Ate­lier D’Arts & Ar­chi­tec­ture Pvt Ltd

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Com­ply­ing with the pa­ram­e­ters of en­ergy con­ser­va­tion and ecofriend­li­ness, com­bined with pro­gres­sively in­no­va­tive de­vices, a deft use of ma­te­ri­als, and metic­u­lous de­tail­ing, the site of the head­quar­ters of a tech­nol­ogy-driven firm lo­cated in the catch­ment area of Thiruvananthapuram is an ex­em­pli­fi­ca­tion of ‘green de­sign’. Al­ter­nate workspace en­vi­ron­ments within the larger struc­ture, the con­struc­tion of an in­ter­nal court­yard to con­trol the mi­cro-cli­mate, a glass can­tilevered canopy at the end of the drive­way, and an am­phithe­atre an­chored to the site are some of the many fea­tures that trans­late func­tion into wel­com­ing spa­ces.

How does ar­chi­tec­tural lan­guage find res­o­lu­tion si­mul­ta­ne­ously in global im­agery, the idea of sus­tain­abil­ity as de­fined by rat­ing sys­tems, as well as the need or re­spon­si­bil­ity to con­nect with lo­ca­tion and con­text? Ar­chi­tec­ture in In­dia to­day strug­gles be­tween the var­i­ous de­mands and as­pi­ra­tions of be­ing global and re­gional, or be­ing high-tech and sus­tain­able; is there a res­o­lu­tion to these bi­na­ries, or are they sim­ply not pro­duc­tive any­more? New cor­po­rate imag­i­na­tions of work cul­tures, op­er­at­ing be­tween spe­cific lo­ca­tions and global de­sires or com­pul­sions also make cer­tain de­mands on the ar­chi­tects’ draw­ing board. The ar­chi­tect strug­gles within a sense of ethics and height­ened as­pi­ra­tions, so­cial obli­ga­tions and eco­nomic ex­pec­ta­tions; these com­plex­i­ties are hid­den within the steel veins and mir­rored in glass walls of the build­ings we make


A lead­ing tech­nol­ogy-ser­vices com­pany ap­proached Ate­lier D’Arts & Ar­chi­tec­ture Pvt Ltd to de­sign a state-of-the-art cor­po­rate of­fice and head­quar­ters on a piece of land pro­vided by the state of Ker­ala. The project called for the need to sym­bol­ise the val­ues of the firm, at the same time em­body­ing the ethos of the lo­cal cul­ture for a 7000-strong work­force.

Cre­ation of a Lake

On ac­count of the to­pog­ra­phy and its lo­ca­tion, the 35-acre prop­erty was, by de­fault, a catch­ment zone dur­ing heavy mon­soon show­ers. As against the con­ve­nient method of solv­ing this is­sue by filling up the land and rais­ing it up to the level of the road, which in turn would flood the neigh­bour­ing farm­lands, our de­sign pro­posal in­volved the cre­ation of a large lake that would ac­cu­mu­late the re­quired amount of rain­fall within the cam­pus it­self.

The land ex­ca­vated to cre­ate the lake formed the base layer of the pro­posed of­fice build­ings. Since nu­mer­ous re­gions within Ker­ala have been pit-stops for a va­ri­ety of species of mi­gra­tory birds, this lake al­most dou­bles as a bio­di­ver­sity park that is open to the pub­lic. Fur­ther­more, since Ker­ala lies in the trop­i­cal re­gion, the lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture evolves it­self to act as a struc­tural id­iom. The sub­tle plan­ning and treat­ments to the façade were taken as an in­spi­ra­tion for the de­sign of this cam­pus. In­spi­ra­tion was also de­rived from the lo­cal ar­chi­tec­tural plan­ning style of nalukettu, which es­sen­tially cre­ates an in­ter­nal court­yard as a rem­edy for con­trol­ling the mi­cro-cli­mate from the base of the in­di­vid­ual build­ing plan. To cut off di­rect so­lar ra­di­a­tion, the build­ing is flanked by large bal­conies with alu­minum lou­vres which mimic the spa­cious ve­ran­dahs, bal­conies and veiled façades of the lo­cal do­mes­tic houses and tem­ples.

