Sunday, May 14, 2017



There have been several instances where I have had to explain what an architect is actually entitled to do. I have always drawn parallels to the job of a movie director. Both are captains of their projects and trying to steer their way to a successful completion for an audience. Both their projects evoke emotions and attract applause or criticism. Both the art forms are brought about by a host of specialists, assistants and co-workers. One of the many reasons to take up art, cinema & architecture was to experience the applause and criticism by directing a movie and making architecture the centre piece, using the lens as a medium to portray sentiments of architecture instead of a sketch pen.

As a student of architecture or a professional, it is imperative to create stimulating architecture so the film makers can capture it in time and aspire people from all over the world. In Pallasmaa’s words, “In the same way that buildings and cities create and preserve images of culture and a particular way of life, cinema illuminates the cultural archaeology of both the time of its making and the era that it depicts.” [i] To illustrate, the Sydney Opera house is an example of a building that can captivate the audience of both architecture and cinema. To reiterate, if the perception of SOH is distorted for a movie then it can inspire a new generation of architecture.
As architects, we offer to the world, spaces with comfort and amusement, giving the person an opportunity to dream of the environment before turning it into reality. Cinematic space brings together the idea of perspective and perception to create a whole new vision of dreams and reality as an additive.
It is reasonable to argue that sound is an integral part of cinema along with architecture. Sound or music arouses the emotions of audiences. A space can be disturbing if the sound experienced is unpleasant. The same space can be comforting if birds are chirping outside with the sound of gentle breeze blowing. Sound experienced by a space near the ocean compared to the city has a varying contrast.
Michael Tawa mentions, how in cinema different art forms can influence and inform us as architects. His four key relations between cinema and architecture are Place, Space, Time, Framing & Assemblage.[ii] Sound or music being one of the popular art forms is a vital component when discussing relationship with cinema and architecture. Ironically though for Pallasmaa, “In its inherent abstractness, music has historically been regarded as the art form which is closest to architecture. Cinema is, however, even closer to architecture than music, not solely because of its temporal and spatial structure but fundamentally because both architecture and cinema articulate lived space.” Also, Tawa indicates the connection between people and nature through architect Peter Zumthor’s work. Natural light in architecture and manipulating the same light for cinema go hand in hand. Hence, light also forms a key relation with movies and spaces in it. 
They say eyes are windows to the world. Every day we wake to the aspiration of looking at a beautiful world. We, as architects, designers and planners are catalysts in shaping the environment we live in. Every step towards the design process is a step towards a beautiful mise en scène. It is imperative to bring that idea into reality for the sake of audience of all seven forms of art. As per Pallasmaa, “A great building makes us experience gravity, time and – ultimately – ourselves.” [iii]

[i] Juhaini Pallasmaa, “Introduction - Lived Space in Architecture and Cinema” in The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema, Rakennustieto Publishing, 2007, 13.
[ii] Micheal Tawa, “Space, Place and Time – Exploring Precedents in Cinema,” lecture, UNSW, Sydney, 2011
[iii] Pallasmaa, “Introduction”, 36

Sunday, June 5, 2016


The 2005 Maharashtra floods refers to the flooding of many parts of the Indian state of Maharashtra including large areas of the metropolis Mumbai a city located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, on the Western coast of India, in which approximately 1,094 people died. It has been over a decade and the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) has yet not cracked the code to tackle the floods during monsoon season. This flash flooding often occurs in Mumbai which is  plagued by torrential seasonal rains simply because trash and debris clog storm drains and city sewers. If maintenance crews knew when and where to clear them, a lot of damage could be prevented. 
A similar natural hazard of flash flooding was faced by Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2013 when more than 100 people lost their lives. After that disaster, city leaders were determined to be better prepared next time. They decided to mitigate risks by expanding the use of technology. Today, The city has installed sensors in over 30,000 storm drains that measure the direction, speed and level of water. Along with weather reports and citizen alerts on social media, the city can now analyses sensor data to determine in real time which areas need immediate support. The use of IoT (Internet of Things) technology such as sensors and other devices to collect and analyze data helped them make decisions quickly about where to send maintenance crews to minimize damage.
The World Bank forecasts that global flood losses will reach $1 trillion per year if cities do not start taking preventive measures. It is about time the BMC emulates a model like Buenos Aires, takes charge of the matter at hand before it is little too late. 


