An Interesting interview with Ar. Sumit Dhawan Founder & Principal Architect, Cityspace ’82 Architects talks about his journey over the years, major projects, and his design principles. He also explains the key factors to consider while designing façades for various types of projects, on choosing materials for façades and the latest technologies applied to attain the most sustainable buildings. Hers is the excerpt from the interview
Please tell us about your practice and its growth over the years?
I started a solitary practice directly after completing B.Arch in the year 2005 and founded Cityspace’82 Architects. My childhood passion for architecture manifested my perseverance and belief which lead me to practice unconditional hard work. I got my first project immediately after the completion of my internship in the last year of college. The project was a 500 Sq yd residence in Gurugram assigned to me by a friend’s father Mr. Bhutani, who I still consider to be the foundation of my career. The residence was planned with a sustainable approach using earth blocks, solar passive strategies and cavity walls and therefore, the residence got overwhelming appreciation.
The next turning point in my career was Lawyer Dang’s residence, which is amongst one of the most appreciated projects I have done, after which there has never been a looking back situation. Having an experience of almost two decades today, I try to experiment and innovate projects with numerous design styles fusing one into another in order to deliver impeccable intricate spectacles.
What inspired you to become an architect?
I had a prolonged affinity for architecture since childhood and I always had an imperative inclination towards drawing and sketching. I was born and brought up in an architectural household as my father is an architect himself. During my early days of childhood, I used to see him working on his drawings with fancy architecture equipment like the parallel bar, set square, various clutch pencils, ink points etc. which always fascinated me to pursue this field and I enticed a passion for the profession.
I always found architecture interesting as it was more about creativity, innovation and experimentation rather than being intellectual or theoretical study. Also, architecture being a non-monotonous and dynamic field helps a person evolve with his everyday experiences. The observatory skills it enthuses grant one an eye for design and an opportunity to do something out of the box.
There are many façade materials available in the market. How do you choose the apt one for your project? What are the criteria?
Depending upon the context and concept, materials like glass, stone, wood, ACC blocks, thermal insulated blocks, as opposed to conventional building materials can play an important role in the framework of creative and innovative designs. Instead of going for a regular wall, one can even use glass as a structural member these days. Steel is another material that is gaining extensive popularity in the market.
Modular construction techniques like prefabricated systems and pre-engineered buildings that are manufactured at a factory and then assembled on-site will ultimately form to be the future of architecture.
Tell us about the façade design of a few of your projects like Sovereign Tower at Noida, DJ Group IT Building at Gurugram, IT Office building at Udyog Vihar, Gurugram, etc. where glass is used innovatively?
SOVEREIGN TOWER AT NOIDA
Located in the prime area of Greater Noida highway for easy access, the Sovereign Tower is spread across an area of 5300 Sq m. Following a post-modern architecture theme, it consists of two basements and seventeen floors.
Emphasis has been laid on creating the perfect “Balance” as the entire complex is air conditioned with a cooling tower system. The façade envelope has been composed of three different types of DGU glass to cut on heat gain. The building has a platinum rating of LEED Certification. The site has been divided into two zones, one being private (office) and the other being public for commercial use. The public zone (commercial area) comprises a gym, cafeteria and a rooftop garden which pleases the eye of the user of the office. Two levels of stackable parking, a rooftop garden along with a gym & the use of double glazing glass across the tower adds to the grandeur factor.
DJ Group IT Building at Gurugram
The site is located in an Industrial Sector which hosts Corporate Offices as well as Manufacturing Centres with the majority of small independent buildings. The compact structure follows an unusual construction process – a top-to-bottom method to allow flexibility for the offices’layouts and create open spaces of big spans. The emphasis on the ground floor lies in the shortcut that symmetrically cuts right through the building. It richly creates a clear dialogue with one of Beirut’s largest squares, while instantly reconnecting one with a sky lobby upon entry.
Embracing all the slabs, the glass sets the illusion right for the seemingly free glass cube. Also, on the upper floors, the offices revel in an unobstructed 360 view of their surroundings. The building is planned and designed in such a way that it would outstand the neighbourhood with reference to height as well as the façade design. The south side of the building has been blocked from the harsh summer sun by aligning core areas along the south side and vertical concrete panels along the west. The north and east sides allow maximum flush of daylight inside the building.
