Bengaluru-based CollectiveProject is an architectural and design firm whose mature treatment of projects doesn’t betray the firm’s youth.
Established in 2013, CollectiveProject the firm may be a relative youngster in the architectural/design landscape of India, but its oeuvre is already easy to identify.
The team led by Cyrus Patell and Eliza Higgins seems to be creatively invested in building spaces that are filled with meditative elegance that relies more on space, colour and connectedness with nature and less on thoughtless props.
The following three projects aptly demonstrate this “open and fluid” approach to realising projects of impressive conceptual depth.
Ekya Early Years, Bengaluru
The team at CollectiveProject clearly possesses an exceptional nuance in re-imagining and re-purposing existing built spaces, and the evidence is Ekya Early Years, located in Bengaluru’s fast-crowding Kanakpura area.
“One of the major challenges of this project was stabilising the existing building, which was in major disrepair, so that it was suitable for a school,” the team states. It would almost tire the imagination to think that what is today a happy pocket of sunlight and myriad colours was once an abandoned watch factory surrounded by two acres of overgrown neglect.
The exclusive pre-school that stands on the site today embodies both kindergarten and Montessori schools of thought, and has been designed to resemble a favourite childhood book come alive – the 13 classrooms are referred to as “learning environments”
The classrooms are accessed by a covered walkway; there is a ‘jungle’ courtyard from which four paths set in a pinwheel-pattern reach out to the outer sections of activity; all spaces are low on barriers, generous in play spaces, and whimsically peppered with coves fit for reading and relaxing.
Constant connection with the natural world outside was given priority during the design process, which will serve as a prototype whilst realising other branches of the school’s brand. There is something to be said about the placid, colour-coded charm of the Bengaluru one though, and about its naughty little detours in the midst of careful structure.
The Hudson Exchange Plan, New York
This submission won Higgins, Patell, Chris Starkey and Andrea Vittadini of the current CollectiveProject the second position at ‘The Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) fifth biennial design ideas competition – ‘The Harlem Edge: Cultivating Connections 2012’.
The Hudson Exchange had to be imagined as a community space where West Harlem’s local endeavours in everything from food to transport to education/research could coalesce. The community food-centric vision of the not-for-profit group, Nourishing NYC, had to bulwark the activities at the Exchange.
CollectiveProject’s plan made way for a local green market at the basefloor. “A regional network of ‘food barges’ collect and distribute fresh produce along the river promoting agricultural growth in the Hudson River Valley. Farmers sell their produce straight off the barge or trucks in the covered market space,” states the team’s plan.
A broad walk promenade links the shore and the Exchange and supports vehicular traffic. There is also a footpath to allow people to walk along and/or indulge in natural study. The commitment to community participation and education is continued with the help of a multi-purpose lecture hall where demonstrations can be held while allowing for views of the community garden and the pier below.
As an example of urban ecological damage control and renewal, the river edge surrounding the sprawl was designed to become a series of stepped restoration plots and a tidal pool.
The scale of this project may be small, but it efficiently highlights CollectiveProject’s talent for detailing and conjuring up beauty in even the most limited spaces allowed to the team.
Essentially a pergola-like structure built to occupy a single family residential unit’s unused extension in Bengaluru, it covers a 750 sq ft of area to create a deeply mindful reading nook/library space that looks out to a lush little disciplined garden.
This elegant ‘inhabitable piece of furniture’, created out of polished strips of reclaimed wood, stands at the centre flanked by a small, grass-clad amphitheatre-like segment on one side, and by a sunken, polished path that was dug-up and dressed in locally-sourced black granite on the other side.
The walkway comes alive in the evenings with the help of diyas that nestle in the niches that line the stretch. A masonry wall separates this quiet island from the main residence, and stands as an immersive escape from all rigours of the house and the bustling city beyond.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Tina Nandi Stephens Courtesy the Architect