I recently had the occasion to return to Kolkata for a milestone event. Back in 2006, there was a seed of an idea to introduce steel-framed housing to India. We commissioned an international architecture competition under the livingSteel banner.
An all-star line-up of judges was invited to decide the best submission from a worldwide pool of applicants. The jury included Glenn Murcutt, Charles Correa, Jaime Lerner, James Berry, Andrew Ogorzalek, and Nicholas de Monchaux. If you know architecture, design, construction, and urban living, you will know these are serious people who know what they’re doing.
The jury selected a design from Piercy Conner Architects (now Piercy & Company). Speaking as Chairman on behalf of the Jury, Mr Murcutt said ‘the jury was struck by the simplicity and lightness of the scheme proposed…(and)…specifically were attracted to the strong concept of ventilation across every space…(and)…the potential for the plan to provide open and closed zones within apartments was also striking.’
Sometimes construction projects take a long time to come to fruition. And this was the case for the winning design named ‘Restello’ by the developer Bengal Shrachi. But when you are looking to reinvent housing construction and introduce new technology, it’s best to take time to make sure it’s right.
Which brings me back to why I went back to Kolkata. I went to participate in the inauguration of the Restello building. Consisting of 12 high-end apartments with a steel framed structure, composite steel/concrete decking, light gauge steel interior framing and an exterior second skin of perforated steel, Restello is a custom designed residence unique not only to India, but to the world.
My return to India for the ceremony provided me a chance to see the building that grew out of that original concept design. As I toured the building, the thing that stuck in my mind was the ventilation space and open/closed zones as identified by the competition jury. There is a sense of openness, yet with the perforated steel second façade, there is also a sense of privacy from the bustling street outside. The façade provides privacy, a thermal break to reduce interior temperatures, and provides a space for people to sit outside on the terrace.
I look forward to reading your opinions on how steel contributes to sustainable housing.