Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Bali Bible for Architects - Alila Uluwatu


The Alila property in Uluwatu is one of the definitive designs in the field of hospitality architecture. Designed by WOHA, the uniqueness of the design evolves from the conceptual gesture of merging all the built interventions into the existing landscape. Thus, spaces seamlessly blend into the surroundings, which are further aided by the luxurious landscaping.

 The sloping topography of the site is resolved into a series of levels around which various spaces are organized. A design language which stresses on the rusticity of materials, especially those on the exterior, contrasts beautifully with the sleek finishes inside. The gradual weathering of the materials, especially the exposed ironwood, further helps it to merge seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.

The public areas are defined by a series of covered flat roofed spaces, which are interspersed with water bodies and greenery, inviting one to move out into the exteriors. Each individual villa is again meticulously planned – arriving at a beautifully minimalist and clean layout, which is made vibrant by bringing in the landscaping to the interiors. A small lush open to sky courtyard defines the head of the bed, creating a feeling of sleeping amidst greenery. The ample day bed in the front further opens out directly into the pristine pool, which extends out to the open cabana on the edge. All of these are then tied together by the luxuriant all prevalent green and beautiful black lava stones

Alila Uluwatu is one property that should be in all architect’s bucket list, to really experience the power of great design and of course, to take back tons of inspiration!

The Bali Bible for Architects!

By Sujith.G.S

Bali is an amazing place – amazing for its breath-taking beauty, amazing for the beautiful people, amazing for its vibrant culture and even more amazing for its sensitive architecture. Here, the traditional and the contemporary co-exist in a uniquely symbiotic, mutually respectful relation. Bali boasts some of the best hospitality spaces in the world – amazing resorts and restaurants, which have been designed by the who’s who of the architectural community.

What is truly fascinating about Bali is that there lies a strong sense of aesthetic and design among the people there, which reflects itself in all the build spaces – right from the traditional homes to the high end resorts and more interestingly, to all the common urban spaces, including even intimate shops, street and furniture. This, combined with the luxuriant all pervasive landscaping renders Bali a paradise for the architect! Bali is definitely a must visit for all architects, for the sheer experience of great design, detailing and also to indulge in some of the most vibrant regional craft traditions anywhere in the world.

The Bali Bible for Architects will be a series of posts on the amazing architecture that I have encountered in Bali, which I hope will be an inspiration for all architects and students.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Architect Peter Stutchbury

– by Sujith.G.S

Based on the presentation Peter gave in Thrissur in February 2, 2015.

Was privileged to attend one of his presentations on his works and ideas, a presentation in which he reinforced the importance of understanding the specifics of each site and designing accordingly, instead of a ‘one size fits all’ strategy that is so prevalent in contemporary architecture today. Quite fittingly, the major part of his presentation was about the uniqueness of each topography, each land formation; put in perspective by the landscapes of his native Australia.

He stressed to reinforce his conviction that the natural systems around us hold the key to the propagation of a truly sustainable, sensible and sensitive way of life and of practicing architecture. He exhorted us, practicing architects and students to go beyond superficial issues and address fundamental questions on architecture – those of mood, of place making, of emotions, of spatial quality, of good detailing, of livability – and of timelessness.

His works were a true reflection of his strong convictions and there is an inherent thread of continuity in terms of ideas, across all his projects, though the spatial manifestation varies according to the idiosyncronacies of the specific site. It was truly an inspiring talk, a call for us to step back and evaluate the direction we are heading – for, as Peter very subtly pointed out – we are dead if we blindly follow the West. What we require is a new direction, born out of our own context, one addressing our unique concerns.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Synopsis for Crossroads 2014 on 'Art in Architecture' by Sujith.G.S


 by Sujith.G.S

CROSSROADS is an initiative by the architectural fraternity of Calicut to create a platform for some genuine architectural deliberations, critical thinking and ideation in the field of architecture and urbanism. The conference, in its first edition addressed the dynamics of the public realm through its theme of ‘Public Architecture‘. It was an attempt to revive the importance of public architecture in establishing the social and cultural equity, by actively involving & participating in building the public realm. The event featured talks by keynote speakers, a walk through the historic core of the city, workshops, exhibitions of public projects, competitions and various other activities, which created a platform for some great interaction and some critical architectural discussions.

The theme of the event this year is ‘Art in Architecture’, where we want to address the relevance and necessity of Art in Architecture. Although entwined in a symbiotic relationship, we find that there exists a dichotomy in the way art and architecture is integrated in our spaces today, with the end result being the highly chaotic interventions in our cultural landscapes.  Our cities and built spaces are filled with numerous examples of arguably irrelevant junk which masquerade as art. Further, the duality of design as a functional response to a programmatic requirement and also to notions / questions on higher metaphors needs to be explored in today’s context. No approach is absolute, yet, we find our spaces increasingly being defined by faux notions & symbols of artistic concepts. There are critical questions that we must ask – how deep is the role of art in architecture? How does art reflect and enhance our cultural construct? How can art inspire architecture in the exposition of a positive spatial and social agenda?

The subcontinent provides some excellent examples of integrating the regional craft traditions into the built environments. Presently, these craft traditions are being eschewed in favour of a globalised vocabulary, borrowing heavily from international imagery and graphical creations, without having the conceptual depth to contextualize the designs and to make it more relevant to the regional context. The pertinent question that we need to ask is if at all it is necessary to incorporate these micro-narratives into our spatiality, and if so, what are the social, economical and psychological implications?

