Architecture | Urban Design

  • de.Sign is about all that matters, small or large, but can make a big impact. And that includes Architecture, Urban Design, Product Design, Research and simply thinking about ecocentric, human-centric design. We strive to produce forms that are at the forefront of contemporary discourse, rooted in local culture and context.

Float Space

Complete conversion of 20,000 Sq Ft of raw space on the top floor of a 11-story existing building. de.Sign was asked to redesign it’s architecture and interior, connect the lower floor with the roof, create new office space by extending existing floor and building a glass enclosed volume with glass floor over an existing atrium/light-well. We opened up the roof slab thru introduction of glass-enclosed skylights over various circulation and work spaces to connect with the redesigned landscaped RoofScape.

exō

exō is a riverfront residential complex. The name derives itself from the building envelop expressed quite poetically by the Greek word exō, meaning a combining form. To maximize the spectacular views offered by the location along Tapi River, the buildings are enclosed in full-height floor to ceiling glass. A solar envelop comprised of an exoskeletal framework wraps the buildings for climate control and weather protection. The enfolding hollow trapezoidal concrete frames delineate the building façades, giving a unique architectural character.

Platina

Designed with the upper mass conceived as a ‘solar envelope’ that shapes building’s form & architecture while providing weather protection. The building benefits from dual facade system with south side facade defined by reverse stepped profile and deeper projections and screens. A custom-designed white screen on south side gives the building its unique character. The facade is defined by horizontal strips of perforated aluminum solar screens stacked vertically - a signature feature of the building.

Manhattan Loft

This loft is on the top floor of a turn-of-the-century 6-story residential building overlooking Hudson River. Designed for flexibility, it is a large fluid space. With sliding glass walls, hardwood floors, exposed wood beams and white walls the design embraces minimalist attention to detail. Sparse finishes give clarity without visual clutter. Industrial, modernist aesthetics reflects the lifestyle of the inhabitants, complemented by an existing dumbwaiter – a found object, celebrated as local/urban archaeology in this 90+ years old building.

Cultural Centers

What started in the late nineties as a renovation program to fix up existing community rooms and older community centers within NYCHA developments, the Community Centers Program expanded into a citywide design and building initiative that induced, after years of neglect for social infrastructure, a change that is reshaping stigmatized inner-city neighborhoods and communities with the help of inspired architecture and design. Viren Brahmbhatt designed some of these centers that provide a wide range of educational, recreational, arts, and cultural programs.

The Mont Des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Urban design proposal for Brussels for redesign and revitalization of the historic core consisting of the Royal Citadel, Museum, National Library & Archives, Palace of Fine Arts & Central Station. Making the historical layers legible though a series of transmutations and careful de-masking through controlled excavation of the site, the proposal creates a series of public panoramas, transforming the hermetic domain of royalty to a new populist presence. The panoramas are understood sectionally; La Putterie is returned to the body politic through its diverse layers.

Housing Matters

Considering the floundering efforts by HUD for transforming public housing by replacing high-rise projects with low-rise developments, it has become increasingly important for architects, planners and urban designers to rethink affordable housing. The preservation and future development of housing should be at the core of any effort towards better city building. In cities like New York, creation of affordable housing in the past has resulted in disruptions of the city fabric and urban blight. The devastating effects of such housing typologies upon the surrounding urban fabric has made it imperative to undertake corrective measures in urban design and housing together.

Objects by de.Sign

Human-centric design, Furniture, Packaging, Products and Objects by de.Sign reflect our philosophy and design sensibilities rooted in clean modernist aesthetics, expressed in fluid forms and nonlinear design while simultaneously addressing the functional requirements and practical needs.

de.Sign | Firm Profile

de.Sign is an interdisciplinary design firm with international practice in architecture, product design and urban design with offices in New York and Mumbai. Led by Viren Brahmbhatt, the Principal, ours is a collaborative process that defines the firm's design philosophy. We strive to produce structures that are at the forefront of contemporary issues, rooted in local culture and context that address client needs as well as the functional requirements of the program. We have completed and are currently working on architectural, interior, industrial and urban design projects worldwide that bridge diverse scales and design typologies. Our comprehensive portfolio includes urban, residential, civic, commercial, institutional, hospitality, retail and housing design projects as well as space planning, graphic and furniture/product design.

de.Sign | Principal

Viren Brahmbhatt (Principal | de.Sign) is an architect and urban designer based in New York. His professional work has been focused on architecture, housing, urban design and cities. In addition to his personal practice, he teaches design studios at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University and Pratt Institute. His work in the area of Informal Architecture in global cites strives to achieve small but implementable change and incremental regeneration of various transitory zones in cities like Mumbai and others in the Global South. Furthermore, Viren has participated in various national and international conferences and presented papers on various themes ranging from social housing in New York to emerging cites of the Global South.

