Architecture Samira Rathod Design Associates
Delux Bearings, Surendranagar, Gujarat
The production unit and offices for the Delux Bearing Industries is located about 100 kilometres from Ahmedabad, in the industrial area of Surendranagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Designed by Samira Rathod Design Associates (SRDA), this building is simple, precise and candid. The building design adopted and addressed the issue of precision seriously and carefully — precision as the key demand of any industrial and production space or shed. Precision is key to the object this factory building produces — that of bearings. The financial efficiency and productivity of the system as a whole was calculated as proportionate to the precise handling of the production line as well as the relationship of staff to the space as well as the production unit. The plan of the building and its basic form emerged from the production line diagram, and the need for this process vis-à-vis the cleanliness and dryness of the air inside. Furthermore, the harsh climate of the region needed to be handled and managed. SRDA takes key design decisions as a response to the strict functional demands of the programme and site without, at any point, being subservient to it. A stern structure gets very carefully designed with few elements that bring in a notion of design, and sense of pride in working in an otherwise highly utilitarian space. The organisation of spaces although governed by the production and assembly line, the choices for certain spaces such as the office or the lobby, or a corridor, are carefully taken to allow for light and landscape to intervene as elements of design, adding depth and aesthetics to the structure and space. From the design of the cantilever brackets to the railing of the stairway to the windows — a few elements are playfully, but thoughtfully and minimally inserted (or rather integrated) into the structural scheme. They begin to give the building meaning and complexity that is not contrived but derived from a sense of being in an industrial space and programme.
The industrial nature of the space is contrasted with a material palette that is sparse — the white becomes necessary to keep the space dust- and dirt-free at all times, while the wood and furniture become an occasion to humanise and punctuate the space sparingly but impactfully. The windows could not be larger, as a response to the harsh heat outside, and so a series of slit windows are used to still bring in patterns of light hitting along walls and floors to articulate the space. The landscape outside gives the building a setting and presence in the otherwise inclement geography, and as the landscape will grow and mature, it will create more shade and lightarticulation for the spaces inside. The building had to be a tight box and could not have played much with inside-outside integration or more internal light-wells, as the factory working and by-laws demand a certain kind of space and structure. Thus light and landscaping had to sneak into certain parts of the building through slit windows and articulation of walls. This is an interesting structure where minimalism and calculated ornamentation integrate to complement and enhance each other. The starkness of the exterior is mildly punctuated by a stream of cantilever brackets or punctures in the walls which continue inside with a different type of starkness that is sharp yet just about playful, and which is then intercepted by a few pieces of designed furniture and fittings such as a table here and a lamp there. The interior and exterior absolutely flow from one into the other, integrating the building as a whole, and making for a structure where industrial precision guides a logic of aesthetics.
This spread, left: ribs of steel were used to cantilever the corridor, as evident on the outer surface; top: a view of the interior of the factory