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World Architecture Festival: Sanjay Puri Marks the Indian Win, Again, with ‘The Street’!

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on 28 days ago

© Courtesy of internet resources

Well, you can’t stop the earth from spinning, they say. And, it looks like you can’t stop Sanjay Puri Architects from winning, either! As another session of a celebration of global excellence in design, the World Architecture Festival 2018, wrapped up at Amsterdam this November end, we saw yet another feather added to this Indian firm’s cap. And, how! This habitual winner’s entry is yet another design masterstroke; simple, evocative, yet scoring powerfully at several parameters to present a solution which we can never tire of discussing and adulating. This already much talked about project, ‘The Street’, an 800 room students’ hostel complex for a university campus located in Mathura, designed by Ar. Sanjay Puri and his team won the World Architecture Festival Award 2018 in the category of ‘Large Scale Housing – Completed Buildings’.

‘The Street’, as mentioned, is already an iconic built structure that has been much covered in various sections of the media. Viewing it as a hostel complex, one tends to expect certain typicality in it in terms of layout, arrangement and overall design. The pleasant surprise is that, while not totally (and uncomfortably) doing away with the conventional aspects of the students’ living arrangements, Sanjay Puri and his team have introduced a spin that dramatically alters the functional, climatic, aesthetic and (ethnically) contextual experience of residents and visitors alike.  Further, the project also scores in terms of speed of execution and limiting of cost to the client. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

Given a wedge shaped plot facing a football ground across an internal road of the GLA University campus in Mathura, the architects were given nine months to complete the project from conception to building with the expectation that they would deliver structures akin to the typical hostel blocks that already existed in the surroundings. But, the design that was developed and executed within the stipulated period was superlatively enhanced. Firstly, the regimented grid layout of rectangular building blocks was done away with to be replaced by elongated blocks that are twisted at points to form bends in the internal corridor which act as the inmates’ break-out spaces, as also bends on the street outside to create a fundamental break in the regimental monotony.

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

This resulted in organic looking lanes that snake their way between the hostels, creating hidden views at lane-ends that could be seen only on turning around the corner, very akin to actual streets in old Indian cities like Mathura which have grown organically.  Also, the buildings being aligned to the north-south axis had the lanes between them running along the same direction to finally spill into the open playground. With the large glazed front and entrance to the central block housing the students’ mess and games rooms facing the same northern play-ground, this open area becomes the vital focus of the layout.

© Courtesy of internet resources

More noteworthy is the fact that the north-south orientation of the buildings on either side of the central site axis slanting slightly towards the centre to form an arrow-head shaped layout succeeds on a climatic score. In this arrangement the five blocks rising to three storey heights manage to cut off the sun’s daily travel arc through the southern hemisphere, completely shading the lanes, open greens and building faces.

© Courtesy of internet resources

The most intriguing visual aspect of the project is the gridded rows of wedges, their facets variously tweaked in different corners, spread across the facades like spikes on a hedgehog. These are the bay windows provided to each of the hostel rooms, which are typically aligned on both sides along a central corridor internally. The windows are each placed at the end of a northward oriented projecting bay thus ensuring that each student, while looking out of his room window, would first see the open greens immediately below his block and then the open play-ground beyond. More importantly, this ensures complete shading from the harsh southern sun and optimisation of comfortable north light in each room.

© Courtesy of internet resources

With conceptualisation, drawings and approvals ready by the time the students left for home after exams in April, construction was begun immediately. Sticking to simple, cost effective, tried and tested finishing techniques like paint on stucco plaster for all the surfaces ensured a quick completion of construction, ready for occupation by the students when they returned in June. What’s more? The naturally cool interiors that the returning students experienced at the peak of summer in Mathura resulted in the cancellation of air-conditioning units which had been ordered for the rooms but not yet installed! This fundamental principle of correct orientation for climatic comfort along with several other passive and mechanical techniques incorporated in the scheme, like the rain water harvesting, water recycling and solar energy harnessing systems, make this an ideal green building model worth emulating.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Wedge projections become the binding grammar of the entire scheme when repeated in the twin large nesting shells that encase the games room and cafeteria fin out in alternating directions. Colour also plays a major role in the visuals as it is subtly used in solid blocks of primaries in the exterior soffits of the hostel windows as a means to individualise and identify the hostel blocks from each other. Appearing in larger panels, the same colours add life to the central games, gym and café building.

© Courtesy of internet resources

‘The Street’ could, in fact, be any old street in historic Mathura with projecting balconies gazing down upon the busy scene. Of course, it is yet another of Sanjay Puri Architects’ iconic buildings which testifies to team’s unstinting commitment to towards an architectural practice which is a perfect blend of established fundamentals and simple innovations, which delivers contextually, climatically, functionally and aesthetically relevant structures. TFOD congratulates them while eagerly watching out for many more amazing milestones that are waiting to be crossed along their exciting architectural journey.

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