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Assam’s seven sisters

Nick Myall
Thursday 03 Dec 2015

The Assam Government in India are consolidating their directorate offices into an impressive structure that reflects the regions association with tea

The  Government  of  Assam  has  a  number  of  directorate  offices,  ranging  from revenue, transport to fisheries agriculture and catering. Their  offices  vary  in size from  10,000 sq ft  to  50,000 sq  ft  and  currently  are  located  in various  parts  of  the  state  capital  Guwahati.  This scattered  arrangement  causes  a  huge  drain  on  the
government’s  resources  and  is  not functionally  convenient  for  the  public  interface  either. 

With  this  challenge  in  mind,  the Assam  Government  came  up  with  the  idea  of  allocating  a  consolidated  piece  of land  to house  all  directorates  under  one  campus,  the ‘Directorate  Complex,  Guwahati’  was therefore conceptualised. The site is just off NH-37, connecting Guwahati with the entire North-East region of  India,  in  close  proximity  to  the Interstate  Bus  Terminus,  a  very  visionary  selection since  people  come  from  all  over  the  state  to  access  the directorate  offices.  The site  is approximately  11.5 acres  and  allows  for  a  total  built-up  area  of  7,50,000 sq  ft  of office space  plus  requisite  parking  and  services  infrastructure in  basements  and  site,  total planned construction therefore being 1.3 m sq ft. 

The  design  challenges  were  straightforward,  accommodating  highly  diverse portfolios with  varied  public  interface  in one  campus,  allowing  for  massive  pedestrian and  vehicular  movement,  security and screening keeping the regional situation in mind. The opportunities were therefore immense too. The  government  offices  are  generally  very intimidating  and  overbearing; there  was  an  opportunity  to  create  a  built  form  which  was  more  human  in  scale. The buildings, therefore, start small towards the front and grow in height towards the rear, blocks rising ground plus two to ground plus four, seven and finally eight floors arranged front to back. Transparency: Equals visibility, comfort and therefore friendly spaces – all blocks are accessed   through  a  semi-open  corridor  connecting  the  building  blocks  in  a ring formation, all accesses visible and clearly identifiable. 

Common to all directorates, the occupied area is in multiples of 1000 sq m or  approx  10,000 sq  ft,  therefore,  design catered  for  a  floor  plate  of  approximately 20,000 sq ft, able to accommodate even the two of the smallest directorates on one floor. All  offices  therefore  could  have  their  own  dedicated  floors  allowing  for  exclusivity  and privacy.

The  inspirations  were  many,  a  tea  leaf,  a  crown  on Maa  Durga’s  head,  the beloved name of ‘Seven  Sisters’  that the  region  is  known  for,  all  contributed  to  planning  with seven  blocks of   office   buildings,   centred   with   a   spinal   green, congregation  and performance space. The  building  blocks  are  ellipsoids  with  a  central  spine  forming the  circulation line,  connecting  the  vertical  transportation  and  toilet  cores  at  one  end  to  an  atrium  at the other end. The roof is a doubly curved shell allowing for bigger spans and structural efficiency.

Right over the central spine lies the skylight in the roof which brings down light throughout the day.  The  corridors  on  all levels  have  slit-shaped  cut-outs, allowing  for  light  to  filter  down  to  the  lower  floors.  The  external  glazing  walls are slanted  outwards  as  they  go  up  to  allow  for  reflected  light  rather  than  direct,  helpfully reducing the direct heat gain that comes with it.

Nick Myall

News Editor

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