Memo from Mumbai

Mumbai’s architecture has been influenced by series of empires (British, Portuguese and Islamic), so to call the city’s architectural fabric rich seems almost an understatement. Chhatrapati Shiraji Terminus and Elphinstone College are inspired by Victorian Gothic; the legendary Taj Mahal hotel is inspired by Islamic architecture; and Marine Drive displays one of the largest collections of art-deco buildings, second only to Miami.

Brick domes for house in Alibaug, Image courtesy Nitin Barchha

Brick domes for house in Alibaug, Image courtesy Nitin Barchha

Yet it’s no secret that Mumbai is sorely in need of an upgraded urban infrastructure to accommodate unprecedented growth. With a population of over 18 million and a north–south axial layout, Mumbai is the most populated city in India. It has a pluralistic culture—its inhabitants speak many languages, practice various religions, have diverse political beliefs and come from different classes—one that is both tolerant and chaotic. Architecture emulates.

Though Mumbai has risen strategically on the world economic map, urban and aesthetic coherence is yet on the horizon. Core areas of the city are in a state of severe urban decay, breeding a constant state of conflict as Mumbai regenerates upon itself in unplanned settlements. Keep reading to discover how, despite all this chaos, contemporary design persists.

To read further visit Memo from Mumbai at interiordesign.net. The article discusses New Builds, People are talking about, What’s Trending and in Insider’s Take we chat with Nitin Barchha from White Room Studio.

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Material acquires meaning

What is material as such in architecture? A place acquires meaning through human intervention and transformation. These transformations interpret and represent values and aspirations. Materials used and applied uncover these issues and potentials of a project through a very careful analysis of purpose and place.

Domus India (January 2014)

Domus India (January 2014)

Materials are defined by their shape, colour and texture. When used contextually they challenge the notions of space and concretise concepts to cultivate a more complex understanding of the processes applied to produce and create space as perhaps the most significant and crucial component of any material culture.

Delhi – based Vir Mueller Architects’ two recently completed multi-storey dwelling projects – unite in geometrical and structural ideas through materials; materials that affect the mind and senses of the observer. Both the projects are similar in scale. The first project located in New Delhi, The Vasant Vihar Residence has been designed as a multi-family residence, comprising of a basement, ground and three floors. The open core concrete frame is wrapped in load bearing brick masonry walls on three sides, while a reinforced concrete frame system anchors the core. The brick envelope is neatly wrapped around the building and is punctuated by pockets of screens that allow for light to filter in during the day and to beam out at night. This approach and selection of material echoes Louis Kahn’s modernist abstraction of establishing order by honouring materials.

To read further grab a copy of this month’s Domus (Indian Edition) or subscribe at Spenta Multimedia.

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Calculated aesthetics

In a globalizing economy, architecture and urban design have an increasing role in facilitating the identity or imagery of capital. While design schools continue to propagate Mies van der Rohe’s famous dictum that “Form Follows Function”, the reality in the world’s great cities is that “Form Follows Finance,” coined by Carol Willis – architectural historian and founder of The Skyscraper Museum. Design and its cousin, branding, helps sell everything from buildings to institutions to dreams.

Domus India (December 2013)

Domus India (December 2013)

This is not far from reality and accurately reflects the scenario in India as it competes among industries for attention within Asia and on a global stage. The new campus of the Indian School of Business-Mohali represents the latest thinking in the planning and design of business schools competing on an international stage. The new 70-acre Mohali campus responds to the school’s mission to provide a world-class curriculum and real-world experience on par with peer institutions around the world.

In this context, the founders of the Indian School of Business understand that design - especially by international architecture firms such as Perkins Eastman – can add significantly to the value of their institution. The building design has to fit the campus in a way that is not only supportive, but also sensitive to the environment.

To read further grab a copy of this month’s Domus (Indian Edition) or subscribe at Spenta Multimedia.

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Poetic link, tectonic integrity

Since earliest times mankind has sought inspiration from nature for our built structures. However, until the dawn of the modern era in architecture and design, the true structural character of a building was invariably fully or partially encased in an ornamented cladding, of often stylised motifs of nature. The modern emphasis on honest structural expression has resulted in more sincere and innovative interpretations of nature in spatial structures. The direct inspiration of nature and the increasing use of advanced parametric digital design tools that replicate virtually instantaneously evolutionary processes results in structures that are not only elegant tectonically and in terms of economy of means, but also aesthetically pleasing.

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Domus India (November 2013)

Mumbai based architect Shimul Javeri Kadri of SJK Architects was blessed with a site located in Alibaug at the base of a hill but far away from the sea. The task at hand was to build a weekend house that is located away from the chaos of Mumbai. In the architects own words, “It was a beautiful property – we wanted to include the hills and trees and the gentle winds – the leaves strewn over the earth were the perfect cue. The form of the leaf – gentle but sloping was perfect and our very first sight of the plot yielded a site plan made of dried leaves.”

