Last Updated 31 March 2011, 12:01 IST

Novel water sculpture in iconic Dubai building

A contemporary Spanish artist and an international water feature specialist have completed a unique water sculpture in the residential entrance lobby of the iconic  Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai (United Arab Emirates). 

“The residential lobby area of Burj Khalifa is a meeting place of diverse cultures and nationalities – a metaphor of the diversity of our global society,” said the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, who added that the sculpture, called ‘World Voices’, is a  “homage to this diversity and a celebration of life.”

Plensa’s ‘World Voices’ is composed of 196 cymbals that represent 196 countries of the world – symbolic of Burj Khalifa being a collaboration of people from across the planet and befitting its global iconic status.  Cast in bronze and brass alloy, plated with  18-carat gold and finished by hand, the cymbals are suspended onto titanium rods anchored at the bottom of two pools, evoking reeds in a lake. Visitors to the lobby will hear a distinct timbre as the cymbals are struck by water dropping from the ceiling above, which the artist compares to the sound of water falling on leaves.

In response to the artist’s specifications, the international water feature specialist Crystal Fountains developed custom technology that creates the right size, volume and control of the droplets that fall approximately 60 feet from the atrium’s ceiling  onto 18 of the gold cymbals.  The droplets fall through one-inch-diameter openings in the ceiling, and create a natural rhythm as they make contact with the cymbals below. Crystal Fountains developed the gravity-fed water controls designed to create bigger, natural droplets.

Crystal’s senior associate Rob Mikula said of the project:  “It is truly inspirational to have the opportunity to collaborate with a public artist of the importance of Mr Plensa.  His ideas concerning water are simple yet very dramatic.”

Also in the United Arab Emirates, Crystal Fountains recently collaborated with a local   contractor to deliver three  multifunctional water features for the newly opened Yas Marina Hotel on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

Geetha Balachandran

Energy-efficient arts centre at Doon school

The students of the prestigious Doon School in Dehra Dun, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, have overwhelmingly welcomed the new art school building which was inaugurated there last October. The building is energy efficient and has a TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) Green Rating.

In the past few years, about 20 to 30 boys a year elected to study art as part of the school curriculum. The number has now gone up to 180 with the current facility.  The new building has also succeeded in attracting top-notch faculty from around the country, and the quality of the students’ work is said to be very encouraging.

When the new art school was conceptualised at the Doon School, it was decided that the building should look into the future and provide spaces that would become more relevant educationally in the years to come, that it should be inspirational in its looks, and be informed by the tenets of green architecture. 

The new arts and media centre was envisaged to include segments associated with the previous facility like studios for painting, sculpture, ceramics and textiles, but would also house resources such as a library, a lecture hall, more galleries and display space, digital photography and video art, a publication centre and a film studio. The architects, Bangalore-based Khosla Associates, have created a building and surrounding garden area that gives expression to these concerns.

Integral to the concept is a central axis that runs east-west along the entire length of the site, dissolving into the ample lung space of a landscaped garden. 

The building is viewed from the outside as a composition of abstract sculptural forms of varying material and texture – exposed wire-cut brick and olive-coloured corrugated metal sheets emerging from a spine of yellow slate.

Internally, the axis is a double-height, 6-metre-wide gallery leading from both sides into studios and other functional requirements of the art department. 

All the studios open into courtyards allowing easy interaction with the outdoors and ample cross-ventilation.  The natural topography of the site is well preserved, and the east-west orientation of the built form and landscape reinforces the direction of the main building.

Achal Narayanan

(Published 31 March 2011, 12:01 IST)

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