How Context Defines Design


“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness” 
Frank Gehry

When it comes to our practice, rooted in Parametric Architecture, context is the jump-off point and the last sign-off before the project is handed over. It’s what drives us – and rightly so! While architecture trends around the world point towards a uniform way of being – for instance, tall glass skyscrapers to denote strength in corporate areas – we believe that context rather than popularity should set the tone. Part of architectural theory that highlights philosophy too, Contextual Architecture refers to the creation of a structure in response to the literal and abstract environment that it is a part of. This comes to light in three ways; Vernacular Architecture, that represents the majority of pre-industrial architecture and uses traditional ways of construction, Regional Architecture, and Critical Regionalism, that seeks to step away from the monotony of International Architecture by merging modern ways of making with the geographic and cultural context. 

Credits: Fallingwater by Encyclopedia Britannica

At Studio Emergence, we specialise in Critical Regionalism to lend personality to our structures. Two key projects comes to mind – The DUNE Project, Dubai and HS Alag, Mumbai. 

In The DUNE Project, the undulations of the sand dunes that dominate Dubai’s landscape served as inspiration for the office design. Here, we used computational design as our start-off point. Our research indicated an increase in hybrid working; hence, conference rooms and central meeting rooms are emphasized upon over individual cabins. The subtle palette has been inspired by the desert tones, while the sinuousness of the dunes has been brought to life through CNC cutting. 

To know more, do visit our Project Page

At the other end of the spectrum in terms of contextual design is the project HS Alag, a residential apartment complex in India. Inspired by the influence of the Art Deco Movement in Mumbai, this building design pays homage to the older buildings in its context. In spite of a being a new addition in the neighbourhood, it merges well with the existing fabric of the city, while also bringing the new age elements with it in terms of design. Its interesting to see how after hundred years, the Art Deco movement still prevails.

Credits: Architectural Digest

The importance of Critical Regionalism can be interpreted through a variety of ways; as a compositional understanding of the ground figure of the project or as an interest in the material and cultural histories of the land, or as an awareness of the technical boundaries of the project. For us, the understanding of material and cultural history is the most intriguing – and challenging! 

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