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“The Desire to Explore & Advance Should be an Underlying Need for an Architect”
By: Vikram Rajashekhar
Please tell us About your Practice?
Any architectural practice, which is speculative in nature and aspires to be a cultural practice, needs to be structured around specific architectural design and cultural issues. The practice needs to formulate its own set of techniques and with an idiosyncratic sensibility, conceive architecture that is culturally relevant. In short, this would be the ‘project’ for the ‘practice’.
Our discussion about our architectural project would essentially deal with architectural design issues of form, space, programme, skin, etc. and our attitude towards it, while the discussion about our architectural design practice would entail the techniques we deploy to achieve certain spatial and formal effects.
The premise for our work has to do with what the German philosopher Walter Benjamin talks about, and that is “architecture is absorbed in a state of distraction”. Our interest in experience and effects is a counterpoint to this phenomenon. Phenomenology and the humanist project are something that we discuss a lot in the office. We are interested in finding beauty in the unfamiliar, creating affective space, conceiving new ambiances and staging lifestyles.
Could you Please talk about a Few of your Ongoing Architectural Design Projects?
Architectural Design at The Chamrajpet commercial complex is one project we can talk about. Located at the corner of Chamrajpet junction in Bengaluru, the proposal was for a G+5 building with a commercial purpose to house office spaces or future retail shops. The façade design takes a whole new approach with concrete fins arrayed at an angle, seemingly stacked along at various intervals. The junctions of the frame to that with the fin requires a customised architectural design along with a proposed idea of lighting. Since the façade and fenestration design now allow customization, the result has been a dynamic illusionary one.
Tell us About your Completed Projects Featuring Innovative Façade and Fenestration Design?
Navyas Wellness Center : We decided to conceive the plan such that the building weaves around the existing tree not just physically but also phenomenally in a way that it becomes part of the experience. The second important stand taken was to wrap most of the building with a thick layer of green along with a modern interpretation of the traditional jali screen. The yoga hall was then conceived to be on the terrace with a column-free space away from the noise of the streets.
Facade Architectural Design atNavyas Wellness Center, Bengaluru
Living Skin: The idea of the jali with green was two fold. The jali screen would enable us to cut down the harsh sound from the street traffic and the general humdrum of the city. It would also cut the harsh light that would infiltrate the interiors. The traditional Jali was re-imagined in a contemporary pattern to form a light ephemeral veil for the interiors. We infused life into this jali, by juxtaposing it with a layer of curated medicinal plants. The plants protected by the jali not only help in therapeutic purposes but also help create a soft ambiance in the interior. The jali was constructed out of ferro-concrete to enable the complex pattern desired.
KMYF – Dialysis Center: The building façade is formulated by surfaces built out of brick that has a bellowing quality about them. The sensual quality of the surface de-materialised the brick surface and renders an ephemeral feel to the building. The building skin is used as a filter to create light that is ethereal rendering a soothing feel to the wards. The slivers between the bellowing shells allow light to permeate into the building only to create a spatial and visual feel that is as divine as the temple outside. Façades and cladding industries in India have gone through a sea change in the past decade.
Tell us About the Latest in Façade & Cladding Material and Technologies available in the Indian Market and those Used in your Projects?
The beauty of some architectural design or material is that they have this quality of timelessness. Many of the concepts from the past keep resurfacing in the most innovative manner. For example, the exposed brick, vendors provide us with customized brick patterns which have opened up chances for even more experimental forms in construction. Either the character and texture of it have been absorbed and reinterpreted for the use, or sometimes even the use itself.
Even other materials like glass and metal sheets can now be cut into patterns and designs from the industry standards. Aluminium frame details have also advanced to an extent that it helps in more stable large scale designs. Factors of load-bearing, strength and durability, and now even the aesthetics of it has advanced to a new benchmark.
Material character, as a whole, for façade design has advanced. They are lighter, easily available and can be easily constructed or installed. New technologies like, for example, dry cladding takes care of the environment and sustainable factors of consideration. The latest that we know of are polymer-lazoo, concrete slim stone, cement boards, metal façades, etc.
What are the Key Factors to Consider while Designing and Installing Façades & Fenestration?
• The aesthetics of the design
• Climatic suitability
• The techniques of easy/much effortless installation and maintenance
• Load bearing on the building
• The energy efficiency
Please Brief on the Technical Factors which help to Build Energy-Efficient Façades and Fenestration?
Navyas Wellness Center, Bengaluru – Different Views of the Building Envelope
Thermal Performance: The heat and radiation captured within a building differs with every design and material. And depending on the climatic conditions, this can benefit the well being or even cost the well being if not planned accordingly.
