a verdant nook
frontage garden for Max Muller Bhavan
Arjun Sharma, Gaurav Shetty, Nishi Doshi
This project is the small front yard of the Max Muller Bhavan at Fort, Mumbai and is backed by the impressive facade which dates back to post-independence modernism. The space is also randomly dotted with old trees. We were asked to add a breakout area with seating space for the students who visit this building.
When we first saw the bare site, we were struck by how the canopy of the existing trees dominated the scene. So it was almost an intuitive move to have our entire design intervention be "of the ground" and feel bottom-heavy. The seats are designed as blocks of rocks, and the plants, when fully mature, will hug the ground and then rise up to about four feet. So our design tries to add a little more weight to the ground plain, from which the trees rise.
You can count on one hand the number of design elements you would see in the landscaped space. This is done so that the civil detailing takes a back seat and allows the planting and the existing trees of the site, and the Max Muller Bhavan, itself, to take centre stage. As you enter the garden you see a two-toned bench (granite and wood composite), stepping stones, gravel and the planting. Even the material selection of the stone is neutral and grey. The tight material palette of the project is offset, to a degree, by the variation of planting. The general selection of plants is large-leaved and tropical, creating a sense of deep shadows and a variety of that deep shiny leafy green you see in South Asian tropical settings.The horticulture design is a technique called 'mass planting', which doesn't draw the eye to itself but becomes a backdrop. The twin souls of the space are tree trunks and the newly cleaned building facade.
We consciously did not want our landscape intervention to be an end in itself. It would be a companion to the old inhabitants of the site, i.e. the overgrown trees and the Bhavan. So we have gone to some lengths to de-emphasize everything. The material palette is neutral so that it recesses into the planting. The horticulture design is a technique called 'mass planting', which doesn't draw the eye to itself but becomes a backdrop. The twin souls of the space are tree trunks and the newly cleaned building facade.
As you walk through the site, you notice that each part of the plan responds a little differently to existing conditions. So although there is a de-facto monotony in the layout, you are always mindful of negotiating your way under one low trunk (at the entrance), to walking beside two other trees on either side of the pathway (middle), to a retaining wall that forces the layout to readjust itself (back entrance).
These variations are subtle and sensory, and unfortunately do not lend well to photography.