Millennium Post

The amazing and awesome in life

On my recent trip to Barcelona, I had the privilege of viewing the works of Gaudi, the eccentric architect, and modern artists, Salvador Dali and Picasso. Amazing, awesome and thought-provoking. Mankind has always craved for the finer things in life. Man has strived to make art an integral part of his lifestyle. Right from the cave dwellings to the modern iconic towers of our urban metropolises.

One spectrum of architecture is the basic quality of structures and engineering. But at the other end of the spectrum is the artistic values that make habitations fit for civilised societies. That’s why the architectural designs of Gaudi, back in 1904, created buildings, churches, garden villas and market squares which were straight out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Since those experimental heydays we have come a long way. The ‘art deco’ days of the 60s and the sublime designs of the 2000s is part and parcel of our lives today. The world over the new heroes of today are people like Philip Starke and Ramesh Khosla, who are changing the way we live. The designs are not only good to look at but are ergonomically and environmentally formulated.

Not only are the exteriors enhanced but the interiors have become ‘art galleries’ which actually complete the entire picture of an ideal home or office. Amazing metallic sculptures, beautiful oil and water paintings. Here is where art and architecture combine to deliver the glory of life itself. Combining art and environmentally sustainable design in our buildings is the future. Solar panels, wind turbines, usage of recycled materials, better building placement all lead to a beautiful, comfortable and eco-friendly life.

Art can combine design with ventilation and cooling efficiencies. We can also ensure water-proofing and wind control in our towers by judicial architectural engineering. K2 sustainable apartments in Windsor, Australia, by Hansen Yuncken, feature passive solar design, recycled sustainable materials, photovoltaic cells, waste water treatment, rain water collection and solar hot water. Real design and art are combined by people like David Hertz Architects Inc USA. His play with natural light and natural ventilation, pre-fabricated materials with art and design that blends with the environment is truly remarkable.

1956 was a red letter year for the amalgamation of modern art and architectural design. The American architects took the lead in delivering the face of modern habitation. Even the floors, partitions, ceilings, lighting and furniture took on the avant garde art of the era. This revolution went into the 70s and 80s with the bizarre – starting from doyens like Fran Hosken and her views on urban living, Franz Fueg and Meiji Watanabe to the pop culture of Andy Warhol. Many of our commercial complexes and smart IT spaces owe their novel look to these great artists and designers. Some of our modern designers who are working on cutting edge designs are people like Sahuri & Partners Architecture Inc, Canada. The Shell Control Centre they designed just outside Fort McMurray, Alberta is an example of the use of straight lines and a sandstone natural wall-like structure, conducive to productive work output.

Another modern hero is Studio One Architects from Vancouver. Tomas Wolf and James Wong began this firm in 1991 and never looked back. ‘The Sterling’ residential complex in Vancouver is one of their renowned projects. The artistic and remarkable project design of SPF Architects Los Angeles – The Wall’s Annenberg Centre for Upper Performing Arts in Beverly Hills – is an  inspirational example of combining art and architecture!

One of the most prolific and astounding architectural design wizards is the little known but highly talented firm of Brooks + Scarpa Architects, LA, California. Their project – the Mill Center for the Arts – is an example of their remarkable work. A new cultural complex located in the heart of the downtown district, the programme includes a 7000 sq ft children’s museum, a 1200-seat performing arts theater, a black box theater, 5000 sq. ft. event center, art galleries, class-rooms, artist studios and administrative offices. The design of the Mill Centre for the Arts draws upon the regional tradition of the covered porch to unify a complex program which integrates the historic existing mill building with new construction. Blurring the boundary between interior and exterior spaces, the ‘porch’ vocabulary serves an important social purpose – creating places for users to reflect, engage, and exchange ideas. Throughout the complex, design elements are developed to lengthen and extend the space as well as take advantage of opportunities for outdoor activities. The thoughtful layout brings coherency to the disparate programmatic elements; this sense of integration and communication is enhanced by the innovative façade material, used throughout as a unifying aesthetic device.

Inspired by the beauty of the Carolina Mountains, the skin of the façade is composed of ionised metal panels, perforated and etched with a composite pattern of native tree varietals. The skin floats over and extends beyond the weathertight envelope of the building, providing modulated filtered light and shade to both interior and exterior spaces. More subtly, the varied textures of the façade’s surface break down the building’s sense of anonymity, hinting at the life buzzing inside. Like many of the design features at the Mill Center, the building skin is multivalent and rich with meaning – performing roles not only aesthetic, but also functional and sustainable.

A sculpted of folded, skewed metal planes, the Vail Grant House seems to enter into a love affair with its hillside site, blurring the boundaries between the natural and the artificial. Although the building appears to be a direct response to the topography, much of its shape actually derives from a translation of the complex setback and stepback requirements of the hillside ordinances as they relate to this site. The zoning codes require a lower building height towards the street and permit a taller structure further up the hill. By that means, it was possible to build relatively close to the street and establish a relationship to the smaller scale in the surroundings, while being able to increase the height further back in the lot – thus taking advantage of the spectacular views. The building volume is created by a simple extrusion of a square, a neutral elongated twisted box that is projected into the site and sculpted along its contours. The folded roof is skewed to allow directed views or openings. The building’s movement on the site describes a spiral that begins at a lower point closest to the street, travels up the hill, and then turns back towards the street and the lake, overlooking itself and creating an enclosed court in the center.

Structural Concrete Insulated Panels (SCIP) made by Green Sandwich Technologies were chosen for their structural and insulating properties, as well as sustainability: they are made from 100 per cent recycled and post consumer foam and have a 50 per cent fly-ash content in the concrete. The design employs comprehensive passive solar design strategies, as well as solar panels and geothermal cooling: improving thermal comfort, daylighting, and natural ventilation. By responding to the visceral aspects of the site a uniquely sustainable and striking design was achieved. In India too we are surrounded by unsung heroes like C P Kukreja, Rajiv Khanna (KIA), Das and Anil Saha who are all developing buildings based on architectural design fused with the ethnic art of the land. It takes a modern and open-minded developer to embody the new avatars of forms and shapes.

Kunal Banerji is a marketing and branding expert.
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