by Meghna MehtaSep 23, 2020
India's trade and transportation relies heavily on trucks and truck drivers, a profession that has seen rapid decline in numbers due to negligible amenities and excessive responsibilities. At present, truck drivers have little to no restrooms or pit stops during long distance journeys. In 1982, for every 1000 trucks there were 1300 drivers available, this number reduced to 750 by 2012, and is predicted to come down to 450 by 2022. In other words, 50 per cent of the country's trucks remain stranded on road due to shortage of truck drivers. The requirement of this community to grow is important to continue efficient food supply and make goods available in the retail and consumer retail chain. It becomes more imperative in the current times when like every other country India is also facing the coronavirus pandemic, and truckers need to be supported for they are the backbone when it comes to the supply and delivery of everything from food to medical supplies. If the number of truck drivers kept reducing in the country for the years to come, cities in India may soon fall short of such essential items.
Rohan Chavan, the principal architect at Mumbai-based RC Architects was approached by a Bengaluru-based private transport company called Road Boss Truck Stops to design the Truck Drivers’ Village. The project is located in Chitradurga in Karnataka, on a 2.5-acre site, out of which the building occupies only seven per cent of the site area and the remaining area would be used as open space for parking and fuel station.
Currently missing in the fabric of transport routes in the country, the village has been conceptualised to serve the needs of the truck drivers to refuel, eat, unwind and relax during their journeys, with an aim to care for the existing community and encourage further more to join in. STIR speaks to Chavan to know more about this project.
Meghna Mehta (MM): This is an extremely refreshing thought – design that reaches the masses. Can you tell us more about the initial discussions with the client?
Rohan Chavan (RC): Yes. The client initially came to us with a very basic brief where he wanted to create a facility for truck drivers that would have spaces for them to eat, relax and for an overnight stay along with a few toilets for the truck drivers as well as the others. They had seen the Pause restrooms that we have previously designed on the Mumbai-Goa highway, which also addressed the same issue where we have created facilities for truck drivers but on a smaller scale. That is where the exploration to do something more for the common people started and we are happy that it went ahead.
MM: What urged you to design a facility for the truck drivers, earlier with the Pause Restroom and now with a similar project in Karnataka?
RC: We conducted a study on the number of hours a truck driver drives continuously. It ranges to as long as 18-20 hours and most of his life is spent while driving or on the highway. They have a constant urge of visiting home but due to their time commitments and schedule it is very difficult for them to do so. The design came out of this difficulty that they face on a day-to-day basis; we thought what better than to create a ‘Home on the Highway’ for the truck driver community so design can provide some solace to people who bring us our food and goods.
MM: Did the design philosophy evolve over time?
RC: Yes, it did. We started with the idea of creating a ‘home’. Each home would offer different activities. For example, one home would serve food, another would be designed to sleep and relax, and the third would be for entertainment and recreation and so on. We did realise this idea of many homes is creating a small self-sustained hamlet for the truck driver community. Hence, we started linking the homes to each other through verandas and passages, creating a fabric that you can now see and that highly resonates with the idea of a ‘village’ that they would also easily relate to.
MM: Could you explain how the spaces in the Truck Drivers’ Village work?
RC: The planning is very simple. There are four big courtyards that are individual homes, we tried to reference these courtyards with the courtyard houses of the south as that is the closest reference to the site for a home in terms of space. The courtyard ‘to eat’ faces the highway, which serves 60 people at a time. The courtyard ‘to recreate’ faces the fuel station. Next, there are two courtyards designed ‘to live and sleep’ that accommodate 40 people at a time, which are connected to the recreation court and then to the eating court.
Each of the courtyards are attached to the service facilities and various access points. The court for eating has a convenience store and an open kitchen. The court for living and sleeping has toilets and bathing, washing and drying space as well as a grooming center. The recreational court has access to pockets of space where individual groups can play carom or cards or watch TV. The community activities have been further supported with an ATM, first aid and a workshop for trucks. The landscape of the courtyard is designed with huge boulders and discrete vegetation to create a micro climate and to reference the landscape of Chitradurga.
MM: What are the materials that you plan to use for this project?
RC: We are working with a very tight budget for this project. Locally available wire cut brick is the primary material we are using for construction. We plan to keep the brick walls exposed to save on the plaster and paint. The structure is load bearing where the walls rise to 7 feet 6 inches (7’6”) above plinth. On top of the wall is a steel frame that rises 1 feet high to support the roof. The roof slopes down to the courtyard to align with the 7’6” wall lines.
MM: The project attempts to go beyond the realm of architecture and serve the society. What are your thoughts on that?
RC: Yes, here we are trying to solve the most basic issue of the truck drivers’ day-to-day lives - the longing to go home. The idea of creating an individual ‘home’ that translates into a ‘village’ was the crux and significant intent of this project. I believe, if architecture tries to resolve or even addresses these basic issues, the project succeeds in a far better way than just being a piece of a building.
Name: Truck Drivers Village
Location: Chitradurga, Karnataka, India
Year of project commencement:July 2020
Site area: 2.5 Acres
Built-up area: 8000 sq ft
Architect: RC Architects
Principal architect: Rohan Chavan
Design team: Prachi Kadam, Priya Anandani
Renderings: Priya Anandani
Video editing: Priya Anandani, Vrushabh Tekade