The technology of space

The technology of space
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First Published: Mon, Mar 03 2008. 12 22 AM IST

Updated: Mon, Mar 03 2008. 12 22 AM IST
Architect Uday Joshi
When he began work on the first phase of the Vanenberg IT Park in Gachibowli 12 years ago, Uday Joshi was among the first architects to start building in Hyderabad’s booming suburbs, Cyberabad. The success of the colourful and layered administration building ensured that Joshi now spends three days a week at his Hyderabad office, dividing what remains of the week between Mumbai, Pune and Gurgaon, where he has projects, and Goa, where his family lives. Joshi and his wife Geeta also run the Make-a-Wish foundation in India.
THE CONCEPT
The client was a Dutch company called Baan. The brief was simple—the 235,000 sq. ft building should not reproduce the fashionable Western glass box, thoughtlessly. Glad to have a client who explicitly rejected the common idiocy of large glass surfaces on buildings in hot Hyderabad, Joshi focused on colour and form. He also channelled the developmental pressure on the plot to retain some of the dramatic rockscapes that Hyderabad is generally famous for.
THE PLAN
The core strength of the building, which houses 2,500 employees, is its simple and efficient plan. It has four wings arranged along the periphery of a spacious, landscaped courtyard. The starting point is a large, clean plan for the work halls. Their width (about 55ft) was controlled to ensure that natural light could penetrate from either side. From the beginning, the work halls were also planned with the intended furniture layout to ensure that space was not wasted. Joshi has kept the work halls a regular shape, with all other facilities such as rest rooms, breakout spaces, storage spaces and elevator lobbies being located outside, at the extremities. This connection to the outdoors proves very relaxing after hours at the computer in an air-conditioned space.
THE COURTYARD
Though extensively used in modern residential architecture in India, the courtyard—or enclosed plaza—is strangely less common in workspace architecture. Vanenberg IT Park shows what a difference a carefully landscaped courtyard of the right size can make to a workplace. The 11,000 sq. ft courtyard works in different ways. As a large, semi-open space right at the heart of the complex, it brings sunlight (diffused comfortably by the dramatic fabric roof) to the very core of the building. Nothing is more relaxing for the computer-locked eyes and the chair-locked body of a cubicle-dweller than a short break in an open space with a comfortable climate. The multi-levelled courtyard is also designed for informal meetings using built-in furniture and is made pleasurable with a cascading water body and a paving pattern inspired byrangoli geometries. The connection with the outdoors that Joshi values is most dramatically achieved in the cafeteria, which has the only large expanse of glass looking out at a dramatic view of an existing rockscape on site. The cafeteria also has a running skylight over a double-height space at the centre. The fabric roof of the courtyard is startling when you first discover it. The spread and volume of the courtyard are dramatized by this high-tech tent tied into the upper end of the building. At night, as the photograph shows, the soft glowing lightness of the roof changes into a flashier sculptural presence as it is lit from below.
LAYERS OF COLOUR
The visual character of the building embodies two basic points. Joshi wisely avoided packaging the building in glass, because that only traps heat and increases the air-conditioning load. Instead, he decided to wrap the building in layers of coloured walls.
The unusual choice of colour is central to the presence the building has, when viewed from outside. Teal and a peachy-brick red are more after-hours colours—people and buildings devoted to business usually play safe games around many versions of grey. Here, each colour balances the other’s visual energies, as well as the delicacy of the white pergola structure. In the entrance block, the staircases “wrap” around the core of the building and connect to the pergola above, which is another kind of “wrap” from above. This gives the entrance a sense of unravelling, encouraging the visitor to enter and explore.
Work ethics
(1) The 11,000 sq. ft courtyard is right at the heart of the complex and brings in sunlight, diffused by the dramatic fabric roof. The courtyard, with built-in furniture, is also designed for informal meetings and has a cascading water body (part of the structure is visible in this photograph) and a paving pattern inspired by “rangoli”.
(2) ( 3) and (4) The visual character of the building emphasizes the minimal use of glass and the unusual choice of colours, offset by the landscaping.
(5) Part of the building, with a view of an existing rockscape on the site.
Photographs by Dinesh Mehta
Courtesy Uday Joshi & Associates
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First Published: Mon, Mar 03 2008. 12 22 AM IST