Employees in a busy central-Mumbai commercial hub probably have no time to wander about in a garden. Landscape architect Kalpak Bhave shows us how, with a bit of thoughtful planning, nature can be brought to your office instead.
If you spend most of your waking moments in an office, I hope you have something green to look out to.
Studies have repeatedly shown that plants and greenery at the workplace increase productivity and also help clean up the air. Commercial buildings in India are increasingly incorporating landscape design in their architectural plans, which allow a holistic design strategy to be considered.
In Andheri West, a busy Mumbai suburb, Supreme Chambers is a commercial building on a large plot with about 2500 sq m available for landscaping. Mumbai-based landscape architect Kalpak Bhave was at the helm of affairs of this project.
The brief to the designers was clear – the area was to be purely visual, to be appreciated from the building lobby, driveway and all floors as all these spaces overlook the garden area.
The architectural aspects of the building were taken into consideration while designing the landscape. The façade of the building is simple and is broken into squares and rectangles. The landscape below reflects the geometry of the façade with a grid of squares and rectangles of different sizes. “All of these forms have been defined by way of a border clad in natural stones. Every area has a different character by way of its hard surfaces, semi hard surfaces, pebbled beds, lawns, shrubs, ground covers, etc.”
Each square, in turn, has one prominent colour by way of its surface and the plants used. Each square has only one plant variety with colours ranging from green, white, brown, grey, red and silver. To add texture, grey and white pebbles were used separately as well.
Natural stones like granite, marble, Kota and Jaisalmer were used for the borders of each square, the edges of which are 230 mm wide. Again, the type and colour of plant determined which stone would be appropriate. Plants with bright foliage were used to retain the beauty of the landscape through the changing seasons.
Several fountains add height and soothing sounds to the space. The fountains have been designed in such a way that they can be kept switched off and you would not know that they exist. The lighting and plumbing of the fountains is concealed and they merely look like pebbled beds when not playing.
Being a commercial building with operations exceeding 15-16 hours a day, it is not possible to keep the fountains in operation continuously. Hence the design has been worked out in such a way so as to maximise the visual impact while controlling their use.
The landscaped area is a podium with two levels of parking below. “Since we were designing over a podium, we have tried to keep the dead load to the slab down and have used more horizontal elements than vertical. A couple of trees have been added to break the horizontals and add a third dimension,” says architect Bhave.
Having a major parking area below the garden is cause for additional headaches. Water leakages, especially, had to be taken into consideration while designing. “We provided steep slopes for the water to drain away and used standard waterproofing by adding an eco-membrane on the entire podium. This not only stops soil erosion but also ensures that the drained water is free of soil particles,” explains Bhave.
All of these measures have given Supreme Chambers a LEED Certified Platinum rating making it a truly green building. “The water used in the landscaping is not fresh water. All the water used throughout is treated, recycled water recovered from the drainage system. As this is a green building, we are not allowed to use any fresh water.”
Landscaping a green building has its challenges, for sure. “As we were working on the podium, we had to keep the design light in order to reduce the structural cost. The architects had a simple and impressive building elevation and to match it we too designed simple squares and rectangles to complement the building. We consciously wanted the building and the landscape to be in harmony – without one overshadowing the other.”
For a busy commercial space, this thoughtful harmony between concrete and nature could perhaps make Monday mornings much more bearable.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Architect