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  • Embracing Digital Technology for Modern Design with Andblack

    In today’s fast-paced world, embracing digital technology for modern design has revolutionized the way we approach design. In this episode of IIDA Summit, we’re thrilled to feature Mr. Jwalant, the founder and principal architect of Andblack Design Studio. His design philosophy is deeply rooted in creating robust processes that inform every stage of design, from concept to detailing. At the heart of Andblack’s approach is a commitment to energy efficiency, intelligent systems, and the smart use of natural materials.

    Design Philosophy and Approach

    Andblack Design Studio, based in Ahmedabad, India, prides itself on a transdisciplinary practice that encompasses architecture, art, furniture, and interior design. Mr. Jwalant emphasizes the importance of continually rethinking and challenging design processes to suit the unique needs of each project. This philosophy is evident in the studio’s diverse portfolio, which spans various scales and complexities.

    Innovative Projects and Challenges

    1. Transportable Gallery Project
      • Concept: This project involved designing a transportable gallery that could be flat-packed and moved to different locations.
      • Challenges: The primary challenge was creating a foundation-less structure using 1mm mild steel plates. The ones which fold to form a robust module.
      • Outcome: The result was a stunning 11-meter dome that serves as both a gallery and a performance space. Thus, demonstrating how technology and traditional craftsmanship can merge to create innovative solutions.
    2. Pre-Primary School
      • Concept: A school with an organic, playful form for children, designed to be constructed within three months.
      • Challenges: Prefabricating components and ensuring they fit together seamlessly on site required precise planning and execution.
      • Outcome: The school features undulating landscapes for play and interactive spaces. Meanwhile showing how prefabrication and rapid construction can meet tight timelines without compromising design quality.
    3. Islamic Geometry-Inspired Art Installation
      • Concept: Distorting traditional Islamic geometric patterns into complex, dynamic forms.
      • Challenges: Integrating advanced CNC technology with traditional carpentry to create intricate, hand-crafted pieces.
      • Outcome: The installation highlighted the studio’s ability to blend digital precision with artisanal skills, resulting in visually striking and culturally rich art pieces.
    4. Leaf Form Installation in Dehradun
      • Concept: A leaf-shaped structure designed to hide an adjacent building, blending seamlessly with the natural surroundings.
      • Challenges: Combining CNC-cut frameworks with handcrafted wooden panels to achieve a natural, organic appearance.
      • Outcome: The project successfully merged high-tech precision with traditional woodworking, creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing installation.
    5. Tree of Life-Inspired Marble Screen
      • Concept: A screen featuring a geometric pattern inspired by the Tree of Life, made from hand-crafted marble pieces.
      • Challenges: Ensuring the handcrafted marble pieces fit perfectly together with a CNC-cut metal structure.
      • Outcome: The completed screen exemplifies the studio’s expertise in integrating traditional inlay work with modern structural techniques.

    The Role of Technology and Craftsmanship

    Throughout these projects, Mr. Jwalant and his team at Andblack Design Studio have demonstrated the power of integrating traditional craftsmanship with modern technology. Whether it’s using CNC machines for precise cutting or relying on the skilled hands of local artisans, the studio consistently finds innovative ways to push the boundaries of design and construction.

    andblack architecture
    Photo Courtesy: andblack design studio

    This evolution is vividly illustrated by the innovative processes I employed in creating a dynamic wing movement mechanism, which underwent 500 iterations simply by tweaking dimensions. Had this been done by hand, it would have taken several months, but with digital tools, it was accomplished in just a month. This significant reduction in time highlights how digital technology accelerates processes that would otherwise be time-consuming and labor-intensive.

    Technology in India: Bridging the Gap

    A recurring question I encounter is about the adoption and acceptance of technology in India. Historically, India has been at the forefront of traditional sciences, but in the realm of modern technology, there seems to be a lag. This hesitancy is often rooted in economic factors rather than a lack of awareness or capability. Modern technology, when first introduced, tends to be expensive. For instance, early mobile phones were exorbitantly priced, similar to the initial costs of modern technological solutions in architecture and design.

    However, it’s not about a lack of readiness to learn. Artisans, fabricators, and carpenters, even those without formal education, have adapted to using sophisticated software like Rhino, thanks to hands-on experience and a willingness to evolve. The real challenge lies in the economics of adopting new technology on a larger scale. Until technology becomes more commonplace, it will remain expensive and perceived as a luxury rather than a necessity.

    The Creative Process: Innovation Over Acceptance

    When it comes to creating art, the focus should be on innovation rather than societal acceptance. Pushing boundaries often invites criticism, but that’s a sign of progress. If everyone accepted a piece of work without question, it probably didn’t push any boundaries. During my studies at the Architectural Association in London, I experienced this firsthand. While working on a GRC panel pavilion in a historic Georgian Square, reactions varied widely. Some appreciated the innovation, while others felt it disrupted the traditional aesthetics. This contrast in reactions is essential; it signifies engagement and prompts dialogue, which is crucial for any artistic or architectural advancement.

    The Role of Software in Complex Design

    In my recent project, the mechanism for the wing movement was initially diagrammed using Katia, a software known for its precision in handling complex geometries. However, it’s essential to understand that software is merely a tool to facilitate the design process. The core of any project lies in the logic and conceptualization behind it. Even with minimal digital intervention, intricate designs can be brought to life through meticulous planning and craftsmanship.

    For instance, while working on projects without extensive digital modeling, we relied on analogous methods, proving that innovation doesn’t solely depend on digital tools. The true essence of design and creation is in the thought process and the ability to adapt and overcome challenges, regardless of the tools at hand.

    Conclusion

    Digital technology has undoubtedly transformed the landscape of design and manufacturing, enabling us to achieve feats that were previously unimaginable. However, the journey from concept to creation still relies heavily on the human element – the creativity, the logic, and the relentless pursuit of perfection. Embracing both traditional methods and modern technology, we can continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible, creating works that not only inspire but also stand the test of time.

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