Spiretec Noida: Configuring Ground

Configuring Ground: An exploration into new modes of sustainable development

Competition entry for Spiretec, Noida 2011.

Project team (Workgroup 10-A): Ameya Athavankar, Ipsit Patel, Rika Chaudhry, Sagarika Suri, Zameer Basrai

Configuring Ground

Configuring Ground

“Rapid expansion of the IT industry to parts of rural India, as SEZs or extra-urban themed destinations, is a matter of contemporary concern. Such developments result in ad-hoc and often arbitrary changes to Land-use patterns. Large tracts of agricultural land are unabashedly acquired from farmers, cleaned, leveled, made accessible through highways; and then re-developed into mostly unremarkable work and living environments that lack both the character and intensity of urban space.

Spiretec, Greater Noida, to us is not merely about creating an iconic building with low energy consumption. The challenge, as we see it lies in responding to the larger framework of sustainable growth in the Greater Noida region. The proposal therefore chooses to view Spiretec, Greater Noida as a laboratory for the discovery of a new urbanity, an open architectural system rather than an isolated work of architecture. Configuring Ground re-imagines the scope of sustainable design by addressing issues of place, identity, type, form, flexibility, community and civic pride alongside the more conventional energy-efficiency, technology, ecology and climate approach.

These various aspects of design come together in a compact building that forms the backdrop to a large, open forecourt. This can be most clearly ‘read’ in the stark figure-ground diagram of the site. The existing embankment, is an insufficient response to the river with the flood being perceived as a technical problem. This embankment is broken and the flood plain is extended into the site, agriculture is re-introduced, farmers are re-employed, the IT development gets a heightened sense of place, built space and agricultural land are intrinsically bound (or woven) together through relations of ownership and responsibility, the proposed building assumes a linear form that contains a number of living and working types providing various levels of bottom-up flexibility. Furthermore, the orientation and form of the building as well as the double-skin façade system allows for natural ventilation while modulating solar heat gain round the year.

The entire project, from master plan to façade details is a combination of intents. It does not hint towards any singular ideology or approach but rather celebrates the pluralism of urban, architectural and social concerns. Configuring Ground presents itself in hybrid images of inclusive and sustainable development that are not only iconic but also relevant to the future of the Greater Noida area.”

Proposed Zoning

The River Experience: Land along the river is largely occupied by industries (left). Industry not only significantly contributes to the pollution of the river but also locks up a large part of the river edge and makes it inaccessible to the public. The master plan (right) proposes to reserve land along the river edge primarily for green, cultural, leisure spaces and non-polluting industry.

Proposed linear spines

Modulating the Flood Plain: The embankment as it exists is at best an inadequate response to the river. The master plan proposes contextual articulation of the embankment to extend parts of the flood plain as well as the experience of the river. The canals are seen as open spaces that will host a variety of activities ranging from organic agriculture to farmer’s markets or water sports.

Figure-Ground

Figure-Ground Dynamic: The building was conceived as a cut-away where a compact form and ground compete as positive figures. The building is located on the north end of the site so as to allow light into the open space. The embankment and the flood plain are pulled into the site as a canal system with sluice gates.

Site Plan

A Slender and compact building creates a positive ground which can be used for activities ranging from farmers’ markets, agriculture to water sports. A series of terraced spaces extend the ground onto the terrace of the existing IT Blocks creating a ‘new ground’ at +27m.

Schematic Diagram

Program resolution

The ‘new ground’ creates an open system with differential levels of public spaces moving away from the conventional sense of a gated community in an IT park.

Foster farms

In the last twenty years, large tracts of agricultural lands have been replaced by commercial or (soft) industrial developments. Landlords have received a fair deal for their land while farmers are often displaced. In a booming economy like ours, it is easy to leave many behind. On the other hand, the agricultural industry seems sluggish and reluctant to re-invent itself. Will the farmers be left behind? What is the worth of development if only for a few? Is a more inclusive development model possible? How does ‘community’ relate to ideas of sustainability?

Our proposal ensures that both the IT industry and the farmers can benefit from an inclusive development model. We felt very strongly that the IT industry has been most receptive to ideas of these kind. It has been emblematic of change, technological innovations and the assimilation of new values and ethics. When we refer to the IT industry, we refer mostly to a new consciousness shared by a group of educated, informed, highly sensitized people where this kind of inclusive development can actually find an environment of nurture. The profile of people have been associated with cool, hip and especially so with societal change. Corporate identity, has in the recent past, also been promoting environmental movements in a big way. In fact, what we propose has been practiced across the globe albeit in a piecemeal way. At Spiretec we wanted to consolidate individual (piecemeal) effort to create a commons, a community space maintained (in every sense of the word) by each individual.

A larger portion of the available land is reserved for agricultural activities. A terraced spine is also introduced into the building form. By reducing the footprint of the building and moving it to the edge of the land, we are able to create an iconic landscape for it. The space is public and essentially farmland. This also helps reabsorb a significant number of farmers who may have lost their land or their livelihood in the course of this development. Each IT firm is allotted an agricultural plot. While the plot is the responsibility of the firm, the firms will also receive incentives to foster them. The identity of each firm buying space at Spiretec will be expressed through a single plot of land. It is quintessentially an environmentally friendly billboard for the firm.

Section through ramp

Section through tower

Residential module

IT module

Regulating solar heat gain

The Southern inclination of the the building keeps a large part of its facade in shade during summer months (top left) and allows light to penetrate during the winter months (top right). A second skin on the south end of the face of the building cuts off glare letting in indirect light.

Canal View

Being highly subject to temporal changes, the extension of the flood plain can host a large range of seasonal events such as farmers’ markets, concerts, fairs or charettes. The institution can have IT booths providing information for farmers. The canal can also serve as a setting for water sports. The extension of the flood plain provides a fertile ground for cultivation and will be used for organic farming. The produce may be commercially sold as well as consumed by the community. This is seen as a first step towards achieving a self-sustained community.

Canal view

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