The unexplored streets & the unconventional facades.


10 August 2016 09:25 AM

Dark clouds enveloped the sky, hanging in mysterious, mischievous ways, possibly carrying the rain as in the Skymet forecast. As a general practice, I keep aside a day every week for coordination meetings on each site. Today one such meeting was scheduled post lunch.

weather in delhi

Morning and through the first part of the afternoon it was solid rain. I didn’t hold much hope of staying dry for the final leg of the day on the site, but it all worked out well. Post lunch, good rains gave a miss to Delhi and my meeting went well.

10 August 2016 06:05 PM

Twenty-one years of my life have been spent in Delhi -I have tasted Delhi in paratha walla gali, seen architectural details on its monuments, felt the Lutyens grandness and lived through its traffic snarls. Delhi around me is evolving & changing. But its streets stand the same.

Evidence of public participation or discussion towards improvements of street layouts has never been witnessed-perhaps layouts are never judged as a possibility for hoodlum activities.Walking away from the ring roads and the cacophony of horns, I enjoy taking detours into these unexplored, unknown streets.

Observing, Absorbing & Exploring the little details; More as an architect than as an exercise freak!

This evening I was free to walk the streets of Shantiniketan, where the Delhi’s affluent class resides.

IMG-20160831-WA0004 (3)

The sidewalks are quite broad and I am a lone soul doing my walking- stopping- admiring- clicking.  And perhaps that is why walking on such streets is an isolated affair, an exposure to danger, I say to myself.

I wonder why can’t we have our streets with cut-outs & cafes where people can safely walk, bicycle, take transit, and mingle?

Why is repairing job of streets & roads limited to filling of potholes or painting of fences by our government?

What I would say is this: When it comes to retrofitting streets & parks our government approvals has allowances for either painting the fences or repairing the boundaries till next rain, nothing beyond. I believe the burden of repair shouldn’t fall on those who want to use this budget the old-fashioned way-but on our planners, who are thinking ahead & thinking safe. wouldn’t  you recommend the same?!

street ideas

How wonderful it will be to have people with dogs and people with cell phones enjoying leisure walks on designed streets with shelters, cafe and benches. Surely, an old lady will rests on a bench while someone else may read a newspaper enjoying the hustle & bustle of street sound and life would go on.

But even in my imagination everything is not idyllic. The patch of green next to the benches– has some dog owner treat it as a bathroom for its pet; shamefaced, I further watch as people seated on benches spit while the coffee shop has its litter overflowing from the bin. My design idea totally distorted with congestion on the roadway and tension on the pavement.

The problems I believe are a result of popularity. Surely- they’re being heavily used.

But the larger picture is this: Things work. We can and we must make it work.

What can be done is this: that we can start by writing to our representatives and be willing to commit for long, because these think take time in our governance.

  The warmed up evening, the swaying of leaves, the waft of humidity, all this together made me wish for some cool breeze. I had come to a round about by now. Houses representing splash of power, money and luxury surrounded me. The majority and most imposing had their own gated space marked by high boundaries, tall trees, secured posts and a splash of green outside.

In these houses here, I could neither catch a fusion of a traditional with a contemporary style nor a modern with a contemporary style or even a reeeaallly classy style!!! Why I say so is because of a wondrous house I saw long back in Bhopal. If Bhopal could have it why not Delhi and this street?

manumanu 2

Designed by my friends and Architect couple in Mumbai  Manu &Jhankar, I remember this house because of the exemplary way team MJDS used stone. The façade and the form- creating the unexpected.

I observed looking around the street that the flashy styles and cookie-cutter designs was also a miss here; rather  one-of-a-kind character and personality was seen on the façades.

woodhouse in shantiniketa

I saw wood in the most adorable charming way been used in this house, that I stood in front of. I was specially enthralled  by the finish, polish and the detailing of the underside of projections.

wood underside

Coherent thoughts evaporated as I thought of the choices that the market provides us for wood now

types of wood 1

  • Natural wood
  • HPL
  • Fibre cement boards
  • WeatherTex

Would you Know more?