The programmatic forces and the nature of the site are seen as fields of potential for architectural investigation here and the resulting interdisciplinary nature of architecture that led to tectonically expressing form. Steven Holl once rightly said, “Architecture and site should have an experiential connection, a metaphysical link, a poetic link. When a work of architecture successfully fuses a building and situation, a third condition emerges. In this third entity, denotation and connotation merge; expression is linked to idea which is joined to site.” Few projects create such frisson of excitement and sense of genius loci as this weekend house. Whether viewed from the air or fleetingly glimpsed from behind coastal bushes this lush land with native coconut, mango and neem trees has been activated by the form of leaves. The leaves overlap one another and form ‘pods’ that are distinct to each part of the house and the spaces and paths between the pods encompass the surrounding landscape. The architect recognized that  this unique site needed to be understood in terms of its surrounding landscape and required a sculptural solution, rather than an conventional orthogonal design.

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Moments of experience

An architectural project is worked out answering a multitude of questions; which works to create an environment favourable for human activity. The quality of our life, the force of our memories, the importance of our day-to-day interpersonal exchanges, the reading of the environment, all these moments arouse in us emotions.

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Domus India (May 2013)

Architecture is a constant dialogue between the built and the unbuilt, the realized and the desired. Two volumes of moments – one cool and one warm – one form-finished concrete tube that forms the central circulation spine for the house and three main rooms made to look like cabins finished in richly textured wood are held within this open plan under a cantilevered metal roof that floats above the verandah and reflects the tea gardens below.

This house designed by RMA Architects sits quaintly on a tea garden. It is designed to minimise the impact of it’s footprint on the landscape. Several mock-ups were built to determine the optimum location both from the perspective minimising impact as well as the framing of potential views.

To read further grab a copy of this month’s Domus (Indian Edition) or subscribe at Spenta Multimedia.

The first part of this essay is written by architect Ekta Idnany.

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Envelope as a mediator

The envelope or exterior of the building is what defines the boundary between the inside and the outside. The exterior appearance is what we first experience or see of a building. In a similar way, we see people first as how they visually appear to us. In both of these cases it can be said that we are seeing the “skin” of the object. “Skin” is the boundary of the object that separates the object from the space around it. The “skin” of a building – its facade – is sometimes considered to have a social and cultural role in representing what is inside the building. Traditional typologies of buildings such as “temples,” “villas,” or “municipal buildings” usually have sufficient connection to a system of understanding that we know the programme of the building from the architectural elements that are combined to make the exterior form.

Domus India 02 (March 2013)

Domus India 02 (March 2013)

The articulation of the skin of a building is about the movement between the inside and the outside – one that is defined by the programme that is concealed and revealed within. Bernard Tschumi states that the envelope of a building is what excludes or includes by its articulation of the surface by fortification or porosity, by veiling and by screening. This suggests that movement from inside to outside is constitutive of space rather than being a product of space. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, two French philosophers have said it well, “A substance is said to be formed when a flow enters into a relationship with another form.”

Principal architects Romi Khosla and Martand Khosla of Romi Khosla Design Studios based in New Delhi, were entrusted with the responsibility of designing a Dental College for the Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi. The college besides being a teaching center for dentistry also provides dental care to the people in the surrounding areas. The programme therefore had to be designed keeping the three users in mind; the common public, the doctors who were going to teach and practice and for students who were going to learn and assist. The architects realized that it was crucial for the programme to be simplified so that it is easily understood by the three-end users and allows the users to flow from one space to another. This defines the envelope as a connector from the inside to the outside.

To read further grab a copy of this month’s Domus (Indian Edition) or subscribe at Spenta Multimedia.

The first part of this essay is written by architect Ekta Idnany.

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Context embedded processes

Is architecture context? Architecture is defined as architecture because it is set within a context and it has a strong and eloquent visual relationship with the environment. A building is always seen first as a part of the whole. Creating places and spaces that enrich the lives of the people who inhabit these spaces is the underlying principle that defines the work of most architects. Every building should engage in a dialogue with the beliefs and needs of a particular place. Place is to architecture as meaning is to language. A memory,  a story and any other significant connection – subliminal or physical contribute to the process of architecture.

Domus India 13 (Dec 2012)

Domus India 13 (Dec 2012)

Design process most often than not is embedded in the problem/ challenge. In an urban context, there are layers of systems and built environment to rely on for contextual information. However, in a non-urban context what is the approach? How does an architect tell a story of the place? What determines the style of architecture? Creating an environment involves designing for meaningful experiences – to do this, establishing a sense of place and engaging creatively within a community and its landscape enhances and reinforces this belief.

Mumbai-based KSA Architects and Planners has in the recent past been fortunate to have encountered three projects with varying programmatic requirements in three diverse cultural and topographical regions. All three projects have unique characteristics and site conditions that demand a site-specific response and are set in a non-urban context.

To read further grab a copy of this month’s Domus (Indian Edition) or subscribe atSpenta Multimedia.

The second part of this essay is written by architect Suprio Bhattacharjee.

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