DLF Cybercity in Chennai is an IT Special Economic Zone in Manapakkam, a growing IT hub in Chennai. Designed by Hafeez Contractor, the complex is a workspace combined with leisure and open spaces, similar in the program to the Gurgaon Cybercity.
It is also close to Nandambakkam, a trade hub in Chennai, and earlier had a large number of manufacturing units as well. The Chennai Trade Center is also in the area, and many fairs by TIDCO and ITPO are also conducted in the area. Located in the centre of the city, it is well connected by different modes of transport making it ideal to develop a Cybercity.
The complex is an SEZ, with special laws and concessions for trade, labour, and taxation, bringing in a large number of companies that are looking to expand their work or are multinationals. This creates a variable set of working hours, and the large open spaces and amenities block strategically placed by H Contractor help the workers unwind during breaks.
Hafeez Contractor designed Cybercity as an integrated campus of workplaces and leisure spaces. Large amounts of open spaces are linked by well-defined roads and pedestrian areas with the central amenities block, The Aerodrome, and a large landscaped park, Oxy Block.
The buildings themselves have a minimal form with linear facades. The linearity in the facade is reminiscent of Contractor’s other work with DLF. While the open spaces do create pockets of green, the built forms are heavy and do not integrate with the open spaces, rather the two coexist.
The Aerodrome is centrally located allowing easy access from multiple blocks on the site. It is a multi-utility hub where people working there can not only access different utilities and essentials but also unwind and dine out.
The Oxy Zone constitutes just over 4 acres of the site and is a dedicated green open space for the people who work within the complex. The landscaped area includes a jogging track, exercise area, and an amphitheater, creating a space for people to step outside and reconnect with their surroundings.
A Leed Platinum certified project (ironic given Contractor’s view on green certifications in the Indian context), Cybercity uses multiple techniques to reduce energy consumption and resource utilization. Passive techniques for daylighting reduce energy requirements, solar panels are used to generate electricity on-site greatly and 100% of the water used is recycled on-site.
The building was constructed by Eversendai, using automated technology, which greatly sped up the process and improved the structural integrity. Cybercity is one of the first buildings in the country to utilize this technology.
The DLF Cybercity Chennai offers similar facilities as the Cybercity in Gurgaon, both also designed by the same architect. But the latter has seen more traffic and its amenities and dining are used by not just employees on-site but also by other visitors. It has slowly developed into a restaurant hub.
The Cybercity Gurgaon has a more extroverted amenities block than the one in Chennai with alternate access points to enter directly while the Chennai amenities block is more central on-site, introverted and does not have direct access.
Contractor has designed the Chennai campus with great open spaces and leisure spots, but its true potential has not been reached due to the above-mentioned factors and the construction of a new block was completed only recently.
Post the COVID-19 Pandemic
While office blocks such as Cybercity were becoming the norm in the 21st century, the pandemic has left us with many questions on their necessity.
Such office blocks usually fall in an SEZ wherein the laws for trade, labour, taxation and investing are different from other parts of the country. This encourages more multinationals to set up offices in the country and increases investment in the existing ones. Moreover, there is an ease of working in the block for employees of individual companies or multiple companies when they work with each other.
But, as with many other things, COVID-19 has changed the norm for these spaces: on how to make them safer, on how to sanitize, on how to ventilate and how to increase semi-open spaces while retaining a comfortable, functional and economical workplace.
These office blocks are large built structures, constructed over long periods of time with large investment, resource consumption and environmental impact. As people work from home, questions arise on how much we really need such office blocks. Particularly in fields like IT, is a large sprawling office truly a necessity? Or can a small space to supplement employees working from home and a meeting point for different teams at different times suffice?
Youtube.com. 2021. DLF Cybercity Chennai. [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3YPbNQNH-4>
Slideshare.net. 2021. DLF Cybercity- Chennai. [online]