Biomimicry used as a guiding force to design Lavasa Township

Settled in a picturesque landscape and spread over 12,500 acres is a town of Lavasa which is about 2 hours drive from Mumbai. It is a town that is soon becoming a holistic and planned destination where visitors throng in large numbers. HOK International has worked on the township planning with biomimicry as their guiding principle to design this wide-spread development.

Working closely with biologists from Biomimicry 3.8, HOK International has spearheaded this effort and undertaken an extensive study of the local ecosystem, coming up with strategies that work in harmony with local biome as well as climatology. The team at HOK has developed an overall masterplan for the town and coupled it with landscape plan to minimize deforestation and have a future progressive environmental friendly landscape performance plan in tow.

Image: HOK

The development is expected to complete in the year 2020 and will include five planned urban villages that can accommodate a population of 30,000 to 50,000 people. The planning team has made conscious effort to integrate local traditional principles of planning and tie it with indigenous forms of buildings and sustainable built environment as opposed to replicating the western model of urban settlements. This development relies heavily on sustainability principles of energy conservation, reduction in demand of virgin resources and waste diversion.

The project has already garnered several awards with the likes of Award of Honor in Analysis and Planning (Dasve Village Master Plan) – American Society of Landscape Architects for its fresh and holistic approach, and giving nature its chance to teach sustainable human settlement through biomimicry.

Image: HOK

The importance that sustainability has gained in current times is something all built environment professionals need to take into account. Mindless hauling and manufacturing to suit our ever-increasing needs has already taken its toll. In an ideal sustainable world, there will be no waste and use of only recyclable materials as that is how the nature and ecosystem was designed. It’s time for us to take the cue from it design our man-made ecosystem.

Un ‘Pei’ D Services

Pei Partnership

Pei Partnership

New York architect Pei Partnership is suing the developer of Celebrate Virgina for $6 million in unpaid fees for its design of The National Slavery Museum, a project spearheaded by former Virginia Governor, Doug Wilder, that is mired in financial difficulties.  The project is as yet built and the slavery museum organization now owes the city of Fredericksburg $300,000 in delinquent taxes.  The city plans to sell the 38 acre parcel on which the museum was to sit and the architect is hoping the sale will lead to its getting paid.  One has to wonder how the firm got so far out in its billings and why it continued to work when it was not being paid.   This is one for the lawyers but it seems to me there was a lapse in the common sense department at the Pei firm.

Michael Graves: The Legend Award, new work, and a new line of products

It is somewhat fitting that someone who receives an award for lifetime achievement says he’s got more work to do. That was the sentiment expressed by the legendary architect Michael Graves as he accepted Contract’s magazine’s Legend Award last Friday at the publication’s annual design awards breakfast held at New York’s Cipriani restaurant.  No sooner than he took the stage, Graves let us in on what he has been up to, including designing a new line of products for retailer J. C. Penny that will launch early this year.

While the deal between Penny’s and Graves has long been known it wasn’t until last Friday that anyone got a peek at the new line, which includes over 300 products to be housed in ‘shops-in-shops’ in 700 J.C. Penny stores located throughout the U.S.  The always gracious Graves gave one of the products, a silver picture frame that can be positioned both horizontally or vertically, to all who attended the event.  Like much of Graves work, it is classically inspired .

In addition to the Penny’s collaboration, the energetic, 78 year young architect expressed that he has a newfound passion designing for people like himself, who are wheelchair bound or dealing with debilitating and challenging health issues.  Readers will recall that Graves’  world was turned upside down in 2003 when he developed an infection that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  But he quickly turned that tragic experience into a positive, applying his talents to such things as designing accessible housing for wounded war veterans and a new line of products for Stryker medical.    As Graves said at the event,  “I am not only an architect I am also a patient”.

It is from the perspective of a patient that Graves is approaching his work afresh and scooping high profile commissions in the healthcare market, a a sector, where prior to his injury, his voice was all but absent.  The goal says Graves is “to create a more humane and dignified environment for people dealing with challenges”.  And of course beauty is high on the list.

