It represents Kerala’s glorious maritime history as also the idea of cultural celebrations we are used to say Vivek PP and Nishan M, Architects, De Earth Design Studio
What kind of challenges did you face while executing the Freedom Square project?
The conceptualise and execute a structure of this size & scale, in a sensitive urban environment was challenging all the way. Though there were built elements of old calicut stage existing in the area where we planned freedom square, people were worried about the huge foundation works going on in the beach. We faced resistances from the public & authorities alike. But those who realised that we haven’t overbuilt into the natural beach, and those who realised the final intend, of place making stood by us in this journey. Structural detailing, to ensure natural look all the way had to go through multiple deliberations. It was indeed rewarding that the same people who resisted the project during construction phase, came up with lot of appreciation after its completion. The whole project process took almost 7 years and to keep the positive energy going all the way itself took a lot of endurance.
How much influence did the historical and heritage site of this space have on your design strategy?
The whole project was conceptualised this way only because of the strong and deep historic layers & narratives that the place has to offer. If not, the design would have been just an open stage. The very proximity of the historic north pier, light house and port buildings carried with them the glorious maritime history of calicut port. Along with this came the freedom struggle narrative, when the beach witnessed a valiant fight during salt sathyagraha upholding the spirit of nationalism & local togetherness. We felt so proud & excited to showcase these layers of history to the next generation of youngsters who will be the flag bearers of this culture & the travellers who visits calicut.
Freedom Square conceptualizes many ideas, would it be fair to say it represents Kerala’s present-day diverse culture?
Yes it does. It represents the unity of people in calicut & kerala. It represents the glorious maritime history. It represents the poise & will in which we fought for our freedom. It represents the diversity of our culture. It represents the abundance of our natural resources. It represents the idea of cultural celebrations we are used to. It represents the scale & passion we have in social history & political engagements. It represents the idea of being in Kozhikode or Kerala in general.
Could you shed some light on the role played by the Kerala government and IIA Calicut for Freedom Square?
Freedom square is only one among 50 odd public projects taken up by iia calicut centre, the association of architects, in the calicut city with elected representatives. Iia calicut had left their stamp in every aspects of life, from birth to death, with the guidance of the visionary MLA Sri. Pradeep Kumar. The government schools that have come up is an example for the whole nation to follow. These public projects are the testimony of the endless potentials of thoughtful designs in positively impacting the cultural, social, ecological and economical growth of a city. Kozhikode, soon to be a city of design, is a living example of how an association like iia can partner with public authorities for general good. Various offices under iia, took up these projects, investing from themselves, to create larger awareness about design & it’s need in public places. Freedom square as a project was funded completely through the species development fund allotted to the MLA through kerala government . What is not common is to use such funds to create a new place for the city, a new identity & to uphold the glorious traditions & history paving the way for more cultural tourism & celebrations.
What kind of natural and locally sourced elements were used for the beautification of the project?
We used exposed laterite stone, which is seen abundant in northern malabar and also exposed granite stone for the walls. Floor and other finishes were mere plastered concrete while the walls were cladded with brick jalley work.
Going forward, what kind of legacy do you think Freedom Square will leave in terms of architecture design and philosophy?
Freedom square, is a living example, of what one can achieve if we partner with visionaries, take up courageous steps, and fight challenges relentlessly till u achieved the intended results. I’m sure there be a lot more bolder attempts in our urban fabric, which will define our identity as a community and as a city, rather than reducing our interventions to just solutions or being a copy of the west.