Sculptures at the Kempinski Hotel, New Delhi
This assignment required me to work closely with the architects to help bring their creative vision to fruition. We built upon the initial conceptual ideas through a rigorous design thinking process: this involved a critical evaluation of material possibilities and structural stability within the constraints of technology.
We made a conscious decision to only use natural stone that would require minimal maintenance – polished black granite, and gemstones such as onyx and agate, which do not fade under direct sunlight – since the sculptures were to be placed outdoors. Thereafter, we created three-dimensional renderings of the final solutions, providing working details to the architects for site installation. The sculptures, which are all different from each other, fall into two major thematic categories – the Stacked Cuboids and the Black Lotus.
The Stacked Cuboids, fifty-four in number, feature an assembly of simple granite cubes and cuboids to create interesting compositions. Our intent was to create a fun sculpture that could enhance visitor engagement within the space. First, each constituent block was made individually with a hole running through its volume.
All blocks were then stacked over each other in a predetermined fashion, while a rod was placed inside to ensure structural stability. Next, we overlaid vibrant gemstones from the outside to accentuate the sweeping blacks of the granite.
The Black Lotus sculptures, forty-eight in number, are all carved out of monolithic granite balls. They measure 400-600 mm in diameter, and weigh between 400-800 kilograms. We first extracted spherical balls out of solid granite blocks. Next, I physically sketched the outlines of the flower petals – their number progressively increasing and decreasing – out over the surface. Thereafter, the petals were hand-carved using the hammer and the chisel.
Installing the Black Lotus sculptures on site – at a height of two meters above the ground level – presented a unique challenge. Their massive dead weight and form required us to devise an innovative installation technique: the sculptures were placed in rubber tires, and raised to their position with the help of the chain-pulley system. While some of the Black Lotus sculptures manifest as simple open flower buds, we fitted the others with LPG lines to spew fire from the top.
Despite the challenges that the installation of such a large number of heavy sculptures presented, I believe the collaborative exercise was a successful one. The two teams came together beautifully and seamlessly: while we brought in our expertise with natural stone, the architects’ creative ideas fuelled the process. The resultant installation, integrated within the hotel’s outdoor space, is an homage to the beauty of natural stone.