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Posted at: Jul 7, 2018, 12:22 AM; last updated: Jul 7, 2018, 12:22 AM (IST)

Live up to changing building mores

A look at some architectural trends that have enhanced the quality of life and the visual appea of urban spaces

Pappal Suneja

From breathing in caves to living in skyscrapers, we humans really deserve a pat on our backs. Our human greed, to make a shelter that is more durable and appealing, has brought us to this point. Architecture in relation with contextual approach has a great history, from caves to mud houses to brick houses and finally, to the present day sky scrapers. Change in time has brought change in our thinking, ideas, wants and, of course, the buildings that we inhabit. 

The residential construction practices that are being undertaken these days are witnessing a positive change. Presently, our nation is heading towards understanding the required sensitivity towards the architectural domain. The approach is being altered with the focus being on hybrid mapping by re-exploring the use of traditional aspects as well as the current demand of the people to use the abundant technology available. 

While working on an assimilation of traditional materials and practices with the modern ethos, several new architectural trends are emerging in India. Here’s a look at some:

Going green

More and more architects now are making a “green” statement with their designs and the use of materials in their buildings. The contextual importance of a building is considered  according to the  climate, site and wind direction before starting the construction. The form of a building signifies its functional requirement and conditions such as earth, the sun, trees, and winds determine it. For instance, the green elements used in residences these days include the use of ‘embroidered’ jallied patterns in the outer walls to infuse fresh air; flexible partitions; built-in furniture & cupboards; blend of rustic colours with Nature; play of light and shadow; use of natural mediums as  paints; excellent portrayal of earthenware in terms of interior decoration; use of lattice bamboo windows; creation of diverse patterns  using terracotta tiles in the floor finished with red/yellow/black oxide and much more.

PEB structures

Pre-Engineered Building (PEB) structures have emerged as a promising solution for the increasing and much-needed thrust towards eco-friendly construction. Not only are these fast to ‘construct’, metal building solutions like PEB buildings are inherently ‘green’ products. These have a minimal impact on the environment as compared to the traditional brick masonry and reinforced concrete structures. The energy-efficient methods in producing steel used in these structures, and the high recycled content, help in substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly, even after demolition, these buildings don’t add to wastage like asphalt shingles, concrete, brick, and dust. The only byproduct is metal scrap which is fully recyclable.

New materials

A very noticeable trend is the experimentation with the building materials. The conventional construction materials like cement and steel do have creative  limitations. Thus, architects are expermenting with new materials. For instance the use of bamboo that is equally strong as compared to steel, or for that matter of casuarina wood that is usually used for scaffolding during construction, is being experimented with.  Further, new trending building techniques include the switchover to Compressed Earth Stabilised blocks for the main structure. Along with this perforated polymer concrete panels, hydraulic tiles, perforated facade panels for shading screens, integrated folding doors, light gauge framing systems etc are being used. With the use of diverse genre of techniques & materials, architects are adding a good amount of textures to make the buildings interesting.

Hybrid high

Hybrid thinking is the need of the hour, as only traditional practices or the high-tech ones individually will not serve the purpose. Thus, new trends in architecture are focusing on an admixture of both of these. As a result, one can see an increase in the number of structures around us wherein the layout is flexible to ensure comfort for the occupants as per their requirements. Modern buildings are inclusive in design and accommodate all types of users irrespective of the age, gender, or any physical disability. The proportion of open to built-up areas determines the breathability and cross ventilation in the designed space, so it is an important consideration in the urban high rises too. The breathability can be enhanced by the use of passive cooling techniques such as trombe wall, shading by overhangs & vegetation, green wall and terraces, use of water sprinklers, etc.

Global inspiration

Currently, in our country, the light-gauge framing systems have been contributing the maximum to the construction of small buildings and homes in domestic and hilly areas. This has a huge opportunity in an automobile, power, and infrastructure. Being a faster system (saving time and resources) to build infrastructure, this system is getting viable edge in the industry and is being adopted by more and more companies. This is one building solution that is being adopted for commercial, residential, office as well rural region buildings. Responses from private construction players have proven that the precision and cost-effective timelines for delivery of the light gauge framing systems have led to a higher level of demand over the past few years.

A touch of glass

These days glass and stainless steel are also being used extensively. This is largely attributed to the fact that these are cost-effective and also add to the aesthetic appeal  as compared to other conventional building materials. In terms of design and usage flexibility, glass and steel members can be readily replaced or re-assembled. Further, steel and glass structures are easy to install and can be used in different topologies. They rarely fluctuate in their prices. They also allow improved quality of construction, durability, less maintenance, and lower life cycle cost, while offering improved safety and resistance. Their major application is witnessed in the exterior facade designs with louver systems for adapting varied climates and being effective to renew the design of the building. Besides this, these are being used in parapets, entrances, windows and doors, railings, cladding and other aesthetic embellishments of the building exteriors and in false ceilings, trims and decorative furnishings and other embellishments involving less draw in a non-corrosive environment for the interiors. 

Respecting the context

Modern architecture is contextual architecture. This basically means that the focus is on making buildings that are in harmony with the surroundings. The designs draw from the surroundings and also contribute to it. Contextual architecture is the biggest form of subjective art. Modern cities like Chandigarh have set the context and most of the buildings in the city are in harmony with the basic context defined by Le Corbusier. Though it appears to be an easy-to-achieve goal, designing buildings that blend in with the surroundings is no mean task. In effect it is neither a mere imitation nor a barrier on the road of innovation and creativity.Modern day architects are challenging their creative instincts in creating designs that stand out as well as blend in. 

— The writer is assitant professor at McGan’s Oooty School of Architecture and a freelance journalist

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