By Savitha Hira
Photography: Pradip Sen; Courtesy Abin Design Studio
Every once in while, we come across a project that stands apart for its treatment, its form-function integration, its climatic susceptibility, its contextual nuances....
“The past always catches up with you,” says Architect Abin Chaudhuri of Abin Design Studio, Kolkata. “And why shouldn’t it?” he continues, “Especially, when it offers you a rich heritage and unparalleled timeless grandeur.”
Orissa is a state widely known for its opulent cultural heritage and rich architecture. IMI Bhubaneswar situated in the eastern coastal plains of Orissa, is a campus that Abin has designed with keen eye on the city’s extreme tropical summer temperatures. The entire building is designed and oriented on site to minimize heat gain and reduce use of electro-mechanical energy.
With climate-responsiveness and local-material usage as the key guiding principles, the entire structure is woven around the biggest and most popular central court with a water moat around a centrally placed feature tower. A lot of attention has been paid to its spatial quality as this court acts as the nodal interactive zone, where students can spill out, unwind or just be inspired. The surrounding water moat acts as a natural exhaust, cooling the air passing over it, creating a solace even in the hot and sultry tropical climate. The iconic tower, akin to a life-size abstract sculpture in the centre of the plaza acts as a wind breaker and also helps in evaporative cooling; thus controlling the micro climate of the central plaza.
There is a strong interaction of spaces as the peripheral library and academic blocks are linked via a shaded walkway. This interface is ably furthered by the juxtaposition of interior spaces that allows for optimum daylight penetration, aided by the huge glass wall in the library atrium.
While the atrium of the library block is pushed outside via an inclined glass box to invite natural light and subsequently reduce the cost for artificial lighting, it also acts as a strong visual element in the architectural makeup. Not just that, the glass block is strategically positioned to cast shadows all over the central plaza at different times of the day to create comfortable outdoor spaces in the scorching heat.
The architectural language is rustic and earthy with Laterite and Khondalite stones used for the outdoor areas. The central stepped plaza is designed using solid Laterite blocks. To substantially cut down heat absorption, large overhangs are integrated in the design to create huge shadows on the building itself and the outdoor spaces. Incidentally, only a part of the outer facade avers to the cultural thread of the city in a direct connect – via a representational mural of temple replicas – the only traditional touch in the contemporary disposition.
Ecological considerations are furthered with rain water harvesting technologies that are deployed to conserve water; with water bodies throughout the site acting as catchment areas. Furthermore, low VOC paints are extensively used keeping in mind the indoor air quality and public health.
Abin sums up his project with two distinct quotes:
“Ah to build, to build! That is the noblest of all the arts!” said Henry W. Longfellow and Ar. Frank Gehry has said “Architecture should speak for its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”
This design is an attempt to build with a strong spatial quality, endeavouring timeless appeal.