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Sep
20

Between Architecture and Sociology is the recognition of spatial impact on the psyche of society. To understand this impact fully is perhaps impossible, but to understand that it exists is the opportunity to use design to change the world 

Socio Design Foundation 

With this quote I began to design a space for fostered kids in the competition titled FOSTERED organised by the Socio Design Foundation. 

I looked at the idea of how spaces can have an effect on the psyche of the human mind in my undergrad thesis as well. Colours, architectural forms, connectivity, architectural elements, etc were the focus at that time, but this time around I wanted to test the waters a little more. I wanted to see if we can – through the generation of activities – have an effect on the psyche of fostered children. 

A Typical Housing Unit

The Public Arena

The Architecture of RE deals with Re-defining, Re-urbanising, Re-verting, Re-habilitating, Re-viving, Re-cycling and Re-using. 

Re-define 

Foster Care [fô’ster kâr]; (noun, verb): to be concerned or solicitous; have thought or regard for an impoverished child and thus to be supported  or many individuals, organisation and/or community at large. 

Re-Urbanise and Re-Version 

An abandoned and forgotten space near the heart of downtown Toronto was selected as the site to test a prototypical community and to see how it would function as a space for fostered kids. To revert to the age-old wharf like structure which dotted Toronto’s shoreline years ago, was the key design concept behind the siteplanning. 

Re-Habilitate 

It is the coupling of the need for a new community lifestyle, and the necessity to re-integrate fostered children into society, that drives this design scheme. Re-habilitation is not seen as a process by which a group of individuals are bound within the confines of a wall, forced to understand how community-living works, and when the time is right, placed back into the very society that rejected them. It is a process which requires a physical integration from the very first step, which architecturally manifests as a generic or prototypical housing unit that can be repeated within any community in any city in any part of the world. Teaching fostered children to be a part of society and make society accept them, calls for the physical co-existence of both, as opposed to momentary separation, to be eventually conjoined, which is usually the case in this day and age. 

Re-Vive 

Not only is an abandoned site re-vived to its historic structure, but fostered children are re-vived into new families, a new neighbourhood and a new and healthier environment, where they are taught to be a constructive part of society. The idea is not to create little boxes with labels saying ‘this is where you have to go if you have a specific need’, but to fuse fostered children into the existing system. Anonymity becomes intentional. For this design a fresh site is selected only to be able to present a different kind of architecture that can emerge at Toronto’s waterfront. However, the core concept of integrating fostered children into existing communities as infill architecture is an idea that can be replicated within any neighbourhood. 

Re-Cycle and Re-Use 

The idea of green architecture is also fused into the design scheme where ‘giving back to the community’ becomes the motto for this neighbourhood. The very idea of a foster care family being able to re-use grey-water, recycle rainwater, and other such similar ‘green’ schemes, reinforces the sense of belonging and ownership that a fostered child needs to feel for his health growth and nourishment. 

The Design 

Site Plan

The programme included a housing community where there was a seamless blend of houses into one another, where one house could not be told apart from the next, and the roofline was the connecting factor. The seamless urban fabric pushes the idea of anonymity and hence the notion of fostered children blending into an existing community. 

Since the notion of “green” architecture is being pushed as well, architectural facades and elements are generated to highlight these features. So whether it is small wind turbines atop residential rooves or Voronoi shaped walls acting as “green” water-recycling walls; or even small community gardens and rainwater harvesting units within a residential space, the idea of “green architecture” is uniquely highlighted. 

Heated Floors

Kitchen Garden as a 'Productive' Space

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Green Roves and Cooling Walls

I submitted the panels and ended up winning second place – not bad for a first time entrant I’d say ;). I guess just the idea that I finally sat down to put my mind to something I actually care about and it reaped a reward is what got me pretty excited. 

