The Course of a River

PROJECT: Tata Consultancy Services Campus, Indore, Madhya Pradesh

ARCHITECTS: Somaya and Kalappa Consultants Pvt Ltd, Mumbai

Built on a 100-acre site in Indore, the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) campus is an Information Technology facility, located along the main arterial road that connects the city to the airport. With a built-up area of 1.3 million square feet, the campus accommodates 10,000 IT and BPO seats, along with the necessary common facilities such as an Administration building, Cafeterias, Training facilities, Recruitment Centre, multi-purpose hall and Business Centre. The idea, while building this multi-purpose campus, was to develop a knowledge hub in the fast-growing business ecosystem of Indore. Such a campus would nurture young talent in India and support inclusive growth.

As architects of this large campus, it was important for SNK to assimilate the two integral aspects of a greenfield project of this scale. First, site development that is conceptually relevant to the context of the place, and functionally compliant for the company. And second, the design of built and unbuilt forms that would be home to individuals from all over the country, and which would put them in an environment that encourages ideation, thereby, creating potential for innovative intellectual and social exchange.

Masterplan: Inspired by the Narmada

One of the three major rivers of peninsular India, the Narmada is a fast-flowing river with immense strength, which provides a large portion of India’s electrical power production through hydro projects, and represents the future with its constantly changing, progressing and evolving course. Thus, ‘Narmada: The endower of bliss’ arose as the inspiration for the TCS campus, with its course serving as a concept for the masterplan, so as to give it a unique and distinct identity. Moreover, the project is designed as an institute that stands out by the virtue of its aesthetically appealing architectural vocabulary, structural forms and contiguous landscape.

Representing the three courses of the river, the masterplan too is divided into three distinctive zones. The elegance, calmness and beauty of the river are mirrored efficiently across these zones. The upper course of the river from its point of origin finds interpretation in Amarkantak; the calm waters then flow through the jagged marble rocks of Bedaghat in the middle course; finally, meandering its way down the lower course towards the Gulf of Khambat. There are 14 main buildings grouped around a central plaza that define the three courses of the river. The linear site, with an overall width of 400m and length of 1400m, works seamlessly to convey the alignment of the flowing river.

The land was flat with few existing trees or any significant context, as it was in the outskirts of the city. In conceptualising the master plan for the campus, the flow of the river was carefully charted and studied. The various terrains and geographical marvels that act as markers for the river, inspired the creation of the nodes of the campus. An understanding of the client was also integral for the masterplan, including their role as an innovative leader in the global marketplace, and their distinct characteristics—an Indian company that is a powerful player in the IT and business solutions area, and has a vision to carry these businesses into the future. These characteristics juxtaposed smoothly against those of the Narmada.

The architecture and the interior spaces are designed to have a contemporary vocabulary, while alluding to the concept of the river. The scale and proportion of the architecture was defined by the natural forms, found along the shores of the Narmada. The interiors of the buildings have been designed in a thematic way, by extending the concept of the masterplan. The clean and sharp forms are replicated inside with singular material finishes, mimicking the riverbeds. Staircases in solid singular forms rise through the lobby, or are suspended from wires, creating a sculptural movement through the large volumes. Concrete finishes are often continued into the interiors to give a sense of connection. Floor patterns are introduced in contained spaces, inspired by the geometry of the natural earth and landscape of the river.

Colour has been an important aspect throughout the project. It was introduced to highlight breakout spaces and double-height portals on an architectural level, and into the interiors as well. The colours have been derived from various natural elements along the river—the earthy and rustic colours of the rock shelters and cave paintings in the upper course; the blue-grey marble rock reflections in the middle course; and the brown and green ecology along the buffer zones of the river. These colours have used to accentuate workstation areas, and applied in the graphics and the flooring as well.

For IT campuses of this scale, workspaces tend to be repetitive in layout, based on the utilitarian aspect of work facilities. However, in many campuses today there is a shift from the conventional design of development centres, towards creating open office spaces and collaborative breakout facilities. For this campus too, a similar concept was introduced using furniture and layouts that are more agile, in order to promote and develop discourse and collaborative capacities.

The introduction of art installations and traditional local arts and crafts was vital, in order to integrate the cultural significance of the city and the country into the project. One such example is an analogue interactive wall in the Cafeteria block, which comprises of a series of art and metal works from different parts of India, including Dokra, Gond, Khover, Bhil and Warli.

Sustainable Landscape and Architectural Design

An approximate central line of the masterplan is the river, which becomes a channel of water or of pebbles, according to its changing faces. The riverbed is a layer of stone pebbles, with random patches of native tall grass that portray the dry plains. To allow a more organic textured design of the landscape, the hardscape and softscape interfaces were intentionally blurred, creating seamlessness between what is manmade and what is deemed natural—a gradient, rather than a line of separation. This gradient scape is experienced in a variety of ways. Trees like Plumeria, Bohemia and Tabebuia are organised in groups, to create layers and shadows. The transition from hardscape to softscape is often articulated by breaking up into strips, to allow the softer gesture of interpenetration. The green fingers are stabilised with grass pavers to allow pedestrian movement. In other areas, changes in elevation create benches, allowing the social component of the workplace to thrive. The amphitheatre is also a realisation of the same concept. The hardscape strips here changes elevation to form retention walls, creating the seating steps.

The concept of sustainability is reflected throughout the TCS campus. This was possible by incorporating methods that facilitate minimum usage of electricity and power consumption. At the ground level, the buildings were recessed to incorporate shaded walkways. The use of glass at this level maintains connectivity between the inside and the outside. The glass also forms slivers of light in the night, providing illumination to the walkways and landscape. Shallow water bodies and natural materials, like Kadappa stone and Kota stone with pebbles, make up the central plaza section. It is constructed in a way that facilitates smooth transition for the users, while keeping in mind the use of water as a precious resource.

The landscape design contributes to the micro- climate within the campus, by virtue of its layers and details that express the idea of the riverbed. Designed with water bodies and green areas, the TCS campus integrates several ‘green building’ concepts, such as zero discharge with 100 per cent recycling of sewage, energy efficient systems, rainwater harvesting and integrated building management systems. The campus is an example of how a green landscape combined with architecture can culminate in a unified and sustainable design.

FACTFILE

Client: Tata Consultancy Services

Consultants: Structural – Leslie E. Robertson; Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC – AECOM Engineering Company, Mumbai Interiors – SNK; Landscape – Shobha Bhopatkar and Associates; Contractors (Structural and Civil) – TPL (Tata Projects Ltd)

Built-up area: Approx 98,0000sq m

Year of completion: 2018