- Nirali Jain
A Reincarnated Built Fish
Copying is an art; this style of architecture proves it.
On a long car drive, one tends to ponder their thoughts while gawking towards the outside. In a sudden moment, a building clasps the eyes where one exclaims either in captivated wonder or shudder inquisitiveness. While driving through the road near Hyderabad airport, the second top tech city of India and the 5th busiest airport and a half-hour away from the city, one such example which bellows the latter is the building situated along the roadside, which mimics a fish. It reminisces what Julia Morgan once quoted- “Architecture is a visual art where the buildings speak for themselves.”
In the United States during the first half of the 20th century, a novelty or programmatic architecture style termed Mimetic Architecture had gain admiration. Its characterised by unusual building designs that imitate the purpose or function within the building or the product associated with, almost to its literal visual sense.By 1950, many such buildings were either planned for redevelopment or demolished, but eventually, preserved as landmarks cause a result of being a novelty style. This style did become an inspiration to many designers of other countries and is a derivation for the regional headquarters for the National Fisheries Development Board NFDB, unofficially named as a Fish Building. The board intended to set up the headquarters to promote the local fishing business and the local fishermen.
NFDB building a three-storey office structure, 1920 sq.mt. of the built-up area designed by the Central Public
Works Department (PWD) of India formally opened for operation in 2012. It resembled a fish as an architectural form that deciphered the product or service offered by the board. One can understand the reason to mimic what we do as a form of building, though one can never deliberate over the intentions of this style. With the advancement in technology, it raises a question- Can there be a reform in the structure or have use of abstract elements, or can the materials be used in diverse ways?
The façade of the Fish building is said to be cladded with stainless steel sheets. However, as we approach the building with the afternoon sun dwindling upon them, the sheen that reflects does not convey the same. The glaze does appear to be a miss, so is it stainless-steel or did the sun avoid shining bright that day? The formulated standard pattern of the facade sheets seems to be like a feeble representation of the fish scales and with the geometrically aligned recessed rectangular windows it makes the building lose its essence of interpretation of the fish characteristics, which are to be fluid and organic by nature.
Stainless steel sheets have an attractive appearance that engages light as an architectural medium, articulated in daylight and colored by the lights after dark, like the Walt Disney concert hall building in Los Angeles or the Olympic Fish Pavilion at Barcelona, both designed by the architect Frank O’Gehry. A rumour spread around that the concept for the NFDB-Fish building was supposed to be inspired by the Olympic fish pavilion, built in 1992. It was a technological breakthrough for the architect’s studio. They used three-dimensional aeronautical-design software to comprehend the design and create a monumental golden steel-mesh fish sculpture. The facade comprises intertwined glided stainless-steel strips, which morph along with changes of the sun angle and the weather. This effect accentuates the impression of the fish scale charmingly. The organic form of the building fosters the abstract adaptation to its optical significance. Would it be apt to envisage that if a similar kind of research or study undertaken, there could have been a significant revelation for Central PWD and NFDB? While any answer one can contemplate for it.
Speaking to the people around about their thoughts for this building, to the eyes of the tech people based there, it seemed to be a version of Microsoft fish clipart. It’s a gradient royal blue smiling icon with popping eyes with one dorsal fin and an arched tail. When one sees the clipart and the building together, they can notice the resemblance. So not only did the designers mimic the product literally but also did derive inspiration from what the city is best known for - being a hub of the IT industry. The building fin and tail are evident aesthetic additions, but the intention of the opened smiling mouth kept inaccessible could not be determined.
As one enters the gate, maneuvering through the well-kept landscape, one reaches the staircase of over 30 steps ascending people to the main reception lobby situated on the first floor, having the left pectoral fin as smartly transformed into an awning. The building elevates on regular sized columns- pale blue stilt and the lower level formed comprises of a drop off for entering the ground lobby and some utility services. When one thinks of a word associate with a fish, the immediate answer comes is the ocean(water), then with the word ocean, we can relate to ships sailing or being anchored in them. Where this prolonged mount wants one to experience entering an anchored ship in the water and on the other hand, those blue pilotis express the floating effect of a fish meandering in water. But with the element of water missing in the green cover below, can the concept be sensed at all or the intention was not to make the building appear to float, rather had some structural requirement behind it? Once again, it leaves on to the beholder’s imagination.
The hovering effect is supplemented further at night from illumination by the blue-purple lights installed on the ground surface. With such calmness at night and the shimmering effects, one can get stimulated by recollecting the glimpses from James Cameron movie Avatar - meaning reincarnation in Sanskrit (a movie worth watching). In it, na’vi characters were in blue colour, chosen by the creative team to pay homage to the ancient literature deity- Lord Krishna, a reincarnated version of Lord Vishnu and who were sent for a purpose to Pandora. It feels this building does the same, pays tribute to its origin and resurrection of the blue clipart which is built to serve the NFDB.
We could laud by saying- that any form of art can instigate different emotions and many can ask, did it bring any uniqueness to the architecture of the city? However, the idea behind this style of architecture was to be funny & kind of tacky and designed to catch the attention of potential customers depicting the product its selling or what’s on menu they can relate to, like the 1931 Big Duck at Flanders; NewYork, selling duck and duck eggs, or like the Bob’s 1927 Java Jive near Tacoma; Washington, a coffee restaurant in shape of a coffee pot.
The bold attempt by the designers and playful move for the resided boards future is commendable. However, the biggest drawback of mimetic architecture is the re-sale value. The basket building designed by The Longaberger Company, based in Newark, replicated the product-the medium market basket, which was completed in 1997, after failing in the year 2016, the company shut its services. People at Newark did contemplate preserving the building and convert it into a hotel or academic building, though, some say that it has been sold for way less, not even half of the amount anticipated. The architecture of the NFDB building did not astound many people as being visually sensational. However, it became a landmark along the route and even does show up on google maps as a Fish building.
As fishes have many net grabbers swirling around them in waters, will this described fish have any prospect occupy takers- one can only wait and watch?
Refer to the article at https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Mimetic_architecture
Refer to the article at https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/mimetic-architecture-osm/index.html
Refer to the article at https://badarchitecture.weebly.com/news-blog/fish-building
Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD7RCfM3eZA