‘NUDE MODELS’ by Nuru Karim explores the structure within
natural systems using technology and processes.

Evolutionary tools in model-making have enabled the translation of concepts of abstraction and coexistence from nature to built environments. NUDES, a Mumbai-based contemporary practice thrives on this process of model-making, while acknowledging the extent of design articulation that is possible with the implementation of these tools.

Architectural models, historically, are approached as tools that guide design thinking. Apart from their role in the essential act of communicating design, they have evolved over time to represent conceptual underlays in the design process. The fascination of Nuru Karim, Founder and Principal, NUDES, with model-making processes goes back to his undergraduate years. The practice of creating three-dimensional objects at NUDES is intrinsically connected to the design processes that generate buildings and ideas. The studio, that spans their practice across diverse spectrum of architecture, urbanism and public art, employs the idea of evaluating design through perceptions and imaginations at the human scale through these models.

Firstly, the idea of exploring three-dimensionality in the virtual realm is to test design in real time and obtain feedback with modification at every step of design development. But this feedback, at times, can be deceptive and unreliable. Nuru’s explorations through physical objects is a process that involves a diverse range of materials and techniques of making that range from CNC routing to 3D printing that use complex polymers such as PLA. Apart from testing prototypes in varied scales, the studio often works in the 1:1 scale with actual materials to test an evolved idea of space under natural forces such as gravity as to design stable environments. The philosophy of the practice is embedded in learning from natural systems.

The objective is not just to go back in time or to romanticise the natural, but to learn new efficiencies from certain phenomena such as the intricate nature of termite mounds and the patterns of natural colonies in order to understand and assimilate fundamental principles that could potentially help build sustainable environments and that have the ability to continuously rejuvenate.

The architect is convinced by the potential of digital environments to impact our lives and today, more than ever, one can relate to the virtual world as the new frontier of architectural experimentation.

Parametric tools are products of a digital revolution that has its roots in learning from natural principles. There is no single leader in natural building systems and the same is applied in the research and design of parametric tools. The efforts of the studio are not directed towards developing models with a predetermined idea or programme, but instead as a constant loop of action and reaction between the tool and the designer. The studio mimics the behaviour of nature using parametric systems to translate the act of building into a seamless process, where design is born in the virtual realm, and simultaneously moves to the construction stage as a process of experimentation and spatial interrogation.

The architect emphasises that the tool is never the designer.

Even with progress in technology, the development of design demands additional inputs, rendering the output as a measure of control and understanding of the tool itself.

Advanced parametric mechanisms are not just about ‘form finding’ or a ‘fancy with form’. Instead the form provides the data to guide the process of design and the form is the result of the way resolution of the ‘parameter’ works. Data is in the format of streaming values and codes which are a function of parameters and algorithms. This inherently records every input as a design history which can be retraced in an editable format, thus giving the designer control to retrace and remodel the coordinates in order to influence a localised or global change in value therein enabling immediate feedback upon modification to the design.

Exhibitions, for Nuru Karim, are a platform to convey this idea of space-making with advanced tools. He perceives exhibitions as engines of research, designed to encourage newer ideas and perspectives of examining space and spatial experiences. These exhibitions showcase models developed to aid his research in spacemaking. They are also initiatives aimed at blurring the boundaries between architecture and art.

In this context, NUDE MODELS, is a solo art exhibition comprising five years of research work on design, and models of spatial investigations as art, discussing space and human scale on different levels of contrasting visual media. These models address qualitative aspects of modularity, spatial hierarchy, and harmony. They attempt to instigate an informed dialogue on concepts of sustainability and climate change through its presence in the public domain.

The models are exhibited true to the nature of material without any formal finish almost, “stripped bare to reveal their language of the code”. They represent the evolution of technologies across industries and critique the contemporary systems of construction. The architect personifies them as living forms engaging in a dialogue on the current state of design and construction and seeks to learn lessons on how they inform the profession.

The conventional systems of architecture are top-down processes wherein the design is hand-held from the architect’s desk to the execution on site. In present-day systems, the construction process is marked by boundaries of anthropometry and life processes as standards of measurement guiding every space. The nuanced structural complexities in nature have always inspired the art of space-making. With the onset of digital evolution, model-making finds new fissures to break through the rudimentary and thrives in the realm of algorithm, data parameters and codes.

The tool is not a commodity but a propeller of new ideas that will help harness new building systems. The design and construction guided by border-mark technologies will help articulate effective use of resources that sharpen design concepts and empower spacemaking by research in nature. These tools are eliminating the myths of standardised attributes and orthogonality as a recurring design solution. The intelligence of technology is not limited to serve the demands of the elite, but designed to comprehend thinner frails of our social system

NURU KARIM, Founder & Principal Nudes received his Masters in Architecture and Urbanism from the Architectural Association [AADRL] London, United Kingdom in 2006. His undergraduate studies include travel and education in the metropolis of Mumbai [KRVIA Gold-Medalist] and Montreal [McGill University]. He has worked with Zaha Hadid Architects in 2005 on a host of institutional projects both in competition / schematic design and design development stages.

NUDES operates within the realm of cross-disciplinary cultures of art, architecture and computational design powered by digital “making” tools addressing larger networks of social, cultural and environmental. Nuru Karim has achieved critical recognition both for its built work and in competition in addition to several design awards including a nomination for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2013 cycle. He has also recently won the World Architecture Community Awards, designed category. Nuru Karim is also a TEDx speaker 2019 and has presented his work and research on national and international platforms.

Images: ©NUDES; Courtesy Nuru Karim
Compiled by: Rhea Ishani

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