GOOD DESIGN IS SUSTAINABLE, RESPONSIBLE
“Good buildings,” explained Stephen Gardiner, a British architect, “come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.”
WORDS – Team Urban Vaastu
Today, as cities and towns across India battle problems relating to lack of infrastructure, funding, ugly competition and an overall absence of motivation to put up outstanding buildings, many architects are discovering that there is still a strong and growing demand for quality projects.
As companies modernize and there is growing influence from foreign corporates, there is also a corresponding rise in awareness about sensible architecture, the need to balance nature with man made structures and to ensure structures that are environment-friendly and practical.
On the second anniversary of our magazine, we have decided to feature on our cover a story on the evolution of modern Indian architecture. We feature a few prominent architects from across India, eliciting their views on the remarkable developments that are occurring in this field. We also highlight some of their major works.Says BrindaSomaya, whose Mumbai-based Somaya&Kalappa, a leading architectural firm, also has offices elsewhere in India:
“The architect is one of the few professionals who work across so many different spheres and fields. And has an advantage of being in a position where we can make that difference. We have to be a conscience of what we build. But also what is un-built.”
Reza Kabul, founder ARK Reza Kabul Architects – the Mumbai-based firm has offices in Pune and San Francisco – says professionals often encourage young talented minds to travel, learn and educate themselves. “There is no point in limiting their knowledge and experiences,” he notes. “Traveling outside India opens their perspective to newer learning avenues, varied audiences, and a larger scope to explore their creativity.”
Eventually they do come back to India, and implement what they have learnt, within the Indian context. “Life today is very global,” says Kabul. “It is only sensible that designers be too.” Gauri Parikh, who spends times equally in Ahmedabad and London, describes herself as “more of a brick-mortar concrete person.
I have a passion for materials and like to work with them.”
The architect lays emphasis on the need for awareness and sensitivity and to avoid shortcuts. “We need strict policing to bring in discipline,” she observes. “We as professionals who can make a difference – it is our duty to do that little bit towards society by planning and executing such that people by default end up doing things in the right manner.”
P. VenkatRamana, whose father, P. Subrahmanyam established the firm, Murty&Manyam way back in the early 1960s, says the firm – which has been in the field for over 50 years – plans to use its expertise and contribute to a sustainable, environment friendly future by endorsing design consciousness and keeping abreast with advancing technology.
Indeed, India’s architectural sector is witnessing exciting developments, exposed as it is to the changes that are occurring globally.
MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN PRACTITIONER
Brinda Somaya believes an architect’s role is that of a guardian and his is the conscience of the built and un-built environment
Somaya & Kalappa Consultants (SNK), the multi-disciplinary architecture and design practice that Brinda Somaya founded four decades ago is led by her and her lawyer turned architect daughter, Nandini Sampat.
A full-service architectural firm, it offers clients a combination of imaginative design, expertise, and intense involvement. The firm’s reputation is based on providing the highest quality of professional services to clients.
According to Somaya, “the architect’s role is that of a guardian – his is the conscience of the built and un-built environment.” So an architect should understand the client requirement clearly and prior to start working on the projects he/she should visit the site to study the context, climate, geography and conscience of the environment at length.
Moreover, as detailing is also vital in architecture, every minute detail regarding the space, materials, etc should be carefully crafted.
She believes that as every new project comes with new challenges so it is wise that one should think innovatively and differently for each project.
Somaya completed her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Mumbai University and her Master of Arts from Smith College in Northampton, MA, USA. She started her practice in 1975 in Mumbai and from 1978 to 1981 she was joined by her sister Ranjini Kalappa, also an architect.
Since 1981, she has run an independent practice on her own. In May 2012 she was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Smith College. In 2014 she was awarded the Indian Institute of Architects – BaburaoMhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement.
Says Somaya: “The architect’s role is that of guardian – his is the conscience of the built and un-built environment.” For more than three decades, Somaya merged architecture, conservation and social equity in projects ranging from institutional campuses and rehabilitation of an earthquake-torn village to the restoration of an 18th-century Cathedral, showing that progress and history need not be at odds.
This belief underlines her work that spans large corporate, industrial and institutional campuses and extends to public spaces, which she has rebuilt and sometimes reinvented as pavements, parks and plazas.
Master-planning and building design of multiple corporate and educational campuses has become one of her areas of expertise.
Some of the award-winning campuses which she has been involved with include Tata Consultancy Services, Banyan Park, Mumbai; Nalanda International School, Vadodara; and Zensar Technologies, Pune.
Her firm recently won the competition for the `Restoration and Upgradation of the historic Louis Kahn Buildings of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) as well as the new Academic Buildings of the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay (IIT-B).
She is currently the Chairperson of the Board of Governors for School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada, a premier architecture institute in the country.
Somaya is a Member of the National Advisory Board of NCSHS (National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures) 2014.
BrindaSomaya has been actively involved in participating in her country’s and city’s development as a member of several bodies including the Committee of Environmental Impact Assessment of New Construction Projects for the `Ministry of Environment & Forests’ Government of India, the Mumbai Urban Heritage Conservation Committee, and Mumbai’s Initiative for the Protection and Improvement of Streets and Public Spaces.
Master-planning and building design of multiple corporate and educational campuses has become one of her areas of expertise. Some of the award-winning campuses which she has been involved with include Tata Consultancy Services, Banyan Park, Mumbai; Nalanda International School, Vadodara; and Zensar Technologies, Pune.
