Creating a Sense of Belonging in Design

Creating a Sense of Belonging in Design

Authored by : Ar. Gurpreet Shah

Over the years, transit infrastructure has evolved from just a medium of transportation into multi-functional international hubs. With its need increasing at an unprecedented rate, we are designing buildings which are massive steel and glass structures aped from the west and planted across cities in the name of development. This is losing our connection with our traditional art and architecture thus giving us no sense of space.

With advancement in technology and design, we should not be afraid to try new approaches towards creating buildings that are not only sustainable in design and offer global facilities, but also infuse a sense of belonging with the Indian culture.

Airports for example, are a gateway to the city they are built in. The manifestation of its cultural and social context creates a sense of \ belonging and identity for its users. With the new airports like Bhubaneswar and Varanasi in motion, along with creating designs that are sustainable, we have consciously focused on the inclusion of the local arts and culture.

Art in Architecture

This process gradually started from the Raipur Airport. Although the integrated terminal is more known for its use of active and passive design features and the modern structure, the interior of the terminal building was also designed to invoke a sense of familiarity with the local culture. The sunken landscaped court encompassing a central garden forms an exceptionally delightful feature of the terminal structure. Adorned with an array of historic Bastar art sculptures, the age old regional art of Chhattisgarh, the aim was to lend a sense of pride and individuality to the terminal. This concept stems from the desire to augment the visual experience with refreshing areas and exclusivity.

The same nature has been symbolized and expressed in the exterior façade of the Agartala Airport where the local forests and greenery is abstracted in the form of a GRC Tree Jaali.  The idea of local art is also exposed boldly as an element of structure inside the terminal in the form of bamboo stem sculptures in the waiting area inside the terminal and various tribal artworks, thus enhancing the interior landscape.

Contextual Symbolism

Sense of place is important in maintaining the quality of the environment as well as the integrity of human life within it.

For the Akshardham Metro Station, it was conceived as annexed as a temple with a similar corbelled form and use of ornamentation. The metro station acts like an extension for the existing temple itself. The materials used are also kept similar as that of the temple to keep intact the character.

“Thus upcoming airports like Varanasi, Bhubaneswar and Shirdi were all designed keeping in mind its local context and not just including their art with the design, but in fact conceptualizing the building based on those elements.”

The twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Puri are famous for its temples, and the new Bhubaneswar Airport is envisioned to create a fusion of traditional and modern architecture, adopted from the symbolic Jagganath Rath and Konark wheel. The corbelled roofing profile for the form of the building as well as the stone bands with motifs is replicated on the front facade, creating a distinct style in aviation architecture.  This is followed even in the interior of the building, where the artwork is inspired with the mythical stories and their adaptations, sculptures represent the various important parts of the local culture and art thus creating a connection with the traveller. As the visitors experience the building, they should in fact feel like they have reached Puri already – that is the vision behind such projects.

A similar approach was adopted in Varanasi, where the fluidity of the water was the concept behind the dynamic profile of the building. The jaali patterns are derived from the local boats parked near the ghats – metaphorically developing a pattern for their representation.

This character is intended to flow into the building as well – with ceiling inspired from the famous Banarasi saree, the boat shaped sculptures showcasing the very essence of the life in Banaras and the local flavour.

Today, India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world with an urbanisation rate of more than 34% and still increasing day by day. In such a scenario, it is important to connect with our traditional art and architecture, and lending an Indian flavour to designs which also offer world class facilities.

Shirdi being an important place for religious and sentimental value, the Airport will be designed to portray a unique and smart gateway to the region. The idea is to retain the spiritual philosophy of Sai Nath through architectural elements blending with the global aspirations. Inspired from the rural-urban blend of Shirdi’s culture, our concept will be dedicated to the spirituality of this temple town. Thus a temple has been proposed to act as the epicenter of terminal building, featuring other religious art and architecture of Maharashtra. It also induces a spiritual vibration and a transforming effect within the terminal creating emotional, religious, sentimental values among the passengers so that the journey/ visit to the pilgrimage of Guru Sai Baba starts from the airport itself, mentally and visually!

We are currently also working on the proposal for Rajkot Airport where arches and stone jaalis have been used as preliminary inspirations further contemporized to create a rhythmic front facade. The local building elements create a form based on the existing floor plans.

The arches and jaalis form a major architectural element in the traditional architecture of Gujarat. Thus using them as a design feature symbolizes their importance in the local context and also blends the building within the surroundings.