The Build­ing

It was very clear right from the be­gin­ning that this project had to aim a notch higher, and ex­ceed the cur­rent stan­dards of eco- and en­vi­ron­ment-friendly meth­ods of de­sign and plan­ning. Aimed at the LEED’s (Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign) plat­inum rat­ing, all the avail­able best prac­tices for en­ergy con­ser­va­tion, sus­tain­abil­ity, and a low car­bon foot­print were adopted. A typ­i­cal sec­tion of the build­ing con­sti­tutes mul­ti­ple lay­ers of bar­ri­ers, start­ing with the alu­minum aero-foil lou­vre at the pe­riph­ery, which was al­most an ar­chi­tec­tural feat, as turn­ing

the aero-foil lou­vres along the curved pe­riph­ery of the build­ing seemed a close-to-im­pos­si­ble task. The lou­vres along the east and the west sides are more than a foot in width, and the wide bal­conies cor­don off di­rect sun­light and glare into the build­ing to as late as six o’clock in the evening. The lou­vre sys­tem close to a foot away from the bal­cony al­lows nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena of ‘stack ef­fect’ and ‘ven­turi ef­fect’ to cool the façade. This tremen­dously cut down the HVAC re­quire­ment of the floor-plate and gives an op­por­tu­nity to use clear sin­gle-layer, non-per­for­mance glass for a large part of the build­ing struc­ture, thereby al­low­ing clear views of the out­side.

With the var­i­ous forms of façade lay­er­ing, the large ex­panse of a floor-plate has dif­fused light in­gres­sion for up to 70% of the floor­plate area dur­ing the day. The use of ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing has min­imised to less than 20%. Con­sid­ered as the first In­dian tech­nol­ogy ser­vices build­ing pow­ered by CISCO’s S+CC in­te­gra­tion plat­form, this struc­ture can be con­trolled and mon­i­tored re­motely across its var­i­ous in­fras­truc­tural ar­chi­tec­ture. The two lower floors with ceil­ings as high as seven me­tres are con­di­tioned by in­tri­cately em­bed­ded chilled wa­ter-pipe sys­tem, thus en­hanc­ing the HVAC sys­tem.

The Hap­pi­ness Quo­tient

We had an ad­di­tional task of how to re­duce at­tri­tion and keep the as­so­ci­ates mo­ti­vated. The ar­chi­tec­ture had to re­flect a space, or com­bi­na­tion of spa­ces, that kept the users — cor­po­rate, as­so­ci­ates, vis­i­tors, and the so­ci­ety — in­trigued and in­spired at all times. Our ini­tial phi­los­o­phy in the over­all plan­ning has been the fact that ef­fi­ciency is not equal to the num­ber of work-sta­tions but the num­ber of con­nected in­di­vid­u­als. Work is no more a form of dis­ci­pline but a ‘way of life’ for the younger as­so­ci­ates. This helped us to vi­su­alise the built space as a care­ful ex­ten­sion of the self, who is in rem­i­nis­cence of her/ his col­lege or in­sti­tu­tional life; an en­vi­ron­ment with the fol­low­ing: - Mul­ti­ple and var­ied workspaces - Semi-for­mal / informal dis­cus­sion spa­ces

- Ex­pres­sion and per­for­mance ar­eas - Un­in­hib­ited learn­ing plat­forms for shar­ing of ideas

This phi­los­o­phy trans­formed into es­sen­tially driv­ing us to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment and in­clude or delete pro­cesses, func­tions, and spa­ces that can po­ten­tially un­leash the cre­ative and in­no­va­tive streak of an as­so­ci­ate, oth­er­wise trapped per­haps by their work-life im­bal­ance. Zon­ing the cam­pus to three cat­e­gories of se­cu­rity rat­ings helped us in open­ing up close to

30% of the plan­ning re­quire­ments from out-of-sen­si­tive work zones, mak­ing these spa­ces wel­come to even friends and fam­ily of those who work there.

