“The purpose of architecture is to shelter and enhance man’s life on earth and to fulfil its belief in the nobility of his existence” – Eero Saarinen. This is a belief that is strongly etched out in Hamir Smart’s practice. Hamir is an architect, planner and designer, who having completed his Degree in Architecture from Sir J J College of Architecture, did a Masters in Advance Studies in Architecture from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Hamir Smart has extensive experience on a wide variety of projects. Having International exposure, his design experience ranges from Architecture and Urban design to Interior Design. As project architect, he is accustomed to dealing with Institutions, Corporations, and private clients. He has been involved in infrastructure architecture, design and urban planning, approaching architectural projects with an urban fabric in mind. Here he shares one of his projects with Gallopper, which is an auditorium in Kalyan, near Mumbai, for K. C. Gandhi school.
This was his third auditorium design. Interestingly, Hamir shares that the project was referred by the Trustees of their previous theater project for SPRJ, Ghatkopar, the auditorium now known as Aeroplane Theater. It was designed along with his Late father, an actor cum architect, Sharad Smart and sister Nipa Viegas.
The Trustees weren’t very happy with the design initially but once the theater started operating, they realised the importance of spaces and their planning. Infact one of the trustees have referred them for the theater project (which is being featured here) with a pre-condition on the client to do exactly according to the architects suggestions.
The project brief was to design a theater with a capacity of 500 seats and having impressive interiors: a theater which can be used for both performances as well as by the school. Located on the 2nd floor of an existing school building, it had a peculiar shape of an octagonal slab and with large space frame on top with a central height of 40’.
The other constraint was that the octagonal slab was designed with independent external columns on top of an existing school which had a rectangular plan. The independent columns also supported the huge space frame, which wasn’t covered and was kept open to nature for several years. The octagonal slab didn’t have any windows and structure stood incomplete for a very long while.
Besides, the engineer insisted that the auditorium design should be carried out in such a manner that it created one more roof below the space frame and in doing so it would turn out that one of the existing columns ended up in the audience area!
Hamir reflects “This actually made me think why is this happening? Why should the planning be done in such an odd manner?” On research the designers found out that the space frame was designed by another engineer and subsequently repaired. This made Hamir and team rethink of the idea of an auditorium and they went back to the clients proposing a totally new and innovative concept. The clients by now were quite open and agreed.
A large glass wall on one side, which acts like a plane cutting the auditorium in a section, like a sectional perspective and For the opposite wall, they decided to have an opaque back drop, so one can also call it “ a theater within a theater”, as one theater is seen from the Foyer with a huge glass wall while the opposite wall is seen from within the previous theater.
The shape of a glass wall and the wall opposite is a combination of few geometries, which came to life with various sketches of theater and audience seating slope and ceiling acoustic curve. The glass wall also acts as a proscenium wall with a roller curtain, so the whole act of a performance becomes a part of overall experience. When people enter the foyer, they see the auditorium in a section through a glass wall and when the show starts, the roller blind rolls down becoming a like a stage curtains.
The ceiling follows the same concept of section and section lines. The ceiling is divided into various fragments with different sizes of clouds or fragments. The same concept is repeated on side walls of proscenium wall which brings about a dramatic effect to the entire structure.
The foyer which has huge round columns, are emphasised by different colours and lights. The structural steel section is painted with Warli painting details.
Hamir in his signature humour closes with another quote from Eero Saarinen, “Those who work in rabbit time, don’t understand that the practice of architecture has to be measured in elephant time.”