Anagram Architects and contemporary artist Anita Dube came together to create ‘Artrovert’, a multi-levelled gathering ground for artists and the artistically-inclined. With its swivelling façade panels and spacious insides, the studio eschews rigid boundaries between what is inside and what is outside.
Art used to be a lonely pursuit. But creative expression has increasingly become a factor of sociability. It is about allowing for a fluid confluence of ideas now. This landscape is criss-crossed by efforts at setting up salons and residencies, places where artists can converge and ideate both privately and in groups. It is a world where boundaries have been forced to blur and mediums have become mixed.
Architecture, itself part of this artistic shape-shifting, often responds by making possible the emergence of structures, structures inside which ideas can germinate and foster, away from the burden of convention.
The aura of art around this home-studio, however, is consciously urban. The neighbourhood is dotted with construction totems, none of them too tall but most of them still recognisably prosaic, on the outside at least. This is no elusive cabin in the woods or a cavern in the mountains. The 300 sq m trapezoidal plot is in fact one of 216 such plots arranged in an octagonal grid at the peri-urban artists’ colony called Kaladham in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
But this dichotomy of realities is what makes Artrovert so fascinating. You go about searching for clichés even as you experience it breaking them. The building is vertical, which quashes that idea of a bucolic sprawl. The general tenor of the material palette is refined and well-crafted, subverting any images of carefully constructed chaos.
Sunlight is abundant enough to be a constant companion and the floor space is expansive and averse to clutter. The 280 sq m studio project spans multiple floors and is constructed to look and feel like a continuum. To encapsulate the structure’s form, the design team from New Delhi-based Anagram Architects states, “The studio required accessible, large volume workspaces that would invite an immersive experience of art and yet be rugged enough to withstand its production.”
Contemporary artist and KHOJ, International Artists’ Association co-founder Anita Dube is known to have no patience with strict binaries. So, it’s not a surprise that Artrovert employs a deliberate work-in-progress template in terms of its looks. Like its internal spaces, its armature too exhibits some unconventional flexibility. Its panels can swivel across many permutations when need be, allowing for the art on them to be turned outwards for public viewing. Similarly, external art works can be swiveled inwards for private viewing.
What you have is a brilliant arrangement that amalgamates the possibilities of gallery exhibition and façade murals while cutting through their limitations. “The armature itself is designed to act simultaneously as a gallery, working scaffolding and circulation space as well provide views of the exhibits within from different heights,” the team confirms. “Tall and narrow interstices are glazed against the outside while vertical slits cut through the internal volumes.”
The panels and slits are also part of the building’s passive character. Thermal stacking ensures hot air-supply through the slits even as the expansive and tall floor structure prevents excessive heat gain. Cool monsoon breezes can come through the panels and balance out the humidity build-up inside. When winter comes around, the building can soak in as much sun as is available through its generous terrace space and south-west facing countenance.
Three prominent materials helped realise the brief finalised by the team and Dube, who was as much collaborator as client – dour distressed concrete, shiny ceramic mosaic tiles, and restrained wood. The three come together to establish an almost clockwork loop of visuals around the space, balancing each other’s character out in the process.
The split ceramic glistens like pieces of glass in the natural light. It is on the walls, on the floor, and even on the ceiling, this democratic spread ensuring pockets of spaces lit by playful light. The tiles also establish a resplendent base for the wooden furniture, the colourful upholstery, the glass swathes, and the concrete cladding to comfortably draw attention to them. Its large presence hints at whimsy and purity, and an odd sense of comforting sterility.
Artrovert is that structure, threading the needle between closed and open, the rough and the sublime, and the catalyst and creator.
The rough concrete surfaces, on the other hand, establish intensity and purpose. These surfaces cover wide areas on the walls and long patches on the floor, providing artists both creation and display possibilities. The natural rugged form of the material is delightful to watch just as it is but it takes on the role of an enigma when you imagine frames and parchments hanging against it. “The two materially contrasting yet filial bands (of distressed concrete and ceramic mosaic) loop and coil, forming the various spaces of the programme across multiple levels,” adds the team.
The furniture pieces, sparse and mostly leaning against walls and railings, bring in an element of subtlety. A dash of colour comes courtesy the cushions and the linen, though they tend to crowd in the colony of deep blues, browns and reds.
The mezzanine level holds a study that provides a great viewing platform for the entire building. A two-room residence occupies the top floor, built for artists looking to spend short durations away from their usual working grounds.
A smaller residence at the ground floor has been built for the studio helpers. “A private garden is planned at the back as a spill-out for the helpers, while a sloping, faceted front lawn has been opened up for theatre-style public screenings and talks,” adds the team.
With Artrovert, Dube wanted the complexity of creation to move outward and embrace a sense of communality. Her ethos of boundary pushing and obliteration exists in every space of this project, inside and out.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy the Architect