It has been three months since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in India, and if expert opinion is anything to go by, social distancing is here to stay for the near future. Even with the lockdown restrictions gradually being relaxed in different zones, authorities are struggling to open up businesses in a way that will not violate social distancing norms.
VBRIDGE, a group of young designers-architects from West Bengal, has come up with an inventive initiative to encourage social distancing in the rural areas of Bengal through a 1500-feet-long street artwork.
If you happen to walk the streets of ‘Wireless Para’ in Konnangar, Hooghly district, you’ll notice variously patterned white geometric shapes that ensure one conforms to social distancing norms.
A viral video of this extensive art shows a circular maze at the centre, from where lines branch out, and intercept with shapes and patterns, guiding people to maintain their distance.Speaking to News18, co-founder Soumyadeep Das says, “As architects/designers, we have the responsibility to come up with solutions through infrastructural development. Hence, we created this street art, to try and stop this pandemic in our own way.”
He explains that the circles and triangles on the sides of the streets have mostly been drawn in front of standalone shops and carts, as major marketplaces remain closed due to Covid-positive cases being reported in neighbouring areas.
Aesthetically, geometric shapes tend to have a better visual effect than other patterns. Keeping that in my mind, co-founder Ayan Roy says, “There’s a very common line used in the field of architecture that says ‘Every line in architecture matters,’ and we believe that if people understand and follow these lines, that’s success.”
Nearly 30 people came together to have the art executed in only two days, right before Cyclone Amphan hit parts of Bengal.
The idea of spreading awareness, however, stemmed from another venture – exploring ideas for Durga Puja. Puja preparations in Bengal usually start months in advance, and the idea took off from there.
Although there are serious concerns about Durga Puja-- and if Bengal can celebrate its biggest festival, the hope never dies. To ensure that the merrymaking does not nullify the gains of social distancing, the team, along with Sukanta Sporting Club, rolled out the artwork.“As per the information we have, we must follow social distancing at least until 2022. So, this could be an interesting way to make people aware and manage the crowd during pandal hopping,” says Das, adding, “Setting ‘mythology’ as the theme for this year’s Puja pandal, we wanted to do something around Abhimanyu’s Chakravyuh (popularly known as labyrinth) from Mahabharata.”
Hence, the centre is a circular maze, and if the lines of this labyrinth are straightened, they end up looking somewhat like what we have tried to implement in the design, he added.
The art has been drawn on two streets: one is six feet wide, and the other four feet wide. The lines in each are at a one-metre distance from each other. The design also provides a way for two-wheelers to maintain social distancing.
“Only thinking about the pandemic will be of little help, unless there’s a solution to it,” says one of the architects at VBRIDGE, adding, “Art has always affected mankind in different forms, but if we can use it to spread a social message, then there’s nothing like it.”