For Architectural Group – Design Plus, the influences on design in this undefined era exists from fields beyond the profession – be it construction industry, media, science or any other.
When Natraj Trading Company approached Design Plus to create substantial extensions to the factory built-up area of 1000sqm and create a Head Office that would represent the brand and the product, the team in philosophical agreement (not necessarily formal or digital) with Greg Lynn’s 2001 Pittsburg exhibition on Folds, used blobs and boxes as the driving force of their design thought.
The Natco Head Office reflects the trade of the company onto its interior detail, building skin and the immediate context. The clients are one of the largest exporters of varied stone types in India. In 2002, when the building was going under construction, a major material of export, for them, was slate. The building itself educates the owner’s potential clients of the variations possible with the material suggested.
Creativity in usage of stone
Design Plus decided to break the façade of a rigid plan to create varying volumes for the exterior and resulting internal spaces. These volumes were treated with slate cut in as many sizes as possible for external cladding and varying polishes. Areas of the fascia that would permit scaling of slate were identified. These would add a sense of dynamism to the façade, that would change over time.
Each stone type was clearly defined in terms of dimension and polish. Types varied from 300mm x 300mm mirror polished stone to 75mm x 300mm wide rough slate. Each stone was sized and polished and examined thoroughly. Mirror polishes were executed with polymer compounds to fill naturally occurring interstices on the slate surface.
The biggest constraint on offer was the size of the stone available for cladding and thickness. The stone by nature is brittle and stable only in small modules. Owing to these properties of small size and thin material, dry cladding was avoided. Although the possibility of using polymerized lining to make dry cladding possible was also discussed, but that would have escalated cost in multi-folds.
Secondly, slate has a property of scaling over time. As mentioned, areas were definitely marked for polished (non-scaling) surfaces and rough (scaling surfaces).
Also, the varying sizes of cladding permitted the design team to avoid any wastage, since all oddly broken material was accommodated in the cladding system.