Monday, November 22, 2010

Rules to Follow- Naming of Roads and Streets

Rules for naming Streets- A systematic approach
This post is a continuation of the previous post- Breaking the rules.
Of course, it is easier to break the rules in Architecture, but when it comes to City Planning, the consequences are too many. Let me give you an example of it.

Gujarat State in India is going through major development and growth. The upcoming conference in Jan 2011, Global Investment Summit "Vibrant Gujarat" caught my attention because not only I was born and raised in that region but also I am always interested in the cities and planning. The Vibrant Gujarat Summits, held biennially since 2003, to facilitate investment alliances with various countries. To state just few facts about Gujarat and people living in Gujarat- It is located on Western Coast of India and connected with major countries UK, Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Gulf Countries etc through the ports. Gujarati people have entrepreneurial spirit and are living all over the world. According to Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi "Gujarat, with its all inclusive, sustainable and rapid growth, is emerging as a globally preferred place to live in and to do business."

I got very excited about this Summit and started to think about the new development, new highways and connections between towns, connecting streets; some planned and some organic developments and so on. I started picturing in my mind the city and towns of Gujarat, travelled back to memory lane of the names of the roads and streets and started to wonder - Are they going to have any system, any rules! Are they going to give Indian names or international names as many investors are pouring money for this growth! Are they going to use leaders names or investors names for the streets!  How about the local geographic or historic context! Can you imagine not having any system and confusion it can create.

Street Naming-
So first of all the basic purpose of  naming the street is to navigate easily from one place to another. The other reasons are to  locate and deliver the mails, provide emergency services, utilities and so on. In USA, there are certain rules to follow when you are giving names to new streets in the new development. Few to mention- Street names can't start with "The", No discriminating or offensive names can be used and the names can not be duplicated, no names of living person are allowed or names should not be awkward or difficult to pronounce. I do not agree on the last two though.

Street Naming in Washington DC-
Romans were the first civilization designed and constructed roads. How did they name them? Washington DC was designed by Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant (August 9, 1754 – June 14, 1825), a French-born American Architect and Civil Engineer. Accordingly, At the center of the grid system is White House and the city was divided into four quadrants -Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Northwest. The streets oriented from North to South are designated by numbers and counted upward from East to West in the Northwest quadrant to Southwest Quadrant of the city  for example-1st St NW, 2nd St NW, 3rd St NW etc. For further information, check the post "DC Like a Local". That is very logical system but when you add different streets or divide the streets and connect to curved streets and things start to get complicated in the case of no system with growth in plan. This is just one way to naming and creating a system, but there are various other systems such as alphabetic order and combining them with numbers. There are streets named for all different species of trees, rivers, flowers, Historical leaders and so on.

So I hope Gujarat considers all these and other related issues while creating circular ring roads, connecting highways and other minor street systems. I hope a systematic approach is designed to plan for future growth.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breaking The Rules

In Architecture, when one designs space, the basic rules are followed: the rules about  making things perfectly uniform or symmetrical or exact implementation of the program.  Of Course some assumptions are made about human behavior based on well known facts to follow all the rules. The result is well thought out good building and space. That is perfectly fine, but occasionally when the architect breaks the rule, people adapt the space and the place becomes memorable.

The photo is of Seattle Public Library designed by architect Rem Koolhaas. It is the view of one of the lobbies and what you see are the books-shelves not lined up perfectly and people getting the books. The floor has picture of green shrubs and plants inlay-ed in the flooring. It feels like it is the underground water surface. It works perfectly well.  It is like Risk and Reward relationship. Higher risk brings higher rewards if you get rewards. The architect Rem Koolhaas has designed this building with thinking outside the box. This is just one photo of the library. 

Sometimes, I also break rules and take risks. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walk Score - Change your behavior


I lived in campus environment, when I was a student and just loved the experience of walking to everywhere. After, while working in city of Philadelphia and commuting by bus and train, I started to love the city. I walked to places and cherished many aspects of the city life. But once I moved to Sunnyvale, a Californian suburb, most of the times, I use car to go to places, I miss walking to do my daily and weekly shopping. But then, I did not have this Walk Score tool to decide on my house . Walk Score is this internet tool where you put your home address and it gives “Walk Score” for your house. 

