Crafting the Liminal: A Clay Scaffold for Calcutta's Pavements – Kolkata © Kate Le Masurier, Andrew Chavet

Crafting the Liminal: A Clay Scaffold for Calcutta's Pavements – Kolkata

Kate Le Masurier, Andrew Chavet

Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Project Description

An irony exists between the two thresholds of Calcutta’s chaotic pavements.

On the kerb-side, inexhaustible streetside commerce spills onto the road: textiles, woodcraft, pottery and metalwork, a hive of independent sustainable production gives hint to the wider intricate economic wonder of Bengal.

On the building-side, a backdrop of pealing plaster, exposed brick and engulfing plantlife has left the city as an architecture in decay. At the mercy of the climate, moisture is returning the city’s soft clay structures to the Hooghly River.

Our contemporary urban design policy attempts to unite the two.

Avoiding the acontextual construction practices that have revolutionised India’s other re-urbanising cities; Calcutta’s existing architecture should instead be understood as the scaffold for the next.

A scaffold where no drawn masterplan takes command but rather shapes itself on a cyclic economy of interdependent craftspeople, whose locality preserves Calcutta’s urban identity, inspiring the emergence of an architectural Bengal modernity.

Sustainability Agenda

Part retaining, part renovating, part replacing Calcutta’s architecture, ‘Crafting the Liminal’ endeavours to repurpose and revitalise the vacant and underused buildings of the city’s once civic heart – recycling materials at an urban scale.

Placing architectural interventions within the decaying structures, the contemporary parasites adopt a climatic sensibility with gutters, overhangs and pedestals recognising the challenges of Calcutta’s wetness, drawing water away from the perishable clay construction. Carving passively-cooling channels through the city’s pavements, a citywide network of water access is formed which flows into the city’s historic tanks, reconnecting the bodies of water to the urban realm.

Craft hubs for offsite pre-fabrication and the exchange of skills extend from the street on paved porous pavement-scapes ensuring efficient drainage throughout the monsoon season. Large angled solar shades float above the open-air workshops providing an escape from the sun whilst simultaneously drawing the prevailing south westerly crosswind down to street level.