The Transformers

Artists turn a derelict street in Said-ul-Ajaib into a landscape for creative pursuits.

Published: July 30, 2014 12:21 pm
talk The street in Said-ul-Ajaib that is lined with designer studios; the quirky interiors of one such firm.

By: Samira Bose

Said-ul-Ajaib until recently saw footfall because it hosts the Garden of Five Senses, within which fine-dining restaurants have laid siege. But now, the road ahead holds promise too. Khasra No 258 in Said-ul-Ajaib is a dirt path, accentuated by exposed bricks and faded black doorways. Vibrant graffiti on low walls read “Bond”. This street, which had a chicken shed before, is being transformed into a hub for designers and artists.

A shift from the high-rental Hauz Khas Village and Shahpur Jat, this urban village, near Saket in south Delhi, is now being seen as a “shell where artists can do whatever they want with the space”. Graphic designer Jiten Suchede and owner of artisanal chai retail Jugmug Thela was the first to arrive in this lane. It’s run down areas such as these that attract artists, he says, who not only seek respite from the more commercialised (and expensive) spaces but also recognise the potential of an-otherwise unassuming plot. Reminiscent of the post-Warhol bohemian shift of art studios to lofts and attics in cities like New York, places such as these are experiments in urban spaces, a risk artists are willing to take. Suchede says they want the space to experience an “organic transformation” rather than a commercial one, and in the same breathe he confesses that rents have increased by 50 per cent since last year.

The first stop in this lane is Bakheda, an experimental and spontaneous space for music and art. Yellow lamps hang from high ceilings and against cement pillars lean wooden carvings. Its faded floors have recently hosted events such as the Troika fashion show and the design show, QREOH Indie Festival. Co-founder Girish says that the space is open to all kinds of performances and displays, and as he speaks, children from NGO Karm Marg run around in the background with printed sheets to rehearse a skit on road safety.

The garden behind Bakheda is closed with a brick wall. Antique metal trunks lend a quaint ambience. The garden connects to the studio and shop of People Tree, known for its alternate design aesthetics. Then, there’s Jugmug Thela and Jugaad, known for their environment friendly products and Jamura Design Lab, a multidisciplinary firm. Designers from each of these outlets are collaborators in revamping this street.

Inside their studios, they have created pools of interest. For instance, at People Tree, exposed bricks have been left untouched and glass partitions make the space look sleeker and open. Posters and handmade lamps add to the look. Owner Gurpreet Sidhu hopes to use the space for T-shirt painting workshops and slam poetry in the near future. Their closed veranda with a tin roof and vertical mirrors seems ideal for such activities.

“When we came a few years ago, this space was basically a chicken shed. We saw the potential in such a place that could be converted into an interesting space. It’s also a few minutes away from the Saket Metro Station,” says Suchede. There is a workshop for wooden furniture next to Bakheda, and soon the designers might just start gardening as well.

As the day draws to a close, the garden in Bakheda glows with dim lights, there is soft music in the air and drinks on tables made from truck tyres. This appears to be a space that will open itself out for exploration and dialogue in the coming months. Away from the toils and traffic of the city, this urban village seeks to make a “space out of a space.”

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