Nirmal – Indian National War Museum : Response to The Aesthetic in Heritage Zone, by AUM Architects

A MASTER STRATEGY

RESPONSE TO CONTEXT

THE PLANNING PROCESS

AT THE OUTSET WE RECOGNIZED THAT THERE IS WISDOM IN CURRENTLY DEVELOPING ONLY THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE FULL SITE. THE TOTAL AREA THAT IS COVERED BY THE CURRENT DESIGN IS APPROXIMATELY 25000 M2. WE CALL THIS PHASE-1 OF THE DEVELOPMENT.

MAIN ENTRIES ARE ALL (VIP, ON GRADE, FROM SUBWAY) TAKEN FROM THE SOUTHERN SIDE WHICH FLANKS ONE SIDE OF THE HEXAGON. AS A GESTURE OF SOLIDARITY TO THE CITY AND THE CIVILIAN COMMUNITY IT IS PLANNED TO GIVE THE SOUTHEASTERN CORNER FOR AN AMPHITHEATRE WHICH CAN BE ACCESSED AT ALL TIMES WITHOUT SECURITY.

PARKING IS VISUALIZED TO BE TAKEN CARE OF BY MULTI-LEVEL CAR PARKINGS PRIMARILIY BECAUSE OF PAUCITY OF SPACE ON GROUND AND UNVIABILITY OF BASEMENT PARKING DUE TO HEAVY TREES DENSITY. THESE MLCPs CAN BE ACCOMODATED ON THE ENCROACHED AREA. 4 LEVELS OF MLCP ARE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE 425 CARS FOR THE PHASE-1 OF THE PROJECT. IF THE ENCROACHMENT AREA IS NOT IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE THE GROUND AREA OF THE PHASE-2 OF THE PROJECT CAN BE UTILISED UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THE ENCROACHMENT AREA IS VACATED.

ALL ENTRIES LEAD TO THE MAIN CENTRAL ENTRANCE FOYER WHICH CAN BE ONLY ACCESSED AFTER TICKETING. FROM HERE THE VISITORS ARE DISTRIBUTED TO EITHER THE GALLERIES, OR THE KNOWLEDGE BLOCK HOUSING AUDITORIUMS, SEMINAR ROOMS AND LIBRARY, OR THE RECREATION ZONE ABOVE THE GROUND FLOOR GALLERY SPACE. THE GROUND FLOOR GALLERY SPACE IS MEANT FOR TEMPORARY AND SHORT TERM EXHIBITIONS WITH CREATIVE CURATORIAL THEMES. THE ENTIRE SPACE IS A CONTIGUOUS BLOCK BUT IS RIDDLED WITH HUNDREDS OF MINI COURTYARD WHERE THE EXISTING TREES POKE OUT INTO THE RECREATIONAL SPACE ABOVE. THIS BLOCK OF SPACE IS PLANNED TO BE FURTHER SUBDIVIDED AS PER THE NEED AND SIZE OF THE EXHIBITION PLANNED. ALL UPPER FLOOR GALLERIES ARE MEANT FOR PERMANENT EXHIBITIONS. PRIMARY CIRCULATION IN THE MUSEUM IS PLANNED THROUGH THE CENTRAL SPINE WHICH CUTS THROUGH THE SITE AND HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CONNECT OVERHEAD AND UNDER GRADE WITH THE PHASE-2 OF THE PROJECT. THE SPINE HAS NODES EFFECTIVELY PLACED FOR VERTICAL CONNECTIVITY. ALL MECHANICAL SERVICES CAN EFFICIENTLY FLOW THROUGH THESE AS WELL.

THE SETBACK ON THE NORTH EAST SIDE IS PLANNED TO BE FOR ALL SERVICES MOVEMENT. THIS WILL ADEQUATELY TAKE CARE OF THE TECHNICAL AND INFLOW-OUTFLOW OF GOODS ETC. IT CAN ALSO BE WELL MANAGED IN TERMS OF SECURITY.

RELATIONSHIP TO EXISTING GEOMETRIES

THE CENTRAL VISTA IS THE MOST PREDOMINANT ELEMENT IN THE URBAN DESIGN FABRIC OF THE MASTER PLANNING OF NEW DELHI. WITH ITS STRONG GEOMETRIES AND THE LANGUAGE OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT, IT DICTATES THE COURSE OF FUTURE DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THE VICINITY. HOWEVER IN THE CONTEXT OF CONTEMPORARY MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY HOW RELEVANT IS IT TO MERELY APE FACADES AND DESIGN ELEMENTS?  DO THESE BECOME THE ONLY RELEVANT DETERMINING URBAN DESIGN FACETS?

