The Aesthetics of a System Default

The Aesthetics of a System Default

By Nashmia Haroon

Physical appearance of project /Intention of project.

Project materials:

Metal steel pipes for scaffolding, metal joints for joinery.

Area roughly 48ft by 58ft , height maximum 12 ft


The association with scaffolding and its purpose generally means an armature, or even a temporary support to help build or fix something. The scaffolding was constructed outside an existing monument of great value, the National College of Arts(NCA) courtyard Fountain. The values and meanings associated with the fountain and its design are important here. It was designed to be a drinking fountain by an outstanding student and later teacher of the formal Mayo School of Arts, Rai Bhahadur Ram Singh around 1911.The Mayo School of Arts now known as the National College of Arts was designed and built at the time when the Indian Subcontinent was under the British Raj. The white marble fountain is still significantly situated in the heart of the college. Many of the heritage buildings on the Mall Road Lahore are the architectural designs of Ram Singh.

The importance of using the NCA fountain in my work is the association as an artist within this institute, this city, the location within the city and due to its geometric design and historical value.

The proposition was to create a temporary structure in scaffolding around the NCA fountain is to draw from its own basic structure and proportion. The basic outline of the fountain is octagonal in shape (which is essentially relevant to  and the grid that extents itself from here. This octagonal shape became a 3 dimensional grid and grew around the fountain (never coming in contact with the fountain). The purpose was to construct a space frame that replicates the octagonal shape of the fountain however translates into this frame that engulfs it and obstructs its view in places and becomes unapproachable eventually.

The dichotomy of the concept lies between the process of its inception and consequent realization, and the space of its creation.


I have been studying the importance of memorials built around the world. Some of them include the Memorial for Diana, Princess of Wales. It was designed to articulate beautifully the many shades of Diana’s enigmatic personality. The Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Berlin is also a great example of how land art, or monumental art is reflective of the subject matter in its design elements as well as material. The works of Christo and Jeanne Claude, Phillidia Barlow, Aie Wiewie , Julie Mehrute , Pheobe Washburn, Taryn Simon, Rashid Aryn and many others are of great influence in my work.

Amongst selected readings:

“Be like the fountain that overflows, not like the cistern that merely contains.”

This passage was from ‘Veronika Decides to Die’ by Paulo Coelho. Time makes its marks on a city constantly. The quote above is relevant to my reference of the city that flows and continues like a living person and bears marks that speak of time spent.

More importantly, the following quote from ‘Invisible cities’ by Italo Calvino is a stronger link to the project conceptually:

page 45, “ Cities and Desire ”

..The white city…

well exposed to the moon,with streets wound about themselves as in a skein. They tell this tale of its foundation:men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream they set out in search of that city; they never found it but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. In laying out the streets each followed the course of his pursuit; at the spot where they had lost the fugitive’s trail, they arranged spaces and walls differently from the dream, so she would be unable to escape again.

This was the city of Zobeide, where they settled, and waiting for that scene to repeat one night. None of them, asleep or awake, ever saw the woman again. The city’s streets were the streets where they went to work everyday, with no link anymore to the dreamed chase. Which, for that matter been long forgotten.

New men arrived from other lands, having had a dream like theirs, and in the city of Zobeide, they recognized something of the streets of the dream, and they changed the positions of the arcades and stairways to resemble more closely the path of the pursued woman and so, at the spot where she had vanished, there would remain no avenue of escape.

The first to arrive could not understand what drew these people to Zobeide, this ugly city, and this trap.

 © Nashmia Haroon

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