IT Office building at Udyog Vihar, Gurugram
Working on the concept of ‘Fusion’, infused with the nuances of modern architecture, this site has an open floor plan. Spread across 8000 Sq m area, it is a 2-sided corner plot that is adept with a double-height entrance. Green wall, zinc jaali, reflective glass, and stackable parking resulting in Platinum LEED rating has been proposed in this building. The green wall has been used in the southwest corner to cut down on heat gain. A rooftop garden and restaurant will further accentuate the functionality of this building. Other significant projects that we are working on include: MGM/ M3M – farmhouse, V-John – farmhouse and Unity Group.
The glass and glazing industry in India has gone through a sea of changes in the past decade.
Tell us about the latest in use of glass as façade & cladding material and glazing technologies and those used in your projects?
Glass nowadays is no longer being used only for windows or glazing. It has expanded to be used as walls, cladding materials, doors, flooring, and have multiple other possibilities. For instance, today ceramic glasses are being used on façades, lacquered glass is used for interior purposes, coloured glass as partitions, laminated glass are being used for floorings, complete glass structures in the form of houses have become the new vogue.
Concepts like lift & slide systems and slim windows are trending in terms of glazing systems where hardware plays a key role. Most of the work is done off-site nowadays as opposed to the conventional methodology where everything happened onsite. Methodologies like semi unitized and fully unitized glazings are being used which are primarily produced in factories and then brought on site henceforth. The overall execution is done in a modular fashion these days.
What are the key factors to consider while designing and installing glass façades & fenestration?
Glass is a very delicate material and should be used carefully keeping in mind the sun path. The heat transfer and insulation properties of the glass must be minimal, especially while working in north Indian states that experience dry heat waves during summer. The double-glazed unit and other properties that can minimise the heat load transfer in a building must be considered.
Directions also play a key role in determining the placement of glass. Solar passive technologies like North-South orientation, having services on eastern and western sides should be followed very carefully. Maximum glass shall be used on the Northern side as the north has the least amount of exposure to rays. If the glass is dealt with properly you can enjoy the design to its full capacity.
Please brief on the design and technical details of a safe glass façade, considering fire safety, and wind, rain and earthquake resistance?
The issues boil down to the material specification and the cost optimisation activities undertaken in most projects. This process needs to be vetted by a façade consultant qualified to understand the material specifications and give the right recommendations so that mishaps can be avoided. Many structures fail due to inadequate design by inexperienced façade contractors. Paying attention to the construction and its adequacy to hold glass is the only way to improve the overall impact natural factors have on said glass.
Façade contractors need to educate their skilled and unskilled staff with quality control procedures. Training programs need to be conducted periodically to focus on different systems and materials. This should be mandatory training and must include the façade contractor’s project managers and skilled labourers. Clients need to qualify façade vendors based on a proper qualification process and grade the façade contractor considering the credentials.
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?
It is important for a built form to be energy efficient and performance oriented. For instance, instead of introducing a metal cladding in a single skin façade system, a double skin façade system can be considered as they integrate insulation properties keeping the indoor environment comfortable irrespective of the outdoor climate. Also, cleaning in double-skin façade systems is easier as the indoor skin is glass. These systems also vouch for privacy serving multiple purposes. With a single skin façade, instead of using wet cladding, one can always go with a drywall system where the cavity can trap the heat, making for a comfortable indoor environment.
Vertical or horizontal shading devices are another alternative to cut direct sunlight from entering the building. In fact, the designer can control the heat and natural light, depending on the orientation of the building. Hence, there are various ways of choosing elements that are better for the performance of the building while complementing the aesthetics simultaneously. Materiality is a major factor in outlining greener buildings. All the above-mentioned materials are capable of making a building sustainable and energy efficient. It is important to design performance-oriented buildings considering solar passive strategies.
What are your views on future façades & fenestration technologies, and materials?
Prefabrication is the future of construction. With high precision levels, this construction methodology is easier, quicker, The Illuminati: The façade was` installed by omitting smaller cubes from the bigger ones providing the building with openings and punctures which allowed natural light to touch every corner of the house. A terrace in the form of a cantilever renders a floating powder-coated hollow aluminium pipe web, which forms to be the most dramatic feature. Location: South City, Gurgaon Cladding Material: Powder-coated hollow aluminium pipe and cost-effective.
For instance, a prefab steel building construction can be completed in a short span of two months where a regular RCC construction usually requires a minimum of 6 months’ span. The glazings which are conventionally fixed at the site can be replaced by semi-unitized or fully-unitized modular glazings assembled at the factory and fixed directly at the site, serving an even better aesthetic purpose. In small-scale architectural projects, modular doors, kitchens, windows, wardrobes, wooden floorings, are anyways in trend. The demand for modular cabinetry or carpentry is growing every day looking at the time-saving and durability factor.
