Architect Sanjay Prakash on Cultural Cum Information Centre, Jabalpur

Ar Sanjay Prakash on Cultural Cum Information Centre, Jabalpur

Located in the Marble City of Madhya Pradesh, the Culture and Information Centre designed by the Studio for Habitat Futures (SHiFt), presents state-of-the-art facilities and spaces that promote the ideology of interactive design. The signature of sustainability that exists in almost every project by the firm is distinctly perceivable in the planning of this project as well. To top that, the scheme also houses spaces that aim to facilitate communications between the localities and tourists while showcasing the cultural vitality of the area.

To know more about the novel project, #SurfacesReporter had a discussion with the creative mind behind, Architect Sanjay Prakash, Principal Architect, SHiFt- Studio For Habitat Futures, Delhi.

You started designing sustainable buildings long back when the movement just initiated in India. Tell us about your experience. 

Sustainability has been a part of me, even when I was not much aware about it. Back then, People used to perceive it as an alternative way of architecture rather than a need, like today! But even in that period, I stuck with the idea of designing equitably with nature. If you look at one of my earlier work for The LokJumbish School Buildings Development in Rajasthan in collaboration with Barefoot Architects, we designed low-cost Institutions using a participatory & community lead sustainable approach and vernacular construction techniques. By focusing on the orientation we achieved naturally lit and well-ventilated spaces, used local stones for arches and sandstone pillars for verandahs. So, I have always strived to inculcate sustainability at every level of the design process rather than limiting it just to the material usage.

For the Cultural cum Information centre in Jabalpur, we took the user-centric approach and incorporated their local crafts and techniques that led to less usage of conventional energy with positive effects on the microclimate. With further technological advancements, we undertake hybrid air-conditioning, autonomous energy and water systems, earth construction, computer-aided design to provide a structure that can be termed as ‘sustainable’ in its true sense.

How will the Culture and Information Centre, Jabalpur ensure sustainability in the long run?

The Culture and Information Centre Block presents to its users a traditional amalgam in its facade itself. Cladded with grit textures for contemporary appeal, the intermediate terracotta jali inspired from the traditional inlay pattern of Burhampur, and the occasional sandstone -instil the materiality of the local textures in a fine blend. The stilt floor houses the primary circulation cores and an open space to encourage the local artisans to display their work, in any pattern as they desire. Such a space enables the complete implementation of the idea of interaction, allowing a positive synergy to exist between the local folk and the other inhabitants of the city & tourists. Perching upward, a grand lobby paves the way towards a 650 SqM. Exhibition Hall, designed to showcase artistic talents of the region and around the globe.

The mezzanine floor above this level consists of requisite administrative areas, a meeting room and a quaint cafe overlooking the landscaped area beneath. It is also strategically connected to the hotel block by a bridge, for guests to avail the restaurant. Two multipurpose halls, and a defined pre-function area with a capacity to house an audience of almost 500 –have been designed on the first floor. One of the halls have the facility of being divided into two separate halls if required, thus allowing a total of three diverse gatherings to be hosted on the same floor. Most of the flooring has been designed in sandstone and Indian Patent Stone (IPS). To enhance the high footfall lobbies and common spaces, the continuity of the floor has been accentuated with inlay work of local ‘Gond Art’, thus enabling the crowd to glance at this local craft while commuting from one zone to another.

The culminating floor of this block consists of a 900 seat auditorium, designed with an intricate eye of detail. The wall finishes, to begin with are fashioned as an interplay of sandstone and ‘Bandhi’ print fabric; to not only create a unique aesthetic ambience but also create an acoustically sound auditorium space without using imported materials. The carpeted flooring also has been planned with portions of ‘Durrie’ work to accentuate the design with a culturally affluent touch.

The Hotel Block, consisting of almost 45 rooms for accommodation of guests, has been conceived in consonance to the Cultural Block; with a similar facade treatment of Grit, Sandstone and Terracotta. The interior spaces begin at a Reception and an adjacent banquet hall. The first floor consists of a restaurant and additional ‘self-pampering’ spaces, which as mentioned earlier, are connected to the Cultural Centre through a bridge. Guest Rooms have been designed to be located on the second, third and fourth floors; with all necessary features so as to delight its users. The terraces of both blocks consist of landscaped gardens shaded with a continuous roof of photovoltaic cells.