DEVELOPING THE AXIS OF RELEVANCE

THE ATTEMPT IS TO UNDERSTAND THE EXISTING GEOMETRIES AND DERIVE NEW GEOMETRIES RELEVANT TO EXISTING ONES.

THE CENTRAL AXIS OF THE CENTRAL VISTA GOES THROUGH THE CENTRE OF THE INDIA GATE ARCH AND THE CHATRI, WHICH IN TURN IS THE CENTRE OF THE HEXAGONAL ROUND ABOUT. 

CONSIDERING THE DEEP RELEVANCE OF INDIA GATE WITH THE WAR MEMORIAL AND THE WAR MUSEUM, A NEW SECONDARY AXIS HAS BEEN DERIVED WHICH CONNECTS THE CENTRE OF THE AMAR JAWAN JYOTI TO THE CENTRE OF THE HEXAGONAL QUADRANT, FURTHER EXTENDING IT TO THE SITE OF THE WAR MUSEUM.

INTERPRETING THE AXIS OF RELEVANCE

THIS NEW AXIS DETERMINES THE ACCESS AND THEREFORE THE ENTRY INTO THE SITE FOR THE WAR MUSEUM. IT CREATES A PATH LINKING THE AMAR JAWAN JYOTI TO THE SITE FOR THE WAR MUSEUM. THE PATH INTERSECTING THE RADIAL ROAD HAS BEEN VISUALISED AS AN UNDER-PASS. THIS PATH CREATES AN EQULATERAL TRAINGULAR GEOMETRY WHICH SITS IN SYNC WITH THE ORGINAL GEOMETRY OF THE CENTRAL VISTA.

A BOLD NEW LAYER TO THE EVER EVOLVING CITYRESPONSE TO THE AESTHETIC IN HERITAGE ZONE

RESPONSE TO THE AESTHETIC OF HERITAGE ARCHITECTURE IS A SUBJECT OF GREAT CONCERN AND ARGUMENT. THE PRESENT ALWAYS BECOMES A PLACE OF OPPORTUNITY FOR CREATING LANDMARK BUILDINGS. IF TIMES WERE TO BE JUDGED TRULY, AND ARCHITECTURE BEING THE REPRESENTATION OF ITS TIMES, WE MUST BUILD IN THE LANGUAGE OF CURRENT TECHNOLOGY TO CORRECTLY INTERPRET MATERIALITY AND RELEVANCE. IN THIS DESIGN WE BELIEVE THAT MERELY MIMICKING THE PAST WILL ONLY MUTE THE SCENARIO OF A FUTURE HERITAGE. IF THE BUILDING INDEED HAS TO BE A LANDMARK PROJECT, IT HAS TO EMBODY THE SPIRIT OF TODAY WITH A VIEW TO THE FUTURE.IT ALSO MEANS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO FIND AN ARCHITECTURAL EXPRESSION WHICH CONDUCTS A DIALOG WITH THE SURROUNDING HISTORIC MODELS WHILE BEING UNEQUIVOCALLY CURRENT IN IDIOM.THIS CONTEMPORARY DESIGN APPROACH BUILDS ON THE ACCUMALATION OF HISTORICAL LAYERS IN A CITYSCAPE. FINALLY, THE SCHEME DEMONSTRATES THAT BRAVE ARCHITECTURE IS LIKELY TO REMAIN CONTROVERSIAL AND WE CANNOT FORGET THAT BRAVERY IS THE KEY STRENGTH OF OUR ARMED FORCES.

THE ARSENAL – SENSE OF ENTRY

THE ARSENAL IS AN EXPERIENTIAL INSTALLATION WHICH FORMS AN IMPACTFUL ENTRÉE’ TO THE MUSEUM THROUGH THE UNDERGROUND CONNECTION FROM THE WAR MEMORIAL SITE. USED WEAPONS, SPENT MISSILE SHELLS, PARTS OF TANKS, PLANES AND OTHER WAR MACHINERY TELL A STORY OF THE WARS VISITED. IT IS THE STORY OF SURVIVAL, VICTORY AND LIVES LOST DURING BATTLE. SPANNING A LENGTH OF 60M AND GOING UP TO A HEIGHT OF 20M IT MAKES ITS POWERFUL PRESENCE FELT AS SOON AS VISITORS CROSS THE TUNNEL TO ENTER THE MUSEUM GROUNDS. IT ALSO FORMS A BACKDROP TO THE AMPHITHEATER STAGE. THE ARSENAL IS MEANT TO BRING TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC, A SENSE OF WAR MACHINERY AT A VERY TACTILE LEVEL. THE TOUCHABILITY AND SCALE OF THESE WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT MAKES THE SENSE OF WAR VERY REAL. IT ALSO OFFERS THE CIVILIAN A PALPABLE SENSE OF DANGER WHICH LOOMS LIKE A CLOUD ON THE EDGE OF OUR PERCEPTION. THE EXPERIENCE IS IMAGINED TO BE RIVETING, AND SHATTERING AT THE SAME TIME. IT BRINGS TO THE SENSES, THE REALITY OF WAR AND THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE, OUR LIFE, WHICH SO GALLANTLY IS PROTECTED BY OUR SOLDIERS. THE ARSENAL CAN BE CLIMBED INTO BY STAIRS AND RAMPS AND GLASS ELEVATORS SO THAT PEOPLE CAN EXPERIENCE WEAPONRY AT CLOSE QUARTERS.

