Ahmedabad-based Apical Reform has little interest in being ‘normal’. The firm has a fascinating repertoire of work that combines art and functionality in all its unconventional glory.
Apical Reform is a firm where art, architecture, photography, and general eccentricity converge. And that’s not accidental, it happens by deft design. From the name to the intent, to the choice of projects, everything that this firm does aims to break down the mundane, and then tie it up into beautiful knots with the abstract and a whole lot of boundary-pushing.
It would be a compliment to suggest that this team doesn’t think in straight lines, instead it pushes its imaginations down wild landscapes of waves and loops and geometric meshes, to come up with designs that surprise the viewers. Why surprise? Because it tends to stand on the demarcation between the minimalist-simple and the mathematical-complex.
Apical Reform’s projects are spartan overall, but they are composed of parts that are technologically advanced, of unconventional form, and of deep existential meaning. This style of churning out contradictory but still complementary spaces is what defines the firm’s signature.
Apical Reform was formed in 2011 and is led by Amrish Patel and Darshan Soni. The team has delved into product, architectural, and interior design, meanwhile also building an avant-garde portfolio of photographic works and customisations. The design team’s language is expansive and in-step with global complexities of artistic expression, an almost pre-requisite in a cluttered market of concrete and glass.
The following three categories outline the firm’s most remarkable collection of works.
The firm approaches design as a challenge that is mounted against the natural order of things, pushing the elements to change their ways, their shapes, and their usual demeanour, to bring out the unusual. In its architectural projects, Apical Reform keeps up its modus operandi, but is acutely aware of functionality.
Evidence is in ‘Villa K’, whose posh white polished surfaces are coolly punctured by ceiling accents that look like the wall has come alive and is moving like smoke eddies.The Apical Reform design team is a whiz at creating living spaces that employ dazzling white tones to build a sense of serenity as well as simplicity.
The team then contrasts this starkness with mind-bending accents, staircase forms, ceiling fixtures, customised furniture, and unobtrusive lighting to add a hefty dose of futurism to the living quarters. Futurism is especially on display at ‘Villa 24’, located at Aamby Valley in Lonavala. Designed in 2012 with a decided avant-garde tilt, the villa is perfectly stark but still eye-catching, and what’s more, it totally complements the topography.
The interiors ‘unfold’ as one moves through them, as opposed to having sections piled onto one another. This fluidity is held together in a tight concrete shell that is dynamic and multi-layered in form, with sharp edges and slopes jutting out and standing poised to almost pierce the clouds.
Breaking away from residential spaces is the ‘Parshwanath Business Park’, a commercial complex whose façade Apical Reform designed as multiple ‘skins’ that come together to form that deceptively simple display again. The envelope sets up a double-take-inducing hologram effect as sunlight sails through its many crevices, bringing an interesting element to a structure that could otherwise easily fade into the environment as another bland piece of commercial architecture.
Apical Reform’s product line is like a protracted view of things through a microscope. Here, the design inspiration starts with utility, but then shoots up into the stratosphere, overturning all the boring rules along the way.
A bench thus won’t look like a mere bench. It will become a brilliantly-crafted specimen of lattice design. So there is ‘Shard’, a beauteous “low poly version of solid fluid forms”. This bench doesn’t sit horizontally, but rather looks like a piece of comet that hit the Earth, albeit a very polished comet. Its form is of a carbon-based element, its multiple faces ending in dangerous-looking spikes.
The ‘Diagrid’ is a lamp which was crafted out of aluminium, which the design team treated like craft paper, folding and unfolding it along precise angles to create a remarkably complex fixture. This creation realised the firm’s other great fascination – setting up friendly impediments in the way of light.
Another bench creation is the ‘Fluix’, a calmer, softer cousin of the ‘Shard’. It is a product of the firm’s experiment in parametric modelling and generative design. This two-side seater sits parallel to the ground, but subverts expectations with a shape that’s hard to categorise. Its side-profile is reminiscent of a jet-ski, but when looked at from above, it’s more like a wispy paint brush. Or is it neither? It is possible that this is exactly the kind of dilemma that the designers wanted to inspire in the viewers.
Apical Reform’s artistic work explores shape, grain, flow and movement to its fundamental core. These works rip out the skins and peep inside, or create a different internal reality altogether. Cue ‘Piranha’, made of thin steel sheets of rose gold hue, and looking every bit as dangerous as the real carnivore. But this fish, though it retains the prehistoric silhouette of the original, is composed of shiny mechanical layers and gears – more an unconventional clock than a water creature.
If ‘Piranha’ was looking in, then the ‘Animals’ collection re-imagines outer-skin. ‘Equus’ admires the sturdy form of a fully-grown horse, and aims to simplify it by re-creating it through an expert contouring process. This artistic piece is a marvel; it invites the viewer to re-imagine the animal, its one foot raised in a foxtrot, the contours making the being seem like a moving illusion almost. And there is adorable ‘Quco’, a life-size bulldog sculpture, realised in an abstract soft pastel yellow and blue.
This piece recreates with perfection the natural silhouette of the animal through a complex set of fluid puzzle pieces. The sculpture’s visual artistry is its solidity that never fades, even when your brain tricks you into thinking that the animal seems to be melting, like wax.
With ‘Digiscape’, Apical Reform pulls back and goes hyper macro in inspiration. This series is on a miniaturised cross-section of intriguing topographies, recreated through a deft contouring process. One can identify myriad hills and mountain ranges, valleys and undulating paths of rivers – all anonymous, but still so inexplicably fascinating.
Text by Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architect