Exhibition S.P.A Design Place Making
S.P.A Design could well represent a set of younger studios in India that have achieved a sizeable amount of built projects and reached a measure of maturity, working through times of economic boom as well as uncertain geographies and unclear landscapes. To review such a body of work through detailed drawings and sketches, photos and notes, is akin to researching an archive of the contemporary. The exhibition presents the contemporary in architecture — in its built and breathing avatar, as flesh and blood of our times. Architecture as mode and style appears scattered in the current context, but in exhibitions such as these, the strands can actually help us weave a story, even if only a provisional or limited one for now.
NOTE ON THE EXHIBITION
The mode of production of architecture is never disconnected from geography. Despite global design corporations pretending to be able to construct anything anywhere, India has been ambiguous if not reluctant to this new kind of technical colonisation that comes with the globalisation of architecture. In a place where times are multiple, the idea of progress is complex and conflictual. India has allowed separate streams of technology to coexist, a unique generosity; laissez-faire too, that makes it so peculiar.
As a practice based in the Indian subcontinent, the issues of geographical location comes with specific opportunities and limitations that define a regional practice within South Asia.In a demographically fast growing country with high inequalities, it is easy to see a specific purpose in addressing large public programmes, seriously needed, with a specific focus on schools, universities, office complexes, factories and mass housing. Since these projects have to be economical to be of large scale, they dictate an elemental approach to architecture derived from the analysis of the context, the conditions of the practice and the technology available. The projects in this exhibition rely on simple architectonic principles that are developed specifically for each project. They focus primarily on the quality of space as an invention, its structure and the systems to support it. The aesthetic result is the sum of its clarity. From this understanding, design elements and style are removed from the equation as un-necessary, only the architectonic remains. The aim is not to seek attention as ‘starchitect’ with landmark designs that are largely irrelevant or out of place in the Indian context. It is more to resolve typological questions that can be shared with others, explained easily in rational terms, as an ongoing discussion. We see our work as a collaborative, an open research on everyday architecture to be disseminated for a larger purpose. In a place obsessed with iconic imagery this statement can be seen as self defeating, however it draws from a certain frugality that is urgently required to address the wider concerns of environmental design. Ultimately our aim is to make places, not buildings, places that have a quality of space, a permanence in the city, places that are designed for, and used by citizens, not only by consumers, places that can weather the test of time, change and become the urban, common memory of the city. To achieve this goal, a common thread of the projects is the overall supremacy of the structure of the space over other aspects. Its predominance is established as a strategic reason to counter the constant fluctuation of
design parameters. The structure remains the sure ally that will support the project in its infancy, its construction and its life beyond. At a larger scale, the Indian context of practice offers the rare possibility to combine urban design with architecture. Urban design ,as such,has been quite restricted to a government exercise, disconnected from the production of architecture. Yet competitions for large campuses bring up possibilities to explore the direct relation one shall expect from urban design and architecture. The extraordinary opportunity of such explorations is to integrate environmental planning at every scale, from land to water, to energy, to waste management, to building design. The overall planning takes a different form where buildings have a specific function beyond their typical program. They play a role in the landscape like actors in a theater performance. Their aesthetic and technological character becomes the result of this environmental planning thought process which entails topographical and climatic studies. There are no pre-determined solutions.
This spread, top row, and this page, above: snapshots of the display of the exhibition Opposite page, bottom: a panel on the Coimbatore House project by S.P.A Design, as displayed in the exhibition, along with the corresponding photographs of the project. The house, conceived for an art collector, is designed as a ‘machine a regarder’ colour and light, a place for meditation. In a square plot of 30m x 30m, the house is roughly a square of 20m x 20m that occupies the centre. To compensate for the lack of garden depth, the plan is designed like a jigsaw puzzle piece with carved in courtyards, terrace gardens and a pool
This page, top-left: a panel on the O.P Jindal Global University in Sonepat by S.P.A Design, as displayed in the exhibition; top-right and right: panels on the Franco-German Embassy in Dhaka. It comprises a square plot of 8,000 square metres, wherein the synergy between the two nations led to the proposal of a formal concept of permanent growth. The DNA molecule, two parallel spirals, made architecture demonstrate that harmonious relationship in which both need the other to grow. Incidentally this is also the new image of high technology and ecology that France and Germany are recognised