3A / 02 :: dis_Place 2.0
Unit Master : Jensil John & Swati Narang
Gurugram as a satellite town in NCR has been referred to as the ‘millennium’ city and is one of the largest urban growth centers in north India. It has experienced a fast paced, almost overwhelming growth in the past few years. Housing a large spectrum of white collared inhabitants in a space that is not their native home and creating a society that is a microsystem in itself is one of the city’s greatest achievements. How do we bring together this fast paced densification and its immediate interaction with the small grain existing villages providing support and service to the offices and residences fast mushrooming and engulfing them. The biggest question with this growth pattern is how we, as architects balance the social economic growth with the quality of life of the urban dwellers from various stratas providing them with a sense of belonging and ownership. How does one as a designer create a ‘place’ that a user may associate with beyond their functional need. Jan Gehl says “Cultures and climates differ all over the world, but people are the same. They’ll gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.”
One of the main ideas behind the studio was to explore the idea that architecture can be layered with a cultural connectivity that creates a medium to link spaces and neighborhoods together- Ultimately giving inhabitants a sense of a place they can call their own. The studio also seeked to explore the advantages of a mixed use development in today’s society for an ever connected interactive and holistic space encompassing the age old dichotomies of work and play into one syncretic whole. Consequently, questioning the very notion of mixed-use typology to be a free standing commercial box/podium/tower this studio also aimed to explore an ever connected, ever evolving spatial expression and form that would help the city reconnect and interact across its socio economic layers.
As architects while one is actively resolving the tangible aspects like built spaces the intangible aspects of people, society, activities and community are intertwined to convert a ‘space’ into a ‘place’. The idea of Place-making is concerned with the design of urban public spaces as physical and aesthetic entities as well as an influencer of behavior and community activity. The latter requires a deep understanding of the physical as well as temporal context of the site, its users (both internal and external) and its responsibility towards its neighbouring precincts. Its contribution must be to the user as well as its city by creating multimodal and multiscale spaces that provide a ground for urban activity and hubs as well as inhabitant centric intimacy. It must also take into account the realities of its context like real estate and density and aim towards addressing verticality in a city where land is at a premium and imagability is key.
Explorations were made towards the mixed use development being a part of the larger network of the city and hence owing its allegiance to the larger planning concepts under TOD in order to contribute in isolation as well as in connection with the overall network of linkages and accessibility. In understanding and developing this mixed-use model we are also faced with the challenge of hybridity. To differentiate between the two and arrive at a project that does justice to both types of developments was key. The discourse on hybridity emerges when we try to marry a site specific project (in this case the mixed use development) with one that links to the larger city narrative and connects through transit systems and interior connectivity. Buildings are not isolated privately owned entities but begin to have a public domain where a citizen of the city is welcome apart from the buiding’s core inhabitant. The transit hub is no longer near our project but is a part of the hybrid nature of the development.
My understanding of hybrid building is that although the same part of mixed use building is to mix various programs within a single building, Hybrid building is not to just achieve the basic demand, working and living convenience among individuals. Nowadays, it is to be designed in an interesting interior space and engaged in their context. Holl said “hybrids are incomplete and necessarily rely on the organization of the whole in a way that reorganizes the social dimension of the building.”( Holl, Hybrids II, p 23 ) Hybrid building is a well planning product, shared common areas or other high linkage spaces, which makes the hybrid as a whole building, as each part relays on each part.
Finally, the discourse of sustainability and ecologically conscious design while being mentioned last forms the bedrock of all discussion – on place making as well as hybridity. Rather than thinking of this as a conscious design solution or an afterthought, architects and designers of today have to imbibe these design values as a standard in their thinking process. From larger scale ecological approaches of landscaping, water and soil regeneration, vegetation and fauna down to the smaller scale form articulation and building tectonics, sustainable design must inform each stage of any project in today’s times. It must further answer the question of how it can improve the quality of life (especially in hybrid buildings) as in the end isn’t that what we as designers aspire to create?
The studio aims at achieving a more inclusive, connected and sustainable development (mixed use) through the concept of Placemaking.