Real Estate companies like “My Realty” has started using this tool to differentiate homes and giving score for being able to walk for your daily life. I also believe that proximate distance to various places should be additional criteria to purchase the house. Higher the walk Score, the house is in proximity to various activities and should be more sellable.

Think about it, most suburban people did not think of this issue while purchasing their homes. But now, as we all know that driving less creates smaller carbon foot print and walking improves our physical health. If your house is walking distance to Grocery stores, coffee places, book stores, post office and park, and it has high walk score, you must take advantage of walking to the places. It will surely burn some calories.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Timber Bridge

While walking down to one of the remote beaches in Santa Cruz from my friend’s house, I came across a majestic man-made structure amongst tall Californian red woods almost trying hard to disguise and still could not escape my curious sharp attention. I had to stop by to take few snapshots for capturing the beauty of this Timber Bridge. It is fascinating to see 50 to 100 years old timber and wooden bridges designed by mankind. 
As I started thinking, I realized that the invention of the bridge was very similar to the invention of  the internet. People living on one side of the river could not have been working or trading with the people living on the other side of the river without the bridge. The bridge has played major role in the travel, trading and culture of people. It is one of the iconic victory of man over nature. They can be also very artistic, beautiful and breath- taking and innovative.

Timber Bridge is very early invention of our ancient civilization. The earliest designed timber bridge known to mankind is Julius Caesar’s bridge over Rhine River (shown below). He constructed it in well thought out method and it has been documented along with other roman architecture by Architect Palladio. Many bridges are still in existent in Europe and in the Eastern states of America.

Caesar's First Timber Bridge

Architects and engineers consider many aspects to design the timber bridge. The availability of materials, the span it has to cover, the installation method and the most important, function of the bridge. The development of timber bridges coincides with the development in sawn lumber and Hardware, industrial strength glue which created Glue laminated beams and so on. But now you do not come across many timber bridges in West coast of America. So if you encounter one of those old bridges, just enjoy and admire its beauty and the creativity.
Something from Indian Epic story- Ramamyana (4th century BC)-
Adam’s Bridge or Rama Setu
Rama Setu (Setu means bridge in Sanskrit) was built by Vanara (a group of monkey) between Lanka (Srilanka) and Rameshwaram to rescue Sita (Rama’s wife) from Ravana.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Collaborative Creation

The sign represents Metal Arts Guild of San Francisco. It shows works of many artists, as each letter is made, formed and soldered by different individual. The border has various rectangles which are done by individual members of the guild. Each piece is made up of different material and different process or technique. Each artist had enough freedom to express his or her creativity and uniqueness. My photo does not show enough details to show the artistry. I made ‘a’ of Metal Arts Guild. I used copper, brass and silver. I also made hollow form and combined all the metals with the rivet.

Now when I think of the concept, I am impressed with the leadership of the visionary who came up with the criteria and guidelines to make it possible for many members to participate to represent their guild. If I am not mistaken, that visionary person is Harriete Estel Berman who is also very awesome and visionary artist. Check out her website

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Artist in Action -Process is important to final piece

Artist in Action- Art without Brushes

In the city of Mazatlan in Mexico, we came across one store facing busy tourist area. The store was lined up with colorful landscape paintings. However, we stopped at the store not because of beautiful paintings but the action was at a small bench where artist was performing a show.
It was amazing to see him in action. He was wearing respirator and he was spraying on brown board with many primary and bright colors. He did not use brushes but a sturdy piece of card paper and he would scrape off some of the paints in a rhythmic way. We just got mesmerized with the whole movement of his body and the outcome. He would rub this small piece over the sprayed paints and we would just breath out air thinking about final completed beautiful scene and he would take another color can and spray over the almost finished painting. It went on and at one point he decided it was done and he handed the painting to his wife to hang to dry.