She was also on the IAWA board of Advisors (International Archives of Women in Architecture), USA and Founder Trustee of the HECAR Foundation which has brought out several publications on Heritage and Architecture. She chaired a conference and organised a seminal exhibition on the Work of Women Architects with a focus on South Asia in Mumbai.
Over the years, she has won numerous international and national awards. In 2004, Somaya won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage award for the restoration of the St Thomas’ Cathedral in Mumbai. She is also a leading European Architects Forum award winner for the new Nalanda Schools Campus in Baroda in 2006.She was the first woman to have won the Wienerberger Golden Architect Award for lifetime achievement – a peer award, in 2007.
Being an architect and urban conservationist, Somaya has merged architecture, conservation, and social equity in projects ranging from institutional campuses and rehabilitation of a village impacted by an earthquake, to the restoration of an 18th Century cathedral. She emphasises that her involvement in conservation is neither self-indulgent nor reverential, but an intelligent meshing of the old and new to develop an architectural firm that serves the present.
Being an architect and urban conservationist, Somaya has merged architecture, conservation, and social equity in projects ranging from institutional campuses and rehabilitation of a village impacted by an earthquake, to the restoration of an 18th Century cathedral.
“ALL ARCHITECTS HAVE TO GO BEYOND BUILDINGS”
An interview with veteran architect Brinda Somaya on a wide range of subjects. Excerpts:
You had once described the architect as the conscience of the built and un-built environment. Could you elaborate?
I believe that all architects have to go beyond buildings. The role of the architect can only become meaningful if it goes beyond buildings. I think my practice does reflect that in many ways. Because we do planning, architecture, we conserve as well as do a lot of community projects.
The architect is one of the few professionals who work across so many different spheres and fields. And has an advantage of being in a position where we can make a difference. That is why I said that we have to be a conscience of what we build. But also what is un-built.
What is the definition of the un-built environment? It could be a physical environment that’s not built. It could be protection of mountains. It could be protection of lakes, of forests and of water bodies, different types of flora and fauna or of the social environment.
What is it that we need to do as architects, to play a bigger role, so when we do a project it is not one specific building? Who is the client? Who is the user? Who are the people? How are we going to make their lives better because of what we have built? We have many different types of roles. And I think, we are in a position where we can make that difference.
Are you happy with the pace of development in India, especially with all these buildings coming?
We are going to have 700 million people moving into urban areas by 2050. It’s going to be the largest urban migration movement that has ever existed in the history of mankind. There are going to be huge issues and multiple problems.
No individual, certainly not the architect alone, can solve that. And we are already seeing some of these problems. They were anticipated earlier but you know how we are.
Now of course for global warming they have come with a 2 degrees temperature variation. But I think it’s only now that people are really looking at what is going to happen to our environment. These last few years, we have seen peculiar and unplanned growth in tier one and tier two cities.
And often that has resulted in a lot of ugliness. Because what existed before was sensitive to the land, to the climate and there was space around the buildings. Now all that has been destroyed and you have these smaller concrete boxes in maybe the smaller cities and these big glass boxes in the bigger cities which are totally isolated from everything around.
But I don’t think we can blame the architect alone for this. I think the architect is just one part in what’s all happening. There is hardly any political will of bureaucrats and politicians to give that value to the architect.
What daunts most architects now?
I think it depends on which responsibility each young person wants. When I give a talk, there will be a group of young architects who will come up to me and say “Ma’am how can we do something worthwhile? How can we make a difference? How can we start addressing the issues of the city?”
But there will be a group of kids who are already, before graduating, doing interiors for some well-to-do people. So I don’t want to stand in judgement of anybody. But as I said earlier, some are not going to be bothered. You can’t help that.
The other thing is people have to live and to make a living out of architecture. People say it’s okay for you, you are established. But that’s been my philosophy from the beginning, even in my 20s.
Do you think there should be more awareness among architects?
There are a lot of great young architects and I am optimistic that we have a critical mass of really good, innovative, environmentally conscious young people who will look after what’s ahead. And I have full faith in them they are doing amazing work. There are lots of people who are very sensitive of what’s going on around them. The barefoot architect, as I would call them. I am an optimist and I have full faith in the next generation.
What would your message be to these architects? And how do they balance their careers, morals and ideals?
They are so smart today; they would probably be giving me advice. I don’t think we need to give anyone advice. I just think that mentors are needed and it’s for them to decide whom they believe they look up to. It could be anybody.
It needn’t even be an architect. But it’s important to have some sense of mentors or some sense of idealism.
I feel as they move on in their careers they will find it. But they also have to believe in what they are doing. They also have to remember that India is a country with great economic inequalities which need to be addressed. Or what resources we have should be as equitable as possible. These things should also play a role in their thought processes.
When we look at not just architecture but also technology we have noticed there has been an explosion of growth versus. How are we growing so fast?
Life is not what it used to be. It’s very fast moving. Just like instant coffee, instant gratification, instant response. If you send someone an email, you expect them to reply immediately. People learn to work within new technologies. I think new technologies bring a lot of creativity as well. I think technology also has a place in your life. You should definitely know what’s happening and keep up with the technology.
I also do it in my own way. I learn from all the young people around about what is happening. And technology also changed the way we think, the way we work, the accessibility of knowledge to us, the speed at which we are able to do different things, our connection with the rest of the world, our ability to know what is happening in different parts of the world.
What do you think about architectural growth in the western world?
Every part of the world has something to offer. The west also has a great amount to offer us. And I have been educated in the west. I go there often, and have great respect. I have nothing against western and eastern ideas or thoughts.