The 2.5 million hectare Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra site comprises three national parks: Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. According to the UN this world heritage site is in danger. The site holds the greatest potential for long-term conservation of the distinctive and diverse biota of Sumatra, including many endangered species. The protected area is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, including 17 endemic genera; more than 200 mammal species; and some 580 bird species of which 465 are resident and 21 are endemic. Of the mammal species, 22 are Asian, not found elsewhere in the archipelago and 15 are confined to the Indonesian region, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. The site also provides biogeographic evidence of the evolution of the island. 
The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra represent the most important blocks of forest on the island of Sumatra for the conservation of the biodiversity of both lowland and mountain forests. This once vast island of tropical rainforest, in the space of only 50 years, has been reduced to isolated remnants including those centered on the three components of the property. The Leuser Ecosystem, including the Gunung Leuser National Park, is by far the largest and most significant forest remnant remaining in Sumatra. All three parks would undoubtedly have been important climatic refuge for species over evolutionary time and have now become critically important refuge for future evolutionary processes.
The relict lowland forests in the sites are very important for conservation of the plant and animal biodiversity of the rapidly disappearing lowland forests of Southeast Asia. Similarly, the  montane forests, although less threatened, are very important for conservation of the distinctive montane vegetation of the property.
The property has strong and clearly explained management plans and each is included in the Indonesian Biodiversity National Strategy and Action Plan. Stakeholder forums have been established in each park and include bi-annual dialogue with local governments, national and international NGOs, local people and private sectors. However, there is variation in the involvement and contribution of these stakeholders in the three parks, which needs to be addressed. Intensive coordination among park management remains a priority with acknowledgement that coherent and coordinated protection measures among the three parks are paramount in the effective protection of flora and fauna, and particularly for threatened species.


Many consider Building Information Modelling(BIM) as a soft ware. Yes it is a software but it does more than. It is a process which applies to all aspects of the construction of a building, from the design, the estimating, the supply chain, the delivery of goods during the build process, the allocation of resources, the productivity requirements to meet targets and also in to the post handover phase through facility and assest management.
The people in the construction industry are falling short to understand the benefits of BIM and alleviate the process of construction industry in India. At my own previous job as an architect we were refrained to use BIM softwares. 
BIM is much more than just a detailed 3D model of a building. The accuracy of the model combined with animation fly throughs allow contractors to access the design layout before the building is built to make necessary alterations. This means that when the build takes place, there are fewer errors and far less rework needed. This moves the construction procurement process from design and build to design build by bringing the construction team in to the design process rather than them simply having to respond to a tender for construction after the design has been completed. 
Another aspect of BIM is the parametric design. What it means is that if you change or move the location of a wall, the elements attached to the wall will also move. Changing the number of windows will automatically change the quantity of materials required. This directly helps in cost estimations of the project. 
There are several 'D' associated with BIM software. Just in time delivery of materials requirement on site, estimation and cost aspects of building and sustainability targets to name a few. 
The planning of the project moves faster than anticipated by the use of BIM software. Hence it is very important to use in at every level in construction industry


Earthship Home. 1970

We see glossy buildings everyday. They are eye pleasing but may not be sustainable. On the other hand a group of people in the US, who not necessarily make glossy building but design sustainable buildings and the architecture is of the place;not an impostion on the site. Their architecture is called Earthship Biotecture. 
The model of Earthship architecture is based on three principles: 

