Pearl Academy of Fashion Design: by Morphogenesis
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Morphogenesis, literally meaning an organic process by which anything takes a shape, is the name by which this young Delhi team of over 100 professionals led by accomplished, celebrated architects Manit and Sonali Rastogi identifies itself. Having ingrained sustainability in the very DNA of their design process, their products are shaped by a ‘to the basics’ enquiry process defined by S A I L- Sustainability, Affordability, Identity and Livability. Having a highly qualified team that spans multiple disciplines to support their comprehensive endeavours, they also provide platforms for various cross disciplinary exchanges on matters that address issues that either promote or plague the design field and its impact on different living environments today. Having thus positioned themselves as serious contributors to the shape urban development should ideally take in the future, they have been constantly engaged in seeking sustainable solutions to the ills that plague their home city of Delhi. With a portfolio that so far spans India, SAARC countries and South Africa, Morphogenesis is a recipient of over 60 international and national awards and the first Indian practice to win a WAF (World Architecture Festival) award and the Singapore Institute of Architects SIA Getz Award. We take a look at their much celebrated design for Pearl Academy of Fashion in Jaipur which embodies the essence of the sustainable sensibilities and subtle aesthetics that inform their architecture.
The site for the Pearl Academy of Fashion Design being located in an industrial zone on the periphery of hot and dry Jaipur, the task was plainly cut out for the designers – to, literally and figuratively, introduce the cool quotient in the ambient heat and dryness of the setting. Making a wise and effective application of the ancient bank of traditional passive cooling techniques and presenting it in a contemporary aesthetic package proved to be the most rewarding design solution on all parameters.
Sitting on a tight rectangular site in an industrial estate didn’t leave much of a choice in terms of form – this 2,15,000 sq ft of built area had to be a cuboidal box, albeit inward looking, rooms surrounding a courtyard for purposes of passive cooling, day lighting and functional efficiency.
The first surprise springs on you when, while examining the rectangular plan, you observe the introduction of curves in the courtyard, with a suspiciously amateurish intent – well, haven’t we all introduced ‘curves’ in our designs to ‘break the monotony of straight lines’ even at undergraduate level?
But, what these curves translate into in terms of spatial quality is nothing short of magic. In the courtyard of the Pearl Institute of Fashion Design you walk through twisted galis or alleyways and over the bawdis or step wells that are overlooked by jharokhas or balconies and swept by breezes cooled by passing over water.
No, you don’t see sculpted chattris atop the balconies or any of the colourful traditional embellishments inherent to a typical Rajasthani scene, but all the Rajasthani spatial experience is right there if you care to look beyond the obvious contemporary aesthetic.
The entire court is part of the subterranean basement level scooped out from an area covering just some more beyond the periphery of the super structure, consequently lifting the superstructure off the ground on to stilts. This forms a below ground level dish on which the entire building floats, allowing for breeze to blow under it into the courtyard and over the water bodies there to get cooled. The hotter air rises up to escape from the opening to the sky. Sciography studies performed on 3D models were used to base the proportioning of volumes in the court area.
To reduce the heating through peripheral walls, the building is adorned with a double external skin, comprising of an outer layer of jaalis or screens at four feet from the external walls. This traditional technique helps shade the building, reducing penetration of heat while allowing diffused daylight into the rooms. The density of the perforated outer skin has been derived using computational shadow analysis based on orientation of the façades. The chequered arrangement of traditional jaalis over colourful walls creates a refreshing new design aesthetic.
These, along with other passive climate control systems like matkas installed in the flooring, have been used here by the designers from a bank of local traditional knowledge to achieve a green and sustainable design solution to the problem of reducing energy consumption for cooling and day lighting needs. The differential in internal and external temperatures achieved thus in this building is a stunning 20 degrees, which underscores the success of this design.
Spaces like the library and canteen with their respective spill over open areas, the exhibition space and the performance area replete with cat walk ramp and viewing galleries across the water body have been strategically placed in this open courtyard, creating the ideal opportunity for interactions that form the essence of a place of learning.
The subtle, contemporary aesthetic may appear as unembellished or undecorated, especially for the glamourous field the institute belongs to. But, so be it, as a blank canvas for its creative users to bring in the bling and decorate it in their aesthetic in a variety that can change every day.