Never before has the facade design of buildings been as challenged to innovate as it is now. There has been a rapid and perceptible shift from the traditional facade design towards strikingly distinct facade trends. Facades are known to be the first impression of a building and they determine the tone of the building. But, the new age facade combines attributes of both appearance as well as the performance of buildings. The changes go beyond skin alterations or a facelift and apart from the aesthetics, they strive to offer better natural light and adequate ventilation in order to promote sustainable and green building practices.

“It is essential to understand that every façade needs to be designed to suit the geographic location and climate to ensure sustainability and efficiency, including daylight penetration and energy optimisation”, says Rohit Suraj, the Founder and CEO of Urban Zen. Choice of material for the building envelopes, appropriate fabrication techniques, and good quality systems are key to assure that the buildings function at their best. There is increasing use of GRC, aluminum composite panels, and as well as zinc, copper, and other cladding materials in facades.

Facade designs are becoming more complex and throw up an array of complex structural practices, helping the facade to make a bolder statement. For instance, The Lithop is a 19-storey commercial building designed by Urban Zen with a penchant for intrinsic detail. The facade exudes stated elegance with the amalgamation of parametric and context-sensitive design. The kinetic facade of metal meshes is sensitive to the surroundings and, at the same time, adds to the striking beauty. This concept of the facade is unconventional and fresh in its identity and raises the benchmark of world-class business venues while making itself a valued addition to the city’s urban fabric.

Similarly, the recent housing project Oorjita planned and designed by Urban Zen features elegant and eclectic facade screens. Located in the rapidly developing area of Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad, the glowing golden facade design grabs attention. The ideation process was deeply rooted in the sense of creating a difference- to make the design aspirational. The intricate patterns of the screens curl across the facade and define the beauty of the building. At the same time, these screens hinder excess heat and allow adequate natural light and ventilation into the apartments. We strongly believe that perception, belief, and behaviour are interlinked to rewrite the future and as a result infrastructure in all areas ought to have cutting-edge ideology that inspires.

The importance of the outward look of a building has been growing for the past many decades but it is only in recent times that the designers and clients are paying more attention to the façade of their homes and offices, and trying to be unique in some way or other. We at Urban Zen, the designers of today are always both innovative and creative with facade design and try with each project to ensure a visionary design that is durable, and at the same time sustainable.

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About Author

For Rohit Suraj, the journey from being in the merchant navy and commandeering a supertanker around the globe, to designing award-winning buildings, has been nothing if not unique. As the founder of Hyderabad-based Urban Zen, Rohit may be considered a maverick by some, as he has no formal educational background in architecture and design. He believes what sets him apart from others of his ilk is the fact that he has no precedent. His life before he started Urban Zen in the year 2011, amply demonstrates this. After obtaining his masters’ degree in nautical science, he started working with global shipping conglomerate Maersk. Meanwhile, the niggling sense that he should be doing something else with his life continued to persist and, in the year 2000, when he was overseeing the construction of his own house in Hyderabad, he got a glimpse into what that might be. When the architect working on his house left midway, he worked with the engineer to complete the project. Everybody who visited the house appreciated it. For the first time, he started thinking that this might be something he could parlay into a career. That was his first break. The client started noticing that he had a keen eye for design as he used to suggest changes to the design made by the chief architect. Slowly, the client became so confident about his capabilities that they decided to hand over the house to Rohit and moved out that architect.

From a one-person firm in 2011, today Urban Zen employs over 60 people, with their projects dotting the cityscapes across India, Middle East and, recently, Europe.

Starting with that very first 2,000-square feet residence, Urban Zen under the guidance of Rohit have grown into a multi-disciplinary firm covering residences, retail, commercial, hospitality, institutional and urban developments across architecture, interiors and landscape.  A number of Urban Zen’s projects have won critical acclaim as well, including the House of Tropics, a residential property in Bengaluru, and A Sky Full of Stars, a commercial project in Delhi, Overlapping Volumes a residential home situated in Hyderabad Banjara Hills. Rohit has added yet another feather to his illustrious cap & is now a Founding Member and the Lead Vocalist of the band SIRIUS. The lockdown gave him space & time to rediscover his passion for music & his love for performing, thus incepting SIRIUS. Both ‘Music & Architecture’ are variably perceived art forms.

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