Tag Archives: architecture

The Vanishing Stepwells of India: A New Book by Victoria Lautman Documents the Fading Relics of Subterranean Wells 

Van Talab Baoli. Amer, Rajasthan. c. 1600/19th Century.

Scattered across India’s vast landscape of ancient architecture including temples, mosques, and palaces are an often overlooked relic of historic infrastructure called stepwells. These subterranean buildings, once numbered in the thousands, were originally dug into the landscape so residents could easily access water. Over time, stepwells grew increasingly elaborate in their construction, morphing from modest rock-cut holes into fully functional Hindu temples with ornate columns, stairwells, and shrines. Each well now serves as a fading structural fingerprint, diverse and unique as the communities that designed and built them.

Chicago journalist Victoria Lautman first peeked over the edge of a stepwell some 30 years ago and was immediately transfixed at the idea of staring down into an architectural wonder as opposed to looking up. She has since dedicated much of the last five years criss-crossing India over several years to locate and photograph as many wells as possible. We first mentioned Lautman’s discoveries back in 2015, after which she resumed trips to India to locate an additional 60 wells, bringing the grand total to over 200 sites she’s personally visited and documented.

“Descending into the earth is a profound experience, one in which sweltering heat turns to enveloping cool, and noises become hushed,” she writes about encountering the wells.

After centuries of neglect some stepwells are in perilous condition or have vanished altogether, while others have been thoughtfully maintained by surrounding communities or governments who recognize their significance and possess the will (and funding) to restore them. In an attempt to preserve their legacy, Lautman has gathered a visual tour of 75 of the more unique and interesting wells in a new book titled The Vanishing Stepwells of India. The book includes not only her original photography, but also her impressions about each well and the precise GPS coordinates of their locations.

It remains to be seen if the renewed interest in stepwells, as well as the accompanying tourist dollars, will drive the change to save them. “In the long-run,” Lautman tells Colossal, “I think the most helpful thing for stepwells is simply acknowledging their existence in history and guidebooks, through classes and specialized tours, and finally just seeing them up close, embedded in the landscape.” Another way to explore the wells is through the Atlas of Stepwells, a website where enthusiasts can share their own discoveries.

The Vanishing Stepwells of India with a foreword by Divay Gupta, is published by Merrell and is available now.

Ramkund. Bhuj, Gujarat. Mid-18th Century (c. 700 CE).

Mukundpura Baoli. Mukundpura, Haryana c. 1650.

Ujala Baoli Mandu. Madhya Pradesh. Late 15th/early 16th century.

Chand Baori. Abhaneri, Rajasthan. c. 800 ce/18th Century.

Batris Kotha Vav. Kaoadvanj, Gujarat c. 1120.

Dada Harir Vav. Asarwa. c. 1499

Navghan Kuvo. Junagadh, Gujarat. 4th/6th/Mid-11th Century.


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Miniature Displays of Contemporary Urban Buildings by Joshua Smith 

Working at 1:20 scale, artist Joshua Smith builds in-depth works that capture the layered existences of urban environments in cities such as Hong Kong, Sydney, and Los Angeles. His miniature buildings showcase the details and detritus left by the diverse population of each city, bringing in elements of the city’s workers, inhabitants, and street artists. These marks can be seen through heavily graffitied exteriors, and thoughtful additions like a small table on the roof of one building with takeout food from the tiny Chinese restaurant below.

Smith has been working on this series for the last two years, after stints as both a stencil artist and gallerist. Using several reference photos from a building’s actual site, he utilizes MDF, cardboard, and plastic to create the base of the work, and chooses paint and chalk pastels for the exterior’s details. Smith’s newest four-story work took him three months to complete, often working 8-16 hours a day.

The Australian artist recently exhibited his miniature buildings with Muriel Guepin Gallery at VOLTA Art Fair in New York City from March 1-5. You can see more of his work on his Instagram and Facebook. (via My Modern Met)

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The Shaolin Flying Monks Temple Blasts Monks Into the Sky Above a Mountainside Amphitheater 

All photos by Ansis Starks, courtesy Mailitis Architects

Perched on the Songshan mountain in rural Henan, China, this new temple designed by Latvian architecture studio Mailītis Architects brings a whole new perspective to the legendary Shaolin monks: specifically an aerial perspective. The recently completed Shaolin Flying Monks Temple contains a one-of-a-kind levitation pavilion that houses a vertical wind tunnel designed in part by Aerodium that blasts participants toward the sky in the center of a 230-seat amphitheater.

“The concept is to tell the history of Zen and Kung-Fu through artistic performances and architectural image of the building itself,” says Mailītis. “It serves as a metaphor for mountain and trees and was inspired by Songshan mountain – the natural environment for monks to develop their skills.”

You can see more photos of the new landmark building on Mailītis Architects’ website. (via Dezeen)

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The Grandeur of German Pipe Organs Photographed by Robert Götzfried 

Long fascinated by the design of pipe organs, photographer Robert Götzfried was recently permitted into 20 Catholic churches in southern Germany where he was able to create portraits of these mammoth instruments. When viewed singularly the pipe organ is impressive enough, but collectively the photos tell the story of an ancient instrument that varies so strikingly in design and layout that it’s hard to believe these are somehow the same musical device.

In his photographic practice Götzfried often approaches a variety of similar objects or locales both grand and obscure from Cambodian barber shops to bowling alleys or abandoned gas stations. Through each collection he quickly highlights the similarities or differences that bind a culture or lifestyle together. You can explore more of his photography on Facebook. (via Fubiz)

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Hand Drawn Architectural Sketches by Adelina Gareeva 

Architecture student Adelina Gareeva drafts her work by hand, creating extremely detailed architectural portraits by putting pencil to paper rather than stylus to tablet. Gareeva has created an Instagram account for her laborious sketches, publishing drawings she’s completed of the Panthéon in Paris, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Kazan, the multi-spired Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, and more.

In addition to her lengthy drawings of famous landmarks and imaginative concepts, she also shares quick sketches that she creates while traveling. These come straight from the Kazan-based architect’s sketchbook, and are often much more gestural presentations of the historic buildings she observes.

Gareeva is currently studying at the Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering. You can see more of her technical drawings and sketchbook musings on her Instagram. (via My Modern Met)

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Miniature Environments and Relief Sculptures Incorporated into Stones and the Backs of Animals by Song Kang 

Portland-based artist and illustrator Song Kang creates highly textural work, whether that’s in her drawn explorations or sculptures produced from found and natural materials. Her miniature works are dream-like environments and houses, many built on backs of animals like oxen and camels. Kang likes to imagine these sculptures as visual scavenger hunts, and often inserts even tinier occupants that sit and stand around her micro-cities.

For her Carved in Stone series, Kang imposes architectural forms onto the surfaces of found rocks. “The structures follow the curvature of the rocks, skewing the perspective and creating surreal environments,” Kang shares. “By becoming part of the surface rather than projecting outwards, the architecture becomes almost textural, a relief sculpture.”

You can see more of Kang’s two and three dimensional work on her Instagram and Behance.

   

 

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