Saturday, May 31, 2014

Craft of Construction and Materials!

Clothes, Cladding, Facades 
Designing a building is a complex process and involves various steps as well as many variables. I will not bore you with the steps but want to talk about the decisions involved in designing a facade or skin (exterior surface) of a building.

 It is one of the most important and exciting element of any building as it encloses space and structure of a building,giving shape/form to the building, the way the skin does to a human body or clothes fitting to a body and it can extend it to an urban level, the way exterior building surfaces do to streets. The overall form and details of the facade gives character to the building. One can not measure the functionality of the building by the appearance or materials of the exterior surface, but it surely does have a visual impact on pedestrians or drivers and now, on the web-surfers, who are on Google Earth view. They help creating even walkable, pleasant interesting streets.
Here, I am posting few photos of buildings reflecting these three things noted below. Each one has a unique story to tell.
Sizes, locations and layout of Fenestration/Openings
Materials Used
Craft & Construction techniques
The facades are capable to tell stories and reflect history.

The facade shows the construction technique by use of the materials and the openings of windows and doors. occupants or branding of the company or the history of the Materials used for clothes, construction techniques or styles and the cuts and holes at different places
Wood Paneling, Stone Veneer, Stucco, Concrete, Stones and Bricks, Metals
The Materials are of cotton, silk, polyester, nylon etc. The craft, and using materials to its which ultimately gives the building its character.
The Photo below is a part of  the Marunouchi side facade of Tokyo Train Station, which is a major commuter hub and historical building. It is restored recently made up of red-brick and stone facade.
The use of stones as window sill as well as around the windows protect windows from weather and gives the classic appearance to the building. The facade is created with the repeat of this form, as you can see in the photo below.
Repeatation of Windows, Stone sill and overhang protecting windows from rain and sun- Photo- Tokyo Railway Building- cerdit- Neela Shukla.
Tokyo Train Station - credit-
Also, the use of bricks as structural elements reflect time, which was built in 1914. It was damaged in world war and restored to its glory . Interior walls show the marks of bullets reflecting  history. The space is used as a tourist center where every visitor stops by to pick up maps and brochures and gets personal assistance and information to travel outside Tokyo. On my trip to this place, I stopped for few moments to admire the space.
Tokyo Olde Railway Station- Photo Credit- Neela Shukla
The photos below on the left is enlarged to show the marks of aging on the brick wall, while on the right side, the interior walls of a restaurant show new construction and bricks used as cladding. They are on the wall surface as decoration.

Bricks as part of structure and Bricks as Cladding- Photo Credit- Neela Shukla
Dior Store- The facade of Dior Store looks like Mohair Knit, airy, light and soft fabric.  It was achieved by layering line-patterned glasses and dot-patterned sheets of thin metal membrane over it. Both the patterns express brand's original CHANGE. Layering totally different patterns creates a mysterious effect of moirĂ©. This was designed by Japanese Female architect Inui Kumiko.  The facade is a result of the construction of  skin representing brand of the company. See three photos below.

Dior Store - PhotoCredit- Neela Shukla

The facade pattern
 Facade Details-

My Favorite building is of Miki Moto's retail store, who is Japanese Jewelry Designer and uses cultured pearls in jewelery. The building is  pale pink colored,  9 story,  stretching high into Tokyo skyline with scattered asymmetrical glass windows, definitely makes you look up.
It is designed by renowned architect Toyo Ito on the concept of evoking the feelings people have when opening jewelry box. Here the description, I took it from MoriMoto's website-
"Renowned architect Toyo Ito, who was commissioned to design the building, built Ginza 2 around the concept of “bubbles forming out of a shell fostering a pearl, flower petals fluttering down, and a sense of expectation and mystique when looking into a jewellery box."

Also, the concept is not only about creating facade to represent brand, but sophisticated construction technique is used to create this building with clear, column-free space.  The load bearing walls are made up of two 12mm thick metal plates; with cut out openings, creating simple, plain exterior surface. Look at the photos below of the building and the during construction.
MikiMoto Tower - Ginza 2 Tokyo, Japan photo credit-   Neela Shukla
 Construction Technique and Materials, Craftsmanship

photo credit-
Here Toyo Ito's words in one interview-

"Actually, the sense and meaning of technology in my works is changing. In the past the technology was highly visible. It was presented in a visible way. Now it is different. Technology is now something I hide, you have to look for it, you don’t see it, you can't see it. It is an element to be used and exploited in an indirect way. Before, I used to envision an architecture that nobody could touch, impossible to grasp and hold. Now, again, it is different. Now, I want to do an architecture that you can touch and feel. Now I am working on the physical reality, on the object, on the real. This interests me now."

