Ex­hi­bi­tion S.P.A De­sign Place Mak­ing

Domus - - CONTENTS - Stephane Pau­mier Photos by Amit Pas­richa

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.


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

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