Architectural spaces in art

Guest Contributors – Vin and Priyanka Rathod

There are many different types of Aboriginal artworks. But not many have inspired us to see them as ‘architectural spaces’ as much as the collection of ‘Living Water’ at National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

“Aboriginal people from across the Western Desert use the term ‘living water’ to describe water sources, including rock holes and soakage waters that are fed by underground springs. The path of these springs was created by the ancestral beings of the tjukurrpa (dreaming) as they themselves journeyed underground, their entry into the earth often marking the site of current day water sources. ‘Living water’ is revered also because it does not seem to be affected by the harsh conditions above the ground that the people themselves have to endure.”

The above excerpt from the exhibit description mentions about underground spaces being inspiration for these painting and it was very evident in each artwork. The patterns of lines, circles and curves all give a spacial character transferable to an actual built form. Some suggested an area diagram, while others a 2-dimensional drawing. At some point, we started looking at the paintings as plan or section of a space and that made the viewing even more interesting. It was like going on a special studio of basic design to draw inspiration from objects around you.

Living Water‘ is on display until 3 Feb 2013 at NGV. They also have a paperback publication Living Water: Contemporary Art of the Far Western Desert on their shelf for those who would like to keep the inspirational memories with them forever.

Below are some photographs of the artwork that inspired us the most.

Photographs by Vin Rathod, text by Priyanka Rathod

Vin Rathod is an architect and a photographer. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from KRVIA, Mumbai and Master of Construction Project Management from UNSW, Sydney. Vin is an Emerging Member of Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) and works in Sydney, Australia. For Vin, each photograph is a design; a design for the subject, be it an art, architecture, city, or a sculpture. He thrives on creativity and imagination and is always developing new ideas. The photographs speak of his vision to see built-form as an artwork. A collection of Vin’s fine art photographs are constantly evolving as seen on his website Through Vin’s Lens

As an architect, Priyanka is very much interested in exploring designs with sustainable initiatives. After completing Bachelors of Architecture from KRVIA, Mumbai University, she did her Master of Architecture with major in Design from UNSW, Sydney. In her professional career, Priyanka has worked on variety of projects – urban and rural; commercial, institutional and healthcare both in India and Australia. Her volunteering initiatives include participation in the event organising team of Archikidz! Sydney 2012 held during Sydney Architecture Festival. Currently, Priyanka lives and works in Sydney enjoying her time between professional work and some personal initiatives including writing for Through Vin’s Lens

Mumbai Urban Design Competition winners announced

Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN) in collaboration with Solomon Guggenheim Foundation launched a design competition in November 2012 seeking a redesign of  Mumbai’s busiest and most choked traffic junction, Kala Nagar near Bandra Kurla Complex. The competition, administered by Lord Cultural Resources Private Limited, overlooked by Trupti Amritwar Vaitla of BMW Lab, and supported by Vivek Phansalkar, Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic of Mumbai, was open to students and professionals; it challenged applicants to restructure the junction’s traffic flow and explore ways to reimagine its infrastructure with new public spaces and pedestrian flow and function. A jury that included former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa and Mumbai traffic police commissioner Vivek Phansalkar selected the top five projects from a pool of 43 entries from urban design professionals and students worldwide.

The selection committee awarded three honors in the professional category and two honors in the student category. A ‘people’s choice’ winner, selected from either category, was decided by more than 200 community votes at the skywalk of the Kala Nagar Junction and visitors to the Lab at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum.

About the winning entries:

In the professional category: Radhika Mathur presented a plan featuring a pedestrian skywalk and dedicated bus lanes; Sweta Parab and Hrishikesh More designed a series of circular pedestrian promenades; and Mayuri Sisodia and Kalpit Ashar proposed weaving together multiple modes of transportation on two floating, angular islands.

Radhika Mathur

In the student category: Andres Perez and his group suggested a wide, tree-shaded pedestrian plaza, while a team from the D. Y. Patil College of Architecture included an elevated pedestrian walk with seating and concessions tucked under a freeway overpass.

Students of D.Y.Patil College of Architecture, Mumbai

And lastly, the competition also presented a people’s choice award to Vedika Tulsiyan, Jaynish Shah, and Karan Sancheti, who proposed an ambitious pedestrian ramp with bleacher seating capped by an elevated, gable-roofed garden.