Publications

Now Urbanism: The Future City is Here. Routledge. Jan 2015
Publication of ongoing research and thesis on "Messy Urbanism" in recently published book: "Now Urbanism: The Future City is Here”, (Ed.); Routledge (Jan 2015): After more than a century of heroic visions for Utopian cities, urban dwellers today live in suburban subdivisions, gated communities, edge cities, apartment towers and slums. While some cities are shrinking, others continue to grow rapidly, spurring migration and expanding urban ecological footprints. Faced with the uncertainty created by challenges such as climate change, political unrest and economic stagnation, these dynamics are likely to continue. In recent decades, a significant body of discourse on urban futures has emerged offering discrete visions of future cities and alternative processes for city making. Rather than simply adding to this discourse, this book explores the intersections of critical inquiry and immediate and substantive actions. It recognizes the rich complexities of the present city not as barriers or obstacles but as grounds for uncovering opportunity and unleashing potential. Now Urbanism asserts that the future city is here by examining the diversity, richness and potential of the present city. It views city making as grounded in the imperfect, messy, yet rich reality of the present city and the everyday purposeful agency of its dwellers. Through a framework of situating, grounding, performing, and speculating, a multidisciplinary group of practitioners and scholars present essays that illustrate specificity, context, agency and tactics in the re-making of the contemporary city.Link
Reimagining Lutyens' Delhi. A publication based on GSAPP Spring 2014 Studio | Columbia University. Jan 2015

Reimagining Lutyens' Delhi is based on the studies on Lutyens' Plan for Imperial Delhi, by the Urban Design Studio, Spring 2014 (Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design), Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University in The City of New York.

ABSTRACT The subject of the Studio was a comparative urban dialogue between New Delhi, Kisumu, and Medellín. Like dynamic cities everywhere, they share concerns about the form of their continuing expansion and the consequent mandates for compact growth. This dialogue is of particular interest given the diversity of character and context of each, within the broad context of development in the "Global South." The New Delhi mandate involves densification of the Lutyens' Plan for the original colonial city, long considered an international landmark in early 20th century urban design. In question is the evolution of this culturally significant and highly formalized hallmark from its ceremonial significance as new Capitol of India to expanded meaning as center of a new commercial metropolis. For each of the three cities, detailed study sites were carefully chosen as particular "fragments" that could serve as windows through which to view the larger question of their respective development modes, and to comparatively explore "saturation" levels of density within the respective urban contexts.

REIMAGINING LUTYENS’ DELHI examines the present day situation of the landmark historic plan for the new capital of India by the British architect Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), completed in 1931. The original plan has been considerably modified in ad hoc fashion over the past two decades due to real estate pressures related to the large growth of the city and region during this period. Yet much remains of enduring value within the plan such that consideration of preservation measures is crucial, while recognizing that Lutyens’ composition has entered an era of transformation. The four “provocations” presented in the exhibition aspire to address the contradictions between preservation and development. Developed by post-professional students, faculty, and experts at Columbia University in collaboration with local partners in Delhi, each urban design proposal examines a typical condition between the center and periphery of Lutyens’ Delhi. They are the Bungalow Zone; the Janpath; the remnants of Baoli, Hauz, and Nullah; and the adjacent Kidwai Nagar neighborhood. They are proposed with the hope of making a positive contribution to the debate on the future of the past for this world landmark in urban design.