  • Sustainable architecture and materials should be either indigenous or recycled materials.
  • The house should rely on natural energy resources and be independent from the grid. 
  • the construction of the house should not need require a skilled labour.
The houses are often in U shape to enhance the natural light and solar gain during winter months with windows on sun facing walls allowing light and heat. The outer walls are made of earth rammed tires. The tire walls are strengthened by using concrete in the tires on the ends called concrete half blocks. On top of the tire walls are either tin can + concrete bond beams made from recycle cans joined by concrete or wooden bond beams. The internal non load bearing walls are often made of a honeycomb of recycled cans joined by concrete and are referred to as tin can walls. These walls are thickly plastered with clay. The roof is made using wooden support beams called vigas. The roof as well as the north, east and west facing walls are heavily insulated to prevent heat loss. 

The Earthship buildings are now found all over the world. Following are few images on functionality of buildings and the different buildings. 

Earthship, UK

Earthship, US


The reality about transportation is that it's future-oriented. If we're planning for what we have, we're behind the curve. - Anthony Fox ( American politician) 
We have always witnessed four elements of transportation. The four elements being vehicles on road, trains/trams on tracks, ferries/ships in sea and by planes in air. Today we have reached a stage where technology knows no bounds. Affordable and powerful electric cars are being introduced by car companies to reduce the effect of combustion engine on the environment. The innovations are second to none but by doing so we are going to add misery to the existing traffic issues in urban areas. What we need is a system which is cheap but also moves large number of people without harming the environment. A system where people denounce the use of cars use public transport.

As seen in the video below Chinese engineers have designed an electric straddle bus that carries 300 passengers at a time. It runs on power and is completely sustainable. It is elevated which means it allows cars to flow underneath. This could be a possible solution for the future. If engineered to the context, Anzac parade has a ready solution. Also save some trees in the process. 

Chinese Straddling Bus

Another hi tech and a definitive fifth element of transportation is hyperloop. It is still under its prototyping stage. It is a sustainable mode of mass transport. When built, it will revolutionise the way we live. One could possibly travel cities in matter of minutes. There are many critics of this technology but Elon Musk, the man behind the idea of Hyperloop is confident that this technology can see the light of day. 


To resolve any issue, the solutions must tick the boxes of societal comfort, zero environmental effects and low cost.  Thankfully these technologies tick all the three boxes mentioned above. It can move people faster than today, the technology runs on renewable source of energy and is low cost compared to trains/subways of today. Also running on renewable source of energy means the ticket prices could as be as low. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Building automation is the automatic centralized control of a building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting and other systems through a building management system or building automation system (BAS). Modern BAS can also control indoor and outdoor lighting as well as security, fire alarms and basically everything else that is electrical in the building. The objectives of building automation are improved occupant comfort, efficient operation of building systems, and reduction in energy consumption and operating costs,and improve life cycle of utilities. A building that uses the system is called smart building of smart home. 

A smart building, aka, integrated building, intelligent building, automated building, high performance building or advanced building, is a building that is designed for longevity.  

Above is definition of smart buildings floating on the internet. If the buildings are designed with BAS for longevity then it mean it is sustainable too. Unfortunately that is not the case. In spite of the system being around for few decades, not all buildings are adopting it. Either it is costly or people are not aware of the existing technology. Another concern is no matter how beneficial  smart buildings are, a building cannot rely solely on  BAS. There will have to be other inputs like green infrastructure, materials and resources for a building to be called SMART & SUSTAINABLE model. 

But the green building and smart buildings are not the same thing. Of course there are similarities but there are differences between green buildings and smart buildings. 

Other concern is smart buildings/ BAS system work with the supply of power. First world countries have the pleasure of unlimited, unobstructed power supply. Sadly, the developing countries and definitely the third world countries do not enjoy the  same. There are power failures, limited supply and various other scenarios. We will have to wait until the entire world adopts the BAS system. In the mean time, green buildings can be introduced right away all over the world with influx of green infrastructure,solar passive designs and sustainable materials.