Questions on the relevance of new media and digital templates in the architectural discourse need to be further addressed. How do we embrace this explosion of content and arrive at relevant themes? Today, the evolution of architecture is taken forward by newer economical realities and technological innovations. The tools of the trade are becoming increasingly digitized and the traditions of using the hand are being neglected and the cognitive process of design is being redefined. The directness of the hand drawn sketch in evolving and distilling ideas in the design process is being overlooked in favour of other digital media. Is this a positive evolution or is there a need for moderation?

Considering these multiple levels of enquiries, ‘Art in Architecture’ can evolve multi-directional approaches and positions which can help articulate a meaningful and relevant social perspective. Consequently, at this juncture, we feel it would be appropriate to address these new realities, to start a dialogue, to contemplate and to postulate, so that there is a much better understanding and appreciation of this critical agenda.

Friday, October 31, 2014

'Evolution of Hospitality spaces in an Indian context - Ar.Tony Joseph and Ar.Sujith.G.S

My article in INDIAN ARCHITECT AND BUILDER'S Anniversary Issue, along with Ar.Tony Joseph! Do check it out!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Department of Architecture, College of Engineering, Trivandrum

A couple of awesome talks by Ar.Benninger and Ar.Peter Rich!!  Benninger took us through his works, right from one of his first projects to the recent IIT project that he is doing, explaining his thought process and inspirations. He impressed upon us the need to develop our own architectural language and explained about the evolution of such a language through the chronology of his projects.

Peter Rich's presentation was filled with slides of his drawings and hand renderings, which were truly amazing. What was truly inspiring was that during Benninger's talk, Peter Rich was intently scribbling notes and sketches in his sketchbook, constantly keeping on learning even at this age. One of Peter Rich's strong advice to young architects were to travel across the length and breadth of India and study the vernacular and traditional architecture which the country had to offer. He was of the opinion that this would be the best form of learning for any young architect, learning from history and re-interpreting it in your designs. He further called for architects to become more of activists, standing up and raising their voice for causes that they believed in. All in all, it was a really inspiring talk.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Helipads on top of High rises in India - is there a rationale?

by Sujith.G.S

I was reading through the article regarding the Los Angeles' Mayor's announcement saying that for new buildings it wasn't mandatory to have helipads on top as per fire rescue guidelines, as they limit the city's skyline to flat topped boxes and wondered about the relevance of this rule in an Indian context. The intention behind the Mayor's move was to have a more interesting skyline for Los Angeles, giving architects the freedom to go beyond flat-tops.

Image courtesy  -


The logic behind this particular guideline, which is mandatory as per the National Building Code for buildings above 60m in height, is to have an escape mechanism for helicopter evacuation in case of fires in high-rise buildings. Although altruistic in intention, the practicality of landing a helicopter on top of a burning building needs to be analysed, with several experts felling that this is extremely dangerous. What is interesting is that Los Angeles was one of the few remaining cities in the US were this rule existed. Alternate mechanisms like separate elevators for firefighters, additional staircases etc. could be more effective and practical. 

In an Indian context, as was seen during the recent fire in Mumbai, helicopter evacuation was sought as a last resort to evacuate the trapped firemen. There also, the helicopter did not touch down on top of the building but only lowered the Navy sailor to rescue the trapped firemen. This does lead to question whether such a tactic can be employed instead of having a full fledged helipad on top. There have been plenty of instances where the DGCA has refused permission to land a helicopter on top of these helipads citing safety concerns. If the helipads are seen unsafe by the aviation authorities then why bother having them in the first place?

Image courtesy -

More than any aesthetic consideration, one needs to wonder whether spending such a lot of extra money for the structural design and reinforcement required for erecting a helipad on top of a high-rise building is worth the expenditure if it is not going to be of much practical value. This is especially relevant in high-rise residential developments where this cost accrued to the builder is directly transferred to the resident. We need rules and regulations which work, which are practical and which takes into consideration all the stakeholders and not merely rules which exist on paper for a feel good factor. We must also understand that the value of a life is paramount and should not be compromised at all. It is high time that we rationalize the regulations and take into confidence the building community so that they do not cut corners and come up with inventive solutions to work around ineffective rules. It is thus critical that we revisit these regulations and reframe rules which are really effective and relevant in today’s context. Parallelly, we need to strengthen and better equip our fire services to deal effectively with emergencies in high-rises. The Los Angeles announcement has come at just the right time for us to introspect on our situation and address the existing concerns.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Laurie Baker Center for Habitat Studies by Sujith.G.S

Tha magic of Baker still lingers on. Had been to the Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies in Trivandrum. I feel it is one of his least visited designs as it is slightly away from the city. But the simple beauty of his designs are still so inspiring. Scroll down and explore!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Seriously, what is happening with the monsoons in Kerala? The first week of July is coming to an end and we are still waiting for the first real signs of rain! Sure, there has been intermittent rain, sporadic and in fits and bursts. But what of the consistently heavy downpours that one associates with the monsoon in Kerala?...what of the cozy days spent indoors with a cup of hot coffee and a good read, listening to the incessant chatter of the raindrops on your roof?...what of those school re-opening days when like an accurate clockwork it would start pouring for the first school assembly?...what of those puddles of water on the roads?...alas, they all seem like distant utopian memories. Memories that look destined to be just that – beautiful vignettes stored away in the recess of our minds.

Is all of this related to the innumerable changes in the ecosystems that we human beings are bringing about? Has it got anything to do with that dreaded word – ‘climate change’? If so, how are we as architects contributing to this either directly through our actions or indirectly through our inactions? How is the built environment contributing to these?

All of these are questions that we need to ponder over as yet another day drags to an end without any sign of the rain gods making an entry anytime soon..

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Studio Mumbai - Bijoy Jain interview

Forum Mall, Mangalore

Went to the newly opened Forum Mall in Mangalore recently. Saw this interesting installation in the central atrium made up of hanging colourful umbrellas. Found it pretty interesting.