Now the question to Mumbai: Whose entry they will select and implement to actually solve the problem? Is it going to be one picked by the citizens or the one chosen by esteemed panel of judges?

nARCHITECTS win adAPT NYC Competition


Courtesy Mayor's Office City of New York

Today NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the team of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and nARCHITECTS was selected as the winner of the adAPT NYC Competition.   The pilot program, launched in July 2012, charged competitors with the task of designing the city’s first micro-unit apartment building, which will be built on City-owned land at 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan.

The winning proposal called “My Micro NY’ will create 55 new micro-units measuring between 250-370 square feet, 40 percent of which will be affordable beyond the competitive market rents, designed to optimize space and maximize the sense of openness.  The winning scheme edged out competitors, excelling in the criteria of layout and design with desirable features like 9’-10” floor-to-ceiling heights and Juliette balconies that provide an abundance of access to light and air.  Notably, the project will also be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan to be built using modular construction, with the modules prefabricated locally by Capsys at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

The competition was judged by an all star cast of of designers, journalists, artists and business people and drew a robust response. The winning proposal, My Micro NY and four other notable entries will be featured in a upcoming exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York called Making Room:  New Models for Housing New Yorkers.

The adAPT NYC Competition was created to introduce additional choices within New York City’s housing market to accommodate the city’s growing population of one- and two-person households. Currently New York City has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, but only one million studios and one-bedrooms. The City’s housing codes have not kept up with its changing population, and currently do not allow an entire building of micro-units. Under this pilot program, Mayor Bloomberg will waive certain zoning regulations at a City-owned site at 335 East 27TH Street to test the market for this new housing model. The adAPT NYC RFP was downloaded more than 1,600 times in hundreds of cities domestically and abroad, and generated 33 proposals by the submission deadline – making this the largest response received by HPD for a housing project. It is expected that the project will complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for disposition of City-owned land in the fall and break ground on construction at the end of 2013.




BUCKYBALL lights up NY’s Madison Square Park


Leo Villareal's BUCKYBALL (2012) Photo by James Ewing / Madison Square Park Conservancy

As the holiday lights come down around New York City, there is one light or rather light show that still shines on.  At least for the next month.  BuckyBall, an art installation designed by the world renowned artist Leo Villareal, just had it’s run extended due to popular demand and it will remain on view in Madison Square Park until February 15th.

Commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s Mad. Sq. Art program, the 30 foot tall light sculpture is inspired by the work of Buckminster Fuller.   Set against the dramatic backdrop of New York City with the Empire State Building visible in the distance, the work features two nested geodesic sculptural spheres comprised of 180 LED tubes arranged in a series of pentagons and hexagons referred to as a “Fullerene”.

Individual pixels located every 1.2 inches along the tubes,  each capable of displaying 16 million distinct colors and tuned by the artist’s software, create dynamic light sequences that enliven the natural landscape of the park.  The result is an exuberant random composition of varied speed, color, opacity, and scale.

Villareal’s light sculpture is surrounded by zero-gravity couches that allow viewers to recline below the artwork to take in the show.  The sculpture and the couches are inspired by and reinterpret many of the traditional elements found in the park and do so in a fresh way.



CRIT Mumbai participates in Audi Urban Future Initiative

Collective Research Initiatives Trust (CRIT) is a group of individuals that delves into understanding the urban realm of Indian cities through research and pedagogy. The group was conceived in 2003 and since then through its activities has studied and participated in initiatives such as housing, urban mapping and various issues in emerging urbanization.

The group recently participated in the Audi Urban Future Initiative Awards of 2012 where it stood as one of the four finalists. The competition was won by Boston based practice Höweler + Yoon Architecture. The winning entry was a re-imagination of the highway as the vision that unifies the I-95 corridor between Boston and Washington D.C. into a mega-region called ‘Boswash’.

When CRIT was invited to participate in the Audi Urban Future Award 2012, they were posed three questions: What will the future of Mumbai look like in 2030? What will CRIT’s role will be in this envisaged future? What is its vision?

