|Name:||SHWO/ Ar. Ismat Hossain. Implementation: Sanin, Masud, Muntasir, Mostasim, Asif, Nayem, Wasik, Sifat, Nabil, Asef, Mesbah, Mubarak, Jahangir.|
|Location:||flat AG1, house 04, road 10, sector 01, Uttara, Dhaka 1230|
As the name suggests, SHWO believes in a multi disciplinary nature of architectural endeavor in which the ‘self’ is under a continual flux with it’s surrounding context. SHWO does not see architecture as a separate act but rather one that is innate to human existence. The interior for the office thus required an arrangement that was contextual and customizable, could be made by hand with easily available or recycled materials and would be resilient but not necessarily everlasting. The key material, cardboard, is one of the most recycled materials, is easily available and has an amazing load bearing capacity. The interior fluting when placed vertically creates scope for transferring large loads. The load bearing capacity is multiplied as the layering of the flutes is increased. The only drawback is that the material is easily susceptible to dampness and loses its properties if wet. Therefore precautions had to be taken so that the exposed edges did not come into direct contact with any kind of moisture. The exposed corners are also vulnerable to daily wear and tear and so metal corner pieces were added to avoid peeling and shedding of layers.
impermanence as opposed to permanence
The ephemeralness of our existence is seldom, if not never, expressed in our contemporary architectural endeavors. The sheer costs of building have been raised, largely by architects themselves, to such astounding levels that one can easily suppose that anything that is built with that amount of financial involvement will last several lifetimes. And yet neither do buildings last forever and nor do they perform through ages with the same intention for which they are made. The transitory character of human life is but an extension of the transient quality prevalent in all natural elements and cycles. This transitoriness is inexplicably related to the act of building, too, especially in deltaic plains like ours where transience is not an act of choice but of exigency. In recent times the unnatural inflation caused by the building industry has had its subsequent pitfall only proving the volatility of its establishment. This depreciation has affected economies worldwide in uncountable ways. Maybe it is time that we, as architects, look for more sensible solutions that offer flexibility and concision as a system rather than promises for perpetuity.
hand-made as opposed to manufactured
A major reason that the building industry has been able to create such unfathomable hold on the financial system is our dependence on pre-fabricated / manufactured / standardized building materials and components. For an economy that abounds in manpower, dependence on standardized components, finishes and fabrications (that are mostly imported) not only seems non-contextual but also leads to the inevitable decline of a rich lineage of craftsmen and skilled labor. In such circumstances a re-attempt at molding and creating with one’s own hand may not be as untimely as it seems.
recyclable as opposed to non recyclable
The premise of using renewable resources and recyclable materials is definitely not new. However the urgency for it has never been greater. To use materials that have minimum impact on the environment, can disintegrate with ease and can be recycled over and over should be a matter of prime concern for today’s designers. Using recyclable materials ensures the efficiency of energy and material cycles while minimizing waste and excess. The challenge of being able to employ everyday materials that are close at hand to meet specified needs is not only intellectually intriguing but is also rewarding at many other levels. The use of site-specific, project oriented waste materials can often yield in interesting design solutions as well.
The above concerns, though mostly pertaining to architectural endeavor, also apply to the entire spectrum of design. While conceptualizing the office design for SHWO the prime concerns were obviously to conceive of a set up that would be extremely low-cost, easily customizable, could be made by hand (to minimize costs further) with easily available or recycled materials and would be resilient but not necessarily everlasting. The design was to be done in stages for the small two-room studio and would initially contain a workstation, a meeting space and also a place for contemplation. All this was to be done in a 140 sq foot area that occupied a portion of the ground floor adjacent to a parking lot. Natural light was poor and the floor was already prone to dampness.
When choosing the material the first two things that came to mind were scrap metal and cardboard. However metal was easily overridden by cardboard as it proved to be extremely viable on many levels.
Besides being much cheaper cardboard is also one of the most recycled materials, is easily available and, if used properly, has an amazing load bearing capacity. The interior fluting when placed vertically creates scope for transferring large loads. The load bearing capacity is multiplied as the layering of the flutes is increased. When several boards are intersected to create a mesh the entire load bearing capacity increases manifold.
A systematic assemblage of boards, organized parallel to the direction of the strains and intersected at regular intervals could prove to be particularly feasible for creating any type of structure. The only catch was that the material is easily susceptible to moisture and loses its load bearing properties if wet. The open edges are also vulnerable to wear and tear and the board deflects if under sudden lateral pressure. Therefore precautions had to be taken so that the design of the individual furniture pieces ensured that the key material could retain its potential qualities even under daily use. To further increase its capacity two boards of 1” thickness each were decided to be glued together to achieve an overall thickness of 2 inches.
Once the material was decided on the focus was turned to the layout and arrangement of the various work spaces that were needed. In doing the layout the existing alcove was chosen for the workstations.
The workstation would seat three persons and needed a tying element to connect the cardboard structural members to the glass top and to each other. Two re-used steel box channels that are available in scrap metal stores and come in 3” by 2” sections, were chosen to bridge across the main cardboard frames.
The frames themselves were designed with necessary lateral supports and stiffeners, all made of cardboard, to enhance the load bearing properties .
The frames were given metal ‘shoes’ or foot caps that would prevent moisture from penetrating the board through the floor.
The front face of the frames in which the fluting is directly exposed was covered with acrylic. A metal corner piece protects the exposed corner and also holds the acrylic in place.The entire workstation fits neatly into the alcove leaving adequate space for circulation.
For the meeting place a low-sitting situation was planned so that it gave opportunity for long, informal discussions that often took place in the office. The low seating also allowed the room to seem larger visually.
The meeting table in the center consists of two main boards that are intersected by three other boards that are parallel to each other.
The main boards have corner pieces that keep in place vertically arranged acrylic sheets that protect the corners and edges.
The glass top protects the top edges that are exposed.
The four seaters are arranged on both sides of the meeting table. The main structure of the seater consists of an intricate mesh of intersecting cardboard planes. The seaters were designed so that a 16”*16” cushion could be inserted into the hollow created in the box frame.
The exposed edges have corner pieces that hold in place the acrylic sheets that are placed along the arms of the seater.
The studio also needed a place of recluse for contemplation. This is difficult in a 140 sq feet room. However as there was already a corner niche it was chosen as an ideal place to have a private space with a seater. The structure of the seater was done with multiple intersections that provided a very strong base .
On the right hand side several additional layers were provided to create an extra space for keeping sketchbooks or pencils or anything else needed at hand.
As the entire top of the seater was exposed it was covered by a sheet of acrylic cut out to form.
A soft but firm cushion was inserted as the main seat.
The seater is spatially ‘partitioned’ off from the rest of the room by a small divider made up of leftover cardboard and some plants. This adds to a sense of privacy within the open floor plan.
After all the cardboard frames were made they were brushed off with a layer of regular adhesive on all surfaces that would be in contact with the floor or walls. This would act as a water repellent. For further protection against dampness the floor of the studio was covered with wooden textured HDF boards that were waste material from a previous site. The cardboard frames were then assembled in place along with the steel foot rests, corner pieces and acrylic cut outs. The glass top of the work station was fixed to the steel beams with stainless steel clamps to ensure safety. Bamboo screens were fixed to the windows to ensure privacy from the adjacent parking lot.