 

  

 

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Sep
09

Inception - Poster

The phantasmagorical world of Christopher Nolan unravels itself in Inception till the very end, where you are still left wondering – is this all a dream –IS the dream real – or is the reality a dream? Now I’m not going to go into definitions of the word “real” because not only is that the most cliche discussion to have, it also goes nowhere and confuses everyone.

Nolan’s very use of the word “architect” as the creator of these “dreams” puts me on an ego-high as would be the case for most young architects or architecture students out there. (After all,a self-claimed sense of pride is part and parcel of the architectural field right?). But what really got me was the very notion of being able to ceate or re-create cities from your dreams. It reminds me of Kevin Lynch’s concept of place legibility – the idea of mental maps.

We all walk through cities and make our own paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks, in turn creating personalised ‘maps’ of the city to ease our navigation through it. Whether it’s the ugliest house you have seen, or the icecream parlour at the street corner, or maybe even the rickety hot dog stand just around the corner from where you work – we all create out own points of reference – and they become our reality.

Nolan takes this idea a level further, where he says: “I’m going to enter your ‘map’ and invade it”, and that very morbidly intriguing idea got me thinking. What kind of ‘maps’ could we come up with if we were to overlay the mental maps of different people. Personalised city configurations are like pieces of a puzzle, and when put together (or overlayed in this case) might help us recreate a map of the city- but in a way we don’t usually see it. It’s like sending people out to make a video of different parts of the city, and then combining those to make an entire movie.  

Inception - Poster

But let’s say we were to go the Nolan way. That we could physically enter someone’s mental map of a city. Would we be lost? Is the human mind so highly personalised that perhaps the common features f a city that architects and urban designers work so hard to create in order to maintain some sort of uniformity or highlight within cities, are in fact pointless when it comes to the creation of mental maps? For example, what is intended to be a landmark for a neighbourhood or a community, in fact turns out to be useless or perhaps the reverse – what designers pass off as unimportant, are in fact somebody’s marker or point of reference in his daily routine home from work?

Imagine the clash that might occur if we were to enter someone’ map- the sense of confusion and disorientation we would feel. That’s where Nolan’s idea of sub-conscious invasion becomes superb. In the movie Leonardo’s character’s sub-conscious was so powerful, that it would enter into other characters’ dreams. Perhaps disorientation (which in turn leads to a feeling of un-safety) would create such a situation- to bring some sort of order to the chaos – because the human mind always tries to find a regulatory and recognisable pattern.

Simply put. Here I am – entering your ‘mental map’ of the city or ‘dream’, and I am unable to navigate through it simply because objects you recognise as important to your navigation, never even mattered to me. So my sub-conscious forces itself onto your map to help ease my mind and create a recognisabe order for me.

This is why, for me, Inception is one of the most profound movies of our time. If people can look beyond the ‘wow’ factor of the movie (which is an unfortunate necessity in our highly commercialised world), you can see layers and layers of interesting ideas.

Aug
22
It’s been a year now since I graduated, but I can’t help look back at my grad school thesis. There are always things around me, even today, like new competitions, new projects, movies, newspaper articles, which get me thinking about the work I produced. So here’s a little personal flashback….

My thesis incerpt:

With an expected population of 22 million by the year 2021, New Delhi is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. With an increasing demand on food, land and shelter, the city is bursting at the seams, causing an unhealthy urban sprawl. Residents and businesses fled from an unaccomodating city, and today the government’s focus lies on bringing the population back to the city core. But is there an urban void large enough to accomodate these massive demands? The answer is yes- and the solution lies on the banks of the Yamuna River. The river cuts through the city, creating the First City (the west and more amenity rich bank)and the Second City (the east and agro-based bank). This thesis explores intense urban development coupled with urban agriculture, which in turn protects what exists and allows the city to expand and reconnect to its lifeline, resulting in a new agro-urban society- the Third City

Context

I basically suggested the return of an agrarian society in the capital. Statistics show that 50% of the immigration to New Delhi is rural based, which means thousands of farmers come into the city every year with the hope of a better life. They spend their life savings on buying land (which of course gets them only a small parcel) on which they grow whatever they can (and are possibly not well trained in) and try to make a decent life. Unfortunately, nothing in our city promotes or encourages such acitvities, and most farmers end up changing professions or selling their lands to land developers who end up implementing with some form of urban development.