Image: Prasad Khanolkar, CRIT

CRIT’s response for the award (below) is quoted from the Audi Urban Future Initiative website:

On urban futures

Ideas about future cities have been dominated by two imaginations: First, of a utopian coherence unified by robust information systems and coordinated by super infrastructure; and second, a city engendered by catastrophes of environment, poverty, and deterioration. Inherent in these imaginations of coherence and catastrophes is the idea of time as a singular linear rhythm, of space as an entity with fixed coordinates and of people as homogeneous and inert mass. The city, on the contrary, multiplies time(s), blurs boundaries, mixes categories, provides platforms, builds connections, and opens up probabilities to transact–creating possibilities for divergent future trajectories. To talk of “a” future for cities, be it utopian or dystopian, forecloses the possibilities that cities open.

On urban mobility

When mobility is seen as transport, it ends up in a problem-solving exercise that produces mega projects, intelligent vehicles or infrastructures that claim to be intelligent. Within the urban realm, the concept of mobility needs to be understood beyond transportation, as transportation itself is embedded in the multiple processes that shape the city. For CRIT, mobility is a twofold concept. First, it involves the different kinds of movements that are brought about by urban transformations today. These include access, migration, gentrification, class movement, etc. And second, mobility or to mobilize is the ability to navigate the complex urban ecosystem of geographies, legislations, claims, powers, relationships, and information to construct one’s path amidst these movements.

This response is left a little open-ended and perhaps can be dealt with in the second generation of problem-solving and while it points out a few classic issues clearly it doesn’t point to clear steps forward. At this point, Mumbai does have a few glaring issues that can be dealt with with a sense of emergency.  In my observation, I have seen a number of think tanks emerging studying Indian urban issues and since the issues are largely multi-layered and complex, they are not being broken down to smaller, manageable, tangible projects which will solve some immediate issues facing the cities. Discourse and research can continue but there is a need to spell out actions and act on them right away through small and medium enterprises and largely enabled through governance.

One, I can say is mobility and transport: curbing private and single occupancy vehicles and complementing them with a robust mass public transit system; walking and biking friendly roads and lanes are imperative; clusters of mass functional housing near business corridors is another; lastly, cleaner and safer Mumbai will include better trash management, more public and open spaces, public amenities like libraries, parks and so on. The current fragmented approach of exclusivity and divisive approach to the city will only lead to conditions for corruption and crime. Intervention is necessary and organic, and a romantic idea is not an answer to Mumbai’s visible plague. The time is now.

Top 12 of 2012 – Art Installations in Sydney

Guest Contributor – Vin Rathod

During 2012, Sydney saw various Public Art Festivals including: Vivid Sydney (May – June 2012); 18th Biennale of Sydney (June – Sept 2012); Art and About (Sept – Oct 2012); and Sculptures by the sea (Oct 2012)

One Planet Living emphasises on reviving the local cultural heritage that is being lost throughout the world due to globalisation, by supporting and participating in the arts.

The various installations we saw this year in Sydney, both inside and outside, created opportunity for the community to interact, reflect and share the ideas, creativity and culture. Both local and global artists, by use of innovative ideas and at times high-tech technologies, presented some very fine installations lifting up the ‘spirit of art’ among Sydney-siders. The long queue at circular quay for ferry to Cockatoo Island and always full forecourt of MCA and Custom house during Vivid Sydney 2012 were among the few proofs of the success of these events. Hope all of you in and around Sydney got chance to be a part of these celebrations. If not, watch out for them in 2013.

Below are my Top 12 installations from this year’s various Art Festivals. They are in no particular order.

Fujiko Nakaya’s Living Chasm – This installation created fog-like effect using pure water. This site-specific installation converted the normal afternoon into a magical, dream-like atmosphere …

Lee Mingwel’s Mending Project – A simple yet colourful installation where visitors could participate by bringing in a garment or object that requires mending that became a part of installation.

Tiffany Singh’s Knock on the Sky Listen to the Sound – the large entry hall of Pier 2/3 was full of colourful ribbons and wind chimes. Visitors were encouraged to take a chime home, decorate as they like and return to a dedicated space on Cockatoo island. An artist’s installation was transformed into people’s installation.

