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It Is A Long Pursuit, This Architecture by Sen Kapadia

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SEn kAPAdIA

Bankers House, Ahmedabad.

t the beginning of this journey, having been exposed to exalted contemporary architecture, art, music, cinema and theory, I felt equipped to begin my practice. I had no clue of its totality, but had developed a few self-imposed axioms to follow. A. Architecture is a sensitive material manifestation of circumstances. B. The commodity and firmness are subservient to delight. C. Since plan is only a proximity diagram, space needs to be conceived in a complex matrix. D. Role of architecture is to dignify human activities. E. Work can create timelessness and other such stories. F. Finally, architecture is a minor spatial enclosure, appropriated from large cosmic space. In which, unbuilt space within the built boundaries formulate our habitable spaces. Our temporary possession. Unlike painters, architects never get an empty canvas to create a new image. We begin with the site and its geographical features, budgetary constrains

and the clients inarticulated expectations. An architects struggle, then, is to excavate potentials within these constrains and attempt to establish its larger context beyond a mere functional construct. Chronologically, first project is a Bankers House with the clients wifes clinic on the ground floor. Fresh from a meditative visit to Aurobindo Ashram, I devised a glare-control window with glass behind a sloping chhajja, which also protected floor-to-ceiling height, large wooden louvres that at once provide required aperture control and safety. Building is oriented facing north and south directions to reduce solar heat gain, as also is the east-facing blank wall. All these, as a tribute to Golconde in Pondicherry, the most modern building built 75 years ago that showed me the beginning. This system was to allow future additions without obstructing its born aesthetics. Plan for III Asian

Architectures primary function is the magic of space.


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International Trade Fair was a vast departure from usual suburban layouts that were applied here earlier. Since expositions are about communication, various countries display their achievements to establish a dialogue with the host nation. The proposal has large enclosures for national pavilions, with partial wet construction and largely dry construction tensile fabric wall turning into catanary roofs. Each large circular plan represented various sectors. This cluster of multicoloured pavilions would attract visitors as much as the star attractions. Average three visits to the fair would never have sufficed for full exploration in traditional layout, here it promised a pleasurable ambling. Central areas within circular enclosures were landscaped zones for visitors relaxation. One moves from plaza to plaza that hold exciting visual relief. International pavilions were bound by a 10 metre-wide, 10 metre-high silver mylar grid of corridors, both for circulation and to delete domination by their largeness and newer technology. In the central zone is located the Theme Pavilion with many large terraces to facilitate live performances. After the 12-week tenure of the exposition, most of the materials can be recycled and large circular enclosures with landscape are to be the leftover enjoyable gardens. This project remains unbuilt. In midst of the quest to understand modernity, a project requiring a cluster of four cottages was to be built in a teakwood forest of Rukkad in Madhya Pradesh.

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SEn kAPAdIA

1 NATIONAL SECTION 2 THEME PAVILLION 3 PERMANENT EXHIBITS 4 INTERNATIONAL SECTOR 5 RAILWAY YARD 6 CINEMA 7 SHOPPING 8 COURTYARD

MAster PlAn, tHird internAtionAl trAde FAir, new delHi

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rukkad Guest House, MP.


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Buildings dont have to be monumental. We are capable of creating dramatic form and we are capable of making dramatic material spaces as well. The idea is to hold your hand and decide which is in a right proportion and manner. That is where the design actually comes inA mature design is not simply picturesque. One of the most important secrets of all work is to make the ordinary look extraordinary, without trying to jump on doing extraordinary things.

Rough sketch plans, elevations and essential details were passed on to the site engineers with a request to improvise on-site without our consultation. One can visualise that with the mistakes in non-alignments, shifting as per the site requirements and usage of all materials derived from the site, would yield a familiar informal architecture. Overbearing control of the architect was absent, resulting in an extremely rooted rustic abode in the forest, appropriative for engineers on their periodic inspection visits. Midway down this journey, I succumbed to my passion for discourses with students. In spite of being aware that architecture cannot be taught, I knew that it can be learned in a congenial environment. Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture at Juhu generously accepted my proposal for a new set of commitments to facilitate intuitive learning of conceptual parameters of any project. Teaching suppresses creativity, whereas learning is non-restrictive. So, I removed all restrictive inherited systems and focused on new ways of seeing. Seeking personal expressiveness. The aim was to induce self-learning to use intuitive and inspired logic by avoiding exam-oriented teaching. At KRVIA, it was mandatory to develop new text as only that can give a new image, leading to a fresh assemblage. First semester design projects were set up for new ways of looking at emerging or imaginary anecdotes in life. These assignments were presented with hand-drawn images with their explanations on ten A4 size papers, to an open jury. We insisted that architecture is not a problem demanding a solution. It is a set of circumstances begging for an appropriate expression. Slowly, we built complexities and the final years designs reached maturity of eloquent projects. Students were restrained
rukkad Guest House - detail.

