Bengaluru-based firm, A Hundred Hands’ earthy work ethic has come to define all its projects, irrespective of intent or medium.
A Hundred Hands, with interest in both architecture and interior design, likes to keep things simple. It doesn’t like building spaces that are crammed with statement-making props, or believes in what it calls “architecture without adjectives.”
Elegant contours and natural hues work best for the 10-member team of this decade-old firm. All their projects go back to an essential motivation of engaging all things local – be it materials, inspirations or labour.
Led by the two studio partners, Sunitha Kondur and Bijoy Ramachandran, the firm has constantly strived to work on the principles of “prudent and responsible” architecture. The result has been a portfolio of projects that have explored a wide range of utilities, without ever compromising on the traditional, reliable features that drives the firm’s ethos.
A business hotel this earthy is a rare find. Appointed by UKN Properties, A Hundred Hands worked on the architecture and interiors of the hotel and luxury residential complex in collaboration with Design Architects, Allies & Morrison Architects, London.
The firms kept it all real, accessible and homely by relying on the natural character of the materials used. The greys of the sandstone, the inlay of polished wood on the ceilings, and the warm lighting make the spaces of the hotel look like rooms of fond ancestral homes, full of love and re-assuring memories.
The abundance of sandstone, Kota stone, in-situ terrazzo and form finished concrete came about in obedience to the city’s even-tempered weather conditions, and Alila Hotels & Resorts’ earlier building styles. ‘Natural’ was the keyword that dominated all forays here, from the lighting scheme to the generous open spaces.
The requiredmixed-use development and the creation of distinct layers of utility spaces, tested the firms’ thought processes, but inspiration was found in the famed works of Italian architect, Carlo Scarpa, and American architect, Louis Kahn.
The 14-storeyed building faces Lake Varthuron one end, and exudes carefully developed calm throughout. This project highlights A Hundred Hands’ practical approach to work. Cultural sensitivity is important for the team, and it is never trumped by the need for flash.
A Hundred Hands’ design of TAAQademy is the most decisive evidence of its range of thought. Built to house the studio and music school of Bengaluru-based indie-rock band Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ), this again is a place shorn of unnecessary flights of fancy.
The tenor here repeats the understated and the natural. The curved walls of exposed brick dominate and define the interiors, as most shadows fall on these walls, and most activity transpires within their confines. The team worked with Didier Weis, Sound Wizard, Auroville, to build the ideal space for a band that would like the freedom to test sound limits.
The exhaustive sound proofing apparatus here involved acoustic panels, insulation of the floors with rubber panels, steel wool, gyp board, terracotta and Plaster of Paris.
TAAQademy houses 3 sound-proof jam rooms, practice pods for instruction, an office for three, and a retail outlet. Most of it is also visible through the glazed façade.
A Hundred Hands’ non-intrusive approach means that the walls here are for guitars and sundry wires, and not designer props.The team’s effortless marrying of the technical demands of the space, and its own design sensibility, is remarkable here.
Doshi, A Film By Premjit Ramachandran
This is a film project undertaken by A Hundred Hands’ Bijoy and Premjit Ramachandran, chronicling the life and philosophies of architect-academician, Balkrishna Doshi.
Consciously executed as a series of conversations and not an architectural tutorial, the film juxtaposes Doshi’s inspirational work with his personal takes on life in general, in effect expanding the scope and range of audience.
The need for the film medium was felt to better express the “spatial narrative” of Doshi’s works, and his inspiration behind setting up the Center for Environmental Planning & Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad. Part-homage, part-inspirational story-telling, Doshi is an extension of A Hundred Hands’ dedication to understanding architecture, and through it, critical lessons about life itself.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Adri Berger, Sunitha Kondur