I think the biggest lesson we should learn from Europe is that like us, the continent has a very ancient history and civilisation. Europe has ensured that its inner cities, architecture and plazas have been protected and saved. They have been pedestrianized, the buildings have been restored.
Do we want to go there? We go to Paris and enjoy walking in the city. Or we go to Italy and enjoy sitting in the plaza. I think Mumbai is one Indian city which has somehow managed to save its inner city, unlike Bangalore.
In Mumbai, at least because of the conservation movement, the Urban Heritage Committee (of which I was also a member for almost 10 years), has ensured that buildings have been listed.
So we have many interesting things coming up in these areas. And gentrification doesn’t mean that it is only for the rich. Gentrification means that those areas become vital and with it come jobs. In Europe, they have understood this. I went to Eastern Europe and countries like Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic; one is more beautiful than the next. I’ll feel very sad if we don’t save our cities.
We have slum growth and it’s never going to stop. Despite that do you think we will emerge as better cities in the coming decades or better planned cities?
One of the main problems we have is migration and it cannot be solved by relocating people. There is no way that anybody is going to build enough housing for all the people who are coming into these cities. There are always going to be slums or informal housing.
My personal belief is that we have to understand the importance of slums. And it is not some sort of aberration or some sort of black mark that we want to wish away from an otherwise seemingly beautiful city. It’s a very vital part of the city. The problem with slums is the ownership of the land; it often doesn’t belong to the slum holder.
But this informal housing is always going to be in our cities. How do we improve the lives of people in the slums? Why not give them some right over their land so they can invest money and build better houses? Why not give them proper sanitation? Why not take care of their waste?
You can’t just have migration into 6 or 10 metros so that everybody has to come there. Or we have 100 smart cities coming up, but even that is not so easy to accomplish. We have to understand the present situation, not want to eradicate everything that’s gone before. How we improve the situation in the present cities should be one of the prior concerns.
Also, it is important to improve the conditions in our villages so that they are as self-sufficient as people are in the cities.
INSPIRING QUALITY LIVING THROUGH INNOVATION
ARK Reza Kabul Architects Pvt Ltd reflects the intelligence of Reza Kabul and a talented team of individuals with a common vision: to inspire quality living through innovation, sustainable design and holistic design approach.
Established in 1988, the company launched its practice at a time of exciting change and urban growth in India. Today, with a strength of over 100 full time employees, the studio has grown dramatically. This rapid growth has also allowed it to address projects on a large-scale, both nationally and internationally.
“Keeping in mind our clientele’s unique background and need profile, we develop innovative approaches to design, access cutting edge technologies, and implement advanced management practices to provide optimal solutions with a focus on quality, timeline, and cost economy,” explains Reza Kabul, one of the foremost talents in Indian architecture.
Mumbai headquartered ARK Reza Kabul Architects has offices in Pune and San Francisco in the US.
It is a full-service architectural, interior, landscape design and planning company with proven expertise in project design and delivery ranging from master plans and townships, to industrial, hospitality, commercial, institutional, educational, and residential segments.
One of the foremost talents in the realm of Indian architecture, Reza Kabul’s foray into the industry was a random experience of viewing books on architecture that proved catalyst enough for a switch from engineering to architecture.
After a brief stint at a prominent architecture studio in Mumbai, he set up ARK Reza Kabul Architects Pvt. Ltd., India in 1988, and further expanded with ARK Studio Pune and ARK Studio Inc in San Francisco Bay Area, USA.
Path breaking projects
Reza Kabul has envisioned and successfully executed a string of path breaking projects centred on the design philosophy of ‘liberating spaces’. He has handled projects for leading names in the Indian real estate industry, and continues to enjoy the trust and appreciation with projects that set pioneering benchmarks in architectural design.
A speaker for ‘Marcus Evans Tall Buildings Conference’ in Seoul, Korea (2008) and a pioneer in tall buildings, Reza Kabul has been listed in the Limca Book of Awards (2003) for Shreepati Arcade, the tallest building in India.
His signature projects are spread globally in the US, India, Mauritius, UAE, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Bhutan, and Kenya.
Kabul graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Architecture (1985) from the M.S. University, Baroda. He has accreditation to several professional bodies including the Council of Architecture (COA), Associate, Indian Institute of Architects (AIIA), Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA).
He and his firm have also won several awards. They include:
India’s Tallest Building :Shreepati Arcade by Limca Book of Records
The Best Architect of the Year by Accommodation Times
‘Gun GauravPuraskar’ (Best Performance) by Practicing Engineers, Architects, Town Planners Association (PEATA India)
Best Architect Commercial Category by Indian Architecture & Design
Best Corporate Design Excellence by CNBC Awaaz
Best Architect by News Makers Achievers
Achievers for Industrial Development by Indian Economic Development & Research Association
Citation of Emerging Master by The Indian Institute of Architects
Archilights – Certificate of Appreciation by Times Property (Times of India Group)
‘Bharat Gaurav Award’ by All India Achievers Foundation
Award of Excellence by DNA Realty GEN NEXT
Highly Commended Best Hotel for Landmark Grand (Dubai, UAE) by International Hotel Award
Award for Excellence in Architecture by Festival of Architecture and Design (FoAID)
Certificate of Excellence in Office Space by Smart Office India Summit
Best Upcoming Green Project of the Year for EktaTripolis (Mumbai, India) by Construction Times Builders Award
Creative Excellence by Johnson – Society Interiors Honours 2015
Best Residential High Rise Development – India;
Highly Commended Residential High-rise Architecture – India; Highly Commended Residential Development – India; and Highly Commended Apartment – India for Transcon Triumph (Mumbai, India) by Asia Pacific Property Awards
Special Recognition for Outstanding Skill & Innovativeness in High-Rise Design by AceTech Alpha Awards at the hands of Karim Rashid
Best Township Project of the Year for EktaParksville by Construction Times Builders Awards
‘BUDDING ARCHITECTS HAVE ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE AND THE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY’
ARK Reza Kabul Architects is a full-service, global design studio, offering Architectural, Interior Design, Landscape, and Urban Planning services. An interview with Reza Kabul, the founder of the company.
