Melas sanskrit, Prayagraj, Kumbh Mela, Ganges floodplain, megacity, form of design, celebratory landscapes, commercial landscapes, religious landscapes, floating pavilions
Architecture | Historic Preservation and Conservation | Landscape Architecture | Urban, Community and Regional Planning
In states of temporality, conventions can be challenged and reimagined. Ephemeral architecture responds to fluctuating conditions and are often built with lightweight, recycled materials that allow for reconfiguration and reinvention. Melas, Sanskrit for "gathering," become a lens through which ad hoc urbanism can be further explored in its most idealized form. Melas include gatherings of all scales that are commercial, celebratory, or religious. The large crowds and temporary nature of these events allow for thoughtful ephemeral configurations to be tried and tested.
The largest gathering of humans in the world is the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, India. This religious pilgrimages creates an alternate reality by temporarily diminishing differences in social and economic classes and bringing people together through a share spiritual belief. The rapid construction and disassembly make the city surreal. For a few moments each year, this is the densest city in the world, but there are no skyscrapers or mega structures. Everything, including the infrastructure, is made at the scale of the individual, creating a sense of horizontality against the backdrop of the vast Ganges floodplain. The temporary nature of the Mela is what allows it to interrupt reality in profound ways.
This thesis speculates on the transcendental atmosphere of the KumbhMela by reconfiguring materials from the event to create temporary escapes from ordinary life that exist before and after the festival. The proposed floating pavilions allude to the mela in the off season by becoming literal vessels of ephemerality and allowing occupants to reconnect to the sacred river. The design implements simple assembly methods to transform portions of the pontoon bridges into spiritual retreats, which could be replicated for other temporary needs. The proposal conceptually draws from the ephemeral megacity and physically reuses elements of the festival to demonstrate the scalability and adaptability of this form of design.
Tummalapalli, Neha, "Mela: Vessels of Ephemeral Architecture" (2023). Architecture Senior Theses. 536.
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