One of the emerging trends within construction and interior design is sustainability allied with simplicity. The days of ornate buildings and interiors are becoming a thing of the past and designers and architects are concentrating on creating spaces that are not harmful to the environment. Here are some of the architectural and interior design trends to have emerged in Pakistan in the last decade.
1 Adaptive Reuse
This entails restoring a structure instead of tearing it down and building a new one. It is cost effective (reduces construction costs significantly) and in the process breathes fresh life into abandoned buildings. Most old structures are sturdy; their exteriors can easily be given a contemporary look to accommodate their new function. Examples are the Mohatta Palace Museum, the Nusserwanjee Building, which was transposed stone by stone from Saddar to Clifton to serve as the main façade of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Similarly, Food Street and Haveli Restaurant in Lahore are other successful examples of retaining heritage sites by repurposing them.
2 Conserving Energy
With electricity tariffs increasing, solar panels are becoming increasingly commonplace; they are easily accessible and cost effective. Furthermore, their use is no longer restricted to urban pockets and they are available in rural areas, where firewood was once the only source of energy, although their use is currently limited to power light bulbs and fans. In urban pockets, usage has increased rapidly to provide electricity in homes; it is a one-time cost which ultimately results in substantial savings. ‘Green’ materials are also used, and include marble chips and brick or clay tiles which insulate roofs instead of cement or porcelain tiles. Similarly, vinyl tiles have been replaced as flooring options, in both commercial and residential buildings, by ceramic tiles as they keep spaces cooler. Sustainable construction is not only about using green materials, it also has to do with utilising available resources to minimise costs such as electricity. To this end, buildings are increasingly designed with larger windows and open planned to ensure maximum flow of natural light and air. The aim is to prevent spaces from becoming too hot or too cold and reducing the use of artificial cooling, lighting and heating, while remaining pleasing aesthetically.
3 Inside Out
With screens taking over our lives, digital fatigue is a reality that people face on a daily basis. Along with this comes exposure to artificial lighting and being stationary most of the day, which leads to lethargy and negativity. Designers are therefore focusing on spaces that bring the outdoors inside, as nature is the perfect antidote to digital fatigue, whether it is the rustling leaves of indoor plants, cool breezes through large windows, or the sound of flowing water from an indoor fountain. This trend is called ‘biophilic design’ and focuses on integrating nature into spaces as a way to improve health, psyche and the overall ecosystem.
4 Minimalist Design
The adage ‘less is more’ is here to stay. Clutter has been swept away to create spaces that are energising or soothing. Popular décor trends include Feng shui, Japandi and Scandinavian; all three are easy to implement and maintain and are defined by the use of crisp lines and shapes, sleek furniture, natural indoor elements such as plants and water bodies, neutral and muted colours and unique art pieces for colour. They focus on ‘well-being’ and are characterised by spaces where people can relax and re-energise.
5 Modular Construction
This trend is slowly gaining ground due to the fact that it entails creating large scale residential and commercial buildings in a short span of time, saving time, energy and other costs. Prefabricated units are made off-site and assembled on-site. Companies recycle unused materials at the site, hence cutting back on wastage. Modular construction is a rising trend due to these advantages and is sure to gain even more popularity in the coming years and is now increasingly used to assemble low-income housing units in Punjab.
6 Repurpose and Upcycle
Recycling is not a new concept; however, due to a dwindling economy, people are turning to it because it is more economical. To this end, designers are creating unique, bespoke items from antiques. This process leads to less waste and reduces the demand for new items that have to be produced from scratch. Sustainable materials are becoming more popular, such as cane, rattan, wood and woven textiles, and reflected by the increasing popularity of stores where such items are available. Another trend is that of people taking on DIY projects in their spare time and repurposing old unused, items into ‘new’ furniture pieces; for example, old tyres are repurposed as seating, wooden crates into bookshelves and fused bulbs into planters.
Farah Rizwan is Partner, Orphic, and lectures at The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.