THROUGH THE ENTRY LEVEL OF THE ARSENAL IS ALSO THE MAIN ENTRY OF THE MUSEUM WHICH CONNECTS WITH THE LOBBY ON THE PLAZA LEVEL. THE ARSENAL BACKDROP ALSO CAN BE USED TO EFFECTVELY NARRATE THROUGH SOUND AND LIGHT SHOWS THEIR PIOGNANT STORIES AND WHICH CAN BE ENJOYED FROM THE LARGE AMPHITHEATRE SITUATED ON THE SOUTH EAST CORNER OF THE SITE. THE AMPHITHEATRE CASCADES DOWN FROM THE LEVEL OF THE NATURAL GRADE, DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF THE UNDERPASS.

DESIGN EVOLUTION

THE VISIT TO THE SITE BROUGHT ABOUT THE REALISATION THAT TREES WHICH ARE THE ACTUAL LIVING HERITAGE OF THIS SITE NEED TO BE PROTECTED. THIS FEELING STEMS FROM OUR VALUE SYATEM WHICH IS BASED IN EMPATHY TOWARDS NATURE AND THEREFORE ALL FURTHER DESIGN RESPONSES REVOLVED AROUND THE MAKING OF A STRUCTURE WHICH EMBODIES THE TREES. THE TREES ARE EMBEDDED IN THE BUILDING VERY CLOSELY AND BECOME A PART AND PARCEL OF THE LIVING EXPERIENCE OF THE MUSEUM.

THE SPINE

THE APPARENT FORM SUGGESTION WHICH THE EXISTING PLACE THROWS OUT IS THAT OF A SPINE RUNNING AT 90 DEGREES TO THE LINEAR BUILTFORMS. THESE FORMS ARE THE FILLING UP OF VOIDS AFTER CAREFULLY AVOIDING THE TREES. WE LIKEN THIS CENTRAL SPINE TO THE HUMAN SPINE WHICH SUPPORTS THE BODY. METAPHORICALLY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ARMED FORCES IT IS REPRESENTATIVE OF BRAVERY TO HAVE A SPINE OF STEEL. REPRESENTATIONALLY THEREFORE THE SPINE ASSUMES THE MATERIALITY OF STEEL. THE PATTERN OF EMERGENCE REFLECTS THE INHERENT STRUCTURE OF NATURE WHICH PROVIDES THE ABILITY OF A TENSILE FLEXIBILITY AND ACCORDS A UNIQUE AESTHETIC TO THE IMPOSING SPINE. VERTICAL CIRCULATION IS TAKEN CARE OF THROUGH STRATEGIC NODES PLACED OFF THE SPINE AND WHICH FORM TECHNICALLY RELEVANT CONNECTIONS.

THE SENSE OF PLACE

THE LEVEL ABOVE THE GROUND FLOOR WHICH CARRIES A BULK OF THE MUSEUM GALLERIES IS DEDICATED ENTIRELY TO A RECREATION SPACE WHICH IS SHEERLY AN EXPERIENCE OF THIS “LIVE HERITAGE” OF TREES AT A LEVEL WHERE ONE CAN REACH OUT TO THE BRANCES. THIS LEVEL IS THE LEVEL OF NATURE INTEGRATION AND PROVIDES FUNCTIONALLY A BREATHING SPACE TO VISITORS AS WELL AS RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES. THE FLOOR HERE FOLLOWS THE PATTERN OF NATURE AND CREATES A NETWORK OF WELL CONNECTED PATHWAYS BETWEEN GREEN AREAS. THIS LEVEL ALSO GIVES THE CITY A LARGE UNRISTRICTED PUBLIC SPACE.

