Different projects evoke a variety of reactions in people. On looking closely at some of the designs of Matharoo Associates, one cannot help but feel that the firm’s oeuvre transcends boundaries established by other practices. You can sense that while the base and foundations of the designs lie in old tested methods, the conceptualisation of the projects as a whole, points directly towards the future.
Gurjit Singh Matharoo, proprietor of Matharoo Associates’, out-of-the-box thinking drives the firm. However, he attributes the award winning success of his firm to his dedicated team of personnel, not only from the field of architecture, but also from the disciplines of structural design, interior design and product design, all of which are in-house at this firm. This comprehensive design bouquet leads to a holistic approach, which the firm is so well known for.
“We believe in a clear emphasis on functionality and services, in exercising extreme restraint whenever designing, using materials in their natural form and allowing sunlight to become the only embellishment on the created structures as it varies and changes through the day and across the seasons. Our buildings are designed to be discovered; as one moves through them they unfold around one’s body to reveal their secrets and meanings over time and over spatial layers” says Gurjit.
The Rough Cut
“We were faced with the task of accommodating an increased Floor Space Index (FSI) in a tight site leftover from the previously built Bharat Diamond Bourse campus at the Bandra Kurla Complex. This design was an invited entry and took the problem head on. Offering an increased mass on a small footprint, we put forward the concept of a rough diamond set amidst the polished surfaces of the other existing towers,” says Gurjit.
An independent protective skin made up of six materials of varied textures – photovoltaic panels, PTFE fabric, ventilating sun-breakers, aluminium sheets, rainwater harvesting modules and energy-tapping glass, envelopes the dynamic interiors of the Rough Cut project. Starting with a real rough diamond, these designs were a “result of an intense marriage between the physical and 3D modeling,” to put it in the words of the architect. Indeed, the process of the creation of this model clearly reflects his working and thinking process.
The Concrete Jungle, Society in an Abyss
The architectural community is replete with “green” solutions. “Instead of cosmetic answers, the habitat of the future will need to be built on bold initiatives and severe turquoise ideas and not the clichéd green, which may even seem unacceptable now,” believes Gurjit.
This project in Singapore reflects these beliefs. It minimises land use, proposes a groundscape of authentic tropical forestland and effectively uses water by making the most of harvested rainwater and above all is to be built on water.
The apartment blocks snake along on both sides of the waterway. The house-street boundary exists via a mere shutter and the recreational facilities have been moved to the 22nd floor. Designed for a competition, it ambitiously tries to address a multitude of issues involved in making a building “green” and dares to tread on an unconventional path.
Island in the Sky
This site is immersed amidst the green hills of Lonavala, near Mumbai and is bound by waterfalls and streams. The contours provide a variety of levels, which coupled with a carefully selected orientation, create unique viewpoints for each unit. Retaining the natural barriers present on the three sides, the studio has proposed a green buffer on the site’s exposed side keeping it contained yet visually connected to the surrounding landscape; making the site in essence a private island with nature as its ocean.
However, what impressed me most about the firm’s construction models was the exquisiteness of their presentation. They illustrated a very clear and different thinking process. It does not come as a surprise then that the group has all the drawings rendered beautifully in watercolour before the computer outlines are even made!
In this design firm after the entire team puts forward their ideas, the best one is chosen by a secret vote and then the final concept is selected. The good and relevant aspects of the rejected concepts too are retained. Thus, a careful selection of the best ideas from a brilliant team is what each project is made of!
Gurjit’s refreshingly different take on architecture is not his only endearing quality. Besides an active professional practice, he is also part of the visiting faculty at the Centre of Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad (from where he graduated) and at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad where he conducts the transportation design course. This follows his deep passion for mechanics and the design of automobiles!
He recounts a childhood incident wherein he used to watch his father, time and again take a motorcycle apart and fix it all back. Having seen this whilst growing up he feels it has made him confident in making his own quirky ideas work in all disciplines. Yet, the love for architecture remains paramount. As he puts it, “The spaces you make in architecture have simply no parallel”.
Text By Dhanishta Shah