Rachel Lopez has a thing with… taxi ceilings. Instead of joining the 200,000+ Instagram posts hashtagged #ihavethisthingwithfloors, the lifelong Mumbai resident flips her phone’s camera into selfie mode. Lopez documents the vast array of eccentric plastic patterns covering the ceilings of her hailed rides, many of them taken in her frequent trips around the city as a journalist with the Hindustan Times.
Mumbai is home to about 58,000 metered taxis, and each one seems to feature a totally different interior aesthetic. Though many of the cars themselves are the same model, drivers often line the ceiling with colorful patterned plastic or vinyl to protect the easily-stained felt fabric. She prefers the traditional taxis to the newer influx of startup ride shares, despite the unpredictability of independent operators, who may decline a trip depending on the destination. Since April 2017, Lopez has been collecting consistently framed photos to track the diversity of designs she encounters.
“I live for the day a driver shows interest in my collection. Most of them, when I compliment them, merely grunt in acknowledgement,” Lopez tells Colossal. “They’re determinedly uninterested, for some reason. But a few of them will indulgently smile and get on with the ride. In Mumbai, if you’re a solo woman commuter, the driver is much more interested in whether you’re married, Indian politics, and how much money a journalist makes.”
As she continues her to add to her simple yet infinite collection, Lopez has enjoyed connecting with others. She displayed one hundred of her photos this February at Kala Ghoda Festival, which is Asia’s largest street festival for the arts. “I was keen to show on the street, not in a sanitized gallery, so everyday crowds could appreciate them,” says Lopez. “The response was overwhelming! The sheer diversity and number of designs are a surprise even to lifelong Mumbai residents (even I’m shocked that I still find new ones two years into the project). It’s one of the most gratifying outcomes of the series—being able to share with my beloved city the pictures I’d been quietly taking.”
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Surreal Blue Spheres of Ice Juxtaposed with Everyday Life Document the Unrelenting Pace of Melting Glaciers
Amidst everyday scenes of contemporary India, unusual blue spheres appear atop buildings, nestled next to marigold vendors, and resting on temple steps. Though the composite images, created by photographer Dillon Marsh (previously), are constructed, the chunks of lost glacier ice are a reality. Using data compiled from scientific reports, Marsh calculated and scaled the volumetric ice models for specific mountains that are losing their critically important glaciers. In a statement on the project, Counting the Costs, Marsh explained, “the aim is to draw attention to the dramatic climate changes that continue unabated while we go about our day-to-day lives.”
The South African photographer started this series in India because it is home to some of the world’s tallest mountains, and is planning to expand the series to other countries including the United States and Switzerland. Marsh, who often explores the relationship between the natural and built environment in his work, shares with Colossal that Counting the Costs draws from his previous series, For What It’s Worth. “There are a number of reason I’ve chosen to represent the volumes as spheres, but the primary reason is that it’s a recognizable shape and visually interesting, Marsh explains. “Aesthetically I want the images to be slightly surreal to counterbalance the serious themes I’m tackling.”
The photographer has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions, with his most recent solo show at Hydra + Fotografia in Mexico City. Marsh shares new projects and updates from his travels on Instagram and Behance. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Industrial designer and artist Gunjan Aylawadi (previously) forms sculptural weavings composed of hundreds of tightly rolled strips of paper. The works’ radial patterns are informed by her upbringing in India where she was constantly surrounded by the repetitive geometric patterns found in the country’s art and architectural details. These remembered patterns are abstracted in her paper-based works, which are equally directed by aesthetic and tactile memories. Aylawadi now lives and works in Sydney, Australia. You can find more of her woven series, including the presented Formed in Fantasy, on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
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A massive sculpture of a legendary bird has taken shape at Jatayu Earth’s Center in Kerala, India. Based on the epic story of Ramayana, Jatayu is a noble bird of divine origin who lost his wing and fell while fighting to protect a young woman named Sitha. The bird as recreated in concrete at the Center is 200 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 70 feet tall, with stylized feathers and enormous curled claws. Its prone body is sprawled on a mountaintop with a 65 acre tourist destination campus.
Jatayu Earth’s Center is a collaboration between the Tourism Department of Kerala and renowned film director Rajiv Anchal and focuses on environmental sustainability in its design. The Center includes systems of rainwater irrigation, solar powered electricity, and planned organic farms. Learn more about visiting on the Jatayu Earth’s Center website. (via Design You Trust)
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Every winter, flocks of Siberian seagulls migrate through Delhi making a temporary home in the Ganga and Yamuna, two of India’s most holy rivers. Photographer Navin Vatsa camps out in the early morning light as the birds flock in the thousands, often fed by devotees who arrive to bathe in the river and feed them. The birds fly over 6,000 miles to escape the harsh Siberian winters between October and March. You can see many more photos on Vatsa’s Instagram feed.
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New Delhi-based architecture and design company Ant Studio recently created a completely low-energy cooling system that relies on clay tubes and water as a cheap alternative to traditional air conditioners. The spherical system reminiscent of a beehive was built as a part of a larger beautification project for a DEKI Electronics factory. The simple, low-tech solution adds an aesthetic twist to the typical metal appliance, and requires little upkeep to ensure its surroundings stay cool.
In order to cool the air, the system is first packed with a few hundred terra cotta cones. Next, water is poured down the sides of the structure so the clay objects can absorb the liquid as it flows down their sides. Finally the water slowly evaporates from the soaked cones, lowering temperatures around the installation by 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Similar cooling devices have been in use for thousands of years, with archaeological evidence suggesting that clay pots were utilized to assist with water cooling methods as far back as 3000 BC in Pakistan and India. The natural and cheap solution also doubles as an art installation, appearing more like a postmodern waterfall than HVAC system. Although this system relies on electrically pumped water, other versions could function with poured water or a connection to a naturally flowing water source to be truly zero-energy. (via ArchDaily and InHabitat)
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The Vanishing Stepwells of India: A New Book by Victoria Lautman Documents the Fading Relics of Subterranean Wells
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.
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