Architect Shimul Javeri Kadri is one of the most influential architects of India. SJK architects in Mumbai, founded by her, is one firm that any budding architect would love to work for as the firm tries to explore and take up any challenge imparted on its way. Kadri has added laurels to her works by winning some prestigious awards.
One such milestone in her career is the Automobile Design Studio designed for Mahindra & Mahindra, Mumbai, which added a gem to her crown by winning the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design Award 2016. Apart from being an architect, she is a speaker and a proud feminist.
Ar. Shimul Javeri Kadri has her works strongly rooted in her philosophies. She believes in the connectedness of nature, people, and their souls. Contextuality of the site concerning the culture and climate of the place is number one on her checklist. Interweaving nature, especially the sun, wind, and trees, into her projects are never missed.
Keeping up with her philosophies, the Automobile design studio started taking shape; it is recognized for the optimal usage of existing structural elements, retaining its originality yet striving for modernity. The structure doesn’t seem alienated but instead acts as a backdrop to the neighbouring sheds—a profound design language, blurring the lines between the new and old, origin and present.
Site & Context
The site of 25000 square feet is located in the Mahindra & Mahindra campus (M&M) of 64 acres, Kandivali, Mumbai. The site is surrounded by traditional shed-type buildings as it is an industrial complex. The existing 5 low lying sheds were demolished, and a new structure was designed for their automobile designers to style their latest vehicles. With this significance, the place would be one of the structures frequently visited by higher officials, management, and international clients. Hence the requirement of a cutting-edge design without losing its traditional origin essence was achieved by the architect.
Architect Shimul Javeri Kadri being a people’s person, known for coalescing the client’s needs with her philosophies of creating a space one with nature and creating ways to use the resources at hand in the best way possible, innovatively solved this project, proving herself both as a lover of nature and satisfying the clients.
Demolishing and building a new structure is less challenging when compared with retaining structures or at least some parts of the existing buildings. Ar. Shimul Javeri Kadri retained the structural systems of the 4 sheds, which needed additional strengthening and a few replacements; roofs and walls were the ones to be replaced. The last small shed out of 5 existing sheds was removed as it couldn’t serve any purpose. A new block was designed to replace this small shed.
By doing this, she not only brought down the cost of the construction and retained some of its origins but also conveyed her responsibility as an architect to take care of nature and its resources.
Spatial layout & Planning
The main entrance is from the southwest of the plot. Upon entering, there is a huge 9m wall made of weathered mild steel with a grand staircase that leads to the mezzanine floor of the structure. On the left side of the entrance on the ground floor is the display/ review area where the designs are displayed for the officials and clients.
A concrete spiral staircase with a steel handrail is set to one corner of the review area, ascending to a small viewing deck. The review space is flanged by workshop spaces on its 3 sides. The longest side being the north to utilize the unshaded northern sunlight. The two staircase corridors act as connecting mediums inside the structure. The core of the project, the Design Studio, in the mezzanine floor cuts across the entire structure on the north side, receives abundant light and serves as a viewing space.
On the north side of the building are two large doors, one for the direct entry to the design studio and another for loading and unloading of products. A long linear narrow balcony facing north is accessed through a series of wooden doors provisioned in the mezzanine. The north has major glass provisions when compared to the south to cut down the natural heat.
Ar. Shimul Javeri Kadri thus standing her grounds of sustainability and setting an exemplary example of it benefitting not only the client but nature and humanity as the whole.
Strip lights – The roofs had strips of opening in a rhythmic pattern for natural light to enter the workspace and review space. The strips of spaces in-between the structures where the staircases are located are treated as a sunlight corridor, creating a passage for natural luminance to do its magic.
Metal fins – Inspired by the automobile production process, these fins are provided in the mezzanine to impart partial privacy to the design studios from the viewing gallery below.
Corten steel wall – The wall that serves as a backdrop to the grand stairs at the entrance and viewing galleries is lit by a skylight from above, acting as a light well to the interior.
Northern light – The spaces that are planned on the north side of the structure are; workstations, meeting rooms, and office spaces. It was a play of materials like concrete, metal, cement plaster, and warm wooden doors.
Outdoor viewing space – This small patch of green space is the breathing space of the entire structure used by the designers for fresh perspectives and to chill out. This also served as a space to view models in the natural light.
Materials & Finishes
Materials incorporated into the structure are raw. Unplastered cement and concrete give boldness; the steel and metal sheets work well with the boldness of the structure and also balance its industrial typology. The main entrance door and the screens, including the roof, are made of metal sheets inspired by the automobile industry. The other doors were made of wood, which partially stood out and partially merged with the material context.
The new block, which was built by entirely replacing the small shed, merged with the existing structures following the design language and material usage. The new block was entirely made of glass and exposed concrete.
Results of the design
This Automobile Design Studio is an impeccable marriage of origin and modern, contextual and contemporary, old and new. The structure’s response to the culture and context of the place is inextricable from the overall serendipity of the structure. This structure would be one of the references in the present and future for any budding architect to look out to on how architects can design not only aesthetically pleasing structures but also meaningful structures in response to the locality and needs. This project is one of the noteworthy projects of Ar. Shimul Javeri Kadri, as it started giving the limelight she deserves.