Could you tell us about the exciting new developments that are occurring in the area of architectural planning in Indian cities and the growing exposure of Indian architects to the global architectural community?
Architecture is in a constant state of flux, and Indian sensibilities are evolving with results encompassing a myriad of architectural styles and designs. While we started our careers with drawing boards and limited resources, the budding generation has accessibility to knowledge and the advantage of technology.
We often encourage young talented minds to travel, learn and educate themselves. There is no point in limiting their knowledge and experiences. Travelling outside India opens their perspective to newer learning avenues, varied audiences, and a larger scope to explore their creativity. Eventually they do come back to India, and implement what they have learnt, within the Indian context. Life today is very global; it is only sensible that designers be too.
The advancements in technology have taken drastic leaps since when we started without drafting boards and t-squares. With the assistance of soft-wares such as Autodesk Revit we are able to achieve more dynamic designs, faster time spans, and more imaginative structures.
The overall speed of architectural planning has become fast paced with instant switch between 2D plans and 3D views allowing us to design more conveniently. The incorporation of services into BIM software has minimised the chances of any unforeseen issues that may arise due to the overlap of several functions that run across the structure and various consultants handling those aspects. Technology has drastically facilitated us to explore newer forms and design more efficiently in a shorter time frame.
Are Indian cities able to meet the growing aspiration of architects, planners and even consumers in terms of providing user-friendly architecture?
We also have the opportunity to re-imagine dead spaces within the city and design adaptive re-use projects. If there is an empty space, it might as well be converted into a valuable public amenity that becomes a convenience for people in the neighbourhood; thus ensuring that they do not have to travel much.
Cutting down travel time highly encourages healthy activities such as walking and cycling and decreases the dependency on private and public transport. Efficient re-use of spaces is a step closer towards establishing a more sustainable and green environment around us.
In this way we can reduce the urban decay and leverage existing infrastructure to reduce the burden on new developments.
We as architects are working towards achieving this. There is certainly a demand for more holistic living solutions from the consumers across all segments, and the developers are certainly doing their best to cater to these demands. The future of what the country shall be is in what is being designed today. Architecture is about more than just developing a structure; it is about nurturing a society, and in-turn designing a skyline that shall add to the history and heritage of our country.
What are the new trends that you are expecting in Indian cities, especially with the government focussing on ‘smart cities?’ Will these changes transform the Indian urban landscape?
The concept of a smart city is quite broad and interpreted on several levels by different individuals, companies, and governments. I believe the concept of a smart city is the development of an entire urban eco-system based on institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.
It is necessary to take into consideration every aspect of the city dweller before planning new infrastructure for a city.
In terms of the Indian urban landscape, existing cities could implement convenience services such as a unified transport ticketing system across trains, buses, and metros; provide constant traffic monitoring updates.
A coastal city like Mumbai could leverage its existing waterways to commute instead of further burdening the existing infrastructure. Other cities could use modes of alternative energies to meet their requirements; provide access to walking and cycling paths across the arterial parts of the city.
Please tell us about the new projects being taken up by your firm, both in India and abroad?
One of the exciting new developments that is currently under-construction is a 65 acre township along the river Ulhas called ‘Regency Antilia’. The river facing township includes 10 acres of lush landscaped spaces and consists of a school, playground, hospital, temple, commercial mall, offices, theatres and a boutique hotel. The multi-amenity clubhouse features a gymnasium and spa, indoor gaming zone, restaurant, pool, badminton, squash, and a multipurpose hall. Outdoor activities include tennis, basketball, jogging track, musical fountain, cricket, and mini golf.
Located in the suburban commercial hub of Andheri, ‘KanakiaWallStreet’ offers 10,00,000 sqft of office space, the architecture reflects the heavy stone work buildings that lace the kilometre long Wall Street (New York). However, the classical gothic style fades away with the introduction of double glazed glass and aluminium fins on the facade.
Creating its own identity, using colour and depth variations of the fins, the facade appears as silhouettes of human figures. The office spaces range from 800 sqft to 50,000 sqft, featuring amenities that include an executive lounge, valet and concierge services, and a news room. One of the key design considerations is the emphasis on personal health and well-being of the modern age entrepreneurs and employees. The landscaped terrace gardens and cafes, indoor gaming zone, and library make for ideal breakout spaces. Sleeping pods have been designed owing to those who pull the late nights and all-nighters in the competitive environment.
Another interesting project that has been awarded the Best Residential High Rise Development – India at the Asia Pacific 2015 Awards by International Property Awards is ‘Transcon Triumph’. The luxury residential project is a 42 storey tower with exclusive two and three bedroom residences, penthouses, an entertainment deck with lavish features, themed landscapes, and a crowning sky deck. The project has also been Highly Commended under the categories: Residential High-rise Architecture – India, Residential Development – India, and Apartment – India.
Could you elaborate on your upcoming project Altitude in Sri Lanka and some of the recent projects executed in Dubai and other parts of India and the world?