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Grs school, Khar.

Grs school - Activity room.


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Postmodern has come to a natural dead end. Unfortunately, the profession later caught the fancy of software oriented form finding that promises no new stories. Fortunately, Indian architecture in the 80s burst into its independent creativity.

SEn kAPAdIA

from producing esoteric computer-aided renderings as that could reach the level of theater of absurd. In fact, we sought clarity of thoughts that could be presented with lucidity, for projects alluding to urban issues, rather than building as solutions. Moving on, an insertion between two school buildings as an addition required utilising a play area. This project with very high stilts provided both, the covered play area and additional classrooms on upper levels. The uppermost activity hall with asymmetrical folded roof provides significant space for cultural activities. This was the beginning of clarity on meaning of memorable space.

All vertical buildings inhibit social interactions, as each apartment provided a reclusive territory, so there are no neighbours in spite of forced closeness. In traditional neighbourhoods, people knew each other and shared a communal life. It was obvious that unless we have spaces for congregation, we cannot have vertical neighbourhoods in these tall urban towers. Sumeru Apartments project has allowed small-scale experiments with the inclusion of three communal spaces. One is the enlarged entrance lobby, second is the skip floor on the eighth level where parents and children can play, mingle and spend time together with their neighbours, and finally on the partially covered terrace, where adults can have society meetings and communal dinners, whereas

sumeru Apartments, Mumbai.

sumeru Apartments - terrace.

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Conceptual drawing for osianama Art Complex, Mumbai.

osianama Art Complex.


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Anju dodia studio, Ghatkopar.

children could stage plays and enjoy being with friends without annoying vehicles all around. This issue of vertical neighbourhood with shared spaces can be a universal component for all urban towers, providing basis for connectivity for people in a tower and even be extended to connected towers with sky bridges to form a mega neighbourhood or mini township. One of the exciting challenges was recently presented by an unique project requiring a radically different programme to be fitted in boundaries of an existing cinema hall on Lamington Road. This was to be a place for entertainment, information and learning about meaningful cinema and related arts. Programme demanded an exhibition hall and a museum shop at ground level, two cinema halls, one debate hall, library and several intermittent insertions of booths and curated art shows to provide a prolonged engagement with cinema as the new art form of the century. The conceptual drawing shows all these activities revolved around a vortex of sky-lighted circulation zone. This also afforded visibility of all activities, encouraging nonlinear random trips to many activities in the complex. The construction started earnestly but alas, the global meltdown eroded clients commitments and the OSIANAMA project was abandoned. Between these built and unbuilt projects, I created installations, made a film, and wrote on art and architecture. Also, amicably debated on merits of a sacred journey with artists Tyeb Mehta, Atul Dodia, philosopher Prabodh
Anju dodia studio - detail.

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Bhavsar House, Ahmedabad - silent faade.


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SEn kAPAdIA

Bhavsar House, Ahmedabad - detail.

Similar to traditional qualities of timeless spaces, contemporary architecture is also exploring a new spatial planning strategy. In an adventurous approach, architects are generating experiential spaces, rather than iconic forms.

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Garden silk Mills office, surat - silent faades with active roof.

Garden silk Mills office, surat - skylight detail.

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Parikh and master architect Doshi, which were nourishing infusions during this long pursuit. These dialogues continue to include discussion on cinema, new music, new urbanism, new museums and new art towards defining the twenty first century persona. Meanwhile, creating an artists studio in a large, existing apartment was a call for interior architecture. It was a fruitful exercise of deleting all internal walls, putting simple in-situ grey flooring and adding 1.5 metre-wide galvanised iron troughs for uniform bounced light throughout this large studio for Anju Dodia at Ghatkopar. Here, I realised the potentiality of a space with subverted materiality that manifested silence. In three recent projects, finally it was possible to develop clarity on issues of space, informed with suffused daylight and sculpted without the chatter of variable finishes. Artists House in Ahmedabad, Office Building in Surat, and the ongoing new NID Campus at Gandhinagar, display a glowing sky-lit core with subdued faades that seem to persist from earlier Bankers House, all respecting tenets of green architecture. Together, they assure me that this has been a rightful quest. As I understand now, architecture is made up of grand spaces enriched with modulated natural light, dignified with the absence of materiality and presented with silent faades and active core. It is a sequential experience of episodal layers, gradually unravelling a significant place that manifests a presence of felt silence.

Concept Plan of national institute of design, Gandhinagar.

nid PG Campus - View of inner courtyard.

Sen Kapadia
nid PG Campus - Central open forum. nid PG Campus - silent faade.

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