SENSE AND SUSTAINABILITY?
Atelier D’Arts & Architecture Pvt Ltd
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
FROM THE ARCHITECTS’ PROJECT DESCRIPTION
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.
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.
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