I suddenly heard the voice of my daughter asking me to purchase the painting.
How could I say  No?
Well, I ended up buying two sprayed wet paintings suggested by my two teenage kids. Every time, I see them, they are stunning but after I think about the process and story behind them and they suddenly twinkle and talk back to me.
I got inspired by the colors and I decided to experiment on process and colors. I am making a series of  12"x12" digital frames. Check few examples of the color study on  Many more to come soon....

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Waterpool in Los Cabos, Mexico

Water has been my topic for a while. There is something about water which touches me at deeper level. I definitely would love to have my home next to natural water body, specifically ocean. I will have to plan for that. But for now, I am going to write about my experience. I just came back from Mexico trip and encountered a small Inn with restaurant and water pool adjacent to the ocean.

Cabo San Lucas

The exterior terraces step down creating various levels of seating and creating breathtaking view of ocean and its signature arch "El Arco"of Los Cabos. The natural materials such as boulder and stone pebbles are used for transition on vertical surfaces. Also, stone pebbles are used as mosaics along with colored tiles on the flooring. The steps are of different sizes and materials creating little mystery. The swooping curves on the floor mosaics correspond the curved adobe walls. The open bar and cafe is tucked behind the terraces and has just thatched roof supported by columns. The whole design still reflects Mexican adobe style in modern way. I can definitely use few design elements for my future projects.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Water Features- Private Residence

Water Features- Private Residence
Water is used for our daily basic needs drinking, cooking, washing etc. In our civilized society, we also use water for our psychological needs in swimming pool, hot tub, shower, garden, water fountain and man-made ponds, water falls and so-on. Architects and designers work with the home owners closely to understand their requirements before even any water element is designed. They study the site, sun orientation, use their expertise and choose the shape, form, location and materials for the project. They transform the space, sometimes creating magic.

Here, I am showing two residential designs. Both the architects from Australia in two different projects designed and created phenomenal space for the residents using water feature.
Lap Pool by Architect Robert Mills
image source from website -
In the first project, architect Robert Mills designed the lap pool for the home owner. The pool is on the same level of the house and edge of the pool is just very close to windows on the side of the house. The frameless glass windows from ceiling to floor allow pool to be visible from inside of the house and visually connects to outside making the residents feel next to water. Thus the location and layout of the pool in relation to the house along with the type of windows bring outside in. Check out the architect’s website and magazine site for more info.

Water Sculpture by Architect Matt Gibson
Another water feature, I love is designed by Australian Architect Matt Gibson. He used many elements to make use of the narrow side yard.  He placed a small cascading water fall on the side of the house along with an eye catching artwork. The side yard in most residences do nothing for the house and occupy some weeds or plants not much enjoyable from the house. He created this extension to the house, an oasis with soothing sounds of the water fountain. The carefully chosen art installation on the side wall evokes the vast feeling of museum.

image source-

Consciously and carefully chosen location, materials in relation to surrounding, shape and form of water feature can transform the space creating lasting impression.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Water Feature and Water Fountain

Water Features and  Water Fountains in Urban Center
Just couple of weeks ago, I was at Building Department of San Jose City in California for Residential Remodel Permit. After spending couple of frustrating hours in the newly constructed building, I decided to pick up a cup of coffee from Starbucks across the street and hoping that coffee will answer my all questions. I was walking through the plaza of the city hall and came by low profile water feature and could not stop taking my handy camera out to click few photos.

Water has super power and it is the necessity of life. Many cities and towns are built and developed around water body. Water is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It creates emotions and has very deep meaning for many people. Architect, landscape architects and artists use water in their design in different ways.

City Hall, San Jose, CA -These two water features sitting side by side and spreads in the plaza in front of the newly built city hall. Water gently rolls over thin slabs of stones chiseled on the edges and layered and stacked in a gentle and smooth wave pattern. It is designed by the artist Anna Valentina Murch and Douglas Hollis. The artists have placed the large boulders in unexpected ways around the water fountains, breaking the continuous geometry. The height of this water feature is very low so the people on the side roads can see it from their cars. Also, the scale of the water feature relates to human scale and helps create visual and auditory connection to people around.

My photo does not even show the other features of this water fountain, which you can see misting and spraying of water from vertical steel pipes. The lighting enhances the plaza and the city hall in the night. 

