Continuum must win over revolutionary change
In conversation with Goonmeet Singh Chauhan, Founder Partner, Design Forum International.
What is the main design concept behind the project- PDDU?
The 25 acre campus of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya (PDDU) Institute of Archaeology, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh is an administrative and academic campus for the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.) under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture.
Spread over an area of 5.6 lakh square feet, PDDU houses a large museum of archaeology, an auditorium (with a seating capacity of 900) with an independent entrance, a library for researchers and officials, mini-convention Centre which can accommodate 300 people and Offices of Directorate General of ASI as well as Academic and Training facilities for ASI officials.
The campus is designed on the principles of green building architecture accompanied by energy-efficient practices such as employing solar energy equipment for common areas and exterior lighting. Imbibing the principles of universal accessibility, PDDU serves as a green campus with indigenous trees planted all along the periphery to create biomass for generating oxygen.
What are the distinctive elements of archaeology connected to the design element when one enters Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya (PDDU) Institute of Archaeology?
The central objective of the external vocabulary was to establish a strong connection with archaeology — the large stepped building was conceived with grand outdoor steps and traditional Indian chattris. Sandstone and Delhi quartzite plinth were chosen as cladding materials and the whole scale is orchestrated to mimic the imposing nature of a fortress with few windows and mostly solid walls for safety of inhabitants. The dancing chattris and motifs add symbolism and visual drama. Place-making is a very vital aspect of architecture and even within the museum — the central skylight atrium with its brick walls, stone arches, and geometric patterns on the floors transport the visitor into a themed environment steeped in history.
Nine broken arches have been placed around an arrival plaza, symbolizing one’s commencement of a journey into the past where one has to make sense from the broken pieces of information. The scale of the arches is reminiscent of the glorious ancestors and their construction capabilities to create grandiose, well-articulated buildings. It is a transitory space where one shall pause and mentally align with the exploration of the museum that is to follow.
From the plaza, one enters into a heroic circular atrium set inside a square hallway creating a peripheral gallery around. This five-floor high space with a dome shaped roof serves as the arrival hall where a sense of wonderment and admiration for the past gets invoked. The museum is spread over three floors and has two wings — this essentially allowed us to create six set of galleries, each representing a period of history and comprising of three halls within it. The amateur visitor needs to only view one of the halls per period, however the more serious inquisitor would want to see two halls per gallery and the serious researcher would want to see all three.
Sandstone and Delhi quartzite plinth have been chosen as cladding materials and the whole scale is orchestrated to mimic the imposing nature of a fortress with few windows and mostly solid walls for safety of inhabitants. Place making is a very vital aspect of architecture and even within the museum — the central skylight atrium with its brick walls, stone arches, and geometric patterns on the floors transport the visitor into a themed environment steeped in history.
What are the unique aspects that are used in the project (finishes, materials & orientation)?
The project’s highlights in terms of its unique aspects are the usage of ‘Vastu Shastra’ principles to create the master plan, dividing the entire project space into nine squares — essentially three rows of three squares, each being roughly 100 m by 100 m.
The central square has been left open as a large green space (brahmsthan) which connects visually and physically, the whole set of buildings which are placed along the peripheral squares. In the north-east square, the Director General’s residence has been placed, who shall be the “sanchalak” of the whole campus, the north-east corner being left open as the lawn. The museum building, which is the largest and tallest building in the campus, has been placed on the south side and has its entrance placed centrally with a grand dome and stepped pyramidal crown that captures cosmic energy and showers it inside the building.
UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY: The entire campus is pedestrian friendly and all buildings are connected through the vehicle-free central green. The design is cost effective and space efficient to optimise the use of the built environment. All vehicles and parking are limited to the periphery. For future developments, fifty percent of the squares on the west and north are left free and converted into lawns for the time being.
Safety and security in terms of fire safety, structural safety and digital safety have been inbuilt into the design by providing a security hold area at the site entrance to screen and vet visitors and provide entrance passes.The basements are well-lit with skylights and also have space for restoration of artefacts, and a proper zone for archival.A library and visiting researchers’ office has been placed atop the dome and under the pyramid. Its position offers a fabulous vantage point and opens up views of the central open space and large greens in the front of the campus.
How sustainability has been taken care of in this project?
The campus is designed on the principles of green building architecture. It is energy efficient and employs solar energy for common areas and exterior lighting through atriums and skylights. Its water management strategy is based on zero discharge, for which a tertiary STP has been employed to ensure recycling of water for flushing, air-conditioning and horticulture. Rain water harvesting using a lake, the use of double-glazed windows and recycling of waste materials are other green features.
The green campus has also been planted with indigenous trees all along the periphery in two layers — around the peripheral road to create a lot of biomass for generating oxygen. A lake has also been created to capture the run-off water; since the water table is high, this green lines lake with stone pitching would act as a repository.
What do you think is the future of design? Is it moving more towards the globalized approach?
“Continuum must win over revolutionary change, much like a modern avatar of the old order.”
The future of design in India should be about capacity up gradation within the uplifting confines of contextual reverence. As architects, we must choose to temper and calibrate the nature and pace of change. Gradual, organic and progressive change that is rooted in reverence to the context, humbly respectful of history and mindful of contemporary aspirations … is called Transformational – This is what architecture should seek to become instead of being disruptive.
What are the challenges facing the architecture & design segment in India?
Architects play a vital role in the eco-system that helps create new habitats. Globally, the most significant challenge faced by architects and designers is the creation of sustainable cities and habitats that do not diminish ecological balance.
The business/income model of architectural practices in India is based on building anew – which is often done without due thought given to the potential impact on our environment. However, our design processes should be driven by the fact that the quality of our surroundings will directly influence the quality of our lives. Going green is the need of the hour – acting as a catalyst for thought leadership among architecture and design stakeholders, there needs to be a sustainable collective vision that shapes our cities.