‘Sustainable design’ lies at the core of the architectural and interior design work that Landmark Design Group undertakes. That is why when it was time to design their own stand-alone ‘dream’ Studio for a team of about 30, the ‘wish-list’ was, of course, endless and highly ambitious; all to be accomplished within a relatively small piece of land of 2700 square feet!
Open, free, uncluttered, natural, unpretentious and timeless, these are some of the words that would best describe the quality of the space that they wished for this Studio. Having worked on large- scale green building projects with an emphasis on solar -passive architectural principles, the team was excited by the challenge of successfully implementing these within the confines of a much smaller space!
Located in a newly developing suburb of Pimpri-Chinchwad, the plot, despite its size, had two major plus points, the orientation of the plot (NE facing) and the expanse of green meadow across.
The key factors that determined the evolution of the design were daylight and natural ventilation. Nothing infuses a space with as much energy and positivity as natural light and fresh air.
The South- West façade, that receives the most direct and low radiation is almost opaque and punctured only with narrow openings; operable wooden louvres let in the westerly breeze and can be tilted as per the sun’s position in the sky.
To give their studio the much desired ‘unfussy, pared-down feel’ led them to choose bare, form-finished concrete for the shell; the walls as well as the roof.
The longer North-eastern façade on the front is largely unaffected by direct Solar radiation; large windows with a provision for minimal shading in the form of movable louvred panels span wall to wall, opening out like Verandah.
The close-knit interconnectedness, indispensable to the vibrancy of the firm, had to be kept intact while scaling up. The plan is a direct result of this desire to avoid being physically departmentalized. 3 floors staggered across a central atrium at split levels enable visual and social interaction across the floors. In addition, rather than creating an insular, introverted, cocoon-like enclosure for the team, they chose to be happy spectators of the bustle of the street, while working at desks, or enjoying a coffee break.
The sheep grazing in the meadow across the street, the birds in the banyan tree outside, the sweet smell of the earth with the first rain, the occasional train rolling by, and the grandstand view of the everyday drama that unfolds in the sky, all have become part of the workdays.
Except for a ‘notional’ main door, the Studio is unenclosed and fully permeable. There are no doors other than those enclosing the meeting room and the restrooms.
The ground floor consists of the entrance to the atrium, the floor inlaid with a pattern composed of natural ground covers and ‘Murum’ (the locally available hard soil), opening out to a verandah that functions as the ‘reception’ area; with benches made of granite slabs supported on wooden blocks, as well as an informal meeting table. A meeting room that opens onto a dense tropical garden has an informal feel to it, with its bright red table, the open-celled ceiling tiles lending a sense of being unconfined.
The Studio is designed to have equitable, non-hierarchical workspaces. Even the Principal Architect Usha Rangarajan has an open nook as a workspace rather than an exclusively closed cabin.
A terrace with a lofted ceiling, wooden benches and green Chik blinds doubles as a break-out space and lunch area.
This decision set the tone for the rest of the material as well as the colour palette. Shades of grey dominate, in a variety of textures and combinations; be it the textured and patterned ‘Nero-magic’ granite of the atrium floor and walls, or the matte grey tiles that complement the concrete shell of the upper floors.
Teak wood, sourced from a dismantled ‘Wada’, is used for the windows and staircase as it adds warmth to the interiors dominated by grey. Cheerful yellow and red accents are used in the artwork, as well as in the freestanding partitions. A rustic terracotta jaali creates an interesting juxtaposition with glossy enamelled glass. Indoor plants in large green and blue ceramic pots thrive in the natural light.
Surface mounted LED luminaries and track lights as well as bright yellow and red pendants are provided for artificial lighting. Viewed through the almost completely transparent road-facing façade in the late evening, the interiors take on an altogether different character, the textures and colours accentuated by the effect of strategically placed lighting.
Extending this endeavour for resource efficiency further is the earth-air tunnel heat exchanger that travels a circuitous 50-meter length underground and supplies cooled fresh air to our meeting room at a fraction of the energy consumed by an air-conditioner. An 11 feet wide High volume low-speed fan circulates huge volumes of air for better ventilation, helping brave the warm months without the aid of refrigerant-based air-conditioning.
A 3KWp Solar PV system powers nearly 60% of the daily energy requirement. During the monsoon, rainwater is collected in a tank and used as a substitute for Municipal water supply.
Despite the constant exposure to a plethora of ideas, materials and infinite possibilities as design professionals, the greatest satisfaction for this team is that the design studio, as it took shape, has become a true reflection of their core values and design sensibilities.