Projects need to follow an integrated design approach

By Anup Naik - Construction Opportunities Magazine

Space Matrix Architects and Planners have rendered valuable services in the built environment – architecture and master planning. The combination of global expertise and local know-how makes it the firm of choice, often teamed with the world’s best-known “starchitects” to deliver exceptional projects in Asia. ANUP NAIK, PARTNER AND DIRECTOR, SPACE MATRIX ARCHITECTS AND PLANNERS responded to queries from CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES.

Tell us about the services and solutions offered by your company?
Space Matrix Architects and Planners offer services in key sectors like residential design encompassing villa developments to high rise apartments, mixed use developments, corporate campuses, commercial buildings encompassing retail and multi tenanted office buildings. The team specialises in institutional projects panning from Universities to schools. Health care has been another key focus area with multi speciality hospitals and assisted living. An extended team of Space Matrix under the brand name Blink focuses only on the hospitality segment. Over the years the team has been involved with master planning works ranging from city level Comprehensive Development Plans (CDP) to large scale master planning works for integrated townships.

Give us an understanding of the process and methodologies you employ in the design of buildings?
The two aspects very tightly woven in our design methodology are Activity Centric Design and Passive Right Approach. The design thinking in the studio encompasses the following:
Focus on People: Design is more about people than it is about things. It is about identifying a problem that people are experiencing and seeking solutions.
Being curious: Ask Why? Explore and Experiment
Creating idea prototypes. Test an idea by making models.
Team diversity. A diverse design team gets more onto the table and is about managing conflict productively. With a cross culture team we are able to get diverse life experiences into the design.
Taking considered risks: The teams are flexible and are pushed to create a differentiated design and challenge the status quo.
Digital tools: Use parametric tools to iterate and convey design.
Look for balance – which combines business sensibilities, empathy with people, application of technology and environmental consideration.
It is about defining the vision: Knowing the people and context, exploring ideas, prototyping, testing and iterating and to deliver right

What difference can a quality architect bring to the construction process – in terms of savings in cost, time, planning and execution? Citing a few case studies tell us about the benefits accruing to clients through such services?
Land, Ecology, People and Affordability are the key drivers to design. Projects need to follow an integrated design approach right from the beginning and has to involve active participation from users, master planners, architects, landscape architect, environmentalist, geologist, engineers, cost consultants, water consultant etc. Once there is a sign off from all the stakeholders it becomes easier during the construction process.
A key aspect here is to use technology using a BIM platform which will clarify all the possible clashes before the first brick is laid. The point is to keep the building systems as modular as possible from structural systems to finish items. This will push higher returns from a procurement perspective. The other aspect which is normally forgotten is to have a clear information transfer from Mind to Hand (thinkers to executors) which will reduce rework on site.

Tell us about your firm’s contribution towards developing sustainable structures in India?
Our focus has always been to push the envelope of sustainability as forcefully as possible. The drive has been to demystify this whole business of green. In the process, lots of learning has been imbibed from the way our forefathers built. Aspects such as response to a site, stewarding of land, material sensitivity, response to nature and all its elements and working along with it have been the biggest highlights.

How much does a region’s location and climate influence your design elements? Tell us about your company’s strategy to blend Earth elements (air, water, light, etc) in your projects?
The focus has always been on Passive Right. It becomes the fundamental driver in the approach to green architecture and zero energy development. Passive design is an approach to building design that uses the building architecture to minimise energy consumption and enhance thermal comfort. This design approach is to explore our past lineage of passive architecture in building form and thermal performance of building elements (including architectural, structural, envelope and passive mechanical) which are to be integrated and optimised for interaction with the local microclimate.
The need arises from the fact that most of the active components have a very short shelf life and are superseded in a blink of an eye. When you see the building cycle, from the time you start on the board and to actual completion 24-48 months are gone by and the building survives for another 50 years. The physicality of the building does not change, but the active components become outdated. This forces one to believe that to make the building Passive Right is the only solution.
Our ancestors have left us a huge wealth of knowledge. A lot of this learning happens when you travel and see around. It becomes exciting to make it relevant in today’s context and time. This could be in context of material usage, planning techniques, construction techniques, ventilation, landscape, form making, symbolism, security and engineering systems. My understanding is that we as professionals need to run this part of the relay and contribute to this knowledge transfer.

Since you are dealing with high-end residential market what are the trends and insight in that market?
What qualifies as “luxury” in the residential property sector differs significantly from market to market. Apart from quality and exclusivity luxury encompasses lifestyle, the need for greater privacy, and environmental concerns. Most of the luxury projects have to be designed to cater to international clientele and expectations. Developers are building boutique, or customised property to exceed end users’ expectations. We have many projects in that sector.
The villas and apartments are designed for huge airy spaces. Due to land constraint developers are moving towards vertical luxury residential properties. In villas modern architecture is integrated with traditional spaces like courtyards. Landscaped courts and water courts, in addition to the external garden, increases the luxury quotient. Our team is also working on creating intelligent living spaces through latest gadgets and technology.

Name a few key infrastructure or construction sector players who have been associated with you?
We believe that good architecture is about translating and enhancing the client’s vision, delivering a unique solution that creates value for the end-user. Clients therefore credit us as partners in their success. This has led to many repeat clients and we are grateful to them. Some of our prestigious clients are Godrej Properties, Mantri Developers, Assetz, ITC Ltd, L&T, Ajmera Realty, RNA Corp, Unishire, DNR and many more.