima and Modern Design in India,” Journal of Design History, vol. 29, no. 4, November 2016, p. 369-371.

15 (My emphases): Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: outline of the theory of structuration, Cambridge  Polity, 1984, p. 5-16. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, [First published as Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique: précéd. de trois études d’ethnologie kabyle, Genève: Droz, 1977 (Travaux de droit, d’économie, de sociologie et de sciences politiques, 92). [Translated by Richard Nice], Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977 (Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology, 16), p. 72-73. Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Mische, “What Is Agency?”” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 103, no. 4, January 1998, p. 984-985.

16 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, [First published as La production de l’espace, Paris: Éditions Anthropos, 1974 (Société et urbanisme). [Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith], Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1991, p. 26-27, 85.

17 This is how he was identified henceforth, and the remaining part of this essay refers to him by this name. Peter Heehs, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2008, p. 260, 326-327.

18 Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, Pondicherry  Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2011, p. 272-273. Aurobindo himself explained the “want of a better word” in a letter to the queen of Baroda, an Indian princely state, in 1930. Sri Aurobindo, Autobiographical Notes, and other Writings of Historical Interest, Pondicherry  Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2006, p. 440-441.

19 Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System: the History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Oxford; New York, NY  Oxford University Press, 1993,p. 31-34. Aurobindo advocated the philosophy of “Karmayoga” much earlier in c. 1909, only later advocating its currency for work-based spiritual practice. His discourses have dealt with yoga independently, both widely and in-depth, but I chiefly consider its relevance to the project of Golconde. Sometimes he also used the term “Karmamargin” (one on the path of work). Sri Aurobindo, Isha Upanishad, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 2003, p. 216.

20 Sri Aurobindo, Letters, op. cit. (note 18), p. 599-601, 705-706.

21 Peter Heehs, The Lives, op. cit. (note 17), p.359, 377. The Mother wrote of the budget and its value in francs to her son André (letter dtd. 10 February 1933), cited in Nilima Das, Glimpses of the Mother’s Life, Pondicherry  Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1980, vol. 2, p. 61.

22 Antonin Raymond, An Autobiography, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1973, p. 94-95.

23 Ibid., p. 71,76-77. Wright later came to deeply appreciate Raymond’s work when their friendship resumed in 1958.

24 Ibid., p. 158,399. Letters to and from his Tokyo office in the second half of 1938 suggest the running of “skeleton office” in Tokyo and call away his main staff to New York “if he [Raymond] gets enough work” George Nakashima, 13 August 1938. John Minami, 31 December 1938. Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library, Raymond’s principal draftsman, Masanori Sugiyama, who was looking after the Tokyo office, was compelled to close it in 1941, cited in: Yola Gloaguen, Towards a Definition of Antonin Raymond’s “Architectural Identity”: A Study Based on the Architect’s Way of Thinking and Way of Design, Ph.D. Dissertation, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 2008, p. 62-64.

25 Antonin Raymond, Preliminary Proposal for Dormitory, 9 October 1935. Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library.

26 Shraddhavan, “Golconde: a look behind (part 3),” Mother India, March 1989, p. 176.

27 Sri Aurobindo, The Foundations of Indian Culture, New York, NY: Sri Aurobindo Library, 1953, p. 239-240.

28 The sadhak Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, who recalled these events in his memoir (see note 36) on Golconde, seems to have been present at this meeting, cited in: Shraddhavan, “Golconde: a look behind (part 3),” op. cit. (note 26), p. 176-177.

29 (My emphases), Antonin Raymond, An Autobiography, op. cit. (note 22), p. 162-163.

30 Sammer wrote to his parents about his employment at Tokyo and travel to Pondicherry on 27 July 1935 and 14 December 1937, respectively, cited in: Martina Hrabová, “Parallel Worlds,” op. cit. (note 14), p. 143, 159.

31 He wrote to Raymond about resigning on 26 March 1938. Ibid., p. 147,159-160. Agnes Larssen, Note from Agni to Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, Pondicherry, October 1974. Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library. Agnes was Sammer’s partner at this time and many of his experiences at the Ashram are recounted by her.