InFormal City. Times of India. June 5, 2010
Informal Cities in Formal Cities is a reality many of India's cities contend with..... What would be the role of architecture and urban design in response to such culture of informality that shapes urbanity in these parts of the world where the sheer scale of informal human settlements leaves a lot to desire.... and very few options for urban planners and designers...Link
India's Messy Urbanism. Architects Newspaper, New York. June 3, 2009
Like other megacities, the large cities of India are grappling with the conflicting logic of globalization and localization. As new networks of global trade and finance create new opportunities, developer-friendly architecture and planning are appropriating contemporary discourses, and producing urban forms hitherto unknown. Globalization and its influence are thus transforming the city as physical, social, and cultural boundaries are being renegotiated. Link
Vacant City: Brussels' Mont des Arts Reconsidered. 2001

Vacant City deals with the project to revise and reconfigure the Mont des Arts, a neighborhood in the center of Brussels where the museums and cultural institutions are concentrated - the city's 'Museum Quarter.' Originally designed from the perspective that concentrating national cultural institutions and large-scale works in the heart of a city would make a crucial difference in the city's development, the Mont des Arts is now considered to be in need of some serious revision. Vacant City offers a fascinating insight into the problematic history of the Mont des Arts as an urban site, and also proceeds from this concrete ‘case study' to questions of the significance and role of museums and cultural institutions for and in the cities of the future. Vacant City shuttles between the issue of vacant structures in today's cities, the role of culture in urban and spatial planning, and the changing significance of the museum.

Project Team: Richard Plunz, Viren Brahmbhatt (Partners in-charge). Our team was invited by Brussels2000 Committee to prepare urban design proposal for the Center of the City of Brussels. The project brief included redesign and revitalization of the historic core consisting of the Royal Citadel, Museums, National Library & Archives, the Palace of Fine Arts and Central Station. The fundamental approach to design was to make the historical layers of the city legible though a series of transmutations and careful de-masking. The controlled excavation of the site allows it to be de-masked. The de-masking makes a series of public panoramas, transforming the hermetic domain of royalty to a new populist presence. The panoramas are understood sectionally; La Putterie is returned to the body politic through its diverse layers. The Mont des Arts is opened to the city as an emblem of the cultural diversity of the Belgian state.Link

Hell's Kitchen South: Developing Strategies. 2001
Hell's Kitchen South: Envisioning Community-based Development. 1999–2002 (A project of the Design Trust for Public Space with the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association) This three year community-based planning project culminated with Hell's Kitchen South: Developing Strategies, a guide and tool for local constituents, including the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association and Manhattan Community Board 4, as they steer future development in their neighborhood for the good of Hell's Kitchen and the larger city. The Design Trust for Public Space's efforts to facilitate a community-based vision for Manhattan's far west side is encapsulated in this report. The document includes findings from a community planning conference, as well as the results of a subsequent design study carried out by Design Trust fellows. Contents include design studies and planning reports, feedback from public exhibits and symposia, and a discussion of a series of goals: ensure that new development respects varying area scales, increase residential population while assuring a mix of incomes, improve public amenities, and mitigate traffic congestion. Link

