Fabian Ostner graduated from the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen / Germany as architect in 1997 and aside of his independent practice has since been working in various architecture studios in Berlin, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Fabian came to Auroville first for a one-year internship with the Auroville Building Centre /Earth Institute in 1994/95 and again in 1996/97 to work on his thesis on a German Cultural Pavilion in Auroville (this thesis work was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD). His thesis was completed with honors in July 1997.
After that he studied advance architectural design at the School of Arts Berlin-Weissensee, which had close ties with Indian practices – through this, he came to work for Rahul Mehrotra in Mumbai in 1997/1998. Uwe Süchting, Ostner’s late professor for architectural design, at the school in Bremen, opened up his perspective on the wide scope of architecture and the need for humility in everything one would do. Mehrotra was a lesson in efficiency, focus, and the ability to work across scales. (1997/98; again funded by the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD).
Since moving permanently to India in 2000 Fabian has been working with various Auroville architecture studios and with large offices in Bangalore (Venkataramanan Associates) and Hyderabad (FHD Group) and as independent design consultant with his own studio. In 2004, when Auroville design studio Brand New Day, headed by Dominic Dube, decided to shift base to Bengaluru, Ostner felt it was the right time to work independently. Thus was born FOA Studio – later to be rechristened White Ant Studio. Simply put, the credo of the studio, which undertakes architectural design services and, increasingly, landscape work in collaboration with the Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants, is to design spaces which house 21st century humans. “I try to expose – softly – the inner nature of things, of materials, of activities, of possibilities ... and keep things in that as simple as possible (the most difficult task of all).” His Wood House Auroville project, which bagged the coveted NDTV Design and Architecture Award in 2015, is a sign that “keeping things simple” does strike a chord with peers and end-users alike.
All the buildings that Ostner has worked on in Auroville are milestones, because of their small scale and the sense of experimentation. More specifically, a private residence in Chennai which, after several years, is now finally reaching completion, is special – as it redefined his relationship with the client and his family. A competition entry for the Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza pyramids that Ostner worked on, together with Dube and Auroville architect Ganesh Bala, is a dream project. “The scope of the project, and also the way we approached it together, had a tremendous impact on how I understood architecture.” But for now, and in the near future, he still sees himself in Auroville, running his small practice and working towards more sustainable building technologies and materials, and towards a zero-energy balance.
His works have been awarded twice a special mention in the prestigious A+D / Spectrum Foundation award and has been published in various magazines (ELLE Décor, Wallpaper, Better Interiors, Home Review). Additionally Fabian has been invited to give lectures at various architectural schools in India and is regularly training students from India and abroad in his studio.
Inspiration and Goals
The contact with India has been decisive for Fabian from the very first moment he touched ground in Mumbai some 26 years ago. The abundance, the romance and the intensity of life here captures and moves him deeply and his work cannot be understood without this deep connection to the land, its culture and people. In his design work Fabian then aims to bring together his longing for a higher order based on geometry and rational thinking with the powerful, fertile and creative plentitude of tropical India. The quest for minimalism (the search for the most refined and pure solution), the resourceful use of materials, the integration of light and air in balance with the other elements and a deep respect for the nature of things (and humans) are defining parts of the design process – be it for a small showroom, a private residence, an office building or a larger institutional building.
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