32 František Sammer, Description des travaux à exécuter à Golconde, [Translated by Shraddhavan], 1941. Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library.

33 Udar wrote to Sammer on 18 April 1946, reporting that “the building is not yet complete. The floors are not down yet. The work has been slowed down considerably. But all the rooms have been made habitable…,” cited in Martina Hrabová, “Parallel Worlds”” op. cit. (note 14), p.  60.

34 He mentions the refusal of salary in his autobiography, George Nakashima, Soul of a Tree: a Master Woodworker’s Reflections, Tokyo : Kodansha, 1981, p. 61. This is confirmed by expenditure accounts: Nakashima’s last salary (billed to the Ashram) was in February 1938. Dormitory for the Ashram (cost of job to the office), February 1938. Expenses (Dormitory), 30 May 1938. Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library. Sri Aurobindo named Nakashima “Sundarananda” (one who delights in beauty) when he was a sadhak. He reverted to his birth-name after leaving the Ashram in October 1939.

35 George Nakashima, “At one with nature,” in Derek E. Ostergard (ed.), George Nakashima, Full Circle, New York, NY  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989, p.  86-97.

36 Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, A Look Behind: The How and Why of Golconde, Pondicherry, 1980. Udar Pinto, The Mother on Golconde (to the best of my memory), Pondicherry, 11 November 1986. Idem, More on Golconde and other bits - connected and unconnected (recollections), Pondicherry, 18 November 1986. All are unpublished manuscripts in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library Pondicherry (India). Shanti’s notes are published as: “A Young Sadhak’s Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother (part twenty),” Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, vol. 38, no. 3, August 1986, p. 59-79.

37 George Nakashima, Notes on Golconde’s Ccnstruction (1938-39); Chandulal, Notes on Golconde’s Construction (1937-41), [Translated by Daniel Milowich]. Both unpublished manuscripts, Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library [Hereafter, these journals are cited with dates of specific entries].

38 Mrityunjoy mentions how she undertook the management of Golconde along with “the rest of the Ashram […] and her personal contact with the hundreds of Ashramites in various forms, both psychological and physical.” Shraddhavan, “Golconde: a look behind (part 3),” op. cit. (note 26), p. 76.

39 Katie Lloyd  Thomas, “Rendered Plastic by Preparation: Concrete as Constant Material”” Parallax, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, p.  276) Stuart Tappin, “The Early Use of Reinforced Concrete in India”” Construction History, vol. 18, 2002, p. 74-96. The reluctance of the British building industry towards reinforced concrete is focus of an economic history: Marian Bowley, The Building Industry: Four Studies in Response and Resistance to Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

40 Udar Pinto, “Connected and Unconnected,” op. cit. (note 36).

41 Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), His entry of 30 July 1937 outlines arrangements with the shipping company and how this would circumvent British customs duties. The documents: Dormitory for the Ashram (cost of job to the office) - 02, February 1938; Dormitory for the Ashram (cost of job to the office) - 03, May 1938 (Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library) demonstrate how part of the Ashram’s advance to Raymond was spent on procurement and shipping of building equipment.

42 Georges Nakashima, Soul, op. cit. (note 34), p. 4. Thomas H. Creighton, “Antonin Raymond and Mrs. Raymond liked many things about India,” Progressive Architecture Newsletter, no. 3, March 1949, p. 154. Antonin Raymond, An Autobiography, op. cit. (note 19), p. 162. Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 23 July 1938.

43 Martina Hrabová, “Parallel Worlds,” op. cit. (note 14), p. 140.

44 Georges Nakashima, “Notes,op. cit. (note 37), entry of 5 November 1938. Chandulal, Notes on Golconde’s Construction (1937-41), op. cit. (note 37), entries of 2 and 3 November 1938.