It becomes important to understand crop cycles and introduce the idea of cooperative farming techniques, by which farmers collectively farm on parcels of lands bought collectively under personal partnerships or corporate partnerships.

Understanding crop rotation cycles and co-operative farming methods

The basic planning principles involved creating a transit system which connects both banks of the river and creates an ease of flow of goods (for example, raw materials for farming, organic waste, produce distribution) to and from the river.

Basic Planning Principles

A few diagrams to explain the idea:

Conceptual Section: West Bank

Conceptual Section: East Bank

Re-use and Recycling of Water

Renderings:

As an after-thought (and as food for thought for the rest of you), I was thinking about the effects of corporate farming in India. I mean it sounds too good to be true- almost seems flawless. Here’s the catch – all of a sudden you have poor farmers at the mercy of rich corporates. Exploitation is possibly the most obvious evil that could stem from this- where all the corporate bigwigs just care about the money they make and not necessarily worried about how they make it – their ends justify their means unfortunately. It makes me wonder if the private sector would improve their situation or make it worse that it is under the public sector.

Aug
11

As young adults, we all wait for that moment don’t we… when we can fly from the nest of our parents and find/make our own way in the world? We yearn for that independence for a very long time.

But are we really stepping into an independent world? I also finally moved out of my parents, but rather than feeling an overwhelming sense of “I’m ready to take on the world”, I’m feeling more of a “crap I have so much s*** to take care of”.

Yes yes, I know – that’s what life is all about right? But that’s my point exactly. We may think we are free of house rules like curfews, but we can’t negate that we are also getting bound by other things: cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. We think we are free of all the house chores, where in fact now everything is ourr responsibility. We think, well we can finally do it our way now – but the truth is, we’re bound by grocery store hours, or banking hours, or customer service hours.

You thought it was bad that you had to back home by 10pm on a school night – well think about who’s rules you have to follow when you have to run a bank errand before it closes at 5:00pm, and you can’t leave work till 5:30pm. (Atleast your dad would be flexible at times right – well good luck trying to pry those bank doors open at 5:30)

The security of the nest no longer exists, and as exhilarating as it may be to take that leap, it’s one hell of a scary fall to the ground. So here’s wishing me luck…that I fly, not fall.

Aug
07

The Book | The Inspiration

Every architecture student at some point gets greatly influenced by a particular architect. For me, the architect happens to be Charles Correa – perhaps the only Indian architect with an export value in the international market- not that I cam trying to commodify him, but his work has gained incredible appreciation world over, and his international projects, like the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, the Champalimaud Centre in Lisbon or the MIT Neuroscience Centre in Boston, are proof of that.  

I still remember it was back in the first year of my undergrad studies in architecture, where one of my professors looked at my work, and noticed a particular element ( a walkway with square cutoutsso the bypasser can look at ongoing activities on the site), and he suggested I go look at the work of Charles Correa. Now being in first year I was practically oblivious to any architects…but one look at his work, and I was in love – in love with the idea of architecture andthe kinds of spaces we are capable of creating.  

The dynamism in his work through simple, subtle and clear elements mesmerised me, and ever since that day, I have been obsessed with his work- be it the British Council in Delhi or the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur. His work tunes into the requirements of a place- the genius loci almost, if I can go that far, and re-interprets modernism for the Indian subcontinet. His work delves into many cultural aspects and they come alive through his contemporary outlook. 

The British Council | New Delhi | India

His work has truly been the genesis of any sort of architectural inspiration for me – and this section of the blog would be incomplete without his mention. As a matter of fact, it would almost be blaspemous of me, to not have started this blog without a “dedication” of sorts to, who I consider, the ONLY master of Modern Architecture in India – Charles Correa.