INTERACTION THROUGH GEOMETRY

THE PLAN GEOMETRY ON THE UPPER FLOORS REFLECTS A CERTAIN DISCIPLINE WHICH IS METAPHORICALLY CRITICAL TO THE ARMED FORCES AND IS INTEGRAL TO THE FUNCTIONING OF A MUSEUM. THE CRISS-CROSS OF THE THREE FLOORS ABOVE PROVIDE PLENTY OF INTERACTIVE SPACES FOR PEOPLE TO PEEP THROUGH. THE SPACE IS ALSO EXTREMELY VALUABLE TO EXHIBIT LARGE SCALE ELEMENTS LIKE FIGHTER PLANES ETC. IT ALSO THEREFORE BECOMES A TRANSPARENT SPACE INVITING PEOPLE TO KEEP DISCOVERING THE MUSEUM AND KEEPING ALIVE THE INTEREST. IT ALSO ASSUMES THAT VISITORS WILL FIND MORE AREAS OF INTEREST IN FURTHER VISITS.

ESSENTIAL & TECHNICAL SERVICES

THE BASEMENT HOUSES ALL THE MEP SERVICES. BESIDES THIS THE PRIMARY STORAGE AND WORKSHOP AREAS ARE ALSO ALL CONTAINED HERE. THE BASEMENT IS ONLY EXCAVATED UNDER THE EXISTING STRUCTURES SO THAT ROOTS OF TREES REMAIN UNTOUCHED. CONNECTIONS IN AREAS WHERE TREES ARE NOT PRESENT PROVIDE CONTIGIOUS SPACES NEEDED FOR THE ESSENTIAL SERVICES.

KNOWLEDGE BLOCK

ALL FACILITIES LIKE AUDITORIUMS, SEMINAR ROOMS, LECTURE HALLS, LIBRARY ETC ARE PLACED IN A SINGLE BLOCK BEHIND THE ARSENAL AND WHICH IS IN THE PROXIMITY OF THE MAIN ENTRANCE LOBBY AND THEREFORE PROVIDES EASY ACCESS TO VISITORS AND VIPS INTERESTED ONLY IN USING THOSE FACILITIES.

STRATEGIES  FOR MASTER PLANNING

TREE COVER: THE SITE IS ENDOWED WITH A TREE COVER WITH EACH TREE AT LEAST 4 DECADES OLD. AS A STRATEGY, IT WOULD THEREFORE BE PRUDENT TO DEVELOP A BUILT FORM THAT WOULD EMBRACE THIS TREE COVER RATHER THAN INFRINGE UPON IT. HENCE A MINIMAL INGRESS STRATEGY IS BEING FOLLOWED.

DEVELOPING THE BUILT FORM: THE BUILT FORM HAS BEEN DEVELOPED BY EMBRACING THE TREE COVER .  KEEPING THE VIEW THE EXSITING BUILT STRUCTURE IT IS POSSIBLE TO FOLLOW THE LINES OF THE EXISTING BUILT FORM. IN DOING SO , ONE ALMOST ELIMINATES THE POSSIBILITY OF DAMAGING THE EXISTING FLORA AND FAUNA.

ENCROACHMENTS: THE SITE HAS BEEN ENCROACHED UPON AND HAS HUTMENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN IN EXISTENCE FOR THE PAST 70 YEARS OR SO. TO DEAL WITH THE SAME THE OPTIONS ARE LIMITED.

A. WOULD BE TO GO LEGAL AND SEEK PERMISSION TO RETRIEVE THE ENCROAHED LAND AND THEN UTILISE AVAILABLE F.A.R.

 B. COULD DEVELOP A MULTI LEVEL CAR PARK ABOVE THESE ENCROACHMENTS LEAVING SUFFICIENT SPACE FOR VENTILATION ABOVE THE ENCROAHMENTS. SINCE AN MLCP IS FREE OF F.A.R. IT WOULD ADDRESS IMPORTANT ISSUES OF NOT BUILDING A BASEMENT TO MEET THE MANDATORY ECS FOR PARKING AND COULD ALSO ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF ENCROACHMENT.

FUTURE PLANNING:

SINCE THERE ARE NO DEFINITE AREAS MENTIONED IN THE PROGRAMME BRIEF, THE DESIGN HAS BEEN DEVELOPED USING COMPARABLE EXAMPLES. HOWEVER AS A DESIGN STRATEGY A FORMAT HAS BEEN DEVELOPED FOR FUTURE GROWTH ENVISAGING NEWER TECHNOLOGIES AND MATERIALS. A DESIGN MODULE HAS BEEN DEVELOPED FOR THIS GROWTH WHICH COULD ACCOMAODATE ANY FUTURE EXPANSIONS USING THESE NEW INNOVATIONS.

