The challenge was to design an office building that would nestle amongst the hot and dry climate and continue to remain connected to the neighbouring SS manufacturing unit. The building is a linear structure, in deference to a 12-mt width limit mandated by the city bye-laws. The main facades are expressed as strong concrete expanses, whose brutalist flavour is alleviated by a ribbed texture with built-in lighting. Other elevations use Galvanume sheets as cladding. Together, the industrial combination is a nod to the adjacent metal manufacturing unit and brings the office building closer to its neighbour in spirit and physicality.
Do office buildings within industrial complexes need to establish a distinct, chest-thumping statement far removed from their surroundings? Can they not be formalised to celebrate a certain kinship with other structures present on the premises so that, collectively, they present a cohesive environment? Can the materiality of such built-forms be informed by the context rather than be driven by a desire for ostentation? These were a few questions Urbanscape Architects introspected on before embarking on the design of Laxcon Steel Ltd’s plant office building in Ahmedabad.
The studio’s response was shaped by its preoccupation with customer-centricity, climate-appropriateness and material-correctness, as well as the desire to craft individualistic architecture tailored to the uniqueness of programmatic requirement. Here, the team drew inspiration from Ahmedabad’s pol houses — old housing clusters typified by narrow streets and residences standing cheek by jowl, deriving their ventilation and light through internal courtyards.
The architecture responds to the dry, arid climate of the region which experiences searing temperatures of 45 degrees and higher in summer. The programme sees an engaging play of volumes: multiple open-to-sky courtyards and triple-height spaces linked by bridges. Just as materials and the architectural form establish kinship with the industrial premise, these adjacencies engender visual porosity — which, in turn, creates a feeling of connectedness within the workforce. Additionally, the distribution of courts throughout the enclosed space helps maintain a connection between the user and the outside environment while ensuring a comfortable internal climate and shielding users from the harsh sun.
The interiors are minimalist in nature, and the shell predominantly uses ribbed oak panelling and exposed RCC work. The use of diverse derivations of the company’s core products — as stainless steel partitions, handles, claddings and the main staircase — along with the scrap that the factory receives celebrates the process and acknowledges the raw material as well as the finished product.
Rather than as an alien presence inserted into an existing milieu, this plant office building neither overshadows nor plays second fiddle to the adjacent industrial complex. It stands as an equal, communicating that both, the manufacturing arm and the administrative department are indivisible parts of a sound, thriving enterprise.