Pandals appear galore all through the year in Bengal, for pujas there are innumerable. But how many have received the distinction of featuring at an exhibition at the famous Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York? Well, there’s one, that too a Kartik Puja pandal.
Pictures of a pandal constructed for a Kartik Puja in Bansberia in Hoogly district last year has been chosen to be displayed as part of the exhibition, ‘Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities,’ at the museum from November 22, 2014 to May 10, 2015. And it’s a storied pandal, perhaps the reason why it was chosen for such a prestigious project.
The award-winning pandal in Bansberia (Designboom)
Last year, this pandal, or installation, as would be called in the world of art and architecture, under the name ‘Temple Pavilion Installation’, won the Black Elephant award in the Best of Show category at the prestigious Kyoorius Designyatra awards, held in Goa, where the best of Indian designs are awarded, as well as won the award in the Design for Space category. This installation was also a finalist in the Public Space category at the 2013 edition of the famous FX International Interior Design Awards in the UK.
However, designer Abin Chaudhuri had never expected this deluge of recognitions from prestigious organisations. For it was just a low-budget pandal at his native place in Bansberia, and not some highly-publicised Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata. But, with a brilliant designer, even the simplest of designs have a touch of class. And Abin and his Abin Design Studio (ADS) are well-known in the field of designing buildings, having designed the International Management Institutes in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar, the School of Planning and Architecture in Bhopal, and the latest, the wonderful Nazrul Tirtha at New Town in Kolkata. Two prestigious ongoing projects in Kolkata are the JW Marriot hotel and Kolkata Museum of Modern Art, the latter in collaboration with the famous architecture firm, Herzog & De Meuron. In fact, according to Abin, it was his colleague on the KMoMA project, Jason Fratzen, associate architect of Herzog & De Meuron, who suggested to him to send this design to MOMA, and even offered to recommend it.
What stands out for this pandal, or installation, is the sheer brilliance of innovation to overcome the constraints of budget, which at less than Rs 1 lakh is minuscule when compared to the mega Durga Puja pandals of Kolkata and some other places.
It was an eminently sustainable plan. The material used is bamboo, which is bio-degradable and hence environment-friendly, too. There is a football field where the pandal is built every year. It is surrounded by a bamboo fence. It is the same bamboo which was used, so no extra material was required, which saved on the cost; approximately 1800 bamboos were used. The plan was to illuminate the bamboo poles which were installed in a pattern. The poles were coloured in the colours of the rainbow so that it would looked beautiful during the day. For the night, it was decided to put LED lights on the poles. These lighted bamboo poles set in a pattern would form a sort of illuminated pathway to the actual pandal where the idol of Kartik was placed. But that turned out to be too costly. Then a brilliant idea struck Abin, from seeing illuminated highway poles. He had the puja committee buy the reflective vinyl stickers seen on highway poles and had them stuck on the bamboo poles, which were cut in sizes from 3 feet to 13 feet, and then had halogen light shone on them to form a brilliant reflective effect. Instead of the Rs 16 lakh for the LED lights, the work was accomplished for a mere Rs 12,000!
Sustainibility despite disparities
After being exhibited at MOMA, the exhibition would travel to the five cities of Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Hong Kong and Lagos. A brilliant achievement indeed for a puja pandal, and it is hoped that other puja pandals in the future would also find space at prestigious museums, for such brilliant installations, as the pandals for different pujas in Bengal, are rare outside Bengal. And today being Kartik Puja, it is apt to recall this big achievement.
Being displayed in an exhibition subtitled ‘Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities’ is telling: for the material is bio-degradable for one; for another, the poles are now used as eye-pleasing decorative fencing for the community football field, hence ‘tactical’ in all respects. According to Pedro Gadanho, the curator of the MOMA exhibition, “By 2030 the world’s population will be a staggering eight billion people. Of these, two-thirds will live in cities.” Therefore, with the rich and the poor increasingly living in the same places, there will be a lot of social and economic disparities, that is, uneven growth; and to overcome problems of space, in general, and housing, clever innovative techniques need to be employed,
The beautiful pandal during the night (Designboom)
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv
Lead image: Designboom