TEACHING | Design Studios

Peripheral Fragments | Seoul, Rio (Spring 2015). Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
With Richard Plunz, Victor Body-Lawson, Viren Brahmbhatt, Priscila Coli, Petra Kempf, Seiyong Kim, Geeta Mehta The subject of this Studio is a comparative dialogue between urban regions of Seoul and Rio de Janiero. Specific focus will be concerned with peripheral growth in each regional context. The nexus for each will be a medium size historic city center that has been drawn into recent urbanization processes and its ramifications. For Seoul it is Suwon on its southern periphery. For Rio it is Santa Cruz on its western periphery. Both are municipal entities covering large land areas with large agricultural pockets that are now proposed to be urbanized, prompting immediate concerns about disruption to their historic centers; loss of agricultural uses; and lack of critical thinking about the nature of new place-making in the 21st Century.
Three Densification Modes | Delhi, Kisumu, Medellín (Spring 2014). Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
With Richard Plunz, Victor Body-Lawson, Viren Brahmbhatt, Michael Conard, Juan Esteban Correa Elejalde, Petra Kempf, Geeta Mehta, Kate Orff The subject of this Studio is a comparative urban dialogue between New Delhi, Kisumu, and Medellín. Like dynamic cities everywhere, they share concerns about the form of their continuing expansion and the consequent mandates for compact growth. This dialogue is of particular interest given the diversity of character and context of each, within the broad context of development in the "Global South." The New Delhi mandate involves densification of the Lutyens Plan for the original colonial city, long considered an international landmark in early 20th century urban design. In question is the evolution of this culturally significant and highly formalized hallmark from its ceremonial significance as new Capitol of India to expanded meaning as center of a new commercial metropolis. The Kisumu mandate also entails urban densification, but with sharply contrasting origins and formal characteristics evolving out of the commercial functionalism of an early 20th century port city. In question is the upgrading of areas along a rapidly growing growth corridor, within municipal resource constraints. The Medellin mandate entails densification of the "informal sector" periphery, within the context of a city recently transformed by new political will and substantial investment. In question is the next phase of development for a city that has become an international "textbook" case in terms of innovative urban design initiatives and projects. For each of the three cities, detailed study sites have been carefully chosen as particular "fragments" that will serve as windows through which to view the larger question of their respective development modes, and to comparatively explore "saturation" levels of density within the respective urban contexts.
Central Brooklyn and Broadway Triangle Area: Planning Strategies towards | Planning Studio, Pratt Institute, School of Architecture. (Spring 2010).
In continuation of the Fall 2009 Urban Design Studio and what they developed as an interdisciplinary curriculum, Meta Brunzema and Viren Brahmbhatt joined by Ron Shiffman offered this studio to Planning students in Spring 2010. This Planning/Urban Design “net-zero carbon” research and design studio was led by three Pratt professors; Meta Brunzema - Graduate Architecture & Urban Design program and Viren Brahmbhatt - Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, along with Ron Shiffman of GCPE. Faculty members Meta and Viren each received two generous CSDS/FIPSE grants: a Faculty Development grant and a “Creative Cluster” grant. The stipends allowed a substantial enrichment of the course as described below. In addition, the stipend paid for an additional technical teaching assistant charged with assisting the students with project-related GIS mapping and analysis.
Net-Zero Carbon District in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn | Urban Design & Planning Studio, Pratt Institute, School of Architecture. (Fall 2008).
At Pratt Institute School of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design, Professors Viren Brahmbhatt and Meta Brunzema co-taught an interdisciplinary graduate Urban Design Studio, a course that proposes to explore design and planning strategies for net-zero carbon development in Brooklyn’s Bed-Sty neighborhood. On December 15, 2008, the students presented their work and research to a wide-ranging jury comprised of professionals, academics and city officials as well as community representatives;
East New York Reimagined | Planning Studio, Pratt Institute, School of Architecture. (Fall 2007).
COURSE DESCRIPTION: The neighborhood (as defined by a number of physical, political, and socioeconomic criteria) is the level at which most planning efforts affect citizens. Increasingly, the neighborhood has also become the official focal point for city, state and federal programs in both service delivery and physical development planning and implementation. This studio introduces the student to basic techniques in neighborhood needs analysis and comprehensive planning. Utilizing a neighborhood of appropriate size and type, the students, working in teams, develop an area-wide plan (based on primary and secondary research and needs analysis) providing for residential, commercial and industrial land use and related services and infrastructure. In order to maximize the usefulness of the semester's work, as well as to provide a realistic assessment of plans produced by the studio, written and graphic materials are prepared for presentation to the "client" - usually a locally based nonprofit organization representing the neighborhood under study. DETAILED DESCRIPTION: The neighborhood for this studio is Brownsville in Brooklyn. The studio program includes various components including housing, infrastructure/landscape and other neighborhood scale needs. Additionally, the brief would require students to integrate any overlaps and opportunities based on planned and ongoing projects in the neighborhood by the City of New York (various city agencies including DDC, DOT, DEP, NYCHA and non-profit organizations such as Common Ground Community and others). Studio program will look at affordable housing, issues surrounding classic public housing sites, projected changes in the area per Mayor's 2030 Plan (for public space development, parks and plazas, infrastructure and landscape). Client contact will include professionals from the city and the officials from DDC, NYCHA and other organizations. Students will carry out mapping exercises and design charades for potential sites for plazas as part of an overall plan for the selected areas in the neighborhood based on particular project(s), locations etc. Students will be required to study, research and explore current community needs, ongoing community based initiatives and explore ways to increase both affordable and market-rate housing in the area.

GUEST CRITIC

Eastern Waterfront: Development Transects, Mumbai Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, Spring 2010
Scenarios for Development, Dharavi, Mumbai (Spring 2009). Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. Sring 2009
Smart Streets, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. 2006

LECTURES AND WORKSHOPS

Next Eco-City Conference at School of Landscape Architecture, University of Washington, Seattle. Apr 8, 2011
Guest Panelist and Lecture for GSAPP Housing Studio at Columbia University. Fall 2006
Scenario Planning Workshop: Spatial Information Design Lab. Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Sept 29, 2006
Atlantic Yards Community Workshop. Mar 20, 2004