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ITC’s Gardenia weaves in art, architecture and the urban language
Economic Times - 17 Dec 2009

Could a building in a tight space provide a solid transparency at the entrance and yet make you think it melts into the sky? The most talked about architectural construct in 2009 has been ITC’s Gardenia in Bangalore. In its appropriation both of Mies van der Rohe’s exquisite transparency and the corporate rationalism of `responsible luxury’ the hotel creates a language that is novel.

Created by the same architect who wove together the idea of green buildings with ITC Green at Gurgaon in Delhi, Gardenia unravels as a serene composition that weaves art, architecture and the city of Bangalore into an aesthetic experience.

Interestingly architect Rajinder Kumar the Corbusier of hotels in India is anything but a doctrinaire designer or a dogmatic personality. His hotels, ITC Kakatiya Hyderabad, Leela Kempinski Mumbai, and Taj Luknow have all stood as statements in a period of time.

His houses, parks (Nehru Park) and other buildings (Asian Development Bank in Delhi) have over the years been executed in a relatively broad stylistic range, reflecting his subtle hand mooring tradition with an eye for modernity: a candid yet cautious curiosity.

However, both in terms of context and place and the diverse tastes of his clients he is one of those students of Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture who believes that the drawing on the board must leap at you.

Indeed, the elegant restraint of the building reflects an ultra-modern suit at every turn. The entrance has a crisp and clean blast-resistant glass façade, which is reflective and open yet functions as a sophisticated shield against the climate as well as invites the outside in.

What ensues is a luxurious but restrained lining. The building’s form, with “shoulders” to either side of a raised central section, allows the creation of multiple balconies; with, glazed shafts bringing light into the heart of the various floors, with glimpses of vegetation and greenery in the Patrick Blanc vertical gardens.

Rajinder Kumar’s talent is to take an empty space, extract a city’s historic essence to create something new and aesthetically urban. “Design over the years has changed in form and function,” he says.” It has been absorbed by everyday culture.

And we have to keep those constants in mind.” He has always been more interested in forms that have already become part of our culture.

Tall glass walls spell ultra modern chic: it appears transparent when viewed from in front but, as you move around, the verticals seem to meld into a continuous surface, as if the site were bounded by a solid wall. It is simply the precision of glass and the minimalist rendition of forms, though, that makes this structure significant and marks it as a turning point for ITC’s corporate philosophy of `sustaining design and responsible luxury’.

“This is the way in which we construe this concept of sustainability in our plan, in our services and in every little detail of what we do,” says Nakul Anand, chief of ITC Hotels.

“I think the best example of this commitment is in how we take responsibility for the impact of our activities on the environment, no matter how big or small. Also, it’s about shouldering this responsibility and making an effort to find a common rhythm between man and nature.”

Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Gardens

Forget art, forget textured walls-the idea of reflecting upon a vertical wall of plants in different hues of green is an idea that seems soothing to the eye and mind in an age of image overload. Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens that run through the entire wall of the hotel become a statement in the marriage of science and art.

This wall is Darwin’s delight-and the Mur vegetal introduces the best example of saving space and creating a wall that befits sustainability.

Botanist, Patrick Blanc the French genius took his lessons from rainforests. He focused his attention on the ability and adaptability of plants that vie for sunlight in the rainforests. Once the needs of water and soil are looked after they exist in happiness. Blanc used this to create his thriving gardens.

The 1500 species of Philodendrons were brought from the Nilgiris.Looking at it from the Gardenia’s coffee shop it looks like a varietals garden which inspires surreal insights. Gardenia becomes the pilot of projecting a national image of sophistication and cultural engagement, and integration into local context, at the same time ensuring the protection of those who work within and around it.

Working in concrete, cement, wood and glass, Rajinder creates a crisp, colourful ensemble that celebrates the hotel’s new public role while solidly marking its past.

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