Tata Consultancy Services, a leader in Information Technology in India, envisioned a new campus in ‘The Special Economic Zone’ of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, in the year 2014. The campus was envisioned as a knowledge hub in the rapidly growing ecosystem of Indore to nurture young talent available in India and support inclusive growth. The company commissioned Somaya and Kalappa Consultants, an architecture firm based in Mumbai, as project architects.
The principal architect of the firm, Brinda Somaya has experience of over 40 years, with a wide range of projects under her hat, from institutional to conservation to master planning and urban design. She is a proud recipient of 2014, The Indian Institute of Architects – Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. Ar. Brinda Somaya, through her work, tries to find a delicate balance between art, technology and cultural heritage. Her design philosophy is to prioritize the site and allow it to speak to you.
With this philosophy as a guiding light, the designer approached the site with great caution and intrigue. The brief included a state-of-the-art facility with a contemporary vocabulary that blends local culture and aesthetics. The 100 acres of the linear site has a 1500m frontage while the width is limited to 400m. It is located along an arterial road MR10, connecting the campus to the airport. The area is intended to host 10000 IT and BPO professionals. The large green field site demanded conceptual development and design of the built and unbuilt forms.
The linear and plain site posed a challenge as it had no inspirational features or characteristics. Ar. Brinda Somaya thus drew inspiration from the river Narmada, the most valuable asset and heritage of the state. The course of the river was studied in great depth and embodied in the site plan. The linear site was pictured as a river bed. A water body was integrated into the site plan to function as the central spine.
The buildings orient themselves alongside this creek. The water spine has three zones signifying three important nodes on the course of river Narmada — the origin of the river at Amarkantak, the jagged marble gorge at Bhedaghat and the point where it converges with the sea at the Gulf of Khambhat.
At the first zone, a plaza is created around a ‘kund’ signifying the origin of the river. It is flanked by three, seven-story tall building blocks. The buildings have angled and tilted facades. As the water moves to the second plaza, the built form moves closer. This arrangement changes the sense of spaces between the buildings. The sharp lines and angular faces act as a metaphor for a jagged gorge.
As the river reaches its end, the built structures open outwards. The buildings reduce in height as the water body moves to the third plaza, indicating a journey from the higher altitudes to the sea level. While this artificial river acts as a divider between the two sides of the campus, the three plazas become the meeting point. There are a total of 14 buildings grouped around this central spine of water. The linear and narrow site works in tandem with the alignment of the flowing river.
The campus mainly serves people in the age range of 24 to 28. Keeping this in mind, Brinda Somaya envisioned a space that is engaging, energetic and has a contemporary feel but is still in touch with its cultural roots. This architectural vocabulary is achieved through flexible and open-plan offices, unlike most IT campuses that are monotonous and structured to be a repetition of the same cubicle.
To promote mental and social well-being, additional spaces such as hammock seating and a value lab were added to the design brief. Due importance was given to areas with active social life, like the cafeteria by centrally locating them on the site.
The Architect has integrated culture through art pieces commissioned for the campus specifically. The colour scheme employed in the design is abstracted from the Narmada river and the temples and caves by its sides. Along the upper course of the artificial river, earthy and rusty colours accentuate spaces. Blue and grey colours of marble rock are applied in the interior layout of the central plaza. The buffer zones are brought to life by adding greens and earthy brown. These colours are introduced into the workspace through floorings, wall art and graphics inspired by the company ethos and river landscape.
On the ground level, a shaded walkway is created by the cantilevered and sloping facades. The internal river plaza is entirely pedestrian. The extensive use of glass that reflects the water and surrounding landscape gives the illusion of a floating building. The built enclosures have a concrete finish starkly contrasting with the smooth glass texture. The rough concrete finishes are continued in the interior spaces, making it a seamless transition from outdoors to indoors.
Staircases in solid singular forms rise through the lobby or are suspended from wires, creating a sculptural movement through the large volumes. Vibrant colours accentuate double-height spaces. The design of the landscape areas recreates the idea of a river bed. The use of materials like Kota and Kadappa stone and grey polished pebbles add texture to the pathways. Interspersed soft-scape and hard-scape give the landscape an organic touch. Mounds and meadows weaving through jagged treads recreate ghat steps around river beds. The clean and sharp lines of the landscape and open spaces merge into the built form creating homogeneity.
The master plan also has green building concepts such as zero discharge, recycling of sewage, rainwater harvesting, and energy-efficient systems integrated into the design. These help the campus to achieve green and sustainability standards.
The TCS Campus finished construction in the year 2018. The campus is not only culturally and contextually responsive, but it is also a sustainable design. As the ‘IT campus’ becomes a common building typology, contextual and innovative design helps the TCS Indore campus stand out as a stalwart of design excellence in the herd. A keen perception of site context and eye for detail, coupled with her prowess in integrating art, technology and innovation, has not only brought Ar. Brinda Somaya recognition in the profession but also respect. The TCS Campus, Indore, is just one example out of her many works that showcase her skill and genius.