De­sign Fortress

Architecture + Design - - Contents - Project: Stu­dio Ar­chohm, Noida

Stu­dio Ar­chohm, Noida

Stu­dio Ar­chohm, the ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice, shaped Stu­dio Ar­chohm, the build­ing. Both of them speak about ar­chi­tec­ture that tran­scends mak­ing just a shel­ter for an of­fice that pro­duces more ar­chi­tec­ture. They speak about ar­chi­tec­ture that at­tempts to be a voice for con­tem­po­rary In­dia even as they strive to fan a fun­da­men­tal hu­man de­sire to learn, in­ter­act and live.

Louis Kahn al­ways be­lieved that get­ting in light into one’s build­ing is like claim­ing a slice of the sun. The build­ing at­tempts to de­sign dark­ness in order to tame light. Be­cause, like it or not, in the In­dian sub- con­ti­nent, even a small hole in a wall brings in strong light, a slice there­fore is more than what may be eas­ily con­sumed. Get­ting in mod­er­ate and uni­form light, re­main­ing eco­log­i­cally con­scious and mould­ing light to be­come sen­so­rial — is what has been at­tempted at Stu­dio Ar­chohm. Ma­te­ri­als used are ap­pro­pri­ate to the car­di­nal direc­tions with their pa­ram­e­ters of heat and light and play a key

‘ What­ever we build ends up build­ing us.’

— Jim Rohn

role in the green­ing of the build­ing.

The build­ing shades it­self so that the light let in is al­ways in­di­rect and muted. The huge ex­panse of glass, for­tu­itously fac­ing the north, brings in dif­fused light per­fect for work­ing con­di­tions, fil­tered through the col­lage of books and files. As the day pro­gresses, light pen­e­trates fur­ther. To en­sure that suf­fi­cient day­light en­ters the floor be­low the ground, the front gar­den is given a slope and the ground level is given a greater height. Glass is a hun­dred per­cent re­cy­clable ma­te­rial.

The spar­tan wooden patina that forms a jacket to the glass box from the out­side, on the east­ern side is ac­tu­ally a layer of in­su­la­tion to the dry­wall con­crete pan­eled con­struc­tion be­hind it. Wood in­su­lates six- fold more than brick.

In the south- east­ern cor­ner, the solid two- brick thick, load- bear­ing walls take in all the cir­cu­la­tion and con­ve­nience ser­vices and re­lieve the other vol­umes of this rather cum­ber­some bur­den. They also keep out al­most all of the heat, so the con­tained space re­mains cool. The stairs con­clude by re­veal­ing an open- air am­phithe­atre up in the sky. Cool­ing the wa­ter- tank be­neath it is this hot- bed of ideas, the think- tank. Draped in china mo­saic, the roof re­flects a huge mea­sure of the heat as well. A block of stone forms a 3m- thick wall and blocks the hot, south side of the stu­dio and of­fers in­su­la­tion from sound and heat all along its ex­ten­sive length.

The con­struc­tion of the whole build­ing has been done with­out the us­age of harm­ful chem­i­cals. No paint has been ap­plied to give a raw and pure feel of the ma­te­ri­als and to en­sure min­i­mum car­bon foot­print. The stone used in the stone block has been quar­ried from nearby Ra­jasthan. The project cel­e­brates the us­age of stones like Red Agra, Kota and the lo­cal quartzite.

Alang, the world’s largest ship- break­ing yard em­ploy­ing 40,000 peo­ple in 400 yards gen­er­at­ing 3 mil­lion tonnes of scrap me­tal an­nu­ally did yield a trea­sure trove of ‘ stuff’, rang­ing from mild steel plates, black steel doors, hard­wood that had spent over 50 years un­der­wa­ter, tim­ber sleep­ers and in­stal­lable prod­ucts as stain­less steel coun­ters, cab­i­nets, wash­basins, show­ers and even re­clin­ing so­fas. Some of these pur­chases were re- fab­ri­cated, some such as steel doors and san­i­tary fit­tings were used as they were.

The roof is a gar­den that cools the floors be­low. There is even a swim­ming pool that adds to the ac­tual and vir­tual cool­ing. Un­der the um­brella of a mem­brane canopy, the swim­ming pool along with a glass floor pro­vide dif­fused light and cool­ness to the main de­sign stu­dio in the con­crete vol­ume be­neath.

Pro­vid­ing respite from the dense, de­press­ing and noisy mi­lieu out­side is a lux­u­ri­ous nine- me­tre wide front set­back now a lush green gar­den. At the very en­trance stands a ‘ red and black pond’ that is a wel­com­ing ges­ture as much as it is sooth­ing. The outer fa­cade of the ser­vice stairs is a sev­eral sto­ried

high ‘ green wall’ in the form of plan­ta­tions up a mesh.

El­e­ments also share the re­spon­si­bil­ity of be­ing ‘ green’. Large ver­ti­cal fins in alu­minium act as lou­vers on the east­ern fa­cade, shad­ing the gal­le­ria and workspaces as the sun gets ‘ hot­ter’.

Large vol­umes in them­selves are clever so­lu­tions for cool­ing as they en­able hot air to rise up. Fins at the up­per lev­els, for ex­am­ple atop the mas­sive corten steel door fur­ther be­come exit points for the hot air. Large cir­cu­lar cut- outs in floors of the work spa­ces, stag­gered in po­si­tion not only pro­vide vis­ual con­nec­tiv­ity within the ecosys­tem but also as­sist hugely in air cir­cu­la­tion.

Light­ing from tube lights and other light sources is done at an op­ti­mum level to re­duce ar­ti­fi­cial light pol­lu­tion. Lights have been in­stalled such that they throw light from a height of not more than six feet to qual­i­ta­tively and quan­ti­ta­tively light the work­sta­tions. Meet­ing rooms are ‘ led lit’ and cir­cu­la­tion ar­eas un­der- lit to pre­serve en­ergy.

Even as the new of­fice was be­ing con­cep­tu­alised, the de­ci­sion was taken not just to reuse all the

ex­ist­ing fur­ni­ture, but also to adapt it in­no­va­tively in the new premises as com­pact self con­tained mod­u­lar units. Sim­i­larly, all old fix­tures were utilised be­fore new ones were pur­chased. What emerged out of this very rel­e­vant ex­er­cise was the lay­ing of the foun­da­tion of the ‘ mad and fun quotient’ of de­sign on one hand and rais­ing the plinth of the ide­ol­ogy of con­serv­ing re­sources.

At the cen­tre of the atrium stands a me­tal sculp­ture, chris­tened ‘ the hand’. This ‘ out of the box’ en­sem­ble of seem­ingly ran­dom el­e­ments was made from scrap ma­te­rial col­lected while the build­ing was be­ing con­structed, welded, given a splash of colour. When lit, by some quirk of fate, its sil­hou­ette is a near replica of Le Cor­bus­ier’s ‘ open hand’ sculp­ture at Chandi­garh. ‘ The hand’ is also just ‘ a hu­man hand’; a hand that has the at­ti­tude to hold a pen­cil, draw bold lines and strive to cre­ate re­spon­si­ble ar­chi­tec­ture.


SEC­TIONPhoto credit: Hu­mayun Khan


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