Designed by Studio Lotus the Krushi Bhawan building engages deeply with craft and passive design. It also pushes the program to drive inclusivity and dissolve boundaries between the citizens and the government.
The Krushi Bhawan was recently inaugurated in Bhubaneswar and has already become a landmark and a significant point of interest for the city. The building was a commision by the Agricultural Ministry of the state to facilitate a better working relationship between the ministry and the farmers of Orissa.
The Chief Minister of Orissa took a personal interest to drive this effort and ensure that this building was not just an ordinary commision, but something that becomes a landmark and an expression for a progressive Orissa.
Studio Lotus was mandated with this task and created a unique program that allowed the building to serve as a bridge between the bureaucracy and the farmers it was expected to serve. The team also significantly expanded the scope of the building to allow citizens to freely engage with it as if it were a public space.
Owing to the fact that the government owns the best properties in the most central and greenest parts of the city their aim was to allow part of this building to operate as a public urban plaza.
Using this as their provocation, they lifted all the offices of the building to the upper levels and opened up the ground plane to allow free access and engagement for the citizens of Bhubaneswar.
The building is designed with porous boundaries that allow for people to easily enter its large gardens that front the structure. From there they are able to access open courtyards and other spaces of the building on the ground floor. The building operates as a small green lung, and considering its location in one of the most central parts of the city, the effort of creating a public plaza has even more value and utility.
Studio Lotus devised a scheme that created an opportunity to use the government as a patron for re-interpreting craft. They did not want the craftwork to only serve as small touch points, rather they aimed to allow its effects to be experienced at an unprecedented architectural level. A very detailed art and craft plan was devised keeping all the facilities and activities in mind.
Studio Lotus engaged with a large team of local craftsman to work on the building in ways and scales they possibly had not worked before. They aimed to create a contemporary narrative of Oriya craft and mapped what kind of craft can be used in which spaces of the building creating a variety of expressions for the walls, floors, ceilings and at various other places in the building. A special tender process was also created for the craft program.
For the Krushi Bhawan project the team engaged with architect Sivanand Bhol of Orissa to roll out its craft agenda and allow for local craftsman to be participative in the final expression and its creation.
The team worked extensively with the local cast metal technique Dokra. They created brackets for the columns using this craft that serves as lighting points. Many corridors also have screens which use this cast metal technique.
They worked with local stones such as Laterite and Khondalite, many of which have agricultural crops carved into it. Some of the columns have been adorned with laterite stone lattices which talk about the mythological folk lores of the region.
There are also areas where the famous Pattachitra paintings are displayed. In the central courtyard a stone inlay has been created in blackstone which is a visual crop calendar highlighting different harvesting cycles of Oriya farming. The columns on the ground are dressed with Khondalite stone lattices inspired by the architecture and layered line work work of Lingaraj temple.
Studio Lotus was also very focussed on creating a building which is low on energy consumption and is passively cooled. In order to reduce heat gain they worked on simple techniques and created deep recessed windows, ensured a low window to wall ratio and also created a louvered skin; these measures reduced the heat gain of the building by almost forty percent.
A night purge system was also devised that brings in the cool night air into the interiors which then gets stored in the thermal mass of the building. The thermal mass then dissipates this cool air during the day. The intent was to have only 25% of the building air-conditioned, the rest of it is passively cooled.
A key feature of the building is its eye-catching brick skin. The design team wanted to create a double skin that also helped with passively cooling the building. They wanted to use a material which was earthy, aged well and also had a sense of familiarity and non-intimidation.
This facade was expressed using bricks made of three soil types representative of the soils of Orissa. An elaborate expression of the famous Ikkat textile of Orissa was translated onto the facade using bricks of different colours. “This is the most graphic part of the building, the most obvious, the most eye-catching form which gives it that identity,” says Ambrish Arora, principal at Studio Lotus.
The Krushi Bhawan building is special for many reasons. The fact that it is a “new” Government building and expresses itself sans the glass curtain walling, ACP panelling and other borrowed imagery from the west is itself a significant achievement.
Studio Lotus has chosen to engage very deeply with craft, create a program of inclusivity and has also used means and methods to passively cool the building. The building has many layers to it and showcases a much needed progressive typology of contemporary Indian architecture.
Ambrish Arora of Studio Lotus recently shared a keynote at the Roca Think Turf event in Bangalore partnered by Design Owl. Roca Think Turf is a series of architectural conversation that takes place across India. These exchanges aim to create a fellowship of thought leaders to deliver a better environment through a process of inquiry, dialogue and action.