It’s interesting to view Tata Consultancy Services’ decision to commission Mario Botta to design its Noida and Hyderabad offices in the light of the architect’s own words, “I believe that today architecture is a way of resisting the loss of identity, a way of resisting the banalization, the flattening of culture brought about by the consumerism so typical of modern society. In this sense, architecture is more an ethical than an aesthetic phenomenon.” And also, a reflection of the times.
One of the most prominent contemporary architects across all five continents, Botta worked during his early days as an assistant to two great masters, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Both these architects built some of their most ambitious and important buildings in post-Independence India. Traces of influences of both recur in this building.
As in all of Botta’s work, there is respect for topographical conditions as well as regional sensibilities and a predilection for the modernist approach. Large, bold geometric forms, use of sun-shading techniques, lifting the building on columns or pillars to allow the landscape to flow through and incorporating the ‘handcrafting’ technique in the Indian context, have all come together to create a robust work of architecture.
Snehal Shah, an Ahmedabad-based architect who had worked with Botta at his studio in Lugano in Switzerland for two years, was commissioned as the resident architect. Prior experience made it easy for Shah to translate Botta’s concepts into drawings that could be implemented on-site.
Shah’s appointment was also critical in communicating with the Indian workforce. Botta’s examination of the detailing meant that no “Good for construction” working drawings were issued till Botta had seen and approved of them. This good working relationship between the two architecture studios was the key to achieving the final result—a well-finished and detailed building in which even the basement ventilation grills and ducts took on a strong sculptural form.
The Noida building is organized along two strong axes— one has a circular mass along which is housed the public functions, services, parking, interaction, leisure and administrative spaces. The other has a linear rectangular block, raised on stilts, with the workspaces organized on the upper floors. A low third block flanks the landscaped garden and houses the cafeteria.
The linear block is raised on stilts, thus creating a cool, covered outdoor plaza with benches. The largely young workforce which occupies this building uses this space during leisure hours. It forms a great outdoor space overlooking the landscaped garden and, in fact, helps link in a special synergy all the built masses to the open spaces on site.
A great element of surprise is achieved by taking the visitor from the ceremonial access through a low reception and into a sky-lit atrium space in the circular mass. This space is bathed in light very much like that which pervades the interior of a cathedral. This is a leitmotif that constantly recurs in Botta’s work.
Strong horizontal lines are a signature statement in Botta’s interiors and these were faithfully reproduced in some areas, especially the reception area which, in spite of this, remains an unremarkable and ‘tucked away’space.
The building has been in use for five years now—long enough to test the endurance of the physical building against the harsh vagaries of Delhi’s climate as well as in its design. With elegant red sandstone exteriors and simple kota and white marble interior flooring, the somewhat spartan and essentially modest building is something of an anomaly when compared to the more ostentatious spaces around. Interior spaces could have been allocated with greater sensitivity to the architectural design. Yet, the bold design moves, strong masses, contextual design and detailing, the element of surprise and, most importantly, the sense of light and space within the building imbue it with a lasting richness of experience. It’s well worth more than a second look.
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