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