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Vijaywada Garden Estate by Penda: Modularity Rescues Individuality

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on October 13, 2015 at 03:22 PM

Much has been written, said, imagined and mulled over, and an exclusive few actualised too, in the realm of vertical gardens, green skyscrapers and gardens in the sky. The growing scarcity of ground area to fulfil the essential need of open greens in human settlements has driven this thought forward, nay upward. But, far from being a replicable idea, which it would have to be in order to see major transformations in urban landscapes, it has actually been executed in only an exclusive few projects, Penda, the cross continental firm based in Beijing and Vienna co-headed by Chris Precht, may just have hit upon the key to easily execute and replicate the concept, in their new high rise residential proposal. And, the ground for this potentially trendsetting concept is located in the Indian city of Vijaywada. 

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Commissioned by an Indian developer to design a high rise on a corner site in Vijayawada, Penda were briefed to craft homes that owners could tailor to suit their individual needs and tastes. This automatically translated as providing a general framework of a building wherein a choice of options was available at the individual home level. Each home was to be able to have an individual identity in the vertical cluster.

Having this base, Penda also incorporated concerns about the need for privacy, greenery and fenestration to combat extreme climate. Every factor that would give design cues for an independent ground floor house was included in the brief for each home in this skyscraper. 

Penda had recently designed a gridded shelving system for their clients the Home Café in Tianjin, China, where a framework of steel bars offers the owner a choice of options in plugging in modular shelves and cabinets as and when required. By extrapolating this concept on to the scale of apartment buildings, Penda has proposed a similar concept of modular plug-ins to create individuality in the uniform framework of apartment typology.

Marrying this idea with that of a green facade made it even more interesting, where in the designers have proposed a uniform core to the building with a framework for the facade into which modular planter units could be inserted according to each home owners tastes and needs. The result is a non uniform but green facade, with varying planter units across it put in place according to the home owners’ liking, chosen from a palette of options offered to them in the brochure.

These facade planters, depending on their size, location and type of plants, will take care of a range of factors like privacy from other buildings, screening between neighbouring apartments, the kind of aesthetics that only greenery can provide, weather shading from the elements as well as customising homes to cater to needs of individuality and identity. The vines and creepers from these green pockets in the facade, it is imagined, will grow over the years to spread all over the pure white surface, translating into a vertical garden.

The use of mass produced, prefabricated units to cater to needs of individualisation is, no doubt, a rewarding match. “In an age of mass-production and a certain conformism in the building industry, we try to use modern construction techniques to bring back a level of individualism and flexibility for the inhabitants of a high-rise.” Says Penda co-founder Chris Precht.

The idea of a breathing tower, greenery on skyscraper walls sounds really cool and kudos to Penda for their path breaking concepts. But, as a long weathered resident of the Indian urban scene, my mind does give way to cynicism on looking past this conceptual stage. Not only is it difficult to imagine white walls under this vertical garden after a relentless onslaught of dust, water, grime and moss ten years down the line, there are greater fears. To begin with, we live in cities where the municipal corporation is forced to disallow potted plants inside homes battling against diseases like Dengue. We are a population still grappling with problems of basic plumbing, water proofing and seepage in the towers that we live in. Are we ready,  then, to replicate such path breaking ideas, or will this concept, too, be exclusively limited to this one project? Anyway, we wish Penda and Pooja Crafted Homes all success witht their venture. The construction on Vijaywada Garden Estate starts in 2016.

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