While Sri Lanka conspicuously represents the intersection of global desires and influences, ‘Altitude’ shall inculcate a theme of the rich heritage and its 1996 Cricket World Cup victory that fuses with the contemporary modern design. Right from the vast open landscaped surroundings, to the amenities inside the high-rise structure, Altitude has been designed not just as a mixed-use high-rise development, but as a revenue-generating landmark structure that shall identify Sri Lanka.
The mixed-use high-rise incorporates various private and public spaces including luxurious apartments and penthouses, retail and commercial spaces, a revolving speciality restaurant, an indoor cricket training facility, and a 360degree observatory. Two of our recently completed projects in the Middle East include the AurisFakhruddin Hotel Apartments (Dubai) and the Landmark Fujairah (Fujairah).
AurisFakhruddin Hotel Apartments, located in Dubai Sports City, is only a 15 minute drive to new the Al Maktoum International airport. The 304 key property incorporates apartments that are spacious and elegantly furnished, with en-suite bathroom and amenities, dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, gracefully divided just to provide a high-profile accommodation for business and leisure.
Overlooking the Arabian Sea, and with a spectacular view of the Hajar mountains, the ‘Landmark Hotel Fujairah’ offers a memorable experience of this historical city. With a total of 241 keys, the property hosts 175 classic rooms, 12 deluxe rooms, 25 junior suites, 5 executive suites, 17 2BR family suites and 7 3BR family suites. Several lifestyle and fitness amenities are also bundled into the design of the property including a state-of-the-art health club, spa, and a roof-top swimming pool.
Another landmark project that we have recently completed is ‘The Concord’ at Nairobi, Kenya: an elegant four-star property featuring the best of convenience, luxury and entertainment.
The atmosphere and vibe of the space is modern and luxurious with hints of traditional African accents creating the ‘wow’ factor. The 86 key property is tastefully executed, radiating warmth and sophistication; offering the finest indulgence and lifestyle designed around the guests needs and wishes.
The property also features specialised restaurants and cafés: Umami, Curry Flavors, Bonhomie, and the Oasis Bar.
The Concord comes replete with a fine mix of luxurious amenities including banquet facilities, an aquamarine pool, and spa, and health club services.
What are your views on the prospects for more sophisticated architecture in India over the coming years?
With projects getting grandiose in scale and complexity, and the Indian real estate market opening up to international standards of designing, it certainly seems certain that the future of Indian architecture is headed towards a more sophisticated era. As the focus on the future of the country comes into perspective, efforts have been made by various organisations to popularise sustainable construction practices.
Developers are showing strong commitment to deliver advanced designs without drastically increased budgets. Increased day lighting with innovative facades, structural glass to gain increased transparency, reuse/recycle materials for minimum wastage are considered at the initial phases of design. These are just basic steps towards better living for our future.
PIONEERING A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH TO DESIGN
Gauri Parikh and DamionGray founded Gray Parikh Architects, which today operates from the UK and India, designing projects keeping in mind the global perspective
ARCHITECTS have their own unique ideas and beliefs and most reputed ones adopt certain policies and pursue it relentlessly throughout their career. For Gray Parikh Architects, which originated in London in 2003, the office in India at Ahmedabad, the country’s architectural hub, was started in 2006.
Gauri Parikh, who was born in Mumbai (then known as Bombay), educated in Gujarat and later in London, began the practice in 2003 along with DamionGray (born in Yorkshire and educated in London) after receiving their licence from the Royal Institute of British Architects, University of North London.
Before starting Gray Parikh Architects, Damion worked for architectural firms such as John Simpsons, BLDA and WATG gaining his experience in traditional detailing, high-end private residences and in the hospitality sector. Gauri worked with Hamilton Associates, Paul Davis and Partners and PRP, gaining her experience on large scale infrastructure projects, offices, industrial estates, residential estates and business parks.
From the beginning, the two pioneered a sustainable approach to design through work that spans the spectrum from master planning to furniture. Sustainable design shapes communities and the decisions make a difference. They believed that it is their responsibility to design with the future of others in mind and consider the whole life and global perspective as well as site specific issues.
The underlying objective is to effectively maximise the potential of any project, whilst striving to minimise the impact on the environment. The approach is sensitive to culture, often combining the latest advance in technology with techniques drawn from vernacular traditions.
Today, they have a total staff of 14 working at Gray Parikh Architects in India. “We have one very senior engineer based in the UK who carries out some of the most valuable detailing and guides us in various manners with value engineering in the execution of the projects,” explains Parikh.
“We have one senior environmental architect based in Vienna who has been working with us from inception of the project to ensure that the environmental sustainability of the project is achieved at a low cost.”
The first breakthrough came when Gray Parikh Architects won their first design competition of Gujarat National Law University. From the outset their design philosophy for the project revolved around the principle that good quality buildings are delivered through a process rather than stylistic approach.
The scheme is based on providing a ‘green link’ running north to south generating a college street. This connects specific external environments with clusters of learning and teaching accommodation in a continuous high quality social space. Voids allow natural light to penetrate into the space and provide a return air path for the whole house ventilation system with heat recovery creating a carbon efficient breathing building. Working closely with the landscape team ensured that internal and external environments flow across the site to enhance the occupants sense of well-being.
The core of the Law campus contains green space to make it the heart of daily life for students.
The administration building, performance centre and amphitheatre defined the plaza. All the facilities are connected through a network of paths and integrate the academy into the landscape thus creating a conducive atmosphere for a student.
