by Anmol AhujaJul 15, 2022
While global design sensibilities moved away from the notion of starkness and absolute efficiency associated with industrial architecture and structures a long time ago, now taking into account factors including employee well being, even recreation, a facility for electronics manufacture in an industrial town in Gujarat triumphs by simply taking a number of humanistic factors into account along with those. In developments such as these, it is common for an overwhelming scale of operations and a somewhat strict sense of function over aesthetic to take over the design process, imparting it a minimalistic, utilitarian aesthetic at the outset. Secure Sanand, however and commendably so, tiptoes between embodying a revisionist version of an erstwhile brutal structure, and inducing little provisions for its residents along the way, adapting to a relatively harsh Indian context and climatology. In swaying away from a typical industrial identity, even if unconsciously, focusing instead on breaking down scale without compromising on function, Secure Sanand carves its own.
"Breaking down silos and challenging the strong sense of hierarchy often found in manufacturing work environments,” according to the design team at Indian architecture practice Studio Saar, the site's master plan comprises separate zones for manufacturing, employee recreation, and for visitors. Between these, the facility’s built structures comprise the main manufacturing facility, utility bay, the canteen and recreation centre, and the reception building. While the designs of the manufacturing facility and utility bay are relatively more functionality driven, displaying several nods to a rather strong aesthetic sense of the industrial, the canteen and reception building reserve more space for an architectural expression, both in form and spatiality,
The design and planning principles of the facility further place employee wellbeing at their core, drawing from the clients’ strong beliefs and ethos on the subject, wherein the same care is extended to operations as well. Allowing for production to commence in record time, the facility was designed to be built in phases on an expansive 25-acre site - a former lakebed now repurposed and designated as an industrial zone. Spread between the three functional zones and four buildings, the production facility’s comprehensive functions find consonance in distinctly designed structures, interconnected on-ground by sheltered walkways, covered in white kit-like fabric canopies. The project’s masterplan also makes use of these canopied walkways as unique wayfinding tools between the four buildings, apart from providing protection against wanton weather conditions.
The main manufacturing wings are planned using open-plan layouts in order to house additional work lines in the future, along with enabling greater flexibility for the current workforce. A dominant white colour palette brushes across the utilitarian buildings, including structure and surface finishes, while maintaining a lighter ambience in the interiors. In a nod to early industrial architecture, the exterior language of the structures adapts a manifestation of the sawtooth roof, glazed in alternation to allow light streams to percolate into the interiors. The same striated language on the roof, along with hosting solar panels which generate nearly 50 per cent of the overall energy demand, doubles up on the facade too. An integrated floor-cooling system focuses on providing a comfortable working environment to the inhabitants amid Gujarat’s hot and dry climate, culminating a highly efficient thermal and insulation envelope for the building.
Adjacent to the manufacturing facility, the entrance building is marked by a tilted open canopy to welcome visitors inside. The parasol-like structure operates on two distinct levels. While the base of the structure houses the chunk of the functional public functions, including meeting rooms, changing and locker rooms, training rooms, and a medical centre, the 'superstructure' is designed independently from the pods below, allowing the space atop to be morphed as required, without compromising the whole.
Concurrent to the more casual nature of activities to be housed there, the canteen and recreational hub sit at the heart of the whole development, cylindrical in form, and designed to "counter the white, functional appearance of the manufacturing and utility buildings". This expression carries over to the materiality of the building as well, where exposed concrete is juxtaposed against a definitive corten steel entrance canopy. With a gym, recreation area, canteen, and kitchen, spaces for play and relaxation coalesce into a centrifugal structure, allowing panoramic views of the surrounding trees and water body. Towards its nucleus, a circular staircase emanates and leads visitors to the carousel-like top of the building. This core further doubles up as a heat stack for the building, while wide cantilevers offer further protection from heat gain. Impressively so, the massive halls of this structure were entirely repurposed to create temporary workers’ accommodation during the peak of the pandemic last year, while a bespoke ventilation system comprising both passive and active ventilation systems was used to meet the highest air quality standards required.
Owing to a potential flood risk at the site, the development also incorporates a seasonal lake that expands upto three times during the peak of the monsoon, allowing for all of the site’s rainwater, including surface runoff, to be housed in the lake and used for groundwater recharge via underground reserves. The water body’s influence on the microclimate, along with being a pleasant sight, is supposed to be complemented by roughly 600 newly planted trees along ingress and egress routes to the site, reinforcing a natural relationship among users within an industrial setting.
"We were keen to demonstrate to our client how factories should and can be inspiring places to work and bring joy to the people that use them,” states Ananya Singhal, co-founder of Studio Saar, on the expansive project's intent. Commenting on the challenges with the project and its desired results, the young studio's founder stated how they had been able to overcome those through collaboration, creating structures “that are genuinely adaptable to meet the ever changing needs of the teams to ensure their longevity for future years.”