Besides using green pavers and locally available finishes, the interiors of the project have been designed to be glare-free and lit naturally. Calming tints and shades for the vertical interfaces allow artificial light to be reduced. To meet the lighting needs post-sunset, high performance LED lamps with optimising regulators aim to achieve efficient energy use. The photovoltaic roof-mounted on the terrace is designed to produce about 250 kW of power, thus reducing the use of conventional energy.

Proposed to achieve thermal comfort through natural processes, the structure and its interiors intend to maintain indoor comfort while using minimal HVAC Systems.

The Cultural and Information Centre of Jabalpur is not only a design that elevates and reflects the delicate work of local artisans but also creates a positive effect on the microclimate and demonstrates a structure that can be termed ‘Sustainable’ in every context.

Is designing sustainably a costly affair?

I would disagree with that. Instead of following the trend of using ‘Sustainable’ materials like mud and bamboo which are not easily available everywhere, a more holistic approach can definitely result in a design that is low cost and value for the money for the user.

For a space to be called ‘sustainable’, it should be able to withstand natural tensions, recover from future changes and create a unique identity for the user which is all part of the sustainability for me.

If I can take an example from my own projects, The Mirambika School in New Delhi is currently undergoing a renovation from a school to a college. This institution was designed in a way that it could be moulded and further support the future changes without losing its identity and value which offers a less expensive affair than creating a whole new structure from scratch which fulfils my four bases of sustainable design- equity, resilience, identity, sufficiency.     

Your Message to our readers.

For the designers who downscale their inspiration to build sustainable spaces because of not getting similar sensitivity from the clients, I can assure them that people today are willing to incorporate sustainability as long as it is not a costly affair for them and easily executed. So as a professional it’s your responsibility to find a balance between economy and opportunity.

For the readers from the other side of the table, I want to convey I have been associated with passive and low energy architecture for more than 35 years now, and it still amazes me how energy efficient design can have a good impact for the user and his surroundings. 

About the Culture and Information Centre, Jabalpur

Designed according to a brief set by the Jabalpur Smart City Limited, the structure aims to harmoniously present a wholesome cultural experience while maintaining the technical requisites of the project. Keeping collaboration and communication between people of different walks of life as constant, the design is concocted to cater to any global citizen so as to be a prime example of an iconic structure of a Smart City.

Timelessness being yet another major requirement of the said brief, this was duly inculcated with the fine amalgam of an avant-garde structure with handcrafted finishes that elucidate the urbanscape of Jabalpur in all its edifices.

The planning of this mammoth scale required a distinct division of functions and services, so as to present the public with a legible cognitive map that was readable, apparent, and visible. On a broader note, the primary division has been achieved between the segregation of the Cultural Centre from the Hostel building, designed within the same complex.

A common entrance bifurcated into two lanes is presented to all visitors; this leads into the two crucial built-up zones. The former has also been designed with a segregated entrance route, direct from the Rajiv Gandhi Chowk, owing to the frequent mass footfall the place was designed for.

As part of the site planning, a stepped interactive space with abundant landscaping has been introduced between the two major blocks to further allow communication between them. Smaller features like use of ‘green pavers’ and gravel stoned driveways, aid to reduce cement from landscape design and inculcate the idea of ‘Sustainable Design’ is every detail. Driving focuses on the Hotel Block, and a considerable green buffer had been maintained though, they have now relocated the school building to different site to create an effective differentiation of function through the shared green space.

In order to accommodate a large amount of parking required for the visitors and guests, a continuous basement runs beneath the Culture Centre and the Hotel Block. Designed to house 180 cars at one time, separate ramps leading to and from the respective blocks enable functional movement of traffic.

The Cultural and Information Centre of Jabalpur is not only a design that elevates and reflects the delicate work of local artisans but also creates a positive effect on the microclimate and demonstrates a structure that can be termed ‘Sustainable’ in every context.

Also Read: Integrating Hotpot Culture with Environment: MUDA-Architects

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