Delhi-based, Henri Fanthome Office for Architecture’s (HFOA’s) design philosophy is centred around freeing spaces from clutter and re-imagining them as fluid, well-lit living areas of substance.
Henri Fanthome Office for Architecture, HFOA for short, came into being in 2009, as a passage into the School of Planning and Architecture’s New Campus’ Master Plan Competition.
But its story has continued beyond that ambition, and today the small firm has built a sturdy portfolio of projects that span a wide range of sensibilities and budgets. The firm’s work also goes beyond Delhi to Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
HFOA takes a simple route to design, and prefers to work on a de-cluttered slate. It actively promotes sustainable architecture, and views every project as a learning process. It also continues to participate in many competitions – be it on exhibition design or furniture – a trend that many firms tend to give up on as their reach expands.
The cherry on the top is that the HFOA studio overlooks the beautiful Mehrauli Archaeological Park. They needn’t go too far for inspiration.
540 Asian Games Village
The biggest challenge of this residential project was that most things about the space were unremarkable. The space was cramped and ill-lit and there was very little structural identity to work with. In response, the HFOA team decided to combine material and form to build a space that can claim its own specific identity.
The floor is an eye-catching swath of black-and-white patterns, laying out the first salvo in creating an effect of a large, interconnected space. Even everyday items like cupboards and stair-railings have been given edgy design motifs and shapes to make them stand out.
Building passages for natural light was the fulcrum of the design process here, and its effect is enhanced by the colour scheme dominated by wood, grey, off-white, and the dual-toned floor.
“In some ways the project is representative of our process of design that addresses each site as unique and a custom design is evolved to fit its specific requirements. This allows space for those who will live in it, letting them blend their personalities into it and own it. We try our best to create spaces that are truly fulfilling,” the team attests.
In the notoriously cacophonous landscape of Indian transport infrastructure, this project aims to blow in fresh ideas. HFOA joined forces with Delhi-based Shaily Gupta Architects to conceptualise this complex as an entry to the National Open Design Competition.
The sprawling project is a re-imagination of a pre-existing but mostly unused bus terminal in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Critical appreciation of the design here must centre on the clean division of the various types of transit lines. The everyday local and private bus routes, the pedestrian ways, and the interstate bus lines, are split and their paths laid out such that they don’t have any unsavoury meetings.
At an elevation from the ground floor plaza is the main terminal building that houses all the functions relating to bus travel. The buses use overhead and subterranean thoroughfares to get on to two drop-off platforms.
Huge sheaths of tensile roofing shield the buses against the elements. Other sub-structures include an office complex and a hotel, again rising above the main plaza to avoid bump-ins.
The project’s credit is in thinking that the transport functionality of a city can be greatly improved through one approach – smart de-cluttering. Some problems are best tackled with simple solutions after all.
Sundar Nagar Canopy
Seemingly a small project, this one is exemplary of HFOA’s talent at making the best of a small budget. Admittedly, the finances involved here were tiny, and the team was asked to deliver a canopy connecting the gate with the front door of a dentist’s clinic, with no obstructive column support whatsoever.
A garden would hug the canopy structure. The team decided to custom-make most of the elements involved in the construction here, employing mostly stainless steel. 3mm thick cables support the suspension of the canopy, which can be rolled out and retracted.
“The steel pulley wheels were made with Royal Enfield axle ball-bearings that had to be lathed in a machine shop,” adds the team. It speaks volumes about a firm which refuses to get bogged down by irrational budgets, and decides to have fun with them instead!
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architect