Shell within a shell

Project: Mega Auditorium – Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Architects: Creative Group

An auditorium is more than just a large space with an expansive volume. As an architectural entity, it is also a wholesome package of visual, structural and acoustical parameters. The objective of this project was to create a state-of-the-art indoor auditorium-cum-stadium with a capacity of 5000 people, which could accommodate various functions such as convocations, fests, graduation ceremonies, indoor sports and conventions, all within the campus of Anna University in Tamil Nadu. The idea was to visualise and bring to life a building that responds to and blends with its surroundings.

Situated on a site measuring 5.94 acres with abundant existing greens, the proposed auditorium will be a multi-purpose building with smaller meeting spaces that are adaptive in nature. Besides badminton courts, other ancillary features will include a gym, squash room, cafeteria, yoga and meditation hall, passive recreation, outdoor entry, NSS, NCC, music, culture and hobby rooms. The form of the auditorium is conceptualised on the idea of a ‘shell within a shell’, which would flow with the green around. The built form thus, originates from the landscape and then takes a dynamic approach. Shaded public spaces and greens, along with an amphitheatre have been incorporated in the design to club together with the cafeteria—a warm and comfortable space for students to enjoy. The project displays a balance between the openness of the built form and the massive footprint of the auditorium, by providing cut-outs and semi-open corridors that overlook the outer greens. They also act as a circulation space for easy access from all sides, while creating gathering spaces for students at regular intervals. The mesh of colourful and tinted glasses as roofing in the corridors as well as the façade create a play of light and shadow, thus generating interest while also allowing diffused light to enter the building. As eminent American architect Louis Kahn once said, “A light casts a shadow, and a shadow becomes light”.

To reduce heat gain, a double-layered façade with aluminium cladding has been introduced in the design, with a mesh layer on the inside. Various design elements like pergola and sun- shading in the form of contemporary jaalis, especially for south shading have also been incorporated throughout the building structure to reduce heat gain, increase the permeability of light and to minimise the dependence on artificial lighting sources. In a bid to use non- conventional energy sources, solar panels will be installed on the roof to make the building sustainable. Local materials like bamboo and wood panels have been used in the structure, helping it to respond to its immediate surroundings and blend with nature.

The overall circulation of the site also takes into account the segregation of vehicular and pedestrian movement, as well as a different VIP entry. The aim is to reduce the road area while maximising the movement of pedestrians and cyclists within the campus, thus making it walkable and easily approachable for the students. The movement facilities will include a cycle track throughout the perimeter of the site, to encourage an eco-friendly mode of transport connectivity.

The broad objective of the project is enhanced space utilisation in terms of multiple uses of a single large-span structure—with yoga hall, meditation space, rehearsal area, auditorium, sports arena, along with supporting areas such as the cafeteria. This objective however, posed a major challenge while designing, as the arrangements of the spaces had to be done in a way that the auditorium could later be converted into an indoor badminton or basketball court with temporary seating arrangements. The plan form was thus, conceptualised with maximum angle of vision for spectators from the side aisles, and was executed to accommodate six badminton courts when replaced over 1500 temporary seating.

Since Chennai experiences a highly humid climate, the design of the wide-span structure of auditorium was modified to introduce openings at the roof level, for hot air dispersal to keep the auditorium cool and put passive techniques in use. With the aim of maximising the natural light, lightweight tensile skylights also have been opted for, with double seam aluminium sheeting for better insulation. This project is a milestone in designing built spaces that promote flexibility of uses, while also creating an iconic design statement.

Factfile

Client: Anna University

Design team: Prof. Charanjit S Shah (Founding Principal), Ar. Gurpreet S Shah (Principal Architect); Ar. Pankaj Sehrawat

Consultants: Jaitley Associates (Structural), VS Consultants (MEP)

Built-up area: 8000 sq m

Cost of project: INR 40 crores

Year of completion: Ongoing