Learning and Unlearning

It was that time of studio again- workshop week- a week where I have learnt additional dimensions to architecture, made the most of peer learning and discovered something new every single day I step foot into class. This time around, the sessions facilitated the evolution of our designs of the institution which had grown from our childhood homes, mainly in terms of its construction and structure. Though the duration of the workshop was only four days, the learnings of each day were incredibly insightful and helped in the design process of the institution. This time, I wanted to do my best and show up with my work unafraid of all the possible errors and corrections there may be, for that was the only way to learn. Each exercise unlocked a new dimension of different parameters of the design of our institution. Model making targeted analyzing spatial relationships and mass and voids, drafting wall sections helped in understanding construction different kinds of fenestrations in detail, and elevations showed the details and beauty of each façade.

We started off the first day with peer discussions about 1:75 scale models of the entire building. Making a stackable model allowed me to understand each level of the building as an individual layer as well as how it would look when integrated as an institution. Though it took me longer than expected to make the model, it helped me understand the mass and void to some extent. By imagining myself to be walking and inhabiting the different spaces on each level, I was able to imagine the articulation and quality of each space better. I let go of the flat concrete roof I had for my childhood home and designed a sloping timber roof for the institution. Since this was my first time designing a timber roof, it was initially tough to make sense of the structure and application of the same, but it definitely enhanced the nature of the spaces and the building as a whole. Understanding mass and void relied mainly on fenestration, but since this model only showed the openings as cutouts and skipped the details, my understanding of this aspect was still lacking. Especially since my design was about porosity, understanding fenestration was key, and in this model, a lot was left unsaid. I also made a 1:200 scale site model, which showed the immediate context of the institution- the roads, adjacent buildings, streets nearby and vegetation. This gave me a clearer sense of how my building was oriented and how it responded to the surroundings, though the institution itself was missing.

1:200 scale site model of the surroundings of the institute

Thankfully, this detail of the fenestration that I had missed in my model was taken care of in our next exercise of making wall sections. These drawings showed the structure, materials of walls and other elements and details of fenestration. Since my design involved using more than one type of window and openings, I took back a lot from this exercise. While sitting for my peer’s discussions, I also learnt the details about openings that were not present in my design. What was interesting is that though the details seemed slightly difficult to grasp while drawn on paper, going and observing the different openings in our workshop space as well as in the campus showed me how those details on paper were implemented in real life.

The following day, we had discussions about the elevations of the institute. These drawings gave me a sense of how the building would be perceived when viewed from the exterior. It was also important to understand the immediate context of each façade to know what kind of openings should be incorporated. For example, since the north façade directly faces the main road, it must be more open to invite the onlookers, while the south façade could be relatively shut since it lay adjacent to another building and display shelves and other equipment could be laid out on that side. On discussing with my faculty, I also received suggestions on how the levels of the roof would be played with according to the needs of different spaces while maintaining enough headroom.

South Elevation: Suggestions and changes on the existing elevation shown by sketches and short notes. One of the main suggestions I incorporated into my new design was the play in the level of the roofs on either side of the common ridge.

To create a more open and inviting cafe, I was also suggested to remove the trellis surrounding the seating such that anyone could walk into the institute freely, and to provide a level difference using stairs to create a distinction between the ground and the cafe seating. I especially liked the suggestion of incorporating wooden panels into my structure in such a manner that it provides a degree of protection to the house apart from giving the institute a ‘lantern’ look where a person in the north seating could look up and see the higher level bordered with the beautiful wooden panels- creating a unique language for my institute. I recollected my learnings from the exercise in the first workshop where I learnt about the diversity of materials, sizes and functions of various openings and employed that in this design. The suggestions in these elevations translated to changes in my plans too, which I incorporated later in my design.

East Elevation: Suggestions and changes on the existing elevation shown by sketches and short notes. The main idea I took back after the discussion was of following a language similar to the railing by creating an envelope of wooden panels on the higher level.
Revised 0m Plan: Suggestions and changes on the existing 0 m plan shown by sketches and short notes.

On our last day of the workshop, we visited an educational institute in Ahmedabad called ‘Shreyas Foundation’ . Following the system of Montessori Education, this campus provided students with a multitude of spaces like an army training area, a cricket ground, an amphitheater and several buildings, where all buildings blended well with each other as well as the surrounding nature. The presence of immense greenery inside the campus is something I had never seen before. When Mr. Abhay Mangaldas addressed us, he talked about how the designs of buildings should focus on cohabitation and not solely on inhabitation, and how function decides form. Observing the various frame and load bearing structures in the campus helped put my theoretical knowledge into practice, and noticing the details of varied openings helped me in making design choices for the fenestration of my institute. There was a lot to learn from this site visit, and it was definitely a memorable one.

This week has introduced me to the technical aspect of buildings that I was unknown to earlier. Each exercise presented with it a new set of challenges, but taught me just as much through discussions with my faculty and peers. All in all, it was a very productive week which was enjoyable and memorable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s