Suzlon One Earth Global Corporate Headquarters - Christopher Charles Benninger Architects
Suzlon One Earth Global Corporate Headquarters designed by Pune-based Christopher Charles Benninger Architects is sculptural addition to Pune's cityscape as a commercial adaptation that skilfully negotiates sense of the brand image to fulfil the sustainable needs of the hour.
Privileged by site, budget or high client brief, corporate projects have existed iconically in the world as sprawling infrastructures, yet subsist sustainability-wise developing a core of urban concern. However, the history of the corporate image of architecture has been recast in the last decade. The changing iconography of the companies has observed a shift in traditional modes of individual identity in favour of social infrastructure, not as a short-term elusive phase, but as a collective to develop a ‘greener’ identity of the brand. Central to this strategy and a perception of the same circumstance in the Indian architectural scenario is Suzlon One Earth Global Corporate Headquarters designed by Pune-based architectural firm Christopher Charles Benninger Architects.
Sited across 45,393sqft in an industrial pocket in the Pune-Mumbai corridor, Suzlon Energy Ltd. is the flagship company of the Suzlon Group. A growing global leader in wind energy, the design of its headquarters called for a symbolic adaptation of its brand- in terms of ambience, organisational structure and values. Underlying this brief was an imperative to make it cost-effective, suitable for rapid implementation and energy savvy.
The designed campus of Suzlon One Earth Global Corporate Headquarters across 8,16,171sqft of site area,reflects well considered detailing that complements remarkably well with the ordered simplicity of the planning. It is drawn on both literal modules and components choices- as the architects puts it “elements and events”. The concept is locked together by a series of modules that locates and defines the nature of the interior program. The layout follows an ideological persuasion of taking square as the “MODULE” of construction. The module mutates accordingly in plan and elevation to manifest a set geometry. The repetition dictates a logic that is reflected everywhere; like dimensions are drawn from the most logical ceiling to ceiling height, which is reflected in plan and the columns and beams leave a square cut out closed by horizontal louvers and cladding that maximise ventilation & uninterrupted views outside. This massing design decision allows a valuable view into a number of recombinant equations that will activate spaces. Twelve by twelve foot squares when grouped could form spaces, the columns can hold up the roof sections creating pergolas or pavilions can be placed on the roofs. It is a small tweak to the plan, almost domestic in scale, yet its adds exponentially to the project’s spatial richness.
The major volumetric move onto the existing fabric is one of division rather than addition. Composing the modules into poetic interludes, the components are “idiosyncratic solutions to notional problems, like stairways and sky courts bringing in light and allowing nature to grow within the fabric.” They are used as inserts as “RELIEF MODULES”, volumes where the staff can introspect, reflect or catch a break.
Corresponding to its scale, the main entrances of the structure are uplifted glass SKY cylinders that invite in light and ventilation. Native landscape like palms and other plants buffer the zones from activity and traverse as sociable spaces.
The conservation credo of simple rectilinear spaces blends in well with the planimetric organisation. A built uptake on a LEGO building block set, it echoes well in the strategic positioning of the MODULES, SKY CYLINDERS, retreat areas and stairs. Triangular skylights in the circular cylinder channel in indirect light, its shadow-light trajectory animating the interiors day and night. Expressed in a network of remarkable openness and flexibility, the woven tapestry of the building dilutes into smaller composites of BREAK AREAS like toilets, a convenient pantry for self-help coffee and tea, a small reference library for self-education and reference, a “smoking porch”, a small dialogue table and a Xerox machine.
The most visually arresting component of the whole design is the DEEPA STAMBH at the centre. Deepa Stambh, a huge traditional Maharashtrian oil lamp, graces the centre of the Suzlon reflecting pool—a pivotal position in the campus. About forty feet tall, it will be covered with LED lamps. The visual lines from all directions extend to it- be it from the entrances or from the glass ‘Brahmasthal’. The pool is crafted at the basement level wherein it subtly shapes as a view of the dining and cafeteria. The water element traces lines back as a cascade of water in the backdrop, winding down three tier levels. Further dressed with traditional step-like objects, the water lends a rhythmic background score to the ambience. A long water basin feeds the water falls through a pumping system. The linear basin links the Brahmasthal to a fountain toward the east. Architecturally, these nuances push the building towards a vernacular typology, with its generally restrained palette and auspicious components functioning as a backdrop to a high-tech context. The auspicious components are subtle details within the project that make it particular to its location. Overall, the volumetric dialogue is about rectilinear spaces which imbibe extensive openings to promote cross-ventilation and there is an emphasis on a connect of the interiors rooms with the exterior, both physically and visually. The framework is fraught with sustainable initiatives. It has embedded the materialistic program with mainly two environmental controls—Solar photovoltaic panels that form the roof of the atrium of the learning centre and reflective pools that create a microenvironment in the campus, cooling the air around. Its material palette aids cohesion between the work and its locale, expressive in its objective as a contextual fit.
The visible activity and relaxed collaboration in this transparent setting is far from the hierarchical spatial structure and compartmentalised office-scapes. It not only accepts the plurality of functions but also from its overlaps brings forth a unity that can be viewed in rhythms and episodes. The building is a continuous exploration of a designer aesthetic with green initiatives that shows creative involvement in brand communication at all levels. A shift from the conventional style to an approach that positions sustainability as its key aspect – Its strategies and material usage making a powerful argument that the structure has to play in the green scenario as a community asset. The project embraces a poetic reading of its context—a modern interpretation of vernacular aesthetics. The resulting building is ambiguous; both rhetoric of high technology and contextual culture, both sustainable and urbane.
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