Human Spaces

Spaces designed with the human in mind

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This is the first in a series on biophilic projects in Asia taken from the archives of the FuturArc magazine.

Foreword is by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Nirmal Kishnani

The KMC Corporate Office, by RMA Architects, Mumbai, will be remembered for a living outer skin that adds depth and interest to an otherwise simple orthogonal form. Architect Rahul Mehrotra describes how, in the world of ‘impatient capital’, he persuaded his clients to go the extra biophilic mile:  We promised (to) give them a building in 12 to 14 months, which is typical in India for a project like this. But then I said to them, give us three years to grow a façade. Let’s detach the façade from your operations. We will make sure it doesn’t disturb you. The building responds to the client’s aspirations—to occupy and use the space quickly—and ours, to handcraft a façade on which plants would grow. It took us one year to fabricate the frame, the trellis; it was done in a way that even without plants, there was aesthetic integrity. And so this detachment of façade was strategic. If you set out to make a handcrafted building in 12 months, it will not happen. It must be a balance between dogmatic, strategic and pragmatic needs.” It is noteworthy that this handcrafted wall creates jobs for a team of gardeners, thereby softening the threshold between workers in an otherwise highly segregated workplace.

Featured in FuturArc, May-June 2015, Vol 42.

KMC Corporate Office | Hyderabad, India | 2012

Located in Hyderabad, India, the corporate building employs the idea of a double skin as an energy saving and visually dynamic mechanism. The inner façade of the building is a reinforced concrete frame with operable windows. The outer façade comprises a custom cast aluminium trellis with hydroponic trays and a drip-irrigation system for growing a variety of plant species. The trellis also has an integrated misting system to control and regulate the release of a fine water spray to cool the building. The principle of the façade is inspired by the idea of a double skin that allows a modulation of light and air, which is cooled as it flows through the façade. This challenges the business-as-usual idea of the green wall, which is a simple application purely serving an aesthetic purpose and not a functional one.

plant facade

KMC Corporate Office building employs the idea of a double skin as an energy saving and visually dynamic mechanism.

Photo by Carlos Chen

In this project, the screen also takes on an aesthetic function of a dynamic façade where assorted species are organised in such a way as to create patterns, as well as bloom at various times of the year, bringing attention to different parts of the façade through the changing seasons. The landscape plans consider the change in patterning through various seasons to create a highly dynamic façade. The misting system hydrates the foliage and creates a temporal cloud that cools the interior spaces of the building. The proximity of gardeners to the interior office spaces drives a daily visual conversation of the varied participants that function in and around the building. The visual penetration of the building by two very disparate groups (both socially and economically) also softens the social threshold created by class differences that are inevitable in corporate organisations in India.

green building

The proximity of gardeners to the interior office spaces drives a daily visual conversation of the varied participants that function in and around the building.

Photo by Tina Nandi

The façade was handcrafted in a village in South India. Working closely within the process of cast aluminium, the development of the exterior trellis utilised skilled craftsmen not only in their existing knowledge, but also in developing new methods for on-site fabrication. This decision, to handcraft the trellis, was intended to demonstrate the skill and craft that could be brought to bear on materials that are otherwise associated with mass production. The façade is composed of four modular panels that are configured to create 16 distinct options, which is all the variation the team required. These four simple components were produced through unskilled labour, but created complex variations through their arrangement on the façades. The panels were never larger or heavier than what it would take two people to carry, hoist and install. In total, there are 675 individually crafted and numbered panels. The construction of the panels required die making, casting, notching, welding, sanding, shot blasting and anodising. Afterwards, the panels were brought to the site and assembled.

The façade for the building was handcrafted in a village in South India.

Photo by Tina Nandi

The strategic separation of the façades allowed for the outer skin to be evolved over 24 months while the basic shell of the building was completed and ready to be occupied in 14 months. In this way, the building responds to the client’s need to quickly realise the value of their capital investment in the building. It also allowed the team to propose an alternate imagery or visual representation using the resources and skill sets of the region, providing a soft landing for the capital.



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