A building is more than concrete and steel. Architect Fahed Majeed uses the elements to inspiring effect

It is rarely that the term ‘expression of truth’ comes up in the context of architecture, while talking about a construction. But that is how Kochi-based architect Fahed Majeed would like to describe his work for an office space on Deshabhimani Road.

From the outside the building is austere, the less is more principle is at work. It is sparse even – no plaster, no glass or aluminium, no plastered effects – bare. “Concrete as concrete, bricks as bricks, steel as steel…I have expressed the material as it is,” says Fahed as he introduces aspects of the building which is getting ready. What guided him in the direction, aside from his inclination, was his client Rajeev K. Jayapal who was “open and wanted something that was clear and natural.” The building will be the corporate office of Rajeev’s firm Amicus Communications. “The building had to stand out but the aesthetics had to be within the framework of government guidelines,” Rajeev says. Fahed, whose architecture firm is Fahed + Architects, is one of the few charter members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) from Kerala. Not only has designed and built commercial spaces, residences and resorts in India but also in West Asia. The RIBA title makes working outside the country easy, he says, where firms from Europe and Singapore vie for projects.

He worked with a few architecture firms, in Kerala and Bangalore, before setting up his firm. Among his projects is the Deli at the Gateway Hotel (Kochi) which got him the Indian Institute of Architects, Golden Leaf Award for design. March 2013 found his firm being placed among the top 50 emerging architecture practices in India by the publication Architect and Interiors publication.

His furniture boutique MOD received the commendation award from Indian Institute of Architects and got the second place from the Indian Institute of Interior Designers.

Architecture was never part of Fahed’s scheme of things. Belonging to a family of doctors ensured that, until serendipity intervened and took him to the Bangalore Institute of Technology. He deferred his Master’s in Urban Design at the University College of London (Bartlett) and did not continue because he was unhappy with the college. He, however, got a scholarship to be part of world-renowned architect Glenn Mercutt’s Master Class in 2011.

Rajeev’s brief gave Fahed the space and freedom for expression. A workspace that ordinarily would have been box-like, fed on artificial light and air-conditioning instead is open with plenty of natural light and ventilation. With provision for air-conditioning and artificial light if the need arises. The power will be generated from 20 kilowatt solar panels which do not depend on batteries instead are fed on line, making the building sustainable and self-sufficient.

Two floors of the building will be used by Rajeev as office space. One has full length wooden shutters, the other has huge glass windows (two walls) - both can be opened to let in air and light. Almost a resort, “a relaxing workspace.”

Fahed worked on two principles which can be applied to the tropics. “Massive overhangs so that you don’t get too much light and make the building linear for ventilation.”

He made it a point to use labour-intensive material in order to provide employment, “usually material cost comes up to two-thirds and labour the remaining one-third. I have tried to reverse it.”

His brand of architecture, which seems to draw from rationale, climate and orientation, combined with a social and eco-conscience might contribute to the city’s changing aesthetic.

More In: Metroplus | Features | Kochi