Steel Sculpture Competition

Q: What do you see?

A: Flower, Windmill, Diamond, Trophy

Q: Can you spot the depiction of India?

A: Colors, Chakra, Lotus

Hint: Nothing abstract or intellectual.

Hint: Ignore the reflection.

Hint: Focus on the lower ‘petals’.

A: Really! How did I not see it earlier?

India ( geographical name | In·​dia | in-dē-ə )

: large peninsular region that is usually referred to as a subcontinent and is located in southern Asia south of the Himalayas between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea

Whether on a map or from outer space, the peninsular profile of the sub continent is something every Indian would identify with and relate to.

Inflorescence (noun | in·​flo·​res·​cence | in-flə-ˈre-sᵊn(t)s)

: the budding and unfolding of blossoms

The flower is immediately perceived by everybody, but the obvious relevance to India (and only India) is hidden in plain sight. While the India connection can be seen by even a child, to see, would require the presence of some India within. And once seen, it is difficult to unsee.

Amorphous and Decipherable

India, to a child aware of the idea of a nation, will be very different from an adult’s perception of India. A foreigner’s perception of any aspect of India might be far removed from the reality of that aspect of India. Even the reality of India here and now can be quite different some distance and time away. In general, it is difficult to generalize the idea of India. However, in the pursuit of something that would unquestionably convey an essence of India the attempt is to find a common something that anybody would unambiguously identify with India. Something that is more than what it appears to be. Something that will be as relevant tomorrow as it is today. Something that you can see only when you carry some of it within you. Something that is beautiful to all and inspiringly beautiful to some. Something that might take a different form depending on your point of view, but is inherently consistent. Something whose relevance and interpretation would need no explanation or elaboration.

Inconspicuous and Unambiguous

The idea at the core of the design is the motif which is a radial composition of interlocking modules that take the shape of the map of India. The vertices and edges of the map outline were tweaked to cleanly obtain the desired composition with aligned and overlapping edges such that individual modules aren't immediately decipherable in neither the motif as a whole nor in any pattern comprising multiple motifs in a composition. While some creative liberties were taken with the extents of the territorial boundaries the resulting shape of the module is unambiguously perceived to be India. Adding another dimension to this idea, the three dimensional form is obtained by computationally projecting this motif onto each of the six sides of an imaginary dimpled and filleted cube. The parametric model created as a result of this computationally scripted process can be scaled to something as large as a building or as small as a table top souvenir.

Delicate and Strong

Hollow steel pipes, 2064 of them, each of a diameter that is about 0.32% of the overall width of the sculpture, makes up the structural skeleton. The needle-like relative proportion gives the dense steel framework a sense of lightness while exploiting the tensile properties of steel. The heat generated on account of the steel tubes being exposed to the sun is absorbed by the heatcrete filled within their hollow cores which collectively form a Thermal Energy Storage System. Heatcrete is a concrete-like energy storage material and also helps improve the compressive properties where required.The steelwork provides a frame and reference to which the panels are fixed. While the material of the panels could vary and adapt to different contexts and environments, they are responsible for providing the final flourish and would need to be determined with care. A generic material that should work adequately is architectural fabric. However if it were to be contextual to a culture or region, it could also be woven bamboo in Nagaland, sandstone in Rajasthan, coconut fiber in Kerala and so on. Basically any material that adequately bridges the reference provided by the projecting steel tubes to form surfaces from which the form of India emerges. The base steel framework, like India, is consistent, the constituents are dynamic and can be contextual.

The precisely positioned steel pipes are analogous to the land of India providing material and support for its inhabitants to flourish. While the inhabitants emotionally identify with this geography very strongly, it is the inhabitants that make this India. This sculpture conveys this cyclic, amorphous and symbiotic relationship between the land and its people. While the notion of India it attempts to convey could and should be interpreted differently, it without question will not fail to elicit an uplifting patriotic sentiment, only in an Indian.

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