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Architecture with a soul

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The client brief to the architects was to create an aesthetic yet economical building representing modern India with traditional ethos. The project was envisaged as interactive open building looking towards the future. Being an institutional building, the preliminary design response was to build a structure which is both low cost and green. This led to careful choice of materials and ingenious detailing and adaptations. Modern construction materials and techniques were used restrictively and local adaptations were worked out extensively to integrate traditional building practices.

The M:OFA (Manifestation of Fluid Architecture) studio directors, Manish Gulati, Tanushree Gulati, Abhinav Chaudhary wanted to design soul-elevating and inspiring, yet highly functional structure. They considered various disciplines such as architecture, planning and engineering not as individual components but as various sciences required to manifest harmoniously in the project. The influx of these sciences is fluid at multiple levels, stages, times and sequences.

Design

A business school emphasizes meeting of minds, ideas as well as entrepreneurship. In sync with this belief, the scale of the building along with the courtyards tied together with a bridge creates a gesture of magnanimity on the outside but immense interactive and fluid spaces inside. At first glance, the 30,000sqft G+1 building sits like a solid stone block with a lightweight industrial roof hovering over it supported by thin surrealistic legs. This image does two things; creates a mystery of what lies inside and secondly reminds us of a most rudimentary way of protection from the harsh sun – a large plane creating a shadow to reduce the carbon footprint created by otherwise large air-conditioned institutions.

The external façade is clad with the beautifully textured Dholpur sandstone. It sits thick and high excluding out the harsh sun of Gwalior but with the help of jaalis and steel roof still creates openings, expansiveness and gets in plenty of light. Light weight steel parasol roof was part pre-fabricated and the rest assembled on site and hoisted up. The clearly visible steel trusses elegantly offset against the rustic finished Dholpur sandstone walls reflecting dose of modernity. The blend appears as if solid heavy walls clad with sandstone are rising up to meet the new age light steel structure.

 

Climatically, Gwalior has a sub tropical climate with hot summers and humid monsoons which is why the Parasol roof, the jalis and the strung courtyards along with their orientation make the architectural response to the climate very apt and green. The use of locally-sourced white dholpur sandstone for the external walls not only promotes and demonstrates a feather-light environmental footprint, but also keeps alive Gwalior’s architectural heritage.

Regional Context

Inspired by the traditional Jaali works of Gwalior, the building uses this element as modern screens on the south western side, which also happens to be the double height entrance space. The modular stone jali screens strung together with concealed steel members act as a vertical extension of building’s open courtyards. Standing tall at six metres and facing west, these screens cut the harsh Gwalior sun glare, protecting the building. The building keeps Gwalior’s tradition of jaali work alive, reminding the students to embrace the new and advanced, while staying true to their self and tradition.

Interiors

The fluid interior space that flows in from one court of the building to the other unleashes fluidity of thought, imagination, ideas, and the self. The ground level is built on the principles of the traditional Indian courtyard and provides students with a large open space in the centre that allows for introspection and the importance of knowing oneself, yet allowing for meaningful interactions that accentuate a feeling of openness and freedom. The clean grey walls, the amoebic sculpturous water body and modern landscape blobs on the floor reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of the students who are looking to create ripples within the otherwise structured business environs. The large courtyards mirrored on the first floor provide natural ventilation keeping the building sustainable and eco-friendly. The fluidity of the ground level extends to the first with the help of an effusive, curvaceous modern ramp with simple and evenly distributed steel railings. The flooring in entire complex is Jaisalmer yellow and Terrazo.

Green Aspects

Keeping high temperatures at bay and lowering air-conditioning costs is the building’s parasol roof. The roof supported on slender columns provides a sense of relief to the inhabitants and makes the building a truly green building. Due to its open centre, the building’s hot air rises to the top and collects there. The open parasol roof allows the hot air to escape creating convection currents and a natural air-cooling system. Adding to this natural cooling system is the greenery in and around the building. The plants on the first level retain moisture, thus helping keep the ground level’s air mild and refreshing.

“This public space is an example of providing the urban landscapes with sustainable architectural and design solutions. The idea is always to fulfill the function yet keeping the architectural fluidity in mind, creating amorphous and intuitive spaces.”

Manish Gulati

Principle Architect

Also, the blowing hot dry winds entering the building through the south western facade get trapped in the thriving terrace garden creating a humid zone and thereby lowering the ambient temperature in the building. Roof gardens and terraces are built as intermediate open spaces throughout the building for shading and cleansing of the air quality and the much needed ‘step out’ for students. Use of Jaalis decreases the usage of artificial light due to its design, reducing the electricity requirement. The white dholpur sandstone screens are not just an aesthetic treat that cast interesting shadows and play with light, but also an architectural must for the high temperatures of Gwalior. Windows are double glazing integrated in locally assembled steel sections to reduce cost and increase durability.

The terrace gardens incorporate sustainable water retaining organic soil composition for the plants to thrive. And, the roof incorporates solar cells and system to collect and take the water to the rainwater recharge well.

 

 

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