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“The Key Factors to Consider While Designing a Façade are Safety, Longevity & Maintenance”
By: J.P. Agrawal
WFM team had the privilege to interview Ar. J.P. Agrawal, who believes that the key factors to consider while designing a façade are safety, longevity and maintenance. Excerpts from the interview with Ar. Agrawal.
Please tell us about your practice and its growth over the past 34 years?
My journey of the last 34 years in the profession of architecture has been extremely satisfactory. At the beginning of my career, I was lucky to get a few promising projects. One of that was ‘Infinity’ IT park and another one was a housing project named ‘Club Town’. Both of these projects gave me enough recognition to establish myself in the profession.
What inspired you to become an architect?
As a matter of fact, my brother guided me to become an architect. He must have observed my interest. Later during of my graduation, I also realised my deep interest in the subject and pursued it as my career. I must say, unless one is truly committed, he or she will find this profession too demanding.
Could you please talk about a few of your ongoing projects?
We have many interesting projects in hand. These include two hotels and mall projects in Gaya and Siliguri. Our other projects include high-rise condominiums, private residences and educational institutes, etc., which are at various stages of development.
Tell us about your recently completed projects featuring innovative façade and fenestration design?
Recently we completed one IT park with a hotel on the top. The developer of the project has a highly refined taste. We used exposed concrete paint, clay bricks cladding and wooden plank tiles to give the desired character to the façade. We have used many new materials in a various innovative manner in our various projects.
The façades and cladding industry in India has gone through a sea change in the past decade. Tell us about the latest in façade and cladding material and technologies available in the Indian market and those used in your projects?
The kind of materials available today for various design applications for the façade has opened up a new dimension for design. To exploit this opportunity to its best, architects have to think about design and materials together. High-density boards of various types, texture and design are widely used nowadays. The technology of dry cladding and the latest adhesives for wet cladding – both have made the cladding safer. The latest technological advancements to create innovative textures on natural stone are adding a new flavour. CNC cutting technology for making jalis and patterns are also widely used. We have exploited the opportunity of all these new technologies to its best in our various projects.
What are the key factors to consider while designing and installing façades & fenestration?
The key factors to consider while designing a façade are safety, longevity and maintenance. We must remember that our buildings have to be safe and that cannot be compromised for aesthetics. We must select materials keeping in mind that it should stand the test of time. And nevertheless, it should be maintenance friendly also.
Please brief on the design and technical details of a safe façade, considering fire safety, and wind and earthquake resistance?
Regarding the wind and earthquake, we have to undertake various laboratory tests. For example, when we design large glazing, wind load is important. Considering external cladding, fixing details are very important. For structural safety in tall buildings, a wind tunnel test is mandatory. Similarly, for all external applications, the crucial parameter has to be checked with available methods before any specification and application details are finalised.
How would the façade design and other elements of the façade help the building to be energy efficient, at the same time provide a better interior environment? What about sustainability and environmental considerations when choosing the façade/cladding material?
The building envelope has a strong relationship with the climate outside. The orientation of the building and its external surface reacts with sun and climate. Hence, what we apply on the external surface, be it solid, transparent, or porous all have to be decided with due climate considerations. Minimum heat intake and maximum natural light, both have to be achieved with skillful designs.
What are your views on future façades & fenestration technologies, and materials?
While any new material is conceived, it must be kept in mind that the material has maximum green properties. The manufacturing process and raw material procurement, both should be environment friendly. In the future, when it will have to be disposed of, it should be either recyclable or naturally decomposable.
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?
An intelligent façade is one that can react with climate and save energy. Having said so, we also look for cost-effective solutions, and we make sure that whenever we recommend applications of high technology, it should also be affordable.
There are many cladding materials available in the market. How do you choose the apt one for your project? What are the criteria?
There are various criteria we have to consider. Suppose if we are looking for a natural look, we have to ensure that the material looks closest to the look and feel of the original material. Longevity and maintenance of course cannot be compromised.
What is your advice to young, aspiring architects?
Keep your eyes open and work hard. This is what I will advise to young aspiring architects. Their future is bright, but for that, they have to learn a lot with hard work.
While discussing the design brief of the project, the owner who happens to be very well informed and highly demanding as a client, proposed me to design the project as if I am giving a tribute to my favourite master architect. I liked the idea and immediately quoted the name of Louis Kahn. I always admired his excellent application of geometry, the extraordinary play of solids and voids along with earthy materials. This project gave me an opportunity to apply all these in totality.
