Beyond Tall Buildings

Sudhir Jambhekar, FAIA, RIBA, LEED AP Senior Partner FXFOWLE Architects

Beyond Tall Buildings
To reach for the sky in an attempt to defy gravity is a universal human ambition. When New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist Sir Edmund Percival Hillary was asked why he chose to tackle Mount Everest, his answer was "Because it is there." It is this spirit in us that pushes us to challenge our boundaries.
Urbanism, density, and sustainability are intertwined global issues. As high-density pillars primarily located in urban settings, tall buildings occupy less land and fundamentally embrace these global issues. Nevertheless, many factors influence the design of a successful tall building. As design professionals, climate, culture, infrastructure, and globalization play an enormous role in the decision-making and design developmental processes. Moreover, a comprehensive infrastructure and public transportation system is essential in order to create a high quality of life for its inhabitants.

The city offers a social environment conducive to living, work and play. Although many models exist for the design of cities, their resulting neighborhoods, and larger urban context, it is critical that the end result provide viable outlets for commerce, social and cultural spaces, several modes of transportation, aesthetic integrity, high quality of life and even idealist philosophy. The city should acknowledge the influences of globalization and massive change. As centers of global commerce, the city symbolizes economic development. Tall buildings represent technological progress and contribute to the iconic city.

Embracing density, and in turn taller buildings, is a key to the success of a city, but equally crucial is the quality of design of its infrastructure and public transportation system. This contributes to a city's sustainability and requires "big picture thinking," so as not to compromise the usefulness and aesthetics of the infrastructure system.

Beyond Tall Buildings
Cities such as New York, London, Hong Kong, and Shanghai act as models for livable urban environments, due in large part to the success of their public transportation infrastructure. These cities offer ample pedestrian opportunities and also all encourage the development of mixed use typologies. With many infrastructure and public transportation projects in planning stages, Dubai has the potential of becoming a livable city. In comparison, the vibrant city of Mumbai had a great population growth. In addition, lack of mixed-use projects compounded with misguided notions of urbanism has resulted in a city that spreads in linear rather than vertical fashion.

The creation of architecture is about improving the built environment. Individual buildings are an important part of that built environment; however, it is equally important to think about infrastructure and public work as a critical component. The typologies benefit from good design and suffer without it— as people experience infrastructure and public buildings first hand every day. Designing the built environment requires a commitment to bigger, linked thinking and environmental concerns without compromising meaning, usefulness, and aesthetics.

As design professionals, we strive to integrate project objectives within broader social and environmental missions, but also must consider how climate, culture, infrastructure and globalization all intertwine to influence the decision-making process. These four distinct areas of consideration impact how architects and planners serve their clients, the manner in which they integrate their designs into the built environment and how their projects are eventually realized – whether in the United States, India, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere.

Beyond Tall Buildings
Image Credit: Mixed-Use Tower, Mumbai, India
With offices in New York, Washington DC, and Dubai, FXFOWLE has a very diverse practice with projects of all types around the world. Design excellence, urbanism, density, social concerns, and sustainability are common principals that drive all our work. I am currently working in the international markets, such as Japan, China, India, and the Middle East on a number of projects dealings with issues of climate, culture and globalization. I believe that cities with good infrastructure/public transportation will, in the long term, be sustainable, create good living environments, and that as professionals, we should take great interest in the design of the infrastructure/ transportation work as a critical component of the built environment.

One may wonder what these four rather different issues have in common and what their effect is on each other. I will first clarify how each issue informs the design process, and then, using examples from FXFOWLE's portfolio, demonstrate how they intersect to create a cohesive, holistic product.

Climate -Climatic conditions continue to influence how we live and design. In fact, it is one of the key factors in defining many aspects of our culture. Additionally, human activities in one part of the world affect climatic conditions in other regions. On this broad level, it is a global issue. For example, designing a building in either Mumbai or New York requires a very specific response to the climatic conditions of either region. As architects, we must make every effort to respond to these conditions, which can influence a design and the design process, but also make every effort to be environmentally responsible and minimize the impact of our design on the built environment.

Culture - In the past, cultural differences were far more obvious. Today these differences seem narrower as our lifestyles have become similar and more globally recognized. The places where in we work and live have similar programmatic requirements across cultures, and yet, during the architectural design process of residences, schools, and museums, our differences become more apparent.

Infrastructure – The modes of transportation and communication that bind us together are much more universal than in the past; furthering globalization and making us behave in a similar manner with similar expectations. This in turn also informs our design process.

Globalization – Globalization has brought all cultures and societies closer together. Improved transportation enables us to travel around the globe in less than 24 hours. The Information Technology industry has made communication instantaneous, and information that is available to you and me is equally accessible by someone in a remote part of India or Africa. Some have referred to this as the "flattening of the world."

