“Socially, we’re becoming more aware of our context with regards to justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity. Human migration is also a huge challenge as more and more places become urbanised. Technology is forever changing how we perceive our world and how we engage with people and the environment around us. And, of course, there’s climate. If you look at these four things together, you start to view things in a more integrated way and can begin to really shape change in a positive way.”
Ari Bose is a trained Architect and Director – Buildings Lead (USA East) for the world’s 5th largest Architecture and Engineering firm, IBI Group. A core focus of his work is in balancing client needs with physical and societal contexts to create a more sensitive approach to design. “Generally, when you look at us architects, our initial instinct is always a space- or building-driven solution. As a practice, IBI is stepping away from that preconceived notion of what the solution would look like. It doesn’t always need to be a space or building asset solution. In fact, we don’t know what the solution may look like until we dive deeper and understand what the real problem may be.
Boca Raton Centre of the Arts and Innovation
“One recent example was in our design for a large, high-rise tower in a tight urban context. A key priority for residents, particularly in the context of COVID, was the ability to receive deliveries. These buildings have certain lobby sizes and available mailbox space and, with the propagation of delivery services, the proportionate demand on lobby sizes has also increased. What we explored is whether the solution needed to be a space solution or if it could, instead, be a technological one. In response, we created and rolled out an app to our high-rise clients which allows residents to have allocated delivery times and a set number of deliveries. This enabled us to reduce capital costs and provide a more resilient solution.”
This innovative problem-solving approach is representative of IBI’s strong future-focus which, Ari says, has really manifested over the last few years. “About 4 years back we decided to disrupt ourselves because our leadership recognised that, if we didn’t, someone else would. We updated our strategic roadmap to become a technology-driven design firm, and we are now moving even further towards a design-driven technology firm because we believe that an entire ecosystem of emerging apps and technologies are going to be driven by designers and design thinkers who really understand Human Experience.”
As part of the firm’s shift towards more technology-driven design solutions, IBI has embraced data-driven design. “It’s a fantastic segue for us. We started what we call our Quantum Design division. The most valuable aspect of data-driven design is the unlimited number of experimental designs that are possible through the customizable algorithms that generative modelling allows. This is valuable because the algorithms allow several inputs to be taken into consideration in the modelling to comply with the specificities of the project. This innovation does not come without its limitations. Human sentiment is still required in the design process. Data-driven design cannot compute at a level that satisfies human opinion and subjectivity. This limitation can be considered a strength, as the design process is inherently collaborative. Data-driven design serves to support a team in the architectural process, not substitute them.”
West LA Community College
All of these tools are being used, Ari says, to create design solutions which best offer impact, meaning and value. “We must always be focused on the value proposition of what we’re offering our clients; what benefit it is going to generate for them. It doesn’t need to be financial. It could also be in the subjective qualities of a design: clarity of views, a human wellbeing experience or a connection with nature. My whole design philosophy is contemporary, contextual buildings which I call Contextual Contemporaneity. Contextual doesn’t necessarily just mean the physical site, but also what’s happening in the world. Contemporaneity refers to the quality of being current in time.”
In particular, Ari references what he calls “third space” and how this concept was prioritised in IBI’s design for the Boca Raton Centre for Arts and Innovation. “Third space references the aspects of a building which are not necessarily either inside or outside. For instance, creating shade in a hot environment yields a space which is much more comfortable; the same is true of creating better airflow in a place that is quite humid. To apply the third space in a performing arts centre, we needed to focus on the concept of agility and how these users can gain value through the ability to use one space for a lot of different things. For Boca, we created a structure where walls open and close to modify the shape of the space while leveraging technology, larger rooms can become smaller rooms, people can flow in and out and move from indoors to outdoors. Rather than simply building more spaces, we built one resilient space that could do more.”
A self-professed “world citizen”, Ari was born in India, where he lived and studied before moving to the States to earn his Master’s in Architecture. “Then I fell in love with my future wife and moved to the Middle East for a time before relocating to Canada and, finally, back working in the US. I’ve had quite a journey of travelling around the world.
Boca Raton Centre of the Arts and Innovation
“Architecture wasn’t the set path for me at all. If you know anything about Indian parents and culture, you know that children are often encouraged in one or two directions,” he laughs, “an engineer or a doctor. I joined a computer engineering course and, within a month and a half, decided that it wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something that merged engineering and design, and architecture was a natural fit. Once I embraced that, I enjoyed it quite a bit, in particular my study of sustainable buildings, passive design and passive architecture.”
In the years since, Ari’s unique skills and passions have led him to his current role as a global strategic thinker. “I enjoy the front-end of projects and thinking globally about design and impact. That really moved me toward the management of architectural projects and client relationships which, as a people person, I very much enjoy. Working with people and designing go hand-in-hand. I’m a believer that you have to show who you are and be vulnerable in order for people to trust and believe in you. I’m sure that’s how I ended up in this role.”
In the last 18 months, IBI has been prototyping innovations around plant-based buildings, an area which Ari believes could become an entirely new industry. “We’ve done timber and stick-frame buildings for a long time and now there’s a move towards mass timber buildings because timber is good for carbon sequestration. But, ultimately, we need to go beyond carbon-neutral, which means we need to be using renewable products in all of the parts of those buildings. What if we could start building walls with renewables like hemp or hay? There’s an entire future of buildings and a set of explorations that need to come up around that.”
Ari and his team are currently awaiting the results of a design competition for a library on a college campus in West Los Angeles. “I’m really passionate about that building, which is next to Inglewood oil fields. Their request for proposals didn’t really reference the controversy around the fields and their social and environmental impacts on the community, but we believed that context was critical to the design. We’ve created a concept based on material honesty which will be the new lantern of light in that community and a segue away from their past into a new, sustainable future. With our plant-based design concept, we can set a precedent for what the future looks like: justice, equity, honesty and the creation of something that is exactly opposite of that fossil fuel past and changes the trajectory for that community’s future.”
To connect with Ari and his work, visit https://www.ibigroup.com, follow him on LinkedIn and subscribe to his Spotify podcast, Design TIDES.
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