Guest column: Rediscovering Chandigarh through social media
From pinning that inspiring image on Pinterest to sharing photographs on Instagram, ours is an age of visual content. Virtual platforms have made sharing such content with family, friends and designers significantly easier.
Interwoven with the theme of design, social media has been presenting itself as an interesting phenomenon in Chandigarh. Hashtags and location tagging have proven instrumental in providing the youth a window to discover the architectural gems of the city.
Earlier, architectural marvels such as the Le Corbusier Museum, Sector 19, were largely visited by the architectural community. However, the advent of social media has been a game changer, drawing people from all walks of life.
Repository of ideas
This trend has created public awareness about design and its value in the individual’s experience of a space. Professionals such as architects and interior designers engage with this cyberspace phenomenon on a daily basis as well. Inspiration has come for many a designer through social media. A photographer’s still life work, for instance, may be the source of inspiration for designing an entire space. Also, social media widens our cognisance of interesting new building material and spatial accents that are being created across India and the world, helping us offer multiple options to our clients.
The multitudinous nature of these options extends to Chandigarh’s cultural milieu. Instagrammable places such as the new underpass connecting the Rose Garden and Sector 17 have become spaces of brimming activity. The quest for posting novel pictures on social media has led people to the city’s many hideouts. The Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary is one such place. Cycling groups, brought together by Facebook, have also been touring the nooks and corners of the city.
Boost to tourism
Marketing in the age of social media has been greatly exploited by some designers. In an era where perception rules the roost, virtual presence is a means to create that perception. This potential can be exploited by the Chandigarh administration, which should use the space to proactively market the city’s uniqueness and boost tourism.
Another feather to social media’s proverbial hat is bringing people together.Chandigarh’s architect Le Corbusier had based the city’s design on the neighbourhood unit concept leading to the birth of sectors. Nevertheless, the community living that Chandigarh was designed for saw a delayed inception. The 2020 lockdown largely confined people to their sectors. Subsequently, WhatsApp groups of sector residents were formed to assist each other. Thus, knitting the city’s residents together in this hour of crisis.
Data overload: The flip side
Data overload is the other side of the coin. The deluge of fake news on social media can be confusing and sifting through narratives and counter narratives is a constant struggle, as is choosing a concept for one’s architectural space. Being spoilt for choice has confused many an architect and interior designer’s clients. Attractive shots are presented online after intense spatial styling and picture editing. Just like the unreal beauty standards seen in air-brushed photographs, which are the source of a variety of body image issues, the heavily edited architecture and interior design images create utopian visions in the minds of clients. When the actual space is created, it appears to be different from the mirage created by these online images, leaving clients disgruntled.
A bespoke space is what clients want. That is what makes them embark on this virtual image search journey in the first place. And that is what should be responsibly delivered by designers and other project associates. However, a side note of truth should be served as well. Bagging projects on the basis of false promises of delivering a precise rendition of these images is unethical.
Social media dilemma
The potential of social media can be used to vivify life in Chandigarh. The city’s repute as one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture can be built upon.Not only would this serve in increasing the intracity people-to-people connection but also help in promoting tourism. The architectural community has been an asset here and social media the catalyst. In the field of design, social media is both a boon and a bane. You may like how it facilitates vision creation or dislike how it distorts visions. Whatever your stance, social media is here to stay. The trick to resolving this ‘social media dilemma’ lies in using it as a tool to create, curate and connect.
( The writer is a Chandigarh-based architect)