The elegance of the main building is married to the constructional technology, which has generated a concrete framed solution to a four storey building, thus offering the flexibility and openness of a framed building, whilst enhancing the energy efficiency of a thermal mass. The building is designed and positioned to make the best of natural wind movement and natural light patterns.
The structure is four shallow glass boxes contained within a structure, which stops direct glare and allows for air flow through the buildings. The central courtyards mean natural air can flow through the structures, and air conditioning can be kept to a minimum. There is a natural temperature difference of around 4 to 5 degree centigrade between the outside and inside of the building.
The elevations of the glassed facades are protected by a concrete oversized ‘masharabiya.’ Relevant to the strong Islamic culture of the city and a modern representation of a stone carved screen, which is the symbol of a nearby city of Ahmedabad.
The campus programme comprises different facilities including academic building, classrooms, auditorium, moot court, hostels, VIP guest house, staff accommodation and sport fields focused on the development of excellence for lawyers and the future judiciary.
Different types of projects
The firm likes to work on different types of projects from an individual private residence to universities to hospitals. The very first residence for a private client was designed and executed at GulbaiTekra, in Ahmedabad. The inspiration of the architecture was taken from the surrounding structures along with the client’s requirement of creating a courtyard space which is not open to the sky, but allows day light and good ventilation throughout the house. This exposed brick and concrete house sits on pencil columns which are narrow at the base and wider on the top creating almost a spider like creature in the nature.
A UK-based pharmaceutical research and development organisation approached Gray Parikh to design a research and development campus for stage 1 and 2 chemical and biochemical research. The premise is to design laboratories and write up areas which are broken up into small manageable cells. Each cell contains a 12 fume hood laboratory and write up area, which can be joined upon client requirements.
The cells are arranged around a central courtyard, which as per the clients requirement is a chill out zone and area for informal meetings and discussion groups.
The courtyard creates a micro climate of cool in an area which is renowned for being hot and dry.
The ‘masharabya’ screens at either end of the courtyard allow air movement in the corridor and the cool water screen allows for air to be cooled before entering the space and for a more diverse plant life to be grown, resulting in a relaxed calming environment for scientists to work in when not in a laboratory environment.
‘EUROPEAN BY ART, INDIAN AT HEART’
An interview with the India-born architect Gauri Parikh, who spends several months in India now
Gauri Parikh, who spends time equally between Ahmedabad and London, succinctly describes herself as ‘European by art, Indian at Heart.’
After spending nearly 15 years in the UK – born in Mumbai, brought up for a while in Ahmedabad and educated in London – it is nearly a decade since she has been staying for a few months every year in Gujarat.
Gauri partnered with DamionGray, a British architect (who also studied in the college with her in London) to set up Gray Parikh Architects, which has office in the UK and India. “We shuttle between the two cities,” explains Gauri.
Both architects have acquired licences from the Royal Institute of British Architects, which allows them to practice in 140 countries globally.
In fact, Damion’s first project was the extension of the Queen’s end gallery at Buckingham palace.
“We kind of complement each other,” explains Gauri. “Damion looks after more than 60 per cent of designing work and I am more into execution. He works with teams of consultants and ensures that they do their best.”
Indeed, if there are differences of opinion, he convinces his people that way back in 1956 some architects in Brazil managed to execute the same project, which they claim cannot be implemented in India now, she points out.
She describes herself as “more of a brick-mortar concrete person. I have a passion for materials and like to work with them. So this way, we have our own strengths.”
Asked about her most cherished moment professionally, Gauri refers to the day when the Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) was inaugurated a few years ago. There were many important dignitaries, politicians and bureaucrats, besides academicians at the inauguration, recallsGauri, whose firm was closely associated with the project.
“But the one thing that gave me a personal high and a great sense of satisfaction was when students came up to us and said: ‘Wow, what a building and library.’ And many parents called from different parts of India and told us they were very proud that their children would be studying in such a wonderfully-designed campus.”
Asked about her biggest achievement so far, Gauri says it is yet to come. We ask in a jovial mode, whether designing and building a structure in Mars could be one of them. “No,” she responds. “There’s a lot that needs to be done on our own planet. We have to be practical and do our best here.”
What about her dream architectural marvel? “Should I have visited it?” asks Gauri. “No,” we point out. She has a gleam in her eyes and responds: The Alexandria Library in Egypt, right across the sea. That is what fascinates me.”
Gauri finds our Indian highways to be the most dangerous to drive on.
“I wish I could meet the Prime Minister and convey to him that this is an area I can contribute and make a difference,” she says. “I can plan and help design and execute safer roads. I wish to contribute to this task.”
Asked for her views on NarendraModi, Gauri says she is non-political. The fact that she cannot vote here must have made her indifferent. But as a person who lives in India for at least six months a year, she concedes that she finds the Prime Minister very passionate. “He has that fire in his belly, for leading the team and doing something that is very important,” she points out.
Best teachers are books
But the architect maintains that she does not have a role model, as she learns from everyone. “Probably it is my upbringing,” she says. “I cannot place anyone on a pedestal and cannot make any one single person my guru. We can learn from everyone. My best teachers are my books.”
She admits that she would love not to have to do anything – just enjoy a book with a cup of coffee and learn. “My aunt was unmarried and stayed with us and she had a great impact on me,” recalls Gauri.
“The books that she got me in my childhood had a great influence on me.”
The architect recalls that her grandfather used to constantly ask her to think how much she has lived every day before going to bed. “In a day of 24 hours, we hardly ‘live’ for 30 minutes, but it is these 30 minutes that are important. Ask yourself how much have you actually learnt. Hence, I read and reinvent myself daily. If I don’t read or learn even for a day, it will be very boring.”