According to you, what is an intelligent façade? How can intelligent façades bring in the greenhouse effect and also restrict intensive use of air conditioners?
An intelligent building envelope adapts itself to its environment. How efficiently it does so is what sets it apart from its competitors. With the help of some softwares, digital façades and solar active architecture can integrate complete building systems and the façade can automatically change its shape according to the sun path diagram. Hence, these automatic systems cater to the performance of the building without human intervention. We use double skin systems for our projects which offer flexibility irrespective of the inside of the façade. In fact, the interior grammar can undergo dynamic alterations; it can even be used for multiple functional regimes but the external skin remains intact.
Double skin façades, which are being most widely used in commercial buildings to permit natural light to enter the building, can work as an efficient ventilation system if properly designed. External shading devices and movable overhangs installed on the building façade are very advantageous in the sense that it provides a very effective design solution against overheating. By using these methods, one reduces the emission and trapping of heat which in turn cools the place down, reducing the need for air conditioners. High-performance façades can allow for a reduction in peak cooling loads and therefore need a smaller AC system and/or a low-energy alternative, which can translate into increased energy savings, reduced initial costs, and HVAC system operation and maintenance savings.
What is your advice to young, aspiring architects?
Find a mentor, work with him/her for some time. Once you are learned and have some basic experience then translate it into your own design language and open up your own practice.
Golf Links House, New Delhi (Area – 350 Sq Yds)
Cityspace ’82 Architects have recently completed a plush residential design in The Golf Links (Delhi’s noble residential area), which is a biological spectacle. This area institutes numerous houses surrounding vibrant and lush landscaped garden views and capacious planning.
The design scheme follows contemporary minimalism, which is our preferred design style. Based on the fundamentals of horizontal and vertical interaction between indoors with outdoors, an open plan concept has been introduced. With enormous openings in the front and rear along with a few cut-outs at the terrace level, the house acquires an abundance of natural light and ventilation. The amalgamation of an exotic material palette including zinc, glass, wood and metal façade create a harmonious yet minimalistic effect on the overall geometry of the project.
The notion of assimilating a sustainable design concept here is to curb the jeopardy of the hot and dry climate while taking the advantage of exuberant landscaped gardens of Lutyens Delhi.
The Garden View House, West Punjabi Bagh, Delhi (Area: 20250 Sq ft)
This magnanimous house in New Delhi has been designed for a joint family in which 3 brothers are going to stay on the top three floors and the ground floor is kept for the purpose of recreational activities.
While designing the house, one thing that became constant for all three brothers was the terrace garden in the front of the house. They wanted to feel as if everyone is staying on the ground floor by letting them walk and sit in the greens every day. For this particular reason, a cantilever of 15 feet was designed on all three floors using a post-tensioning method allowing the ground floor to have a seamless view to the outside garden. A double skin façade was proposed in a wraparound method throughout the first and second floor allowing not just privacy but making the life of the family very easy by limiting 75 per cent of the housekeeping staff to outside. The same wrap-around balcony was used for maintaining the terrace garden, plantation, cleaning of toilets and windows and servicing drip irrigation and misting nozzles which requires regular maintenance without entering the inside.
Further adding to the aesthetics, the façade lighting plays an imperative role as trick lights are randomly placed along with the puncture and RGB light. This residence is the perfect amalgamation of form and function.
Architect Sumit Dhawan, Cityspace '82 Architects
Founder & Principal Architect
Ar. Sumit Dhavan started a solitary practice directly after completing B.Arch in the year 2005 and founded Cityspace’82 Architects. His childhood passion for architecture manifested the perseverance and belief which lead Sumit to practice unconditional hard work. Firmly believing in a perfect balance between functionality and form, Sumit ensures to rationalise both, the aesthetics and functional regime of every endeavour he outlines. Having experience of almost two decades, Sumit has single-handedly nurtured this firm and given it the position where it stands today. Ar. Sumit has established his name extensively in the design industry and has found his way to renowned celebrity homes. He has done projects for politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, the residences of famous cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir, and many more. Also, his work is appreciated by developers whom he has collaborated with including DLF, Ansal Group, Orchid, MGF to name a few. His eclectic façade style has made him a favourite amongst numerous practicing architects.
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