Glued to a computer screen all day is what we all are these days; taking a break and losing oneself in a sweeping vista of green could be a huge relief and a boost for our productivity. The landscaping at Pune’s SP Infocity lets one do just that.
SP Infocity in Pune is an 80 acre IT complex featuring state-of-the-art residences and commercial spaces. The project is dominated by a circular arterial road and smaller link roads branching out from it. This road design successfully manages to keep vehicular traffic to the periphery leaving the large central space for landscaping and pedestrian movement.
With the busy office buildings, the central plaza was conceived as a place for employees to de-stress and network with each other. Providing this sort of calm refuge while still maintaining the integrity of a corporate landscape was a huge challenge and architecture and landscape consultant Kishore D. Pradhan was commissioned to cope with it.
“Four fountains with circular flower beds around them form the basis of the central plaza. Three curvilinear IT blocks surround this plaza with a water cascade at the fourth end. The cascade acts as a focal point with the club house as the backdrop,” says Pradhan.
Gazebos with trailing vines and benches underneath, seating around the fountains and plenty of paved pathways make this a soothing spot for a break. Further down, the club house building, amphitheatre and swimming pool are also placed on the central axis.
A large green park with pedestrian paths and a jogging track acts as the buffer between the IT blocks and the club house and also doubles as a party venue. Trees on either side cordon off and camouflage the parking lots while also providing shade.
Two additional buildings (one of which is still being completed) have large basements with parking underneath. Pradhan adds, “The basement roof slab of Building No. 4 offered an opportunity to create a large, two acre terrace garden overlooked by three office blocks. Here too, the green space becomes the focal point of the built elements and an easy access to the podium gardens ensures the same environmental and recreational benefits to the people as the central plaza.”
Full-grown trees played an important part in the landscaping. “The entire greenery is sustained by the recycled water retrieved from the sewage treatment plant which ensures that, irrespective of rainfall, the landscape will remain lush throughout the year,” he explains.
Ironically, one of the challenges of the project in the initial years of development was the failing monsoon. “This posed severe problem for plant growth. Fortunately, after three years the rains were good and greenery flourished.”
There were other challenges too. When asked what he would do differently in hindsight, Mr. Pradhan says, “When we stepped in the project the large lawn with a water body already existed opposite the main entry. This element had to be considered while preparing the landscape design for other areas. Being right at the entrance, a visitor saw it first.”
He continues, “That impression was important. A pond with stagnant water is a big environmental liability. We tried to improve the situation by putting in a mist fountain. However, given a choice I would have designed this part differently.” Pradhan says, “The other problem was use of the shrub ‘Acalypha’. This is an attractive, hardy shrub. However, in Pune, it is easily affected by a disease. To avoid Acalypha and to find an effective alternative to it was a real challenge.”
Pune’s lovely moderate climate allowed a range of plants to be used in the project. The trees included species like Bauhinia Blakeana, Plumeria and Grevillea Robusta, while shrubs included Allamanda neriifolia and Nerium oleander. Flowering plants like the dwarf-red Canna and Spider-Lily (Hymenocallis littoralis) add colour and fragrance.
The geometry of the pathways intersecting with the lush green beautifully complements the burst of colour from the perennial plants and flowers. For employees glued to computer screens all day, the sight of such natural opulence right in their backyard can only be a sigh of relief and possibly, impatience for their next break with the music of the fountains for company.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Kishore Pradhan