CURRENTLY THE REQUIREMENTS CAN BE ACCOMODATED IN 50%OF THE PERMISSIBLE AREA, AS A STRAGEY FOR SUSTAINBAILITY; THE BALANCE AREA HAS BEEN RETAINED FOR FUTURE PLANNING.

SERVICES PLANNING:

ALL SERVICES HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED TO THE BASEMENT WHICH FOLLOWS THE PROFILE OF THE BUILT FORM ABOVE GROUND. THIS HELPS REDUCE THE BASEMENT AREA, THEREBY MINIMISING EXACAVATION AND REDUCING COSTS.

PARKING REQUIREMENTS:

PARKING REQUIREMENTS HAVE BEEN MET THROUGH 2 MULTI LEVEL CAR PARKS EACH HOUSING 400 CARS.THIS ELIMINATES THE REQUIREMENT OF BASEMENT CAR PARKS WHICH HELPS SPEED UP CONSTRUCTION AS IT CAN BE SEEN AS A PARALLEL PROCESS DURING CONSTRUCTION.

MATERIALITY

THE  MATERIALS CONSIDERED TO ACHIEVE THE ABOVE ARE  AS MENTIONED BELOW.

CERAMIC CLADDING TILES WITH AIR CAVITY CAN BE USED TO REAFFIRM THE CONNECT TO EARTH .

STEEL REPRESENTING CONTEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION THINKING 

GLASS TO BRING IN TRANSPERANCY TO ESTABLISH THE CONNECT WITH NATURE WHICH HAS BEEN PRESERVED.

STRUCTURAL STRATEGY

IN THIS DESIGN WE HAVE USED THE THEORY AND METHOD OF TYPOLOGY OF A MUSEUM AND PHENOMENOLOGY FOR CREATING EXPERIENTIAL SPACES. IN RESPONSE TO THE LARGE SCALE REQUIREMENT FOR CONSTRUCTING A MUSEUM, WE HAVE EXPERIMENTED WITH PART CANTILEVER AND THE OVERALL STRUCTURAL SYSTEM AS A COGNITIVE STUDY. WE HAVE TRIED TO ANALYSE THIS FROM TWO ANGLES, ONE OF WHICH IS CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY AND THE OTHER BEING ARCHITECTURAL ART.

THE CONSTRUCTION METHODOLOGY OF CANTILEVER STRUCTURES, THE MATERIAL APPLICATION, THE ARTISTIC EXPRESSION AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BUILDING SPACE, AS CONVEYED BY THE OVERHANGING PERFORMANCE COMPLIMENTED WITH THE MATERIALITY OF STEEL, IS USED AS A STRATEGY TO MAKE A PERFECT COMBINATION OF SCIENCE, ART AND TECHNOLOGY. IN TODAY’S BACKGROUND OF RAPID DEVELOPMENT, WE BELIEVE THAT OUTSTANDING ENGINEERING IS THE ORGANIC COMBINATION OF ARCHITECTURAL AND STRUCTURAL DESIGN. IT IS REQUIRED TO DOMINANTLY PLAY OUT A BLEND OF UNIQUE PROCESSING SKILLS AND ARTISTC MANIPULATIONS.

THE REPRESENTATIONS OF THIS ARE EVIDENT IN THE DESIGN AND EMERGE AS A PATTERN LANGUAGE POSSESSING UNIQUE QUALITIES EMBODYING THE NATURAL PRESENCE OF THE SITE.

SUSTAINABLITY STRATEGY

AS A POLICY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THE FOLLOWING EIGHT ENVIRONMENTAL CATEGORIES HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED:

ENERGY MANAGEMENT, ENERGY USE, HEALTH AND WELL BEING, POLLUTION, TRANSPORT, LAND USE, ECOLOGY, MATERIALS AND WATER. 

AS A STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABILTY THE FOLLOWING ASPECTS HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED:

  1. MINIMAL CUTTING OF EXISTING TREES.
  2. CONSTRUCTION ON MINIMAL GROUND COVERAGE.
  3. USE OF STEEL IN CONSTRUCTION AS A MATERIAL TO REDUCE ON CARBON FOOT PRINT.
  4. USE OF CERAMIC CLADDING TILES WITH AIR CAVITY FOR FAÇADE FOR MINIMISING HEAT GAIN AND USING EARTH AS A MATERIAL WHICH IN PRINCPLE IS IN SYNC WITH NATURAL MATERIALS LIKE STONE USED IN THE ADJACENT BUILDING.
  5. STEEL HAS BEEN USED AS THE PREDOMINANT STRUCTURAL MATERIAL. WHY STEEL?

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