FXFOWLE Architects has a very diverse practice with offices in New York, Dubai and Washington, D.C. Common values that drive the passion for all the partners are design excellence, urbanism, density, social concerns, and sustainability. Our design approach is based on vision, ideas and bigger-linked thinking, project understanding and client needs, and site specific solutions. Finally, our design process is based on exploration, collaboration, and integration. I am currently working in the international markets of Japan, China, India, and Middle East including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. Today, I would like to share a few FXFOWLE projects from India and the Middle East and show how we deal with the issue of Beyond Buildings: Climate, Culture, Infrastructure and Globalization.

Greater Noida Housing

Beyond Tall Buildings
Beyond Tall Buildings

Beyond Tall Buildings
Greater Noida Housing is a 400,000¬square meter residential complex in the planned city of Greater Noida. Located 48 kilometers from Delhi in Northern India and near a major regional rail system, the complex will provide 1,700 units of housing – from studios to five bedrooms – for a growing Indian middle class. The project's 22 residential buildings are clustered across the site with varying heights. The taller structures ranging from 25 to 45 stories, are located along the northern edge of the site, while the smaller buildings, ranging from five to 15 stories are layered to the south. The varying building heights and lengths create a vibrant, urban rhythm to the site development. The buildings are interplay between solid and voids, rectilinear volumes stacked, shifted, and stacked again. Residential units are interspersed with cultural and amenity space that seem to float above the rolling site. The architecture is created using a modular system of residential unit types supported by concrete sheer walls and flat slabs.
Beyond Tall Buildings
This structural system allows for column-free living spaces and dual exposures. Clad in terra cotta, the walls respond to the color and texture of the environment. The lifestyle of the community will be informed by the landscape and architectural design, which will include elements such as balconies, verandas, outdoor seating, domestic gardens, and gateways, encouraging social interaction and an appreciation for the non-urban environment. A majority of the project's take advantage of the sun and cool winds. Solar and wind orientation was carefully considered so the taller structures placed along the northwest boundary of the site permit air and light to reach the lower structures. The buildings widths are narrow, further maximizing natural ventilation, daylighting, and views. Additional sustainability initiatives include harvesting rainwater and a blackwater treatment facility to serve the irrigation needs of the residential units and the entire site in response to the shortage of potable water in India.

Mixed-Use Tower Mumbai

Beyond Tall Buildings
Beyond Tall Buildings

FXFOWLE won a design competition for a new 301 meter mixed-use tower located in India's South Mumbai coastal area fondly referred to as the Queens Necklace. The design centers on creating a premier international hotel, retail and residential tower within India's emerging new economy. The tower's rotated form emerges in response to the 1.2-hectare site, the building's functional requirements and its mixed-use program that changes with each rotation of the tower. This circulation pattern separates retail, a custom-designed residential-style, world-class hotel and serviced apartments and long-lease and duplex penthouse condominium apartments within a sustainable network of green roofs and hanging gardens to create a singular, landmark building with panoramic views of South Mumbai and the Arabian Sea. The design concept for the tower was informed by Mumbai's climate, the site, and the desire to create distinctive indoor and outdoor

Beyond Tall Buildings

spaces with optimum views, inspirational settings and personalized contemporary accommodations for all users. Although the project will not be realized, it is designed to have the least possible impact on the environment by integrating current innovative sustainable systems and technologies throughout the building - solar shading, natural ventilation, daylighting, rainwater harvesting, green interior finishes and materials – to make it one of the greenest skyscrapers in India.
Beyond Tall Buildings
Sudhir Jambhekar, FAIA, RIBA, LEED AP, is a Senior Partner at FXFOWLE Architects, an architectural, interior design, planning, and sustainability firm with offices in New York, Washington DC, and Dubai. He is also the Design Principal in FXFOWLE's International Studio and oversees all of the firm's infrastructure/transportation work. Sudhir is an architect and urban designer with over 40 years of experience on a wide variety of project types and scales. He is currently working on several mixed-use buildings, infrastructure, planning and urban design projects in the U.A.E., India, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Asia, and the United States. His projects have won many major national and international design awards from prestigious publications and organizations, including Architectural Review/MIPIM; Architectural Review/Cityscape Dubai; American Institute of Architects/New York Chapter; Middle East Architect magazine; American Institute of Architects/New Jersey Chapter; American Institute of Architects/New York State; the Society of American Registered Architects; the City of New York and the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Boston Society of Architects, among others. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Bombay and a Master of Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University in New York City. Sudhir is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Fellow of the Institute of Urban Design, a member of The Royal Institute of British Architects and the Society of American Registered Architects, and LEED Accredited Professional of the U.S. Green Building Council.
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