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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri enlightens…

By Marina Correa & Savitha Hira
Photography: Courtesy the architect

What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
SDS School Gurgaon

Whilst ‘neo-futurist architecture’ as a term evolved in the 1960’s,  characterized by an ‘uninhibited architectural approach’, the prolific global mushrooming of ‘iconic’ built forms that we see in present times, spurred Team IAnD to probe the larger picture of what makes architecture iconic and what is the response it elicits… 

As we look at the plans, layout and models of ace architect Sanjay Puri’s 3 imminent school façades, we are struck by their unconventional built forms; the three outer skins seem elaborate: hexagonal modules sheath the GI School and jaali-screen walls envelope the 14-storey Mulund School - both in Mumbai; while the SDS School in Gurgaon has numerous screen walls wrapping its ancillary spaces, making them sculptural - an aspect not associated with school buildings in India.   

What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
Mulund School,  Mumbai

What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
Mulund School,  Mumbai

If you look at any of Sanjay’s buildings, for example, the recently built 72 screens in Jaipur or Chrome Hotel in Kolkata or Auriga restaurant in Mumbai – they all have these angular sculptural building skins. Sculptural, asymmetrical, non-linear, alien and dynamic are words that often describe his structures. So, how does he arrive at such built forms? “I am inspired anywhere and by anything,” comes the pat reply. Elaborating on his muses, Sanjay relates how once he saw a truck-full of pipes moving up and down and that became his inspiration for a plan, which is yet to be realized, as no Indian builder is willing to back such an unconventional design. Ironically, the plan featured in an international architectural magazine and a developer in Amsterdam evinced interest in wanting to realize it.

Such parametrically-designed buildings have long been the staple of structures overseas, but are slowly surfacing in India, as people are getting globally synthesized and developers’ reluctance waning in the face of such sustainable and sculptural marvels, informs Sanjay. World over too, when we study individual projects like the Burj Khalifa, Helix Hotel in Abu Dhabi, architecture by the likes of Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelblau, Frank Gehry and several others, we see that perhaps the built form is a result of resolving various functional requisites to arrive at a ‘different’ look from that which already exists.
  
What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
GI School, Ghatkopar,  Mumbai
What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
GI School, Ghatkopar,  Mumbai

Returning to Sanjay’s 3 schools, each design is completely sustainable and rooted in context. Limited ground area in the Mulund and G.I. schools has spawned internal courtyards, terrace spaces, spill-out areas and play on levels to augment a spatial feel; and given its high-rise nature, negate any kind of claustrophobia. In both schools, the skin is derived purely from a climatic response, harnessing indirect sunlight and fostering ample ventilation – working on an annual energy savings of around 30%.  In case of the SDS School, space is plentiful, so the built form is derived after carving out linear courtyards on every floor. The glass façade classrooms facing north get the warmth of indirect sunlight, thus reducing heat gain.
 
What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
Mulund School,  Mumbai

What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
SDS School Gurgaon

So, what makes architecture iconic? Is it the freedom that an architect enjoys with the support of advanced CAD that gives wings to his imagination and he can create a no-holds-barred built form? Is it the influx of several futuristic architectural buildings around the world that push a professional to try and compete with the idea of creating something awe-inspiring, eyeball-grabbing?
 
What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
SDS School Gurgaon

“Yes”, says Sanjay, the positive response of the layman is a spearheading factor; as is software support like Rhino among others, and newer technological methods like BIM calculations, 3D printing and the like.  Where once architects built a series of models, sliced their sections, crumpled and burnt paper, etc., giving vent to their strong musings, striving to accomplish in reality what they passionately believed to be the structure; is now more easily handled and aided by the computer. “So architecture isn’t conceived in isolation or as a deliberate attempt to prove something but as a site-specific design response. And in the bargain, if it elicits a surprise element, then what more can one ask for?” he says, smilingly.

But there is the other side of the coin too. When architects tend to go all out with their imagery, there are brickbats too; like the recent flak Ar. Frank Gehry received for his sprightly Bio Museum in Panama. “But certainly, bucking the trend and creating outstanding work a la Frank Gehry or Coop Himmelblau is definitely worth any possible backlash!” rejoins Sanjay.  So true!!

Ar. Sanjay Puri's Top Picks~ in India & Overseas


What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
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What makes architecture iconic? Ar. Sanjay Puri in conversation with India Art n Design
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