Biomimicry marries art and engineering in Hive by Openideas Architects in India

Hive is a sustainable family home in Surat, Gujarat, that draws inspiration from honeycombs and carbon crystals, while its changing façade follows diurnal pattern.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Jun 30, 2020

Hive is an intelligent, adaptable and modern family home designed by Openideas Architects in the city of Surat in Gujarat, India. The form of the house was conceptualised based on the profession of the client who is part of a successful company engaged in making machines for the diamond industry.

Located in Vesu, an upcoming locality in Surat, the site overlooks the city. The modulating, ever-changing mechanical façade of the house, designed in synchronisation with the conceptual form of the ‘honeycomb’ or ‘carbon crystals’ is the most striking feature of the project. Biomimicry in architecture has been widely talked about but can rarely be seen in projects in India. Adaptation of the organic form along with technology brings dynamism to everyday life in this house built by Ahmedabad-based firm.

The changing biomimicry façade inspired by a honeycomb structure | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
The changing biomimicry façade inspired by a honeycomb structure Image Credit: Fabien Charuau

Openideas Architects is led by principal architects Monarch Champaneri, Nilesh Gajera and Niralee Champaneri. Here, STIR speaks with the team to understand the process, design development, construction, and the final output of the Hive house.

Meghna Mehta (MM): Can you tell us what was the architectural design brief given by the client?

Monarch Champaneri (MC): The client was well-informed about architecture and given his core competency in mechanical engineering, was very clear about what he wanted as a ‘home’ - a smart structure rendered in metal and a ‘mono-space’ living area. Along with those primary thoughts, the client communicated an almost 90-point brief with inputs connected to diverse points — structure, landscape, planning, materials, sustainability, insulation, HVAC and plumbing, along with entire year’s sun path study.

  • Internal staircase in the house | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
    Internal staircase in the house Image Credit: Courtesy of Openideas Architects
  • The interiors in the living area of Hive | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
    The interiors in the living area of Hive Image Credit: Fabien Charuau

MM: It must have been a delight to have a client with an understanding like this.

MC: Yes, absolutely! The client viewed this building like a product or machinery he deals with, which is why he insisted on ‘manufacturing’ it flawlessly. He wanted something unique in every detail, which put a lot of pressure on the design team to deliver, and not fail their expectations. Therefore, all the ideas that went into its making were backed by intensive research and prototyping.

For us, the speciality of this project lied in a client who was open-minded and intrepid, ready to experiment with ideas and who did not have many precedents. – Openideas Architects
Modulating façade design | Hive| Openideas Architects| STIRworld
Modulating façade design Image Credit: Courtesy of Openideas Architects

MM: What are the significant or unique features of this project?

Nilesh Gajera (NG): The impact we wished to create was attempted, undoubtedly, by the solar sensor-based façade, which lies at an exciting intersection of art and engineering. Its geometry is inspired by the hexagonal structural patterns found in nature such as those of honeycombs and carbon crystals — giving the project its name, ‘Hive’. Analysed as per the structure, function and mechanism, its design is based on structural strength, transformability and biomimicry. The unique opening mechanism of the façade positions are derivatives of quality of light exposure and thermal comfort levels inside the house. Experientially, the modules create striking sciagraphy by casting patterns that change with the diurnal rhythm of the sun.

Accessible rooftop designed by Openideas Architects | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
Accessible rooftop designed by Openideas Architects Image Credit: Courtesy of Openideas Architects

MM: Can you explain a bit about how the flow of spaces was planned for this house?

NG: The programme and functions of the spaces were conceived as an open and fluid organisation, both in plan and volume. Devoid of any partition walls, the spaces on the ground floor have a sensorial segregation of public, private and semi-private zones through modulations in the outer envelope along with a bespoke sculptural entrance vestibule. The upper level, accessed via a sculptural staircase, accommodates two bedrooms. The connection to the greens remains steadfast owing to the presence of a small garden attached to each bedroom.

  • Ground floor plan of Hive | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
    Ground floor plan of Hive Image Credit: Courtesy of Openideas Architects
  • The light filtering into the spaces | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
    The light filtering into the spaces Image Credit: Fabien Charuau
The project has given us the confidence to think differently, think big — as well as engage in extensive research and detailing to give form to the dreams harboured during the designing phase. – Openideas Architects
Variations in the way light enters through various façades | Hive| Openideas Architects| STIRworld
Variations in the way light enters through various façades Image Credit: Courtesy of Panchkon India

MM: How did the overall architectural expression come together?

Niralee Champaneri (NC): With the prevailing presence of metal, the concepts of long span, light weight, a complex form and fast construction came on board, with the form itself being moulded by an in-depth analysis of external temperature, humidity, solar radiation, cloud cover and wind pattern. The architecture is expressed as an angular V-shaped structure oriented towards the green pockets spread around the house. The entrance creates a bridge and valley experience, with a sunken court and stepped garden, a linear arrival corridor and the walkable green roof with varying slopes. This roof technically acts as a thermal insulation, lowering the overall temperature of the interiors, while functionally doubles up as a congregational area for social gatherings.

  • The ‘Khadki’ door inspired from forts | Hive | Openideas Architects| STIRworld
    The ‘Khadki’ door inspired from forts Image Credit: Fabien Charuau
  • Axonometric diagram of the Hive house | Hive| Openideas Architects| STIRworld
    Axonometric diagram of the Hive house Image Credit: Courtesy of Openideas architects

MM: The façade has a very interesting insect-like dynamic motion. What was the inspiration for this?

NC: The inspiration for the envelope and several other elements in the house were found in small, everyday things. While the façade mechanism was inspired by doors of airport buses, the structure of the stair (which spans seven meters and has a thickness of 38 mm) was derived from the structural formation of a hexagonal diagrid popularly seen in IKEA furniture pieces. Similarly, the movement of radio antennae informs the window opening mechanisms and the ‘khadki door’ of forts (a door within a door) which was replicated at the entrance.

02 mins watch Hive, a family home in Surat, inspired by the organic form of honeycomb, designed by Openideas architects | Hive| Openideas Architects| STIRworld
Hive, a family home in Surat, inspired by the organic form of honeycomb designed by Openideas Architects Video Credit: Fabian Charuau

Project Details

Name: Hive
Location: Surat, Gujarat, India
Architecture Firm: Openideas Architects
Lead Architects: Monarch Champaneri, Nilesh Gajera, Niralee Champaneri
Design Team: Vishal Patel, Sahil Soni, Nishant Chauhan, Jainika Patel, Manasi Hathiwala, Kashyap Parshala, Zeb Saiyed
Completion Year: 2019
Gross Built Area: 600 sqm
Site Area: 1250 sqm
Mechanical engineers for façade: Ensemble
Electricals for façade: WNeuron

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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