Mumbai-based Sanjay Puri Architects treats every project as a challenge to build a work of art. The result is a portfolio that bridges the gap between the simple and the spectacular.
Mumbai-based Sanjay Puri Architects was set up in 1992, and currently boasts of projects in India, Mauritius, Montenegro, U.A.E and Spain. Over the years, it has realised an unassuming, non-verbose and highly effective work ethic. Its projects are set apart by not deliberate statements of eccentricity, but a more sublime approach to both form and substance.
The firm has set brilliant examples of how to work in smaller plots and still come out with striking results. Every team here is a contemplative bunch, thinking beyond just the practical utility of buildings and approaching them as amalgamations of art, home and creative escape. Buildings are not just hunks of concrete and glass, but ‘sculptures’ defining a specific vision. This seems to negate all the on-the-ground challenges that come in the way of the firm, as is proved by the following projects:
72 Screens Jaipur
No building or interior design scheme worth its salt in Rajasthan will eschew being happily inspired by the traditional jali format. Neither does this one. Except that it turns the form into a giant apostrophe-shaped façade made up of perforated screens. This is a 6-level corporate office, but it really could have housed any organisation of activity, because its structural integrity is strong enough to be detached from the people it houses. Inspite of the harsh demands on its area, only 326sq mt per floor was available after mandatory open spaces, there have been no cutting down on its grandeur.
Fountains form its foreground, and the screens let in plenty of natural light and shadows to make the interiors perennially dynamic. But underneath the entire visual spectacle is an energy-efficiency that is essential in this sweltering part of India. The glass-reinforced concrete screens, and the many plants at all floors, shield the insides from the intense heat through the year. The firm’s mission here seems to have been simple – build a really cool office space; literally and figuratively.
Bombay Arts Society
This one was a challenging project on many levels. The allotted space was restrictive, 1300 square mt, and within this, two individualised wings of practically different purposes had to be built. In tribute to the artistic character of the building’s identity, the firm decided to build a concrete hulk that strides beyond architectural allusions and becomes more of a giant sculpture. With its unusual extra-terrestrial shape and form, the Bombay Arts Society building is bound to demand attention and curiosity, but the remarkable thing is that it still manages to look just about as quirky as the city landscape can absorb without undue levels of shock.
The team worked with a purported emphasis on “fluidity”, creating art gallery spaces, a café, rooms for artists and an auditorium stretching across 1000 sq mt. Another 1000 sq mt of vertical space was provided for the offices.
A separate rear entrance leads up to the sea-facing, floor-to-ceiling glass encased official section of the building, carving out two distinct chunks of spaces that happen to exist in perfect harmony within one mould. Unfazed by the area crunch, the team continued to think in unconventional terms, thinking vertically when horizontal scope was limited. Nothing seems to have crippled the vision to build a creatively stimulating, comfortably inter-connected centre of arts. That is the success of this project.
Chapel At Murcia
Perched at an elevation of 90 mt, this chapel looks like it descended from the heavens on the backs of some fervent prayers. The cross here stands at the edge of an infinity pool, water from which slips down from one end to form a small waterfall. A piece of the hill was scooped out to make for the entrance, with its illusory arms-wide-open stance, and the mighty cross visible at the centre. This narrow space then opens up to a spectacular, air-flushed hall roofed by concrete stretched into cantilever shape. The deeply sublime, non-intrusive structure of this chapel is breath-taking.
It has been built in obeisance to nature as much as the religious faith. But the ethereal effect aside, the shape of the building was influenced by the wide-arching temperature range of Murcia; the heart-warming open-ness of the chapel means the mechanical need for ventilation is absent, while the sun is never overhead. In cooler climes, the natural texture of concrete is good protection. This chapel is one with the ocean, one with the hill and one with the clouds. To have built a space so magical, yet so evidently simple, requires the talents of a highly sensitive design team.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Designer