The cluster design creates interplay between differently sized spaces
Le Corbusier described the task of designing Chandigarh as: "To give India the Architecture of modern Times, modern techniques, modern mind, and adaptation to the surrounding conditions that are extreme over there". Unfortunately, his visionary city with grid iron layout clustering activities in sectors, accessible green parks, responsiveness to climate and context has ossified into an architectural curiosity defined by a bureaucratic set of rules that implement ‘frame control', ‘standard sizes', ‘shuttering pattern' and material constraints as an act of faith.
Planet 3 Studios were mindful of the context when they received the opportunity to design a School of Business at Chitkara University on the outskirts of Corbusier's city. The client shared a brief with similar ambitions as the one Corbusier defined for the city, with additional expectation of an environment that enabled progressive learning and a building that effectively communicated that intent.
The site is a linear footprint of an industrial shed within a larger campus with an open ground on the north side and within walking distance to campus amenities. For ease of approvals from local planning authorities, the firm decided to stay within the constraints of the existing footprint and defer in scale to the surrounding buildings within campus.
The building is perceived as a set of five clusters where each cluster is designed to accommodate the necessary programmed usable spaces within two minutes' walking distance. The volumes are represented as circles that accommodate the programmatic spaces such as classrooms, staff rooms, discussion rooms, tutorial rooms, auditorium, laboratories, toilets and so on. The arrangements of circles are then packed inside a given boundary so that no two overlap and some of them are mutually tangential.
Interestingly, the fundamental concept of clustering similar requirements and interspersing them with green spaces echoes Corbusier's strategy for Chandigarh, except that Planet 3 dispensed with linear connections and allowed for organic linkages to develop. The layout provides interesting play within spaces of different scales as smaller interactive spaces like discussion rooms started emerging between larger rooms like classrooms.
This building will be framed in steel with solid surface acrylic cladding on the parts that extend beyond the roof line. Within the interior, drywall construction and cladding is used, painted white with an occasional dash of colour borrowed from Corbusier's many explorations around the city. At some level, this admits the transience of contemporary architecture and lack of ambition to last forever. The client expects to use the building for a decade before putting up a new, larger structure in its place. The floor will be poured on site polished cement.
Drawing on some of the very same first principles that define Corbusier's work in Chandigarh, this building is one statement on how ideas could be recontextualised and reimagined in keeping with the time in which they are expressed. This building has to give form to the ambitions of the students of this new college. A moment in time much like the city when it was born.