The global imprint is fast-changing India’s urban landscape. The evolution in tastes and preferences among buyers has upped the ante not only for the design professionals but the developers as well. Mumbai based Omkar Realtors & Developers organized a discussion in London along with its global knowledge partners to talk about its project Omkar 1973 and the various aspects of designing with reference to India. Below are the excerpts.
Working in tandem with international firms
Amar Tendulkar, Head- Architecture & Design, Omkar explained, “The project is a super tall structure with height beyond 300m and is the first of its kind ever attempted in India. Thus, the project required best-in-class consultants who could deliver international standards of structural engineering, services & safety as well as luxury aesthetics in keeping with the essence of the project.”
Nigel Dancey, Senior Partner, Foster + Partners, British architectural firm added, “It is not about working in isolation. In fact our firm has a lot of Indian architects working on the project. Also, I don’t think architects produce very good buildings on their own. The more engaged the client is more dialogue happens to come to grips with difficult problems and trying to find creative solutions along the way, thereby producing a genuinely best architecture.”
Susan Harmsworth, Founder & CEO ESPA, UK based Spa consultancy agreed, “From an educational point of view, the whole staffing of the project would be Indian while, we bring in our expertise that would help merge the two cultures thus, each learning from the other in the process.”
Mike Cook, Chairman Buro Happold, headquartered in UK added, “Buro Happold has an office in India run by Regional Director Anil Hira, with about 70 India-born engineers working on various projects. So we think of ourselves as an Indian engineering firm as well.”
Catering to the Indian design sensibilities
Commenting on the Indian character of the project, Nigel said, “Understanding the Indian home, the climate and the concept of designing around the courtyard has been the catalyst with the planning. This has resulted in a unique model of inside-outside living experience with each apartment having external terraces maximizing the views.” In addition, the developers have also involved a highly knowledgeable Vasthu consultant, MVM Rao on this project who gave his inputs on the apartments, location of the various elements in the apartments and even the services, generator rooms etc. as per the Vasthu.
Resolving Structural and Safety Challenges
Mike does not consider constructing a super tall building in Mumbai a challenge as opposed to Abu Dhabi or in England because the city with its own construction capabilities has learnt very fast to become very competent of doing tall structures.
As per Nigel, a lot of testing with the wind tunnel was carried out to understand the air movements around the tower. As one goes higher, the screens have been designed to protect the people on the terraces from the wind pressures. This involved complex engineering to make sure that people be comfortable and safe when they are using the terraces.
Amar added, “The comfort-condition reports from our wind tunnel partners, Canadian wind engineering firm RWDI has helped in determining the final comfort zones and height of the railings from the wind-safety point of view. We have got varying heights of the railings by dividing towers in three zones, low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise.”
Mike explained, “The wind has an effect as it goes between the buildings, like reeds in the river, oscillating. We have to consider high winds, not just for the safety of people on terraces but also for the building itself for which wind movements and accelerations have to be minimized. It’s extremely important in residential buildings to allow very minimal amount of wind movement so that people don’t sense it. The natural frequency of the building is kept different from the natural frequency that the winds so as to make sure you don’t match where the energy is and how the building responds.”
Creating customizable interiors for Indian living
Explaining the interior design Nathank Hutchins, Partner at HBA, UK interior design firm added, “Taking forward the concept of Foster and Partner – the inside-outside living experience, we have added another layer by mixing the interiors with the outdoor space and enbellishing them. While, a lot of homes in Mumbai have a big step on to the terrace, in this project we have brought the terraces up to the same level as the interior floor level of the apartment, so that it flows seamlessly.”
According to him, the introduction of puja room, orientation of the rooms, placing of suite bathrooms as well as looking at how families live with formal as well as more casual areas are some of the eastern elements of the interiors customized for Indian living. Though the designers did the space planning for all of the apartments, a bit of flexibility in the layout is maintained to adjust the room arrangement. “We’ve also done a series of ten different design schemes that will appeal to different families to help customize their own interiors space. One of the great things is the variety of unit types and design styles that have been presented to the buyer, giving an opportunity to take one of the readily available options without the need of breaking and remodelling.” added Nathan.
The innovative lighting and its application
Peter Fordham Director, DHA, the lighting design firm in London said, “The root of our company is in the theatre. The founder, David Horsy experienced in theatrical lighting approaches the same way for lighting design in architectural projects. We take or add a creative element, whether it’s a tall tower project or a small suite in a hotel and create an exciting environment. In Omkar 1973, DHA will design all the common spaces, exterior and landscape lighting. The architectural lighting is LED that gives a good quality warm white light, closely matching the quality and warmth of an incandescent source. For apartments, we have worked with HBA on the show flat to suggest the lighting for the apartments. A lot of spaces in residences lend themselves for decorative lighting like the chandelier, the wall sconce or the small table light which can make that space much more intimate than a series of architectural down-lights or coffer lighting. It also combines easy-to-use lighting control system where the end user can adjust the lighting scenes as per their individual preference. So, a potential client will be able to see what they could do in terms of the lighting and the lighting control, saving energy as well in the process.”
Reflecting Indian culture in Spa design
Susan clarified, “In the hotel spas in other countries and even Indian cities like Udaipur, Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi, the well travelled high end Indian client wants a mix of Ayurvedic and international treatments. By combining our strength of education in anatomy and physiology and skill of Indian therapists we will bring in the Indian cultural experience. Other influences include separation of male and female areas and providing of communal areas for social interaction. An interesting trend noted at Global Spa and Wellness Summit in New Delhi was that spas were considered places for social and business networking. Women in particular of all ages and demographics are using spas to meet their friends or spend time with the families. In this project, we have got hot pools at 40 degrees to offer a place to chat or unwind at the end of the day. Meditative spaces are very much part of the spas in Omkar 1973. Also, relaxation areas and sleep pods within the project will offer residents meditation and relaxation.”
The value addition of global knowledge partners
Amar conclude & the discussion by saying, “For a specialized project, there is no scope for trial and error. To make a project successful, it is essential to engage the right people. The consultants like Foster + Partners, HBA, SDA, DHA and ESPA have experience in delivering this kind of project. This enables smooth functioning and timely delivery of drawings for the construction team. In terms of construction, with Buro Happold having delivered at least 70-80 buildings going beyond 300m, they know the right technology required to deliver such building.”
Like a diamond identifiable by its unique number, the project is named 1973, which is the latitude 19 and longitude 73N – a unique aspect of its location. Located in Worli, Mumbai, it includes luxury sky bunglows and a bouquet of amenities. The highlight of the project is the three circular towers more than 300m high with maximized views forward and backwards from the buildings. Within a square plane sits a square court in the centre, cleaverly turned at 45 degrees angle, so that instead of having a lot of overlooking between the buildings, residents focus forward and backward. Of about 50-odd number of facilities being designed within the project, net cricket has been proposed, cricket being the spirit of India. Alongside will be sports facilities like tennis courts, badminton courts, squash court, adventure sports like rock climbing, 550m long jogging track and two swimming pools each with lap length of about 35m. There will also be a sky walk regenerating spa and gymnasium.