Triburg Headquarters, Gurgaon: by SPA
Post Colonial ‘modern’ Indian architecture has been stamped by the influence of two imposing figures in this field – Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. The apparently monolithic and monumental structures revealed on closer analysis, an intricately and efficiently worked out design scheme. After them, exposed concrete and brickwork as well as linear perfection and simple geometry almost became a metaphor for modern Indian architecture, borrowed and emulated generously by many after them. Stephane Paumier is one such contemporary architect, of French origin and settled in India - whose design for the headquarters of clothing company Triburg’s India head quarters at Gurgaon, Haryana - reflects the same influence! The building celebrates the successful marriage between the aesthetically appealing and climatically sympathetic exposed brickwork arches and vaults and exposed structural concrete, taking modern Indian architectural metaphor to the next level, by infusing into it a corporate look using glass.
Innovation Meets Heritage
Both masters of the craft, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn have left an indelible impression on Indian architecture that has been difficult to surpass. Honesty of material was something both stood for. While Le Corbusier was concerned with cultural and climatic context, privacy and publicity (group image 1), Louis Kahn was also constantly striving to design an architecture of open spaces that also influenced the occupants intensively (group images 2,3,4). Delhi based firm SPA Design, led by French architect Stephane Paumier seems to echo the same architectural ideology.
Influences: Step Wells and Hanging Gardens
SPA’s design for the Triburg Head Quarters at Gurgaon lays claim to twin inspirational sources – the ‘Adalaj’ step well in Ahmedabad and the mythical Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Emulating the transparencies of the former, a stepped facade with roof top gardens derives from the latter. Both influences assist in addressing issues related to climatic response and privacy among others.
The Design: Reticulate Plan and Stepped Section (group images 5,6)
The building, in a front to back section, begins with a basement + ground +1 floor in the front wing and progressively steps up through intermediate wings to a volume of + 6 floors in the rear wing. This progression in height creates a stepped facade, with rooftop gardens on every step evoking an image of the mythical Hanging Gardens at Babylon. This translates as a reticulate scheme in plan, resulting in four courtyards which serve to create an inward looking, functionally efficient work space and also allow the entry of moderate day lighting into most parts of the building. The clustering of services at the back leaving the basement free for vehicular parking, additional daylight is allowed in through sky lights at the top floors and through glazing on certain faces. Each of the four courtyards is treated with different varieties of landscape. A basic reinforced concrete structure has been used for the entire building with exposed brickwork walls, arches and vaults spanning the spaces.
Incorporating Craftsmanship and Infusing the Corporate Look
In response to the clients’ requirement that the building should reflect the emphasis laid on craftsmanship by the firm as an essential element of their business of fabrics, SPA decided to go with exposed brickwork for paving, walls and ceiling vaults using natural clay bricks. The beauty of brick arches and vaults has been skilfully blended with the practicality of concrete pillars, beams and lintels. Rows of these brick arches, stepping up higher as they progress to the back of the site and running around landscaped courtyards, tone down the scale of the 20,000 sq m building and lend a transparency which recalls the inspirational step well.
The intermediate walls, especially the one adjoining the stair well, are fully glazed to hint at the corporate function of the building. The pattern of glazing on one of the walls reflects the multi foliate design of the leaves of Gulmohur trees surrounding the building. The entire design is a skilfully crafted blend of beautiful brickwork, practical concrete and glamorous glass. The building appears, at once, to stand out in its uniqueness as well as blend in harmoniously with its surrounds.
Summarily, this exposed brick and concrete creation is undeniably reminiscent of the works of the masters of the craft, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. The monastic lines, geometric shapes, monumental yet humanely responsive scale, honesty of material and arrangement, all the attributes of works by these masters seem to find some legacy in SPA’s architecture, particularly notable in this project as well as the earlier Tarun Tahiliani Design head quarters (group image 13) located in Gurgaon itself. The Triburg Head Quarter design in particular brings to mind Kahn’s Arts United centre (group image 14) at Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, but with a twist of transparency and lightness brought about by the repetition of the arched void cutting through the solid form. It is also not surprising to learn that the structural engineer for the project is none other than Mahendra Raj, who started his career alongside Le Corbusier. Who better to execute those fine brickwork arches and vaults to perfection? Any heritage around the world would be considered fortunate to find able shoulders to carry its legacy into the future. That this journey be made with the aid of added innovations that help meet challenges of the future lights it up with promising hope.