Gauri says reading is her biggest hobby. “I would love to read endlessly,” she says. “And of course, making sculptures. My love for materials urges me to make sculptures. I want to work with metal and ‘mitti’ (mud). I want to walk into a foundry and make things and do it for my own satisfaction, not for the purpose of sending invoices to my clients,” she laughs.
Though she spends a lot of time in India, Gauri is not a great admirer of urbanisation in the country. “Urbanisation is in very poor shape and a lot needs to be done,” she says. “When one talks about urbanisation, one focuses and plans for at least 150 years ahead. Here, we don’t think even about 10 years ahead.”
As for the much-touted ‘smart cities,’ she says we are not even at the threshold where we can talk about them. “We need to a lot more at the grass level,” says Gauri. “Smart cities is not just technology, or wi-fi connectivity. They are ‘smart,’ aware and responsible citizens. Safer roads, less noisy neighbourhoods, happy and healthy citizens and smart technology.”
Learn from our mistakes
Besides of course, educated children, employed youth and safe senior citizens. “I feel our biggest drawback is that we are poor at self-criticism,” she says. “We have to become critical about ourselves and learn from our mistakes by being open and accepting them. We have to evaluate our actions and see if they are positive or negative.”
Gauri lays emphasis on the need for awareness and sensitivity and to avoid shortcuts. “We need strict policing to bring in discipline,” she observes. “We as professionals who can make a difference – it is our duty to do that little bit towards society by planning and executing such that people by default end up doing things in the right manner.
Asked about her ‘ideal client,’ Gauri says the government can be her ideal client, based on the kind of work she wishes to do. “I wish to work on public spaces and services to make that difference,” she says. “In fact I had offered my services to the PWD – two hours every week to help them resolve and design. I am open to discussions but not ready to argue with authorities and hierarchy and egoistic officers.”
Can India – and its professionals and architects – learn from the west? “I don’t think we can learn from the west, as situations and parameters are different. We need to understand the local setup and requirements,” she says.
For example our old drainage system was perfect. The bridges in Ahmedabad never flood, then why should the newer and more modern Ellis bridge flood? “We have gone wrong somewhere and if we study where, we will get the answer,” she adds. “Our predecessors thought and invented the wheel – there is no need to reinvent, just follow and apply to simplify. We can learn from the west but we cannot entirely copy them.”
And her last comments on Urban Vaastu: “I wish Urban Vaastu can become a common platform for all of us professionals to meet and make a combined team effort for bringing about the change. This interaction has fuelled that urge to contribute and hopefully we shall be able to write.”
As for our readers, her message for them: “Do your bit!”
A FASCINATING JOURNEY SINCE THE MID-1960S
Murty&Manyam was established by P. Subrahmanyam way back in the early 1960s. Today, along with his son P. VenkatRamana, the architectural firm has forayed into mega ventures in the country
FOR a firm that helped in designing the first multi-storied building for AP Housing Board in 1962, Murty&Manyam has indeed travelled a long way.
Founded on August 14, 1965, Murty&Manyam took up the first major project for a private sector player, Shaw Wallace, in 1965. It had the unique distinction of ‘North-Light RCC’ shell structure in Hyderabad, the first of its kind, besides several other intricate components in the project.
The company was founded by P. Subrahmanyam, the founding partner, who was guided by his beloved teacher, Aziz Ahmed, an executive engineer. They designed the first project outside the government for a private hotel complex in Lakdiapul, Hyderabad.
Over the next three decades, they executed prominent projects on behalf of various clients including State Bank of India, IDBI, VST, ITC, Bayer, Bharat Heavy Electricals (R&D), Agakhan Foundation Prayer halls and hostels, St Francis College, L.V.Prasad’s Eye hospital, several churches in the south, convents, hostels, homes for the disabled, etc. In April 1995, Subrahmanyam and his son P.
VenkatRamana, took over the firm and steered its foray into mega ventures spread all over India. Venkat is a qualified architect and management graduate from the US and has exposure and project experience, having interacted with foreign consultants and architects.
After the two took over the company, other allied but essential departments were established. They included Project Management Consultancy, Quantity Survey, Scrutiny of Bills, Quality control, Electrical Engineering Interior design, HVAC Services.
Simultaneously a new firm Graphics Designers was also set up to take up Ministry of Defence projects.
A special project of Snow & Avalanche Control Structure was completed. A Letter of Intent has also been awarded after the technical presentation made to SASE for construction of snow gallery, a 130 m length tunnel sort of structure, which can take load of avalanches and dissipate the same and allowed to pass over the snow gallery without any damage to the people and vehicles that pass through this snow gallery.
This gallery is the connectivity between Manali and Leh in the shortest route on National Highway.
This is very much useful for the defence establishments to reach Leh in less time.
The company has provided some outstanding projects among the ‘Institutes of National importance.’
They include the Centre for DNA Finger printing & Diagnostics (CDFD), carved out of CCMB, a prime Institute; Indian Immunologicals Ltd. Vaccine Manufacturing Facility for NDDB.
Among the commercial institutions that stand out include SBIICM for SBI, which is one of its kind in function and form, besides a host of other facilities elsewhere, like top executives housing at Banjara Hills for SBI.
Some of the other buildings of importance are for Bayer Bio Sciences, Seed Conditioning, Warehouses, Breeding Stations, GMR International Airport Authority’s Cargo, Ground support, Passenger & Transit Facility at Hyderabad.
