Published: 08th September 2021
Straight Outta Minecraft: This Instagram series reimagines Chennai's iconic buildings in pixel art
Sai Sudharshan R and Reshika R S collaborated on Madras in Pixels, an art series to reimagine Chennai's architecture in pixels
From Super Mario to Minecraft, pixel-driven games have been a dominant feature of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kids would flock to arcades to play their favourite games and some cooler kids would have Game Boy emulators at home. It was with an intention to pay homage to this age-old animation technique that Sai Sudharshan R and Reshika RS decided to recreate it with something they knew — their hometown Chennai. Their series on Instagram called Madras in Pixels reimagines the heritage, iconic buildings of the city in pixel art, almost as if it's straight out of Minecraft.
But Minecraft isn't what inspired them. "Last year, to commemorate the 226th anniversary of College of Engineering, Guindy, I had created a pixel art of the building. I was inspired by Pokemon Firered, a pixel game from the early 2000s," says Sai. The Architecture graduate's artwork was widely appreciated by his peers and professors and that gave him an idea. "One of my teachers gave me the idea to recreate the pixel art for other iconic and even obscure buildings of the city," recalls Sai. And that's how Madras in Pixels was born! "Through the series, I wanted to create awareness about these heritage sites, the rich history of the city," says Sai.
Madras Veterinary College
However, Sai soon realised that he couldn't do it alone. That's when Reshika came in. "It so happened that I was looking for someone to collaborate with on this project and Reshika had posted pixel art on her Instagram page. I knew that she would be perfect for this project as she was a junior from college," says Sai. Both Sai and Reshika are Architecture students at Anna University. While the 20-year-old Reshika is in her third year currently, Sai graduated the course this year.
So, how does the duo create the artwork for the series? Reshika explains, "We get the clearest image available with us or online. Using Adobe Photoshop, we create a 100x100 pixel grid, each of which represents a pixel. After referencing the photo, we try to fill in each box with colours and recreate the building." Reshika says that it takes her about an hour or two to complete one artwork. "Buildings have a certain character, certain details and when it is recreated through any form of art, it should resemble the original to a great extent. That process of abstraction can be challenging," adds Reshika.
Madras Literary Society
The duo has released 10 of their works of art on their Instagram handles and there are another five that's yet to be posted as part of the series. The various buildings that Sai and Reshika have recreated include the nighttime view of the Madras High Court, Royapuram Fire Temple and also the Madras Veterinary College. "After finishing this series, the plan is to create pixel characters of people from various communities and professions across the city. Hopefully, one day, we would be able to make it into a Madras-themed game," adds Sai.