Just a quote-
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society - Mark Twain

The combinations of all these facades lined up together makes the street. The variations on the facades in the street makes the street live, pleasant and walkable. All the same criteria of design applies to it, repeat of forms, geometrical patterns, organic patterns, colors, textures etc make the streets lively and interesting.
In the video below, you can see how Toyo Ito was exploring the ideas while designing Miki Moto Ginza2 tower.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Reflection of Culture in Tea Rooms! 2 - Osaka

Simplicity and Nature !
Culture and Rituals in Life and Space!

One of the highlights of my Japan trip was experiencing authentic formal tea drinking ceremony. I will have to save that for the next post, but another experience of visiting a tea room in Osaka was reflective of modern Japanese culture and this Tea Room/commercial tea selling cafe was touristic in nature to give a glimpse of Japanese Tea drinking ritual.
First of all it is of contrast to earlier Tea room of Zanzibar. The location itself is carefully chosen for Tea room. The woman was greeted with nice and calm expression dressed in kimono. The space had the vibe of  tranquility. I experienced calmness with almost subdues colors and natural elements. Tea was prepared in definitive manner with the perfect combination of green powder and water with right temperature. Check the photo below to see interior space.
Simplicity and Tea maker dressed in traditional Kimono
 Even here, like in Zanzibar Tea Room, tea was served with a tiny piece of sweet engraved with characters. Only difference is there was one type of tea, which is green tea and one type of sweet, made up of bean paste.  I did not have to think and decide which one to choose. The whole ritual of taking the shoes out and drinking Tea is supposed to be appreciating the present moments and possibly contemplate!
Simple accessories, muted colors and  natural materials
The wooden lattice windows brought in natural filtered lights through translucent  Japanese paper (Shoji screen).  The walkway leading to the Tea Room was paved with natural stones but they seem to be designed to reflect organic and random pattern.  
Photo Credit- Neela Shukla
This gives me an idea to suggest to my client for thinking of ritualistic space and I am planning to design a corner in my living room, with low seating and comfortable cushions, where I can look out in the back yard and sip a cup of tea imported from many countries and create my rituals.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reflection of Culture in Tea Rooms! 1- Zanzibar

Uniqueness gets noticed !
Culture and Rituals in Life and Space!
Tea Drinking Rituals - Zanzibar, Africa

I love drinking tea, I run to heat up  hot water every occasion I get. If someone calls me, while talking, I make a cup of tea. I need to take a break, I drink a cup of tea. Whenever I am stuck in my thinking, a cup of tea helps me. But then, I do not even sometimes remember drinking. It turns out that it is the ritual of making tea makes me more excited than drinking. Of course, I love all different types of tea. So while visiting any new country, I gravitate towards cafe and tea rooms. I came across a tea room in the streets of the Zanzibar island in East Africa. I had noticed it on my walking tour by bright color curtain and had decided to visit it the next day.

After walking in the rain with my sprained ankle in the Stone city of Zanzibar, a cup of tea in Tea Room was like I discovered a gem in the rubble. It reflected local culture and served spiced tea of different variety. They had different types of seating based on your mood. Check the photos below-

View from Outside and View from Inside
Tea Rooms
It was not only about tea but I experiencee the whole rituals of selecting appropriate cup for local spiced tea I ordered. The space and the art pieces around the walls generated that longing for tea. The server with purple, silky attire radiated politeness and sophistication. He gave me free access to Wi-Fi so I could be busy with my digital world and he went to prepare my tea.
It took some time and I could hear some chatter, starting the stove and vessels banging behind the wall. But I did not mind sitting there while  watching people outside from the window.
Each type of tea is served in its own set!
The Tea Room served tasty savory dishes along with small bites of sweets. It also sold beautifully packaged tea with locally grown spices. The uniqueness of the decor, dishes and experience made it  a memorable experience for me. Check the Display below-

Photo Credit- Neela Shukla

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A shift in Perspective!

I am a fan of "Grey's Anatomy" TV show and once in awhile, the profound words are spoken on the show. Last night, it was all about "going away, and changing the perspective". I recently came back from a n overseas trip and somehow those words resonated.
Here those beautiful words.....

Sometimes you just need to get out of the town. 
Get a new perspective. 
But you can't always see that you need a new perspective 
because, well. 
You need a new perspective to be able to see that.
It is complicated!

Open your eyes. 
What do you see? 
More possibilities?
There is a new view.
Did it give you more hope?
That is the goal. 


That doesn't always work that way.
A shift in perspective just makes you see what you lost! 

More info-

My daughter made this cartoon when she was 12 years old and it fits here perfectly and hilarious! Kids!

credit- Praniti Sinha - date- 5/25/2006