The sprawl­ing ground floor of 60,000 square feet, in ad­di­tion to re­ceiv­ing spe­cial guests, was con­cep­tu­alised as a gath­er­ing space for its work­force of 7,000 peo­ple, maybe twice a day, strength­en­ing the as­so­ci­ates’ faith in the com­pany and cre­at­ing a sense of pride by its sheer scale — the buid­ing as well as the peo­ple it con­tains.

The tri­an­gu­lar stair­case wings form the back­drop of the main re­cep­tion desk, with a six-me­tre­high wall of rip­pling wa­ter. Wooden acous­tic ceil­ings spread across the whole floor with lin­ear re­cessed light­ing are sen­si­tive to, and mod­u­late to the in­ten­sity of nat­u­ral light. The walk­way around the atrium takes one to the in­di­vid­ual of­fices. Open dis­cus­sion and col­lab­o­ra­tion spa­ces can dou­ble as al­ter­nate workspaces for the cen­tre of each of­fice façade, pro­mot­ing in­ter-floor in­ter­ac­tion and cross-learn­ing among the em­ploy­ees. Each of these spa­ces is con­nected in the in­tranet for re­mote col­lab­o­ra­tion.

The north and south cores form com­mon wash­rooms, ser­vices rooms, and elec­tri­cal rooms as well as dif­fer­ently-themed floor cafes – fully equipped and of­fer­ing sweep­ing views. These are cat­e­gorised in the semise­cure zones which al­low users of dif­fer­ent floors to ac­cess the cafes on any floor.

The last floor is the ic­ing on the cake, with its breath­tak­ing, un­in­ter­rupted views of the Ara­bian Sea on the west and the sprawl­ing co­conut groves on the east. This floor has fa­cil­i­ties for con­fer­ences along the west wing, and a fit­ness cen­tre span­ning 1500 square feet in the east wing. Each of these wings are en­closed with in­clined glass en­clo­sures, capped with in­su­lated metal roofs that jut out from the cen­tre of the build­ing and rest on in­clined metal pil­lars. Both wings have ex­clu­sive wa­ter bod­ies — a large pool on the side of the fit­ness cen­tre, and a koi pond on the side of the con­fer­ence room. Dif­fer­ently de­tailed din­ing spa­ces form the four cor­ners of this floor.

Pre­vi­ous spread:

The de­sign of the head­quar­ters of the UST Global build­ing in Thiruvananthapuram, Ker­ala, seeks in­spi­ra­tion from the tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­tural style of

nalukettu, es­sen­tially a rec­tan­gu­lar struc­ture where four blocks join to­gether to form a cen­tral court­yard This page, top: The north and south cores of the struc­ture form spa­ces that are fully equipped with ba­sic ameni­ties; above: the mar­ble floor­ing con­ceals the em­bed­ded cool­ing net­work, and is at least 30% more ef­fi­cient vis-à-vis con­ven­tional HVAC de­signs Op­po­site page, top: The sprawl­ing ground floor is con­cep­tu­alised as a gath­er­ing space for the em­ploy­ees; bot­tom: the main build­ing is flanked by a large open-to-air theatre called OCU­LUS, and can ac­com­mo­date more than 1000 peo­ple

This page, top, and op­po­site page: one of the sec­tions of the build­ing is pre­dom­i­nantly a twin cen­tral core de­sign with a large atrium that cuts through the en­tire height of the build­ing; bot­tom-left: a pre­lim­i­nary sketch of the piece of land on which the build­ing was made, in­di­cat­ing the pro­por­tion of land ver­sus wa­ter

This page, be­low: Pho­tographs from the var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion of the build­ing

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