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Making Indian Architecture proud: Navrachana University, Baroda wins First Prize in international competition for redesigning the Guggenheim!

Posted by
on October 09, 2018 at 05:31 PM

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On 25th September 2018, a new milestone was set in the annals of Indian architecture – when a team of architects (teachers and students) from Navrachna University, Baroda was declared the First Prize Winner of a prestigious international competition for redesigning the iconic FLW monument – the Guggenheim Museum in New York!

Prof. Percy Adil Pithawala, Head of Architecture at the School of Environmental Design and Architecture, Navrachana University, along with teaching assistant Dhruv Shah and students - Varun Shah, Meghna Kanungo, Vishesh Narola, and Roshni Shah – clinched the top slot in the Switch International Design Competition – ‘Redesigning the Guggenheim.’

“What if you get a chance to switch FLW’s masterpiece with your own expression of Guggenheim? What if you get a chance to step into the master’s shoes and be able to design an ‘architectural icon’?” thus read the Manifesto of the Switch International Design Competition. Really, what if?! Indeed, a provocative and inexplicably stimulating thought for the creative mind. Thus, the team at Navrachna University took up the challenge.

The manifesto further went on to state that “the aim of the competition is to re-create the iconic museum in NYC by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright at the same exact site but with an entirely new perspective by the participants. The competition offers a chance to re-design the museum created by the master himself, with a similar intent to break from the prevalent conventionality in designing a museum and gallery space and create an innovative and extraordinary built form. The in-situ replacement of the existing museum should be iconic and revolutionary, capable of transforming the urban form of NYC in a similar or a more powerful way. The response should be FLW-like, where he constantly strived to devise new architecture systems that were ahead of his time and were hailed as wonders of the modernist movement.”

Only a completely tangential mode of design thinking could have led the group from Navrachna University to arrive at their ‘concept’ – which went on to bag the first prize! The path-breaking idea took inspiration from Kimberlite pipes (Kimberlite is an igneous rock, occurring in the Earth's crust in vertical structures known as kimberlite pipes, which often contain diamonds!) “We strongly feel the urgent need to conserve art for posterity, in the face of impending catalytic events. Just like the Kimberlite pipe, this proposal is a trench-like void that will hold the diamonds of the art world,” recapitulates the Concept Note of the award-winning proposal.

So, the structure and even the ideological concept of a repository is derived from the kimberlite pipe. ‘Maybe you are searching amongst the branches, for what only appears in the roots’ – a pensive thought, indeed.

The proposal of ‘Guggenheim Repository’ envisages a thriving public plaza space amidst the high-rise high-density layout of Manhattan, New York. A domed plaza encasing the conservatory forms an approach for the building. The rotunda on the central lobby is reminiscent of FLW’s existing museum.

And then the building descends over 300 m in the underground space – sharply contrasting with the NYC’s skyline.

All the primary functional programs of the building including the reception, offices, seminar rooms and permanent exhibition spaces as well as the art galleries are accommodated at various subterranean levels into a 'trench’, going up to 360 m below the surface of the ground. Galleries are connected to each other through a series of bridges that cross at various levels within the pit, further enhancing the experience of the museum.

All the spaces are connected to the main exhibition spaces through lifts and corridors carved out within the trench cavity. From the entrance plaza at ground level, one descends to the very bottom of the pit through high speed elevators, and then commences a reverse journey upward from darkness to light.

In the city of New York, famous for its skyscrapers this inverted subterranean building is indeed a revolutionary theme, and more particularly for a museum – that too, one that is envisaged to replace the iconic Guggenheim!

But that’s not where this success story ends!

The second proposal submitted by the same team - ’The Tall Museum Typology’- was also awarded the honorable mention amongst the top ten entries!

This concept emerged from an intention to allow the softer edge of the adjoining Central Park to flow into the site. Envisaged as an iconic hybrid skyscraper— organic, self-sustainable and flexible in approach - this ‘museum of the future’ is a tower with interconnected, organic blobs (accommodating the art galleries) interspersed within the structural matrix of the tower. The conservatory at the pinnacle provides scenic vantage points overlooking the park, while the public plaza at the promenade level serves as an extension to the park itself.

Once again, TFOD - The Future Of Design applauds the stupendous success of Prof. Percy Pithawala and the talented team from School of Environmental Design and Architecture, Navrachana University, Baroda!

PIcs: 1 - 3: The Guggenheim Museum by Architect Frank Llyod Wright, NYC

Pics: 4 - 9: Development of the concept of 'Guggenheim Respository' - First Prize Winner

Pics: 10 - 12: Concept of 'Tall Building Typology' - Honorable Mention in Top 10 Entries

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