The Centre of Excellence in Ahmedabad is a two storeyed building, designed by architect Pankaj Gandhi of VH Designs Studio. It is a venue for various industries to conduct their in-house training, conferences, exhibitions and meetings.
Situated in the midst of the Vatva industrial zone, on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway, this cube-like structure is set on a 10,000 sq. m. site. A monumental sandstone sculpture leads the eye to the glass-walled entrance. Balance is achieved by offsetting the severe concrete façade with curved walls and a landscaped garden.
Three of Le Corbusier’s iconic buildings are part of the narrative of Ahmedabad. It is therefore, not surprising that Pankaj Gandhi draws inspiration from him. “The building tends to celebrate the very existence of human beings and their colourful life through spaces which allow freedom of thoughts. The liberal composition of the façade, generated from free forms and shapes, symbolises the philosophy of design,” states Gandhi.
Gandhi further adds, “The purpose of the building was the driving force of the design. Intangible qualities like openness, monumentality and interconnection of spaces were considered in its design.”
The interior of the Centre gives the impression of large, well-lit spaces punctured with curved openings and walls, interspersed with splashes of colour.
The glass-walled entrance is the perfect foil for the rounded walls of the ATM outside, which is reflected by an additional curved wall inside the reception area.
“Institutes are used by people. As architects, while designing an institute, we keep people well in our minds and consider their activities, movement and needs. These facts are at the core of the concept and the entire design revolves around them. The attempt is to always design communicative spaces wherein each space has a dialogue with many other spaces. Moreover, an institute like this addresses a particular group of people connected through a common ideology and purpose,” explains Gandhi.
The reception is a large double height space which connects the public areas on the ground floor. These include a multifunction hall which has a capacity of 550. This not only serves as an auditorium and conference space, but can also house exhibitions, as the seats in this space are not fixed. The hall has a span of 90 feet and is well designed for acoustics, with a Noise Reduction Coefficient of 1.
For the convenience of users, there is an independently accessed ATM and cafeteria with an attached kitchen. In addition there is a training room and some offices with starkly designed interior spaces. Strategically placed punctures and skylights, light up the spaces on the first floor, especially in the interconnecting spaces between the auditorium and guest rooms.
These areas are wide enough to double up as informal meeting places when conferences and training sessions are in progress. The 280 seat auditorium, along with the adjoining conference room, is ideal for corporate board meetings. The C-shaped table in the conference room echoes its curved wall, which is visible from the outside. This leads into a balcony from which the landscaped garden below can be easily viewed.
To ensure peace and quiet, the library is isolated from these areas, on the opposite side of the Centre. Functional spaces like toilets are also in a private corner of the building.
In this age of global warming, the design of this building strives to reduce consumption of energy resources. The longer side, along which the public areas are located, is oriented north-east. This lowers heat absorption and at the same time provides natural light and ventilation.
Sky-lit toilets on the first floor reduce consumption of electricity. The dry and hot climate of Ahmedabad is countered by providing deep set windows with horizontal louvers. In addition vents have been provided at higher levels to allow hot air to escape from the building. By maximising usage of natural light and ventilation, maintenance costs have been reduced considerably.
Since this Centre is located in a predominantly industrial area, air pollution was a matter of concern. Narrow openings on the south west façade lessen deposition of fly ash from the surrounding area.
The landscaped site, with lush greenery and a water body helps to control the micro climate and keeps it cooler than the neighbourhood. The international firm, Jevaro Décor has designed and crafted the 24’ long sandstone sculpture that symbolises the evolution of mankind.
The form finished concrete, the punctures in the wall, the play of light and the landscaped garden with its sandstone sculpture are all reminiscent of Corbusier’s buildings. Gandhi’s building fulfills the purpose of a Centre of Excellence, while also being a modern bioclimatic structure in keeping with the times.
Text By Anita Natu
Photographs Suraj Vyas