A building can incorporate spectacular designs without losing functionality, and software gives many options to architects. A look by Nandhini Sundar

It is quite natural to want that unique façade, standing as a preview to an even more unique interior, setting a residence apart from the run of the mill variety. Opting for bizarre structures such as designs from an abstract inspiration like a spider web, patterned like a sea shell, or reflecting nature’s fury like the eye of a cyclone, are no more just the manifestation of one’s fantasy.

More and more structures are being inspired by abstract concepts or by nature, evolving into spectacular designs that serve as an icon of incredible creativity.

While such creativity can be glorified and talked about, how relevant is the design in terms of functionality, aesthetics, and local sensitivities as well as being timeless in structure?

An office building or a commercial retail space can incorporate spectacular designs bordering on novelty and inspirational depictions. But a residence is a space that needs to be lived in, with the essential elements of warmth, charm and character.

Functionality too reigns supreme when it comes to designing a residence. The design should be one that ages gracefully where the residents can grow with it. A design, however creative or spectacular the concept may be, can serve to be an eyesore if the right blend of warmth and charm is not factored in.

The question then arises: what is a unique design that does not sacrifice these elements, yet packs in an identity that can be stunning and timeless?

Says Dinesh Verma of , ACE Group Architects, “The modern day software throws up myriad options in terms of designs. The trick is to choose that which is timeless and addresses local sensitivities.”

Stating that a unique design need not necessarily be a complicated statement to grab attention, he adds, “Design should be in tune with the context it features. Bringing in plenty of glass can seem a cold option in a residence, given its extensive heat ingress. Yet, opting for a sheer glass wall in a scenic location where it offers an unhindered view of the landscape, can prove to be extremely charming and rejuvenating.”

He cites the case of one his projects in a hilly region where the structure is totally variant to the predominantly sloped colonial architecture that prevails in the area. The residence he designed packs in extensive play of glass, with sheer glass walls and glass ceiling, offering a panoramic view of the valley. The white structure stands out against the green valley in its design, yet packs in warmth and charm, so essential to a residence.

Going local

Reflecting similar views is architect Leena Kumar, Kumar Consultants. “Designing a unique structure need not entail packing in exotic designs or infusing extensive glass and steel. A residence can stand out in a location in terms of design by using local materials, vernacular architecture, by tweaking it appropriately with modern techniques.”

According to her, the manner of depiction of a local material, the design it features is sufficient to come with a unique structure that does not have a short shelf life. “Even if glass is desired to bring in a picturesque landscaping into the interiors, it can be done in a manner that does not afford heat ingress or provides a design that deprives a residence of its charm and warmth.”

The glass could be shaded, fused in with louvers that would control the heat, while offering a spectacular view of the landscape. Similar techniques could be infused into a charming courtyard that packs in a lot of natural and local materials, yet is designed in a unique fashion that packs in its identity as well as uses modern techniques to control the extent of heat and harsh sunlight seeping into the interiors, she contends.

A unique identity can also be brought into a structure by involving extensively local artisans to lend their expertise in depicting artistic representations to the building, where the art displayed could be designed to reflect modern sensitivities, making it a totally exclusive feature, she says.

Natural materials and local sensitivities are vital to come up with a structure that does not age with time, says architect Arun Sandra, Sandra Associates. “Uniqueness of a structure is dependent on the manner of design and locational requirements.”

Function and form

A unique identity can be created with the use of natural materials in a manner where the structure is interactive, yet creates a dramatic effect through its form, he says. “Function and form are very important, and so are proportion, scale and massing to create a structure that has a distinctive identity.”

He further adds that a space should be opened up to bring in warmth, either with a courtyard or double height ceiling where the respective areas of the residence can relate to each other. “Creating a focal point within the interiors and the manner in which a material or concept is used, lends creativity and identity.”