45 Katie Lloyd  Thomas, “Rendered Plastic,” op. cit. (note 39), p. 275-279. On his 1986 visit to Pondicherry (for the first time after Golconde’s completion) Nakashima told sadhaks in charge of its maintenance, that the building has not aged, as reported in a research interview I conducted: Suman, On living in Golconde and Day-to-Day Maintenance, 18 June 2019. The absent humanity in studying concrete’s labour is highlighted in: Adrian Forty, Concrete and Culture: A Material History, London: Reaktion, 2012, p. 158-159.

46 George Nakashima, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 30 August 1938.

47 (My emphasis): Ibid., entry of 14 December 1938.

48 Ibid., entry of 5 March 1939.

49 Katie Lloyd Thomas, “Rendered Plastic,” op. cit. (note 39), p. 272-278.

50 Adrian Forty, Concrete and Culture, op. cit. (note 45), p. 178-180. A concern with formwork in Golconde also prefigures some of the important narratives on the importance of skilled carpentry in casting concrete, as reflected in the seven oral histories that feature in the pamphlet.

51 George Nakashima, Notes,op. cit. (note 37), entry of 8 December 1938.

52 Ibid, entries in 1939 on the following: shuttering needing repair (29 January), its re-use (12 February), vibration damage of the boards and wiring (26 March; 7 May), nails breaking off (9 July).

53 Ibid., entry of 18 July 1939.

54 Ibid., entries of 8, 12 March 1939

55 Andrew Benjamin, “Plans to Matter: Towards a History of Material Possibility,” in Katie Lloyd Thomas (ed.), Material Matters: Architecture and Material Practice, London: Routledge, 2007, p. 14,16.

56 See Richard Biernacki, The Fabrication of Labor: Germany and Britain, 1640–1914, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995 (Studies on the History of Society and Culture, 22), especially Chapters 2 and 3, “Concepts and Practices of Labor” and “The Control of Time and Space,” p. 1-44.

57 Mark Wigley, “Foreword,” in Michael Bell and Craig Buckley (eds.), Solid States: Concrete in Transition, New York, NY:  Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 (Colombia Books on Architecture, engineering, and Materials), p. 6-8. In this regard, concrete has also been regarded as a “Social medium” when produced through human labour: Jon Goodbun, “Mud and Modernity,” ARENA Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 1, no. 1, 2016, p. 1-15.

58 Chandulal refers to Nakashima as Sundarananda in journal entries after 17 July 1938). Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 30 August 1938.

59 “Young Sadhak’s Correspondence (20),” op. cit. (note 36), Shanti’s note and the Mother’s reply are dtd. 30 April 1938.

60 A principal message from her was how this was primarily an embodied engagement. When construction started, she permitted Chandulal only a half-hour every day to spend in studying design drawings with the sadhak Girdharilal, only if it did not interfere with the on-site work. Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37). entry of 30 August 1938.

61 Chandulal and the Mother conferred regularly with Jyotindra, the only sadhak who had prior experience with reinforced concrete work: Ibid, n.d. entry (before 28 March 1939) and entries of 20, 22 June 1940 and 18 September 1940.

62 Ibid, n.d. entry between 21 September and 19 October 1938. Underlined words follow the actual annotation.

63 George Nakashima, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), the Mother’s annotation to his entry of 14 December 1938.

64 Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 16 December 1938.

65 Ibid., entry of 3 Nov 1938. O Douce Mère (O Gentle Mother) is how Chandulal referred to the Mother throughout his journal.

66 Ibid., entries of 15 June 1938 and 8 December 1938.

67 Shraddhavan, “Golconde: a look behind (part 3),” op. cit. (note 26), p.173.

68 Chandulal, Notes, op. cit. (note 37), entry of 4 September 1937: “l'acceptation de la lumière que Douce Mère donne n'est pas instantanée — la lutte subsiste...” (the acceptance of the light that Gentle Mother gives is not instantaneous — the struggle remains) he writes here.

69 Ibid., entry of 26 April 1939.

70 Ibid., n.d. entry between 16 December 1938 and 28 March 1939 of 26 April 1939 (this is the longest interval for which Chandulal is silent in his journal—it follows the levelling incident with Nakashima and others).

