Fifty fabulous years of architectural design later, HCP gets introspective about their design strengths, sensitivities and choices they have made…some made once and lived many times over, and others simply built to be lived up to.
Rooted in the belief that “design is the search for elegant and sustainable solutions to practical problems” – Ahmedabad based architecture firm HCP Design, Planning & Management Pvt. Ltd. has been creatively delivering diverse urban projects for education, housing, commercial, recreational, scientific research, manufacturing and transport facilities.
The firm attributes their unique take on handling client briefs – “focusing on clients’ stated objectives and also questioning them in order to fully understand the brief” with the power of helping it generate unique opportunities that offer creative design solutions.
As architects who cherish their equal and collaborative relationship with clients, HCP is drawn towards working with the Institute for Plasma Research in Bhat, Gandhinagar for various projects. A highly prestigious national institution under the Department of Atomic Energy, the Institute for Plasma Research was set up in 1984 in a multi-acre campus on the banks of river Sabarmati, Gandhinagar.
The Institute selected four acres of contoured oval shaped land within its existing campus to locate the Student Housing and Guest House facility. HCP’s design solution for the facility is determined greatly by the lay of the natural ground terrain. The approach aimed to make use of the natural landform to the fullest and integrate it in the overall composition of the development.
Considering the undulating nature of the site, the design team combined rigorous site analysis and careful planning while designing the project. The site presented a central portion with relatively flatter terrain while along the sides; the land rises, with flat portions of land further available at the upper level towards the North.
This facility today houses three blocks of student hostels accommodating 32 graduate students; one block for 8 married students plus a guest house and a student facility block.
The Master plan located the Student’s Hostel blocks towards the North on the upper level off the area demarcated for the residential facility by the client to line the central green. The Guest House was located along the ridged perimeter on the West with the aim of utilising the variation in natural ground levels; this orientation of the Guest House allows for maximum views of the central green from all guest rooms. Finally, the Student Facility block was located along the ridged perimeter towards East, thus together enclosing the central green.
The blocks for single students’ hostels are modular two storey buildings of square geometry with a central courtyard. This central paved multi-functional open to sky space dually functions as an interactive zone for students while optimising light and ventilation features for the block.
This open to sky ‘additional rooms’ zone has the distinct advantage of providing immediate spill over spaces that are used in a variety of ways by the students. The block is designed such that all the hostel rooms are located around this central courtyard with common facilities including indoor games room and television room in each block.
All hostel rooms are designed for single occupancy and sport a Spartan interior theme comprising of single bed, study desk with book shelf, chairs and cupboards for clothing and supplies. Balconies which open onto private green niches carved out from the existing natural landscape are integrated in all rooms.
Housing for married students is designed in a separate block comprising of 1 BHK apartments. This block follows the vocabulary of the single students’ hostel, with its open to sky central courtyard feature serving as a spill over space and each apartment unit boasting an attached balcony with the living room – with a view of the landscaped central green.
To ensure the independence of the large central green, the two blocks of the Guest House and Student Facility have been placed at either end of the residential blocks. The former contains 8 rooms and 4 suites, thoughtfully integrated with dining and conference facilities for visiting scientists while the latter serves a recreational purpose as it includes dining and indoor sports rooms for the students.
Contextual in terms of its orientation and use of materials, one finds the campus design embodying the spirit of simplicity and timelessness. Exposed brick and concrete form the primary external vocabulary of the building while the natural topography and landscape of undulating slopes, existing mature trees and gradually appearing, then seemingly shifting vistas of green, as perceived from most parts of the facility; softens the otherwise bold and abstract building massing.
This clever approach to letting the natural terrain work its own magic for the overall composition of the development helps sustain the gentle relationship of builtforms with natural surroundings.
Reiterating a belief in energy efficient design, the HCP team contextually integrated appropriate design and construction methodologies for achieving a sustainable design response for this project: thick peripheral walls to reduce heat penetration for all buildings, deep-set openings so well-shaded windows could be accommodated along with usable alcove spaces inside and the multi-functional central courtyard space providing natural light, ventilation and a social platform for students.
The HCP approach to functional, simple and sensible community spaces explains why their favourite design quote (“Innovate only as a last resort ~ Charles Eames”) works particularly well for them – because they choose substance over sensational and basic over bling. And also, because at the heart of their work values is the belief that “exemplary design is inclusive, sustainable, sensitive to context and fulfills the needs of the client”.
Text By Deepanjolie Sonya Figg
Photographs Courtesy Dinesh Mehta