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Friday, September 7, 2012

Ethnic Zest

By Ishita Shah
Photography: Courtesy the architect.


It is often said that designing is akin to celebrating. But Ar. Hiren Patel chooses to celebrate design itself with a project that synthesises the essence of the inherent HPA philosophy.

A vast empty land... waiting since very many years to be designed into something spectacular; several design trials later... it has become one of the grandest venues for merriment in the city. “My clients wanted a place that would celebrate the essential quality of a grand Indian wedding; they did not want it to be thoroughly modern but surely modern-ethnic”, says Ar. Hiren Patel recollecting the short project brief.

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Inspired by the rural wedding setup, the design is based on the concept of the customary courtyard space called ‘wadi’. Right from the onset, the design process has been about imparting varied experiences! Beginning at the entry, with the well-planted travellers’ palm creating an appealing and soothing welcome, the design dwells into crafting traditional elements like ‘dellu’ (a notable character at Gujarati weddings), water bodies and series of courtyards.  “No matter how much you give in terms of decoration, people want more. Hence we’ve tried to achieve a sense of freedom with interplay of various ethnic elements in a series of courtyards for multiple decoration options,” elaborates Ar. Patel.

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Building courtyards within courtyards, has not only resonated with the idea of a wadi, but has also aesthetically resolved the architect’s conscious attempt to create seclusion. Consequently, the final designed space depicts great intensity and leisurely appeal, befitting the aura of a ceremonial occasion, cutting one off from the outer world, though temporarily. Enhancing this is the remarkably high surrounding compound wall that reinstates the experience holistically.

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As widespread as approx. 8000 sq. yards, this large urban space in the heart of the city of Ahmedabad, is a blend between traditional and modern expressions; the design onus being on the younger generation. While the main entrance gate is a contemporary design, the jallis (trellis) used at the entrance are enthused from pol house windows. This predefined juxtaposition is further seen in the architecture, lighting design, furniture pieces and other elements.

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“...because it was more of a landscape project, we were highly influenced and inspired by Geoffrey Bawa’s work... kept thinking how beautifully he did it!” recollects the architect, as he graciously acknowledges the passion and personal attention that his landscape Guru Mr. Arun Kumar ahs bestowed on the project.  Having dealt subtly with the (bride’s and bridegroom’s) rooms and offices, Ar. Patel discusses how important these seemingly minor details have been. In order to make them equally commemorative, atypical elements like kadappah flooring and re-furbished, ethnic wooden Parsi furniture are used to enrich the experience.  

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Just as the design and the underlying process rightly suggests, the clients and the architect have very diligently fashioned a space beyond a mere ‘party-plot'. With measured use of materials like Dhrangadhra stones, timbers and other raw finishes, the architect chose to make the architecture humble and let the festivities speak out aloud!

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