by Jerry ElengicalAug 01, 2022
Owing to their presence in the city of Chandigarh and a vigour to mark a dialogue between western modernism and elements of Indian architecture, the Panchkula-based practice Charged Voids has constantly drawn inspiration from the core principles of Le Corbusier, one of the pioneers of modern architecture. The firm led by Aman Aggarwal continues to explore this blend of contemporary and Indian principles beyond form and spatial parameters, extending the exploration to the materiality of design too. Contrasting with the idea of the free facade by Corbusier, in Office 543, the studio's latest project in Mohali, Charged Voids compact the facade with minimum openings that carefully peak into the streets but limit the visual transparency of the interiors. While the exterior box-like structure may drive the curious question of fenestrations, the architects open the structure skywards in the interior.
In Punjab’s Mohali, another formally planned district in the state, Office 543 exists as a scaled-up granite motif that radiates a sense of calmness and serenity amid the babel of the busy commercial district. Perceived as a showcase for a construction company, the office, sits on a narrow 140 sq.m. plot and is designed to aid the necessary programmatic needs of the users for efficiency and spatial flexibility. Piercing through the bulkiness of the facade, the interiors are illuminated by natural light and lend levity through cross ventilation owing to the multiple skylights and small courtyards. Merging the client’s experience as a builder with the design philosophies of the architecture firm, the building is closed off from two sides with indoor pockets of green becoming a buffer between the interior and exterior spaces.
Within the L-shaped configuration of the spaces, a small reception, main office area and a private meeting room occupy the ground floor. Led through a floating metal staircase in the atrium, the lobby is connected to the first floor with the terrace, workspaces, and the office. Though the staircase design isn’t featured as a sculptural entity, the ‘floating’ metal brings forth an interesting perspective in exhibiting a modern stance that complements the more traditional materiality of granite and marble.
While the architecture of Office 543 adopts straight lines, the oval-shaped private meeting area at the heart of the design introduces an element of emphasis and establishes a hierarchy within the otherwise conventional spaces of the office. “Openings between the various rooms are designed to connect the office's narrow spaces with the two courtyards that are planted with small trees. These courtyards and skylights bring in the elements of nature - wind, light and vegetation - and break the rigid geometry of the building elements,” share the architects.
In the geometric plan, the material palette becomes an integral feature of the design. The muted appearance of white marble and Sivakasi gold granite subtly anchors the existence of the building in the otherwise mundane, commercialised elevation of the streetscape. Within the white interiors of the office, the granite etches an interesting movement and imparts a kind of palatial aesthetic to the monotone of the office design. In the very minimal and contemporary-looking design of the interiors, the architects limit the mood board to subtle earthy tones while introducing pockets of green as required.
Even while the architectural style of Office 543 doesn’t beckon a new genre altogether in office design, the sense of tranquillity reflected through an interesting selection of materials seems to provide a new outlook on how materials can alter the geometric aesthetics of design. While the architectural scene of Chandigarh has always depicted resemblance to the philosophies of Corbusier and concepts of brutalism, the newer projects in this context are exploring the wider potential and multitude of possibilities in architecture to create a character and identity that speaks for itself.
Name of Project: Office 543
Location: Mohali, Punjab
Client: Khullar Builders
Principal Architect: Aman Aggarwal
Design Team: Swati Agarwal and Anshu Garg
Site Area: 140 sq .m.
Built-Up Area: 190 sq .m.
Structural Engineer:Pankaj Chopra