Load Bearing on the Building: The façades in most designs have been just the surface that transcends from the outside environment to the actual comfort of living spaces. Façade design should also be taught in levels of being a constructed entity that abides by balancing laws.
Sustainable Benchmarks: Customised to the natural environmental conditions, to begin with, the sustainable aspect also should take into account the sourcing of the material, resources used to make the component, and to the end delivery of the design.
Environmentally Friendly: After completion, the internal-external performance of spaces around the façade or fenestrations should ideally be nil if not improved.
What are your Views on Future Façades & Fenestration Technologies and Materials?
The future of urban landscapes hugely depends upon what the market and technological forum can provide. The more information we acquire more environmentally friendly the material or design can get, the more we can push forward with the identity of the city scape. Hence we are very optimistic, exited for the future, because the design is ever-changing.
What are the Key Factors to Consider while Selecting Hardware for Façades/Fenestration?
The hardware selection is usually carried out by the vendors or under their consultation. The minimum requirements being the material performance and ease of maintenance or services if any. But mostly we stick to the market standards and performance marked designs.
According to you, What is an Intelligent Façade? How can Intelligent Façades bring in the Greenhouse Effect and also Restricting Intensive use of Air Conditioners?
A façade by definition means the principal front of a building, that faces onto a street or open space. From there, it is just a matter of adding layers or dimensions to it. The more the characters and functions that a façade has or takes care of the more intelligent you can call it.
Green façades or sustainable façades, kinetic façades, dynamic façades and so on. With the latest technologies, it can control, alter, or even completely change the energy consumption of the building. In some cases, even generating a certain form of energy.
The commercial culture and the imported idea of skyscrapers now revolve around glass façades, building hubs of greenhouses. But given the rising awareness of the climatic and ecological status of the world, façade designs are being constantly researched and experimented on.
What about Sustainability and Environmental Considerations when Choosing the Façade/ Cladding Material?
This can be broadly categorised into three points:
The Source of the Material: Sourcing the material is also a factor to consider in sustainability as it also requires resources. If the material is not locally available, the cost and effort for bringing it to the site and the requirement of skilled workmanship or specialised workmanship piles up the requirement of resources.
The Performance of the Material: How does the surface interact with the surrounding space, the level of thermal control and permeability and ease of source and handling.
The Durability of the Material: The amount of investment vs availability vs environment-friendly vs durability should be in balance. There are many cladding materials available in the market.
How do you Choose the Apt one for your Project? What are the Criteria?
The building façade being a statement, an architectural phenomenon is carefully worked on while designing. Most of the time, vendors approach us with their new models or technologies and patterns keeping us up to date with the developments of the façade design and the fenestration industry. So we are able to develop most of our designs from concept to material manifestation easy. And if we come up with something that is yet to be explored, our vendors are open to working towards the desired result.
What is your Advice to Young, Aspiring Architects?
As designers we believe the design process looks to transcend the obvious and to create a more pleasurable and sensorial experience. Buildings that celebrated life and thereby made strong statements, statements that create a sense of identity not only for themselves but also their users. But that is our ideology, in a similar way every young architect entering the field has a whole new advancing world to explore and come to terms with and hence develop their own sacred process to believe in. The desire to explore and advance which might be incoherent sometimes should be an underlying need for an architect, be it at any point in time.
As a co-founder/ Principal Architect of Cadence Architects, Vikram Rajashekhar brings technological insight and domain expertise into the architectural and interior design services at Cadence Architects. Directing all stages of design and construction processes across diverse project types and scales, he has been responsible for many award-winning, much accoladed projects at the Cadence studio. Adopting an inimitable approach to address functionality, innovation, while retaining the emotional aspect of the unique Cadence ethos, Vikram enables a distinctive design expression, that is contemporary yet rooted in context. Cadence started as a collaborative architectural practice by architects Narendra Pirgal, Vikram Rajashekhar and Smaran Mallesh in the year 2005. Having studied in the same school of architecture, they shared common design philosophy and vision. Driven by the intent to conceive neoteric environments, create affective spaces, and staging lifestyles, architecture at the Cadence Studio strives to spawn varied emotional responses and stage myriad lifestyles. In a candid interview, Ar. Vikram Rajashekhar spoke about his firm Cadence Architects, their recent projects, their perspective on innovative façade and fenestration designs, and on the use of innovative materials for façades and fenestration in order to achieve energy-efficient and sustainable buildings. Here is the excerpt from the interview.