Among the other notable academic buildings, mention may be made of Hyderabad Central University’s South campus at Gachibowli, including Academic Block, Labs, besides Central University at Pondicherry’s Management Enclave; Academic & Faculty Facilities for newly created Horticulture University at ANGRAU, campus Hyderabad.
Some of other prominent social, religious, spiritual centres include ‘Agakhan’s Development Projects’ consisting of ‘Prayer Halls’, ‘Schools’, ICFAI University Campuses, Schools & Hostels, Missionary Homes for the ‘Aged, Disabled’, Relief & Rehabilitation Housing for the Earthquake / Tsunami affected.
Preparing Industrial Townships for Lady Entrepreneurs and Weaker Sections at Hyderabad / Vijayawada is a part of their social obligation. Mega project of utmost national importance for DRDO at Jagdalpur was conceived, planned and designed. Some other leading organisations to whom the company renders services include A.P. Horticultural University, Bayer Bio-Sciences, CCE(R&D), DRDO, BDL, GVK Bio-Sciences, ICFAI University, IL&FS., Symbiosis International University (Noida Campus), Tata Housing, and Hyderabad Central University.
Technological innovation in keeping with the environment, function and form getting equal importance is exhibited in the planning, designing and execution of buildings for ‘Symbiosis International University’ at Hyderabad by their team of architects and engineers led by Prof. Massimo Vianello, from Venice, Italy, an international architect who has been associated with the firm since the beginning of 2007 in all projects.
Vision for the future
As a firm, which has been in the field for over ‘Fifty Years’, it plans to use its expertise and contribute to a sustainable, environment friendly future by endorsing design consciousness keeping abreast with advancing technology.
It aims for global presence and in up doing their efficiency in delivering quality designs with cost effective solutions, sticking to time limits laid out by the clients, they shall strive to continue to serve.
Symbosis International University, Hyderabad
Murty&Manyam has also executed the prestigious Symbiosis International University, Hyderabad Campus
Technological innovation in keeping with the environment, function and form getting equal importance is exhibited in the planning, designing and execution of buildings for ‘Symbiosis International University’ at Hyderabad by their team of architects and engineers led by Prof. Massimo Vianello, from Venice, Italy, an international architect who has been associated with the firm since the beginning of 2007 in all projects. Maximum attention is given to make buildings eco-friendly and green architecture principles were followed liberally.
The campus, which is spread on a 40 acre land located at Mamidipally village, near Mahabubnagar, endorses sustainability. The ideology behind the design of the campus was to make it:
a) Environmental friendly
b) With healthy interactive spaces for students, at the same time
c) To have an independent identity.
The university has a current built-up area of approximately 6 lakh sqft, with an estimated 2 lakh sqft coming up in phase-2. The Campus consists of state of the art facilities including an academic building which can house 2,400 students holding law and business disciplines, Mess and dining facility which can cater to 1,200; it has one of biggest auditoria which can hold 1,100 seats with a 300 capacity convention centre and a 20 capacity conference hall.
The university has a current built-up area of approximately 6 lakh sqft, with an estimated 2 lakh sqft coming up in phase-2.
The Campus consists of state of the art facilities including an academic building which can house 2,400 students holding law and business disciplines, Mess and dining facility which can cater to 1,200; it has one of biggest auditoria which can hold 1,100 seats with a 300 capacity convention centre and a 20 capacity conference hall.
The conceptualisation of the shape of the academic building is a big open circle which looks inward onto a huge courtyard aiming at viewing movement of students within different departments at the same time making it a huge assembling space. The classrooms are designed in a cluster of four which enclose a green courtyard providing the necessary quiet and visual relief required for a place of learning.
The library holds 80,000 volumes of books. It is also a circular space where the circumference of the building transforms into walls of books with a central seating space which receives shelf lighting from the strategically placed skylights above which enhances the reading experience. The open circle of the Academic block ends with the design workshop center and the moot court. This is a huge column free hall which can be partitioned to smaller spaces or can be used as one big hall for conducting workshops.
Over all, the entire building functions as one single entity which have smaller independent entities. The building promotes rain water harvesting. All the rain water from the roof top of this building is collected through a gravel channel running all around the building.
The design of the Boys and Girls hostels has an interesting articulation of space. The hostels are housed in the same type of buildings distributed in two wings rotated 45° with a balcony that distributes the two lines of rooms. The rooms are identical and in the future could be used in a flexible way. The boy’s hostels are facing outward and the blocks are organized in an open system. Contrastingly, the blocks of the girls hostel are combined in a courtyard to face inward creating a sense of intimacy and protection. Each block houses 450 students in 5 floors.
The project uses eco-friendly materials which are locally available and with high recycled content. The campus uses solar water heating techniques.
This project has been published in several leading newspapers, construction magazines and periodicals. The most prestigious being TERI – Tata Energy Research Institute’s magazine which highlighted this campus as an ideal example of sustainable architecture in institutional buildings.
Srikalahasti Devasthanam, Srikalahasti, Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh
Preparation of Master Plan for Development works in Srikalahasti Devasthanam including planning for Beautification works and Infrastructure works to be developed around the Temple Premises. It includes site investigation works, preparing necessary plans, designs adhering to IRC codes, estimations for the proposed formation of road with State Highway Standards between Ramasethu Bridge and By-Pass Road bridge including a 475m long bridge satisfactorily to Sri Kalahasteeswara Swami Vari Devasthanam.
Green Field Stadium at Kariavattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Design of Master Plan and other architectural services for development of Green Field Stadium at Karyavattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, as part of the National Games Facilities proposed by National Games Secretariat.