Ed Pien and Tanya Tagaq’s Source – The black and white film of hand gestures was projected on floor from a ceiling mounted projector, creating interesting display right in the front of the entrance. One could walk over or simply watch the display without any interruptions, establishing a connection in their own way.

Philip Beesley’s Hylozoic series - Working with the concept of hylozoism – the belief that all matter in the universe has a life of its own – Philip Beesley creates interactive environments that respond to the actions of the audience, offering a vision of how buildings in the future might move, think and feel.

Daan Roosegaarde’s Dune - Cockatoo Island’s Dog Legged tunnel was lined with Interactive landscape, a hybrid of nature and technology made from large amounts of fibre optics which reacts to the sounds and motions of people walking by. Visitors become active participants, having a direct influence on the interactive artwork’s identity.

Light Display on MCA facade by various Australian artist from MCA and Sydney’s Spinifex Group – During Vivid Sydney 2012, the Museum of Contemporaty Arts (MCA) was transformed into a Canvas of Light. Every evening 3D colour projections and digital artistry did their magic transforming architecture into vibrant graphic art.

Li Hongbo’s Ocean of Flowers – This installation has been created by gluing piles of paper together with the honeycomb technique carved into forms resembling weapons that the artist twirls into new ‘flower shapes’. The thing that struck me the most is the scale and the intricate detail of every flower making the installation space into a huge colourful ocean of flowers.

Ken Unsworth’s No Return – The life size skeleton balancing on the pole creates an atmosphere of tension or uneasiness that gives the viewer an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s own life.

Kathryn Clifton and Martin Bevz’s Sea Grass – The strands of optic fibres changed colours as a response to human presence. As you can see, it was a big hit among kids. (This image got highly commended in Australian Photography Competition, Theme – Colour Green)

Alex Richie’s Kaleidoscope Cube – The towers of mirrors depicted urban landscape of tall buildings with curtain wall facades. The way they reflect each other resembles the current cities with sense of commonness between them. However, from certain angle, these walls merged into the surrounding being a part of natural environment. A simple yet very interesting installation.

Hilde A. Danielsen’s Upside Down Again – The most facinating thing about this installation way wooden slats were installed to create a fluid twirl-like form. The juxtaposition of rigidity of slats vs fluidity of installation attracted many art lovers.

All images: Copyright Vin Rathod.

Vin Rathod holds a Bachelor of Architecture from KRVIA, Mumbai and Master of Construction Project Management from UNSW, Sydney. He lives and works in Sydney, Australia. His photography pursuit developed during his architectural education where he developed an understanding of various design elements such as brightness and darkness, colours and shades, composition and importance of negative spaces etc. For Vin, each photograph is a design; a design for the subject, be it an art, architecture, city, or a sculpture. He thrives on creativity and imagination and is always developing new ideas. The photographs speak of his vision to see built-form as an artwork. While highlighting the essence of the subject using creative photography techniques, each image is a wonderful piece of art.  A collection of Vin’s fine art photographs are constantly evolving as seen on his website

BMW Guggenheim Lab reaches Mumbai

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory with a purpose that travels to various cities and explores urban issues and through public engagement aims to understand urban fabric and its culture in context. The Lab comprises of interdisciplinary teams of urban planners, sustainability consultants, educators, researchers and traffic consultants and it aims to serve as a platform to facilitate and encourage a dialog between citizens and professionals about the urban spaces we inhabit.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab was launched in Berlin and ran from June through July; later it ran in New York from August through October. The Lab has now travelled to Mumbai and is currently camping at its central location, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum and will run through 20 January 2013.

Pallavi Shrivastava, WAN’s Mumbai Correspondent, had the opportunity to interview the Lab’s Curator, David van der Leer. Below are excerpts from the interview which gives an idea of the Lab and what it aims to do through its various events and activities. A full schedule of the Lab can be found here. Some of the interesting ongoing discussions and reflections on Lab have been written by the bloggers. Find them here and here.