The building edifice clearly reflects my attempt in this direction. We used exposed terracotta bricks cladding on the 20-storey high building surface which was a challenge. We used exposed concrete and woody textures which blended very well with terracotta bricks. The same vocabulary was used in the interior of the vast triple-height lobby. The landscaping of the front open space is designed to complement the “simple straight geometrical lines of building façade. Following our design philosophy of “sustainable development, we applied our knowledge and experience to save the energy and natural resources in this project too and obtained “Gold’ certification from the IGSC. The project, after completion, won many awards.
The project design concept is greatly derived from site constraints. The site is located on the dead-end of the project, hence there was no breathing space as the foreground. The compulsion of consuming high ground coverage to accommodate a large footprint for multilevel car parking posed a further challenge. The whole building concept and its form were derived to resolve these issues. To address this in the best possible manner, a large open space of triple height was generated with staggering floors above: Free-flowing soft curves articulated in such a manner, that the space looks large, and the Impact of building mass softens.
The experience of users on arrival was very crucial considering the nature of the site, hence a lot of weightage was given to the building mass which appears to be close at the time of approach, starting from the ground floor to the fifth floor which largely contributes in the total experience. Every alternate floor till the fifth floor has been rhythmically receded and curved to maximize the volume of the void and at the same time accommodate car parking space. Louvers fashioned out of vertical wood – battens nestled into the steel frames, were fixed on the curved surface of the porch. A dynamic wave pattern was adopted in the louver’s design to generate further interest.
The building form although predominantly rectangular was softly articulated with tilted curve to make it as soft as possible. The building edifice is largely clad with hollow ceramic tiles and ACP. Wooden louvers camouflaged with steel is used to cover the parking floors.
QUICK FACTS: Project: Infinity Lagoon Location: Kolkata Client: Infinity Group Materials used for façade & fenestration: Hollow ceramic tiles and double glazed curtain wall Commencement Date: 2010 Completion Date: 2014
Jain House Kolkata
“A walk to the forest” concept is adapted for the three-storied private residence located at the heart of the city, surrounded by multi-storeyed buildings on three sides.
The aim was to create a natural environment for the residents, whereby they can feel fairly detached from the congested and chaotic environment of their surroundings. The forest rising from the center of the concrete mass formed a three-sided open courtyard. The diagonal courtyard split the mass into two
segments and brought the forest through it. Amid the metropolitan city, pollution is overwhelming and tries to enter the house. Considering the polluted air, dust, water in the rainy season, an inverted “U” shaped glass roof is created over the diagonal courtyard. The “Biophilic Design” of the house can help reconnect the user’s mind deep into nature which eases them at their own house.
QUICK FACTS: Project: Jain House Location: Kolkata Client: Sanjay Jain Materials used for façade & fenestration: Vitrified stone textured tile, HD boards Commencement Date: 2017 Completion Date: 2019
Director & Principal Architect
Architect JP Agrawal graduated from MS University of Baroda in the year 1986 with two gold medals. He started his professional practice in 1988 under the banner “Agrawal & Agrawal”. Architect Monal Agrawal (spouse) joined him in 1990, and the practice kept on expanding and gained recognition as one of the leading architectural practices of the eastern region. JP designed many landmark projects in the city of Kolkata which include ‘Infinity’, ‘Technopolis’ and ‘Belair’, to mention a few among many others. Several projects designed by the firm are widely considered as the “Landmarks” of Kolkata. By now in the last 35 years, the firm has completed more than 800 projects across 12 states of India. The practice is largely committed to the environment and user-friendly design approach. In this endeavour, the firm has designed various platinum rated and gold rated Green buildings. The firm is awarded the “Green Champion’s Award” for designing the highest green floor space in the country by “Indian Green Building Council”. JP and his team’s work is recognised from time to time by prestigious awards comprising of ‘A+D Spectrum Architectural Award’, ‘Ultratech Excellence Award’ and ‘Achiever’s Award’. Their various recent projects also received CNBC and CREDAI awards in different categories. JP was honoured with “Better City Better Life” award for his contribution to the field of “Green Architecture" for Kolkata City. He was a jury member for many national-level awards and top architectural institutes of the country which includes IIT-Kharagpur, Jadavpur University, etc.