I walked to the next. My attention completely taken by this magnificent red.


brick house

I instantly fell in love with these bricks. The play of form, supplemented with texture of brick constructed more than a decade back. My eyes resting a little more than required on the concrete band-

brick house texture

–fascinating it stood-giving richness to brick. And my thoughts wandered to house warming visit done some three years back to my close friends and Architect couple in Noida- Aradhana & Sanjeev.

C-191 Sec 49
In that visit we had discussed the faulty techniques wide spread used by contractors seeking small time profit; about the available hand made bricks in the market which don’t have the edges correct and how brick tile is a better version saving one from the detailing required with the RCC junction. People should either devote a lot of time and research in building a house or trust their architect—after all it’s a major life event and listening to an architect helps.


aradhana 2



I move faster as wall of dark clouds hide the evening sky with little change in humidity. I almost reach the corner where my taxi is parked. But this house with proportionate use of louvers forces me to stop,click and think-

metal house

Yes I zoom-in

metal house zoom in

Use of metal in these window sections fascinated me. Rather- Metal has always!!!

 My mind ran me through an article I had read sometime back- DLF Corporate Park in Delhi the first corporate building in India to use aluminum composite panel (ACP) for the cladding of its façade…and so on.


Architect Amit Goel  from Elite Monolith Makers, in Delhi has experimented with ACP installation techniques and usage in  projects designed by him for years now. Another material he enjoys and experiments with is Steel. Seen on railings, gates and  as screens-catching up widely  due to the CNC cutters thronging the market. Charging by minute basis. This rose gold SS sheet custom design was cut at Rs.90/-per minute.

rose gold SS sheet 1.2mm thick.



Wandering thoughts and tired feet got me to my taxi. Exhausted, I almost fell onto the seat as the driver opened the door. Tired to the bone and knowing that  traffic snarls on a rainy day will make this way long and slow, I close my eyes.

Pictures of facades which have fascinated me in my career as an architect; play!!!  They are my favourites because of the approach.

Like this photo of a storefront, I had seen in my trips to US, always makes me wonder- what material could be used to get the desired effect here?



These kind of unconventional façade takes me down the time lane reminding me of the laborious work done by a team of us for a fabled project in 2008- Noho Square in Fitzrovia,London


Architect Ken Shuttleworth’s agency ‘Make planned to turn the Middlesex Hospital heritage site in Fitzrovia into an array of offices and posh residences. NoHo Square concept crashed and burned long ago, but the design then-was talk of town -Lightweight fully glazed buildings, with their hermetically sealed curtain walls and massive reliance on mechanical systems; representing the days when luxury projects were sprouting like weeds in London neighbourhood’s. Working along with the London team on the GFC drawings gave us the precise understanding of designing facades, fenestrations or rather opening as per the solar movement.

noho square

In 2010 working on my next big project with the same Make Architects |  I  realised that the entire team understanding is much necessary for its success

king abdullah sports centre

and thus started my journey with Middle east projects. 2011-2013 got me to work on the Iconic King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC for short), a project close to my heart. Learnt the hard way that  Zaha Hadid’s practice is at the forefront of using new materials to express the complex geometries they create and how difficult  it is to get her design on paper as well on site.

zaha hadid model

Yes, they are famed for making concrete appear weightless, their columns never perpendicular and their building’s skins are clad in different types of composite fibres.

riyadh kapsarc

For KAPSARC they used Glass Fibre Reinforced Polyester (GFRP) to create an almost seamless flowing exterior. Zillion hours of hard work & teamwork for months along with numerous discussions with ZAHA’s team got us the required GFC and a kick -start of work on site.

Crazy days were they as one would say. An experience engraved forever because of endless visits of site in burka; bestest because of working in a world ruled by men and awesomest because of living- breathing-talking   ZAHA.

Much relaxed now and well seated at the back of the taxi, I think of my friends. What wonders are they creating? I call some,I ping some. I talk about the experience today which was both immersive and refreshing and they all say just one line-hey write about it.

Pen it down?!  and why not I think.


Architect Babika Goel

As an Architect my aim is to bridge the gap between fellow architects  and material suppliers of building construction brands through articles published on this portal every month. There is information blackout among the architects and construction professionals who use the existing and most prevailing brands but aspire for new or better. That is where my month-article comes in. Suppliers related to the topic are invited to introduce their products in the comment section.

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