What do you picture when you hear 'an apartment building'? Maybe a box-shaped building in a residential area with a number of compartments or apartments.
Well, that is the idea Studio Morphogenesis wanted to deconstruct with their project 'The Statesman'.
Located in the capital's Gulshan area, the 3775 m² residential building manages to capture your attention with its unorthodox structure.
The large, rectangular building stretches from east to west. It has a large glass facade all over the north side and a patterned, perforated metal shell on the south side.
It almost looks unreal and as a viewer, you might be questioning the architects - how can such a slender plot accommodate seven apartments and a penthouse? Why did they incorporate such a large glass facade and a metal shell?
We spoke to the architects to find the answers.
The Morph team - Architects Shahla K Kabir, Suvro Sovon Chowdhury, Minhaz Bin Gaffar and Saiqa Iqbal Meghna - shared with us that this was their very first project and from the very beginning they wanted to question the traditional concept of residential spaces which are mostly governed by sale-ability. They wanted to offer a lifestyle, not just a living space.
The project got an Honorable Mention at the ARCASIA Awards for Architecture 2021.
Studio Morphogenesis was born in 2014. As the name suggests, the farm ventures to shape the city's architecture.
The ambitious team expressed, "We wanted to break the stereotypes or the mould. We wanted to give the city something new, whether it is a home, office or commercial structure."
They approached their first project 'The Statesman' with these exact ideas- something innovative that would break boundaries.
One of the lead architects of the project, Shahla K Kabir said, "The client, Eastern Housing Ltd (EHL), had been really open towards any unconventional or innovative design schemes and that allowed us to go outside the box."
"The plot belonged to an ambassador to Saudi Arabia and to give that identity a proper distinction, EHL decided to name the project 'The Statesman'", Minhaz Bin Gaffar said.
The team added that it was a luxury residential space and from the very beginning, EHL made it clear to them.
The target audience was mainly newly married couples or elderly couples. And the seven apartments and one penthouse were completely furnished. They have marble floors throughout the space with travertine walls. The bathrooms are also fully marbled and fitted with the best fittings and fixtures. All bedrooms and kitchens are fully fitted with custom-designed imported cabinets including high-end European appliances. The residents need to merely walk in with their loose furniture and belongings.
How did the architects break 'the mould'?
"We wanted to expose the fact that our local standards for functional planning and material uses are somehow devoid of innovation. We thought of introducing cutting-edge technology in several building components, incorporated with novel functional planning," the team explained.
Rather than a long uneventful wall structure, the team went for asymmetric frames. "We have used perforated aluminium screens where the patterns were created by us with RHINO simulation."
With sliding glass walls inside and aluminium screens on the outer shell, the building incorporates the contrast between clearly defined public spaces and private zones.
This 'extrovert' and 'introvert' zoning creates an illusion of a wider space than the actual area.
The team explained why they did it. "Being set on a corner plot in a residential neighbourhood, we had the scopes to open up the views but we had to ensure the residents' privacy. To solve the problem, we wanted to develop a dialogue between the outdoors and the indoors, using large facades of glass with curtain walls at the north elevation, along the more public zones."
For example, the windows do not have any kind of metal grills, just glass slides.
This may seem too open. But it allows an ample amount of sunlight and ventilation to filter through while the outer metal shell works as a curtain that maintains privacy and cuts off heat.
And also as the east and west facades were slender, this allowed them to have an elongated north facade, ensuring lower heat gain.
With every floor, the outer shell rises in an asymmetric form that has edges and corners. At a first glance, this may seem chaotic but there is a rhythm there too.
These uneven edges and corners obstruct the wind, keeping the structure safe from wind forces.
Seasonal flowering plants and trees with formidable heights are placed along with them and also on the hanging balconies, which create a soothing view for the residents.
Even with the concrete, the team went for RCC (reinforced cement concrete), a system where tie rods for shutters can be avoided.
Suvro Sovon Chowdhury, one of the lead architects of the project, said, "This is mainly laying concrete in layers rather than using large metal shutters with complex joineries."
The inside of the shell
The introvert and the extrovert characteristic of the structure mentioned earlier was incorporated here as well.
The public layer comprises a continuous elongated space holding the dining, living room and lounging area along with the Northern facade.
The private layer incorporates the bedrooms to the south, which are screened from this public zone via an island block containing a storeroom, kitchenette and powder room. The kitchenette connects the public to the private when desired as you can see through it to the private zone. When the residents need more privacy a glass panel can be slid across and full privacy is obtained.
The building has spaces for community gathering, entertainment and common amenities and services as part of the complex.
With a rooftop swimming pool, garden and fitness centres as well as the courtyard and communal lounges on the ground floor, the complex is designed in a way that allows the inhabitants to socialise effortlessly.
"It is always a team effort that makes any project a successful one and in our case, it was our client and our extremely efficient construction team that made it possible for us", Minhaz mentioned.
The team believes that architecture is not just about installing some highly engineered parts, it requires a more psychological involvement, a more intense thought process and a certain delicacy towards the project. And these had been their primary goals while making 'The Statesman'.