Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lecture 1 - by Robert Verrijt of Architecturebrio

Statement of the lecture
In our context, architecture is continuously affected by scarcity. This scarcity is in terms of the availability of materials and energy, building time, skilled labour, financial scarcity, or restrictions due to remote locations of projects. Our approach to tackling these constraints is to search for smart solutions. The solutions should not only solve but also resonate the complex problems out of which they arise in the first place.

Since building is one of the most environmentally unfriendly human activities, architects should be determined to use their creativity to lower the environmental load of buildings and simultaneously turn scarcity into innovative architecture.
Buildings are known to require large amounts of materials, (un)renewable energy, and moreover they use already scarce space. The solution is not to merely reduce consumption of energy and materials. There is a need to promote rapid, widespread acceptance of sustainable solutions. The challenge is to generate fresh ideas that carry out self-sufficient systems on a large scale. The potentials of new building techniques, re-appropriating low-cost materials in an effective and durable way, and intelligent energy concepts should be uncovered and integrated in an innovative way in architecture.
One of the Projects Presented - Staff Dormitory

The Outdoor Learning Centre for an NGO is located in the valley below the Karjat Dam. A small portion of the land is located near the river and is used as a soccer and activities field. The rest of the site is sloping and is surrounded by paddy fields and small sleepy villages. The dormitory is to be located at the tip of the land, on top of a plateau. Embedded in the topography, the dormitory reveals different elevations depending on the viewpoint.
By utilizing the steep slope an intimate low façade will face the entrance court on the forest side. A more prominent vertical façade will face the paddy fields. The interior of the dormitory will reveal itself as one moves through the building. A staircase cutting through the building, frames the exterior beyond, creating interplay between inside and outside.
This staircase leads you down to a large double height recreational space. Suspending the two-storey structure over the ridge creates this space below. The top floor is surrounded on all sides by a verandah. At the end of a colonnaded passage a large shaded deck overlooks a most spectacular view over the trees, towards the Matheran mountain range in the distance.
A series of bamboo columns wrap around the building. Public circulation and verandahs occupy the interstitial spaces between the external bamboo columns and the internal mass. The large covered verandahs and the relatively narrow width of the building envelope allow for comfortably ventilated and shaded semi-indoor spaces. The bamboo enclosure creates a dialogue between the interior and the dramatically changing landscape.
A reduced material palette using bamboo for columns and walls, natural stone and polished concrete for floors, neutralized by the whitewashed interiors gives the calm rational architectural language a sensual physical presence. The series of bamboo posts at 1.5-meter intervals form a permeable skin around the building as well as support the entire building.
Bamboo, being the fastest growing grass in the world, is a high yielding renewable material resource. The high strength and low weight factor of bamboo makes it remarkably earthquake and cyclone resistant. The selection of materials and building methods is optimized to decrease the load on the building, which in turn allow the supporting columns to be sleek and elegantly dimensioned.
Photos are a copyright of Architecturebrio (http://www.architecturebrio.com/)

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