2. The Singularity, March ‘17

Collaboration with: Freeman Murray
Location: Yelahanka, Bangalore
Typology: Organic Settlement

Satellite view & on-ground of the unoccupied site in Yelahanka

You’re given 7 acres of land to play with. The land has just got flat shrubbery in place, and you’re looking to build the seed of a community that can grow over time. It’s a mad brief for an architect to get. And my first reaction was to abandon all sense of responsibility, and just see what can be done at scale.

The Singularity was meant to be an extension of what Jaaga had been doing on many farms in peri-urban Bangalore. I’ve lived in the structure built at Hamsah Organic Farm, and was involved in the setting up of one of these structures in Oct ‘16. The stack is as pallet racks, plywood sheets, tensile ropes and shade cloths.

The process and outcome of setting up one of these structures.
I’m highlighted in white in the first photograph.
source: author and freeman murray

All of the components mentioned here pack up into a shipping container, and this facilitates a kind of nomadism. Jaaga has been building these since 2009, and over time, they’ve come to fine-tune what necessary towards building it. Concerns over stability have been addressed by using giant screws for a foundation, a rare kind of foundation that can be removed and used again.

A timelapse of setting up of a structure for a meditation retreat

Typically, Jaaga had been getting portions of land on farms to inhabit, and the context was the beautiful natural greenery, and to be contained within the available space. With the Singularity, for the first time, there was a whole farm available to inhabit. And with this freedom, came the opportunity to establish our own context. 

The first step in the process of dealing with such a site was to abandon reason, and dream.

Key to this endeavour was the raw material. In this case, it was pallet racks, and shipping containers. We explored ways to fabricate our own uprights, measuring the dimensions of commercially available pallet racks, and making our own CAD drawings. The intent was to cut the steel first, and then bend it.

We explored the process involved in fabricating our own pallet racks.
Social organisation
Much like Burning Man, the intention was for there to be a central point of focus, and to branch outwards from there, slowly forming 'camps'. We intended for there to be a ‘Build’ camp, an ‘Ethereum’ camp, a ‘Web Development’ camp. I was supposed to head the ‘Design and Fabrication’ camp.

The fruit of the exercise of dreaming was to decide that we needed a
central point of focus, like the Monolith shown here.

Some over-the-top dreaming
We considered many ideas for the central point-of-focus, equivalent to the ‘man’ that burns at Burning Man. As a fan of science fiction, I suggested using the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ultimately, we decided to centre our camps along a strip of pallet-racks, to be used as office space.
And so, here’s an animated look at different stages for this:

Our intention was to build 10 foundational camps,
occupying spaces from 1 to 10 on the clock.

Attempts at off-grid sustenance
We were planning for off-grid sustainence, with ideas for how to handle solar power and how to handling our waste with PVC barrels, making mobile compost toilets that could be transported away from the main camp via forklift. 

Among our wilder ideas was to find a way to do nomadic waste-management.
And with the ROI on solar panels becoming better and better, it was heavily in our thoughts.

Cancellation, and aftermath
Ultimately, the project did not come to fruition, due to factors outside our control. Being nomadic means being flexible about where you are, and not being accepted everywhere. We have a system, with an algorithm for occupying any piece of land that becomes available.

The folks at Jaaga have moved to a new farm, in Guruskool, Chikmaranhalli, in an initiative called ‘Hackerfarm’, and maybe one day we’ll get another chance to implement something like this at scale. Meanwhile, take a look here for some progress photos on the current farm.