71 Ibid., entry of 17 July 1940.

72 Ibid., entries of 3 November and 6 December 1938.

73 George Nakashima, Notes on Golconde’s Construction (1938-39), op. cit. (note 37). The Mother’s annotation alongside his entry of 24 September 1938, where she underlines the word “many.”

74 Ibid., n.d. entry, before 30 August 1938.

75 Antonin Raymond, “Autobiographical note (typescript),” Kenchiku, vol. 10, October 1961, p. 20-21. Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library.

76 An exemplary, and recent, research that examines these ambiguities over a vast swath of time in the Indian context is: Sarah Melsens, Architect, Engineer or Builder? A History of Professional Demarcation through Practice and Discourse, Pune (India) 1930-1992, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, 2020.

77 Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed.), “Introduction,” in Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (ed.), Towards a New History of Work, New Delhi: Tulika, p. 1-5.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Golconde from the south-west, photograph of c. 1950.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Library [hereafter, SAAARL].
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 307k
Titre Figure 2: Golconde’s main entrance area (interior).
Crédits Source: Photo by Saptarshi Sanyal.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 343k
Titre Figure 3: Golconde’s openable louvres and northern garden, looking east.
Crédits Source: Photo by Saptarshi Sanyal.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 384k
Titre Figure 4: Raymond’s first sketches of Golconde’s exteriors and interiors.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 636k
Titre Figure 5: The state of completion of Golconde in a photograph circa 1942.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 341k
Titre Figure 6: Cross-cultural networks underlying the conception of Golconde through the interpersonal connections between the Mother, Akbar Hyderi, Pavitra, Antonin Raymond, František Sammer and George Nakashima.
Crédits Source: George W. Bacon, Bacon’s New Chart of the World, Mercator’s projection. 1908. National Library of Australia. URL: https://blog.nus.edu.sg/​connectedhistories/​. Accessed 10 October 2019.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 702k
Titre Figure 7: Digital database of individuals and their interrelationships in Golconde’s construction mapped from written records in Golconde’s archives.
Légende Interactions and tasks these actors were involved in was incorporated in a source file as comma-separated-values (csv) and imported into Gephi’s data laboratory, where algorithms were applied to generate a network graph.
Crédits Source: Saptarshi Sanyal.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 303k
Titre Figure 8: The network graph, a socio-spatial map, of the agents involved in the conception and making of Golconde representing clusters of tasks and groups of individuals involved in them, generated in Gephi.
Crédits Source: Saptarshi Sanyal.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 532k
Titre Figure 9: The model-room (or model-house) built as a prototype of the main structure of Golconde.
Crédits Source: Photo by Saptarshi Sanyal.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 662k
Titre Figure 10: Nakashima’s sketch for the formwork (c. February 1939).
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL, Drawing Office.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 310k
Titre Figure11: Nakashima’s drawing for the formwork (date obscured); his annotation at the top states how ‘in principle’, the first floor’s formwork should be re-used.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL, Drawing Office.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 483k
Titre Figure 12: The Mother’s long admonition in Chandulal’s notebook.
Légende The Mother’s long admonition in Chandulal’s notebook, directed at the key workers about how their quarrels and confusion at the worksite was wasteful and unnecessary.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 446k
Titre Figure 13: Raymond’s photograph (1938) of ongoing work on the model room: seen in the picture (left to right) are the sadhaks Shanti, Chandulal and Naik.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 455k
Titre Figure 14: Nakashima (in Kimono) with key sadhaks who worked on Golconde.
Crédits Source: Pondicherry (India), SAAARL.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/13638/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
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Saptarshi Sanyal, « Narrating Architecture as a Process: Two Histories of “Self-building” Golconde »ABE Journal [En ligne], 20 | 2022, mis en ligne le 31 octobre 2022, consulté le 16 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abe/13638 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.13638

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Saptarshi Sanyal

PhD Researcher, University College London, United Kingdom Orcid ID: 0000-0002-9430-0885

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