Pallavi: What has been the idea and inspiration behind the BMW Guggenheim Lab and what is it looking to explore in the cities it is traveling to?

David: The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a project that Maria Nicanor and I started a few years ago in the hopes to bring everyday urban citizens into conversations about cities that are typically limited to city officials, policy makers, architects, designers etc. Would the conversation get more diverse, would we get to new ideas? We wanted to test what would happen if our conversations would take place outside in the city instead of in auditoriums. And what we have learned so far is that the conversations are indeed different in tone, and that we come to new ideas.

How were these specific cities selected? Did the BMW Guggenheim Lab have any set criteria before it narrowed down on these three cities?

The Lab has been interested in going to different continents. The nice thing about the current mix of cities is that we have cities of three completely different scales and densities, with very different social contexts. Together they give us a decent outlook and understanding of some of the key issues taking place in urbanism today.

After New York and Berlin, the Lab is currently in Mumbai. Were there any similarities in terms of urban design issues and also any stark difference that the Lab team has had the understanding of?

The conversation in each of the cities that we go to is different. In Mumbai the conversation has quite strongly focused on the relationship between the individual and the community and its impact on design issues and policy decisions. The Lab Team for Mumbai has worked up a series of design projects and research studies which is quite different from the approach in some of the other cities.

For Mumbai specifically, how does this city differentiate itself in terms of challenges, learning’s and urban context?

Mumbai is one of the densest cities in the world. As a result, the urban issues that we are running into in many other places tend to get intensified here. Just think of Mumbai’s issues around transportation, or housing. Just to name a few.

Coming to public spaces issues in Mumbai, what has been BMW Guggenheim Lab’s learning and unlearning so to speak?

Several of our studies for Mumbai are focused on the topic of privacy. In most of the local languages there is not a good word for privacy, which already shows how little the topic is being discussed. Our studies show that people in Mumbai have rather intense home environments and as a result of that look for privacy all around the city sometimes in most unexpected places. It would make sense if this had an impact on the design, for instance, public spaces but it doesn’t always. So this is one of the issues that we are looking into.

Does the BMW Guggenheim Lab team feels that Mumbai citizen’s response to the Lab has been similar as it was in New York and Berlin? If not, what has been the difference in their perspective?

The great thing about the Lab is that it is different wherever we go. In Mumbai the interaction has been very direct – with many great questions about what the Lab can do for this particular city. For me personally it is most important to get everyday Mumbaikars to speak up about their city – which in the long run can have impact on policy decisions and the development of design ideas. But probably more important in the short run is a series of very tangible projects that have been developed for Mumbai (the design and studies).

How were Lab sessions and events curated and what was the background research before narrowing down to current sessions that are currently taking place in Mumbai?

In each of the cities that we go to we bring together a team of four Lab Members. In Mumbai we are working with Trupti Amritwar Vaitla (architect and planner, Mumbai), Hector Zamora (artist, Mexico and Brazil), Aisha Dasgupta (demographer, London and Malawi) and Neville Mars (architect and planner, Netherlands and Shanghai). Together they spent several months in Mumbai to do research, meet with tons of people, and see lots of areas in the city. They developed the general premise of the Lab for Mumbai, which we then developed further with them as well as with a team of local programs experts.

The beauty of our project is that it is all about the process. So we will be able to explain to you better what our project has really turned into at the end of the run of the Lab – as we need the engagement of Mumbaikars to come to further new insights.

Moving forward, what does BMW Guggenheim Lab see changing through these initiatives and how does it hope to see positive changes envisaged through the Lab?

It is interesting to see how this is also different for each of the cities that we go to. In New York a neighborhood organization (First Street Green) continued our work on the Lab site after we left with great cultural programs focused on the neighborhood and the city. In Berlin we have various design and research projects that took on a life of their own. My favorite one there was a crowd-sourced bike map project in which Berliners could suggest where to lay bike paths – a project that is now being analyzed by the city council and that seems to have a serious impact on where bike paths will be installed over the coming years.

But again in the long run it is very important that everyday urbanites start to speak up and think about their cities much more- which over the coming decades will have a serious impact on design and policy.