Trending in 2015
Architecture and design are an integral part of human life. Whether at work or at home, besides fulfilling the simplest needs of shelter, they fulfill psychological needs that assist and guide us through each and every day of our lives. But what is good design? A question posed to many architects and designers and a question I was often asked as a student, while studying at the Pratt Institute of Design in New York. When does aesthetics take prevalence over function? Can aesthetics and function have a perfect and equal marriage? Will one always be more dominant than the other?
As a student of both architecture and design, I have to say that the key is always to first address the site, the cultural milieu and the environment. This does not necessarily mean that everything needs to merge. Look at a few examples, like Gaudi or Frank Gehry in Barcelona. What surrounds the structures are quite different, yet the intent of the structures are quite clear – whether it has to do with scale, size, materials and/or aesthetics. They are there to have a presence which will live long beyond our lifetimes. But is this always a good thing and do most architects and designers understand the value and the intent of a structure that should live beyond a human lifetime? Personally, I have my doubts. Living in a city like New Delhi, one is surrounded by structures in Gurgaon and Noida, where more buildings than one would like to consider, have little aesthetic appeal and are frankly completely disconnected with their environment. Is this good design practice? As a single entity, they may have an appeal. But as a living engaging thing, do they have value for one in the environment that they are placed in, is the question to be carefully evaluated and answered.
Today, a good design practice has and must consider so many other elements that affect a building and the way we engage with it. From the structure, to the energy it consumes, to the interiors, to the scale and shape of the furniture used, to the psychological effect it has on its users and visitors – all must be considered. At K2India we strongly believe that one’s surroundings directly influence the quality of one’s lives – whether in the work place, at home or the public spaces in-between. Our approach is rooted in a firm belief that design is fundamental to improving the quality of life; and with an integrated and unified approach, it can become a totally functional and living work of art.
At its most basic, architecture is a response to fundamental human needs – a way of organising space while meeting practical demands. At its most exalted, architecture can introduce new perspectives and new dynamics, reinvigorating both luxury and interiors. We strive to synthesise these two goals, to create houses that perform as well as excite, buildings that uplift the spirit and are memorable. At K2India, our design process begins with a careful, in-depth study of each project’s requirements and constraints, its use and users. We then analyse, evaluate and interpret these factors through the prism of our core principles – the formal propositions of spatial relationships and adjacencies, symmetry and asymmetry, use of materials and a sense of order that constitutes the discipline and practice of modern architecture. With this inquiry and understanding as a starting point, we build a rationale of ideas and experiences, a programme of needs and goals and a carefully constructed collage of forms and spaces that are at once dynamic, aspiring and meaningful.
When we move down in scale to furniture, our approach is quite similar. How does the design first work ergonomically and how does the user react to it on sight and then to its usage? Whether we would like to acknowledge it or not, beautiful objects will always hold our attention longer than items that have less aesthetic appeal. Even our interior design approach has always been to first spatially understand a space. A good interior design practice will always understand volume first. It will use and manipulate that volume while engaging it to become a space that is dynamic or warm and functional. Volumes get manipulated in both axis – in the vertical and in the horizontal. All the other elements are from the materials that are used to finish the floors and ceilings and the exterior of the building. These together complete the psychological impact of this volume.
The mistake often made is to scale the furniture to fit a volume that may be monumental. This is not a solution, it is a problem. We, as in human beings and our bodies, react to a certain scale when we use furniture for sitting, relaxing and working. It is this human scale that provides the correct support and ergonomic functionality that we need. Just because we are in a volume that may be dictated by its verticality does not mean we have to scale up our furniture vertically. The attention to scale in architecture, design and furniture is an integral part of a good design practice.
Sunita Kohli: Sunita is President, K2India and Chairperson, School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal. Conferred the Padmashri in 1992, for Design and Architectural Restoration
Kohelika Kohli: Kohelika is CEO and Creative Head of K2India, a firm she established in 2010 with her mother, Sunita Kohli. The firm specialises in Architecture, Restoration, Interior Design, Landscape Design, Construction and Furniture. They specialise in a wide variety of architectural and design projects, both residential and commercial.