'Holistecture' for the 21st century

31 Mar 2011

Beyond green: the multi-hued future of architecture

Architect K.S.Ranganath believes architectural design needs more than ever to be structured by an inclusive methodology in order to respond to an increasingly complex reality, which he believes will only intensify in the 21st century.

The potential of the individualistic, imaginative and expressive use of form and space needs, he believes, to be accompanied by a diverse set of issues encompassing functional, climatic, ecological, socio-cultural, technological, psychological, spiritual and economic criteria.

Therefore, as well as being 'green', it seems architecture has to be increasingly multi-hued. K.S.Ranganath calls this notion 'holistecture' -  holism and architecture. A project which symbolises this approach is his EDRC Office at Chennai, India, completed in 2001 for engineering company Larsen & Toubro.

The design of the project is an attempt at embracing technology, aesthetics, analysis and imagination to create a whole which draws from the strength of each to generate architecture which hopefully shelters, inspires and enriches use.

Reinforced concrete was envisaged to be used as the primary construction material for its potential to integrate architecture and structure into a synergistic unity. Structure and architecture, then, would become inseparable and lead to a beauty which would be purposeful as it would be aesthetically pleasing.

Inspired by the trees dotting the site, the architectural form springs from the ground with a circular trunk like a column, disturbing little land at its feet. It branches outward to support rotated cantilever floors much like the petals of a flower, offering landscaped terraces at each level and an almost column-free interior.

The working spaces at each level are distributed into two symmetrical wings flanking a service and circulation core. The wings are supported at ground level by a 4 m diameter column which branches out to support an external periphery of floating columns. Curved grid beams between peripheral floating columns and a 1.6 m central solid stem form the structural system of the floors above.

The exterior envelope has been built with pre-cast RCC panels. Climatically, passive solar design features such as the 6 ft deep sunshades, continuous windows to allow ample diffused natural light and cross-ventilation and the double layered exterior envelope moderate the hot humid climate and result in desirable interior comfort.

Environmental and energy sensitive features include water harvesting and reuse, landscape and exterior design to reduce heat islands, energy-efficient equipment and technology and a Building Management System with sensor-based lighting, HVAC and sanitary and plumbing controls.

Psychologically, the working spaces with their views of landscaped terraces at each level, along with an abundant profusion of diffused natural light and the column-free interior, creates a soothing, informal and stimulating environment. The simplicity in the arrangement of spaces leads to easier perception and identification of one's place within the whole and augments the sense of belonging.

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