An architect’s engagement with the landscape is possibly the best way to create an identity, and two projects in the country have found such merit at the 2018 World Architecture Festival (WAF) awards. The Street, a hostel project in Mathura, by Mumbai-based Sanjay Puri Architects and Thiruvalluvar, a bridge in Kanyakumari, by New Zealand-based firms Monk Mackenzie and Novare, are the winning entries from over 500 projects across the world.
A showcase of the 19 projects from India that made it to the global stage is being presented at STIR gallery, Delhi. In its third year of supporting the well-respected global awards, STIR — helmed by Amit and Hardeep Gupta and Mrinalini Ghadiok — hopes to bridge global and local expertise in areas of design and architecture.
The WAF awards have nearly 33 categories, including housing, landscape, culture, office, infrastructure and education. Known as an inclusive cross-border event, the awards are much sought after among professionals because nominated architects pitch their work to a panel of experts and peers, making the critique sessions a huge learning experience.
While the common thread running through the winning entries is their need for place making and identity, they are not far from getting the projects to be climate and people sensitive. While Sanjay Puri’s hostels found inspiration in the winding streets of Mathura, Hamish Monk and Dean Mackenzie explore a concrete bridge in the shape of lotus petals, which honours the Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Temple in India’s southernmost tip.
“The college campus had such a repetitive format that we wanted to give it a different identity. The new hostels have about 800 rooms and we wanted to give them each a view of the playground. In the old streets of Mathura, there are no straight roads. It’s the same principle we have employed at the hostel, where it turns just a bit after every 10-12 rooms. So the organic shifting axis exits in the plan layout and the interiors too,” says Puri. In the alternating incline of the wedge-shaped windows, one gets the feel that they are twisted in different directions.
Puri says it was also done to maximise ventilation and reduce heat gain. “These new units were meant to be air-conditioned but eventually that didn’t happen. But students are happy without them, since the rooms are cooler even in the summers. Those from other hostels on campus like to hang out here because there are multiple interactive spaces. Every few rooms, the corridor bends into small break-out zones,” says Puri.
Monk Mackenzie, meanwhile, bridges the one-kilometre divide between the 4th century poet and the 19th century philosopher through their modular deck, that is not only pedestrian friendly but also culturally sensitive. “The concrete deck that appears to visually float above the water, touches down only lightly at 20 minute spans. Also, the concrete petals provide shade along the route, creating a rhythmic and sculptural quality to the bridge,” they say. The hope is that the bridge will replace the ferry services for the multitudes who arrive at these memorials every day.
“The area was heavily damaged in the 2004 tsunami, so the lotus was employed as a symbol of renewal and its morphology used in the form of the bridge. The sweep of the bridge from the mainland to the two islands was curved to allow for views of the statue and temple along the bridge — a straight bridge would not allow this,” say Monk and Mackenzie.
Among the other nomination projects were fashion designer Anita Dongre’s store in Delhi by 4.4 Design, the Emerald Gulistan Mosque in Kanpur by Mandviwala Qutub and Associates, Mumbai, and the 2016 Biennale Pavilion in Kochi by Stapati, Calicut.