Sacred Spaces : electronics places

A hybrid methodology to read and design for historic urban religious precincts

Religious Precincts, Digital Realm, Hybrid Methodology, Participatory Forum, Interactive Design Plan

Author: Anubhav Borgohain | Krvia – Post Graduate Program | 2021

Historic Religious cities preserve their identity within them in certain parts called ‘religious precincts’. They have functions that still are embedded in the logic of religious rituals and mythological narratives. They are somewhat of a ‘Palimpsest’ and the newest layer superimposed on them is that of the digital realm. As an effect, this has shifted religious practices into digital especially in India like- E-puja, Live Darshan, Online religious cults, communities. Also, the Cyber culture, namely- social media platforms have a huge connect to expressing the experience or leaving a footprint on platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This leaves us wondering then is this platform only a facilitator of mere expressing? Can we actually look into utilizing these data as collaborative assets for providing opportunity to designers and planners to test if the precincts can be made adaptive towards developmental pressures in recent future, through the very medium it is impacted by.

Before proceeding further, one needs to define what is digital realm in this context? So one looks at Manuela Castells space of flows theory where he defines digital realm as the fourth dimension to Lefebvre’s three moments of space theory- (Lived, Conceived, Perceived and Space of Flows). Here digital is seen as social platform and tool building networks free of geographical boundaries. As opposed to this idea, Precincts are physical in nature and are defined as areas of a consistent cultural or social influence. To establish a relationship between these paradoxical meanings, we employ altered theory of heterotopia by Graham Shane where theoretically a balance is found by creating a holistic discourse utilizing the four dimensions of social space into opportunities of positive urban transformation. This then motivates us to start identifying factors contributing to transformations at different scales. Also, to identify organization and processes supporting religious practices and understand also digital as a supporting factor.

Taking cue from the mentioned objectives the methodology is delineated as combination of analogue mode and digital mode of reading the site and allied aspects. The analogue reading consists of the first three moments of apace being, the lived, conceived and the perceived. Here, both tangible and intangible aspect of the site is brought in their physical form. The digital reading consists of mapping characteristics and issues pertaining to the site through social media platforms (like Twitter in this context). One takes the metadata of the platforms namely #hashtag generated by the regular users who have some relationship with the site. Then one runs comparison with the findings of analogue mode and overlapping them to reinforce the findings.

This then clearly brings out the conflicts and values present on site to give design or conservation suggestions to Also, this provides us with the blueprint to establish an interactive design forum pertaining specifically to the site. During the research it has also been found that new hybrid participatory forums can be established by linking with existing community forums present in physical forms within the precinct. This frees the designer to employ a collective mind to analyze, design and execute on an urban level. As an intervention, this research then engages in presenting urban design and conservation ideas specific to the precinct through this participatory forum (Interactive Design Plan)

Text & Image Credit: Anubhav Borgohain | Krvia – Post Graduate Program | Urban Design

1 Comment

  1. Interesting approach – the hybrid participatory model and especially that the stakeholder views have been considered to devise the interventions. Exactly the methodology required today for designers- crowd sourced data leverage. Digital framework to charter intangible and experiential networks is a challenge brings about questions of ethical practices as well, but very well researched. Also the study area around Kamakhya temple, never seen anyone venture in this area before.
    Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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