Building with the Senses

Singapore-based Argentine Ernesto Bedmar on his love for the tropics and questioning Indian architecture’s relevance in history

Written by Shiny Varghese | New Delhi | Published:May 15, 2017 12:00 am
Ernesto Bedmar, Ernesto Bedmar's Residential Project, Ernesto Bedmar's Delhi Residential Project, Ernesto Bedmar's Project, Ernesto Bedmar's Delhi Project, Indian Express, Indian Express News In picture, Ernesto Bedmar

Ernesto Bedmar’s houses float. Or at least they appear to. The Singapore-based Argentine architect rests his houses around water courts or ponds, lifting them seemingly off the land. This tango between the inside and outside spaces is what Bedmar calls “romancing the landscape”. He was in Delhi last month for the annual Master Strokes Lecture organised by the Indian Institute of Interior Designers (IIID), Delhi chapter.

Bedmar’s projects, primarily residences spread across Southeast Asia, dialogue with nature. This love for all things natural comes from his Argentine childhood spent on a farm. “It gave me a sense of space, of elements of materials. I think every emotion we bring from our childhood remains in us and in many ways, makes us who we are,” says the 60-year-old.

In a house in Delhi, timber screens squat next to stony travertine walls, enhancing their textural layering. His spaces play hide-and-seek with visitors, never once making the experience predictable. In a book titled Singapore Good Class Bungalow 1819-2015, Bedmar’s seminal bungalow is featured, which combines elements of Chinese, Balinese, Thai and Malay influences.

Bedmar can’t have enough of the tropics, he says. “The greenery here is most beautiful, and I believe architecture should respond to that. In our project for the D’Décor store in Mumbai, we did just that because the site had no view. We turned our back to the main street and created an internal courtyard which is the focal point of the store. The tropicality of the city makes it possible for any plant to have lush foliage. In India, there’s concrete everywhere. There are high rises with very small balconies. I think the beauty of architecture is in creating those breathable spaces,” he says.

Not impressed with most of what he sees in India, Bedmar believes much of it comes from wanting to follow trends. “It’s a pity you don’t have many architects who bring a contemporary touch to the history you have. Charles Correa did that in his projects. I see it in the Mumbai airport, not all of it, just the columns, which have a distinct Indian flavour. And the art ties up rather neatly,” he says.

A residential project of Ernesto Bedmar in Delhi

Bedmar advocates minimal interior decoration in his project, relying entirely on the strength of materials. “Our senses should respond to the interiors. When I see projects by Le Corbusier or Tadao Ando, they don’t have any decoration, yet they are beautiful in their simplicity and quality of material. Such spaces will always stay natural,” he says.

Even as the debate of including vaastu in the professional curriculum does the rounds at the IIID meet, Bedmar finds it important to include it in all his projects in India. “In a residential project in Delhi, we made the puja room an important part, which otherwise is forgotten in a corner. I think the spiritual aspect is an enrichment we need it in our lives. So even if it’s a fad, I believe it is important.”

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