Green Living

Architecture of the senses

A building is not just a mere structure but a space that effectively addresses the five senses. This is the philosophy espoused by architect Mona Doctor Pingel, of Studio Naqshbandi, Auroville. In an event held recently by INCITE, Pingel made a presentation of her work, exploring at length the eco-friendly methods of design and construction that cater to the senses.

Influenced by writer-philosopher-artist Hugo Kukelhaus who criticised the ‘inhuman’ inclination of modern architecture, Pingel strongly believes in studying the impact of built environment on the health of the occupant and applying this knowledge in the construction of healthy homes and workplaces.

“Starting from location and climate to the materials selected, and the interiors, all add up to prevent the sick building syndrome,” says Pingel.

According to her, a building should bring into perspective all the five senses, thereby giving a three-dimensional angle to the structure. Like the sight of greenery, sound of water, feel of natural stone under the feet, the smell of trees, flowers, and fresh mud, the taste of a charming yet sensitive design, all the five senses need to be addressed by a building, she avers.

Stating that natural materials like brick and stone enrich the senses just as integrating the landscape into the structure does, Pingel pointed that Auroville design sensibilities emphasised on bringing in the five-sense perspective. “A place of unending education, Auroville bridges the past, present and future, offering a design that reflects the integration of many ideas and design sensibilities.”

Natural materials

Her projects reflect these sentiments in abundance, using natural materials like stone, terracotta blocks, bricks, with the copious presence of greenery that is effortlessly fused into the structure. The Temple Tree Retreat using insulated tile roof, hollow terracotta blocks, and cuddapah floor reflects ample play of indigenous plants and shrubs along with a charming water body. The courtyard with its waterbody intermingling with greenery, houses pebbles and rough granite that lends the natural feel to the bare feet. Given the principle that nothing should be wasted or left behind in the construction site, the structure effectively has recycled and used all the waste that arose.

Pingel’s studio, Naqshbandi, incorporates a semi-circular brick vault, is north-south oriented to reduce harsh sunlight, and the flooring is rough cuddapah. Ferro-cement tables and cupboards are housed in this open studio that brings the landscape and waterbody visually into the interiors. A sense of surprise lingers in the manner of design with the landscape view hidden on entry. The exposed bricks, copious play of light and shadow in the interiors accentuate the earthy feel of the structure.

The Cottage Restaurant required designing in a tight space of 320 sq.m and create a built-up area of 600 sq. m. Pingel achieved it by creating an elegant space using exposed concrete, white plastered walls, cuddapah flooring, intermingling these with yellow bamboo and rocks. An existing neem tree was saved by creating a courtyard around it.

Pingel has lately been experimenting with vaastu as she contends that it gives limitless proportions that can be used to scale your structure. “It is very mathematical and is part of our ancient science which indicates it cannot be wrong. We need to go deeper into it and research the details listed to understand its depth,” she says.

Reiterating that architects need to be environmentally responsible in their designs, she insists on following practices of resource efficiency and recycling. “The scale in which cities are growing is not sustainable. Villages need revival through awareness, education and commitment brought into design,” she asserts.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 12:19:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/green-living/architecture-of-the-senses/article7642373.ece

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