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Materiality and the City – Bengaluru

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

It’s our constant endeavor as curators and theorists to catalogue and discover a dialogue between the projects at the Architecture Open once we are done visiting them. Bangalore culturally and architecturally gave us a great space to have this dialogue with the audience and the buildings. We attempt to discover similarities and differences between projects in this post.

The curated list of the first edition of the Bangalore Architecture Open, held on 24th-25th March, had three buildings on oft found 30′ x 40′ plots common to Bangalore, each completely different in program and aesthetics- namely the B-One by Cadence Architects, Nirvana Films Studio by Shimul Jhaveri Kadri and Associates and the House + Studio of BetweenSpaces– Yet all of them projected a very strong and valid attitude about the building and its relationship with the city.

B-One by Cadence is reflective of a continued stance taken by the practice with respect to the city. They consistently eschew opening the house up to the main street and in fact turn the house inwards focusing on the courtyards. The front façade of the project is stoic and solid and blank to the street and gives away absolutely nothing about the inside of the house. On the inside, most of the detail is erased in favour of legibility, be it the sculptural soffit of the staircase or the expansive glass separating the courtyard from the inside. The expressive intent is clearly that of the architects and their aesthetic vision.

Nirvana Films Studio by SJK and associates adopts a diametrically opposite stance to this and the building is open to the street that surrounds it on two sides. It invites viewers, adventurous squirrels and dizzy butterflies to engage with the building with no restraint. Every floor plate is an open plan, with rooms scattered like pavilions and privacy is enabled only by slender white panels that can be rotated to open or shut thereby allowing air to move through the building. Here, the architects privilege views, light and tactile sensations more than the plasticity of the material or the expression of form. The expressive intent is not so choreographed in this project and is free for unique interpretation by every different occupant or visitor.

At BetweenSpaces the black shutters that have been employed by the architects on two floors serve to unify in identity the two different programs and can either present a severe uncompromising façade to the street, when closed or when pulled back completely bare the inside of the house and office to the outside. The shutters have a much stronger presence in this project than at Nirvana Films office, perhaps due to colour but also because they forms a singular wall when closed. BetweenSpaces are the most deliberate with material expression out of all three projects. The architects juxtapose the different materials of concrete, brick, white plaster and the black shutters on the façade in a very deliberate manner.

The Neev Primary school by Hundredhands was conceptualized purely using the ‘Mat’ building diagram to order the space and the program. The grid is reinforced by the columns and the parasol roof over the second floor terrace that serves to shade it for outdoor activities like permaculture.

The Atelier project by Biome Environmental Solutions is also in some ways a Mat building but not so deliberate in its expression as the Neev primary school. The project is essentially a free plan with a roof supported on a grid of columns. If the other projects are about the finesse of the craft or the nuance of materiality and craftsmanship, Biome assumes that the building is meant to be ephemeral and they design it to that intent.

The project that we concluded with was in many ways a testament to the spirit of the architect as community crusader. The design by VA prioritized the area allotted to pedestrians by increasing the pavement and providing additional infrastructure such as garbage bins, streetlights, street furniture, and other services at regular intervals.

In visiting these different projects through the Bangalore and Mumbai Architecture Open and it is our endeavour to go beyond the reading of a project through just drawings and images or someone else’s critical opinion but to form an impression of our own and engage in a dialogue at site with various stakeholders.

An extended version of this post appeared in the June, 2018 issue of the Domus India.

Images courtesy Sahil Latheef



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