 Check out the photos on artist's website-

Logan Square Fountain- The Swan Memorial Fountain 
The Swan Memorial water fountain in Logan Circle in Philadelphia is very historical and symbolic in design. Its location is chosen to connect Philadelphia's famous City Hall to the Museum of Art through an axis. It was built in 1924 by Wilson Eyre, Jr. and sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder.  It is also known as the fountain of Three Rivers  and surrounded by three bronze figures, representing Philadelphia's principal waterways - the Schuylkill as a mature woman, the Wissahickon Creek as a girl and the Delaware River is as a man.

The spectacular Swann Memorial Fountain is Logan Circle's great attraction. But the location is in the center isolated by many lanes of vehicles around so people have to work hard to enjoy and experience its beauty.

The traditional fountains are circular in design with one focal point so people gather around and enjoy it as shown in the photo taken in Philadelphia city. The materials used here are traditional sculptural materials such as cast bronze is used. Water plays very dominant role and make fountain visible from distance. It creates loud sound of water spraying from 50’ distance. It has its own identity.

Water feature near San Jose city hall is not a place of destination but it is on the way of pedestrians creating experience. On the other hand Swann Memorial Fountain is designed to be a place of destination.  Both water features are very different in form, design and nature but designed for people in urban center. If designed and placed properly, water features can create a sense of a happy place and can leave memorable experience in your brain. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Art Installations using Recycled, Reclaimed and Inexpensive materials


The canopy is the overhead roof or structure supported by single pole or cantilevered from the building. The canvas canopy/tent is used to provide shade or shelter. We use them in the backyard and on the beach, to block and filter the harsh sun, wind and rain.

The structure supported by four pillars and covered by canvas or wooden beams known as gazebo are used to host a wedding ceremony and sometimes decorated with flowers and fabrics. The canopy in India named Mandap has similar function and designed to host a Hindu wedding ceremony. They create space for a special function of ceremony and rituals. People bring uniqueness to these structures with the use of colors, ornamentation and overlaying materials.
Architects, artists and engineers have been designing and interpreting the function and form of canopy/gazebo to a different level. The unique outcomes of these temporary structures are the result of one or many variables. Here I am going to show you the influence of choosing specific materials and its effect on the form.

1-Art Installation- Delhi, India, 2008 Sanjeev Shankar’s artwork for
48O Celsius Public Art Ecology festival

image source from
The structure is the enclosure made by used oil tins and is not only exquisite in form but it functions well by providing the shades in the hot summer days. He came up with the idea of re-purposing and re-defining the used cooking oil cans. This Architectural Installation was done by the help of the local people and using recycled materials.

In the words of the curator Beverley Bloxham from Toowoomba, Australia May 2009 “The completed work wears the evidence of it’s creation like the lines in an aging face: the scarred raw materials – already having completed their original commission as receptacles for cooking oil, taken apart, drilled, punched, folded, cleaned, polished and painted by many skilled hands, come together in a new symmetry with a new purpose.”

2-Art Installation – San Francisco, USA, 2008

There is another example of the structure installed in San Francisco for the event of GreenExpo. Split Bamboo stems are used to create curvy and bold organic form which stands beautifully in front of blue water of bay. It encloses a passageway between the two buildings where the conference and exhibitions were held. Also, it displays low water, native plant materials with labels so thus educating passerby.

3-Art Installation – San Francisco, USA, 2008

This light and colorful canopy was installed outside the exhibit hall during “SF House tours” event in San Francisco. This was designed and installed by architecture students. The temporary enclosure was created with the use of plastic drinking cups and plastic string. The execution of this installation was innovative and created beautiful ambiance with filtered sun light with red glow.

4-Temporary Structure, paper bridge, Remoulin, France, 2007
image source from, 
 I have to conclude this with the innovative work of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. He has been known for using recycled and inexpensive materials in innovative way. He designed a bridge with 281 cardboard tubes in Remoulin, in southern France near Pont du Gard. The steps are recycled paper and plastic and the foundations wooden boxes packed with sand. The structure is strong enough to carry 10 people at a time but light and temporary in nature so easily to be taken apart.