Nature in Living, UK

The GEN Z Series travels from Oxford Brookes University to University of Nottingham to meet a creative 2022 graduated Master’s student-architect Payal Patel from India. She is currently working as Part 2 Architectural Assistant at Whiteman Architects in Epsom, England. Payal Patel reveals, “I was born in India, raised in Malawi and currently working in the United Kingdom. Over the years, I have come to appreciate various cultures, art, social and environmental aspects each country has bestowed on me. Learning new languages, adapting to new places and cultures has allowed me to grow as an individual.”

Nature in Living

Payal Patel comes from an interesting academic family background, from doctors to nurses and pharmacists to business owners. She enthuses, “My father, who graduated as an electrical engineer from the US, owns a cement business in Malawi. My mother has an Arts degree from India. I am the first in the family to enter architecture (smiles).”

Johnny D interacts with Payal Patel to explore her journey so far in the field of architecture and her thesis ‘Nature in Living’.

Master Plan

What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?

I was the shy and a quiet child. I remember my mum telling that I would be sitting in a quiet place scribbling on a paper or just observing the environment innocently. I always knew a creative field would be the path I would want to pursue, a unique opportunity to study the environment through design and creation. What intrigues me is that creativity is limitless! This continuity in architecture for me means a continuous flow of creation. My family have always encouraged me to take the path that would allow me to express and show my creativity.

Design Development

How has architecture influenced your life as a student?

Education institutions will teach to an extent, but whatever I learnt outside of university was more valuable. Visiting cities, countries or even a new café, I observed the architectural patterns, building materials and intricate detailing of elements. Inquisitively, I always looked for nature in architecture. It is crucial for sustainable architecture to not only design how buildings are formed, but also how it can help the users’ mental health and well-being. My first interaction with Biophilic design was encountered in the third year of my bachelor’s degree. Now everywhere I go, I question myself how this is helping our environment and our mental well-being. 

Plan – Ground Floor

Briefly tell us about your University and the Masters’ Course.

University of Nottingham based in the Midlands of England has beautiful campus, consisting for incredible and innovative buildings. My Master’s Course had 4 types of studios with very interesting focal points. The studio I chose to study was a material-based studio. We spent few months studying different types of building material, visiting sculpture parks and creating artifact, based on our research. The study and research progressed further in detail, when it came to our thesis project.

Canal Re-activation

What role do you perform as a Part 2 Architectural Assistant at Whiteman Architects?

I joined Whiteman Architects in February 2023. My role as a Part 2 Architectural Assistant is to work alongside my director and fellow colleagues to create high standard residential designs and models for clients, produce reports at different plan of work stages, such as design and access statements, tender reports, draw technical drawings and create budget guides.

Plan – First Floor

Briefly describe the significance of your project.

As the year 2018 came to an end, the New Year started off with quite a big scare. The beginning of Covid19 pandemic! The after effect of the pandemic made me realize the significance of nature interaction one needs everyday in life. ‘Nature in Living’ was my design generator. A co-living project for a multi-generation demographic group set in desolate location with industry and residential building on either side.

Communal Kitchen – Dining and Garden

The concept is to encourage residents and public to interact with nature every day for improved well-being and health, social interaction, whilst creating a level of privacy for the co-residents. This will be achieved by incorporating retail and public realms at ground level, maximizing site access for pedestrians, integrating com­mon spaces for residents as buffer zones throughout the building and that have private balcony access looking over as the canal / landscape / inner courtyard. My project focuses on questions, such as:

Long Elevation and Section

– How can the human-nature relationship be enhanced with increased shift to urban housing?

– Could it be by means of courtyards?

– Courtyard as an architectural design element, but can it be considered as a biophilic design strategy?

My project aimed to incorporate aspects of biophilia patterns (studied through my thesis research on Turn End by Peter Aldington) and how these patterns can be utilized daily to improve quality of living, mental health and well-being.

Communal Space

Which National or International architect has inspired/influenced you? Please specify as to why?

Lancashire born Peter Aldington is a renowned architect for the three-village house in Haddenham, where he built with his wife, including their own home ‘Turn End’. His works became the most influential designs of post-war domestic houses in the UK. Aldington’s magical work of creating a connection between landscape and interior of a house is what inspires me the most. The ‘Turn End’ project is a modern home in a traditional setting, made from wood, concrete blocks and glass, thereby creating a story between ‘Nature’ and the built environment. Every turn, space and view has a biophilic effect on it. This is what I really like about Peter Aldington’s projects. He creates a blurred line between the outside and inside, and allows nature to play a significant role in his designs.

Sketches in relation to Biophilia

As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learnt from senior architects, while being a part of a project?

The most important lesson I have learnt from my senior architects is effective communication whether it may be with a client, colleagues or suppliers. I have come to understand and realize that communication is a solution to avoid project delays, misunderstandings and manage time effectively. Another lesson I have learnt is building my confidence in pitching my ideas and designs that will allow me to showcase, who I am as a designer and how I can help my clients to improve their homes.

Final Elevation

Will the younger generation of architects make innovative changes to mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate crisis? Elucidate your perspectives.

I truly believe that the younger generation of architects will make the climate crisis issue a top priority and significance to their projects. As urban cities grow bigger each year, there is a shift of living in cities. So, the question now to tackle is how we can make our cities greener and more sustainable for future generations, and also for our environment to grow greener. I believe my answer begins with biophilic designs. A new approach that can be applied to all projects as it not only benefits the built environment but, also human health and well-being.

Material and Design Development

Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

One of the significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier’ that I really like is the wide spectrum of interviews of professionals in the world of architecture and interiors, and their projects and perspective on important issues and positive impact they make today are insightful and very helpful. I am fascinated to see GEN Z’s take on architecture and how they are empowered to make an effective change in today’s world for a better future.

Timber Façade Development

Local charm of cities has diminished due to Modern Architecture as every city looks alike and similar. How should architects / urban planners / landscape architects modernize cities, while maintaining the local charm intact?

It is very true that the local charms of cities have been diminished due to Modern Architecture, but there are lots of ways to respect the local culture and its history. Certain ways to do this is to study and research the surrounding context and site history to see if history can be bought back in the design plan. There may be certain patterns that have faded, but can be re-introduced in the modern architecture world. Appreciating and respecting local materials, articulating and implementing historic elements can be an approach to bring back the local charm.

Interior Space

Looking at the past in the current present, what are the futuristic architectural changes you would like to see in your home city / town? Elucidate the reasons for your vision.

The futuristic architectural changes I would like to see in India are building (whether they are commercial, hospitality, residential or educational) urban cities that approach sustainability not just in design, but also in construction, operations and maintenance. Alongside thinking how users will benefit regarding health and well-being in their day-to-day life.

Image Courtesy: Payal Patel

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