Sunday 30 September 2007
Modern Wonders of India
India's rise as a 21st century global economic force is mirrored in a new building boom of corporate campuses, shopping malls, movie studios, and skyscrapers, many of which reflect a growing trend of sustainable architecture. Just as the classic Indian wonders of the world—from the elegant Taj Mahal to the spectacular temples at Khajuraho—evoke a characteristically South Asian style, India's newest wonders distinguish themselves from other nations' contemporary building types.
International powerhouse companies headquartered in India, such as Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, and Infosys, are planning and constructing show-stopping offices that recall and update traditional Indian edifices, rather than mirror the generic glass boxes of Silicon Valley. Here are 10 examples of the new Indian architecture, by a spectrum of designers based around the world and in India. All of these superlative projects share one thing: They bridge India's rich history and bright economic future.
The latest available statistics from the World Bank indicate that India's gross domestic product has seen annual growth of 8.5%—more than doubling the 4% of 2000. Reflecting this growth and the country's increasing presence on the international stage as an IT and economic powerhouse, the nation's leading companies, including Wipro (WIT ), Infosys (INFY ), and Tata Consultancy Services are constructing new corporate campuses. Similar to China's architectural boom , India's forthcoming wave of slick contemporary architecture, even beyond offices, symbolizes the Asian nation's rocketing economy, which first began to open up 15 years ago. Via a series of superlative skyscrapers, shopping centers, and residences that are the tallest, the largest, the "greenest," or the first of their kind, the country is quickly presenting itself as a 21st century global power.
In 2005, for example, Infosys Technologies opened its $65.4 million Global Education Center in Mysore. Located on a 270-acre, $119 million campus, the facility is the largest IT training center in the world, accommodating 4,500 trainees at any given time and hosting up to 15,000 per year. The center is being expanded to handle double the number of employees. While its glassy, futuristic design might evoke corporate buildings in Silicon Valley, the campus also features an Indian touch: a cricket pitch. Software, engineering, and management-consulting giant Wipro commissioned Indian architect Vidur Bhardwaj to design an office in Gurgaon based on the traditional structure, the haveli (a house built around an open-air courtyard). Meanwhile, Tata Consultancy Services, a division of mega-conglomerate Tata Group, will soon see a sprawling, $200 million campus in Chennai designed by noted Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott (a nod to Tata's expansion into Latin America). Buildings will feature a step-like structure recalling those found in centuries-old South Indian temples—only these are rendered in ultra-contemporary glass. It's scheduled to be completed next year and will boast the tallest tower in Southern India.
New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, have designed a new Bombay campus for Tata Consultancy Services (to be completed by 2010) that incorporates elements such as a jali, a traditional carved screen used for centuries as both sunshade and ventilated wall. Williams and Tsien's jali is more angular and contemporary and less florid than screens of the past. But it serves as a nod to Indian architectural history as well as providing an eco-friendly way to keep offices cool using natural shade and ventilation. Projects such as Williams and Tsien's design for Tata make use of natural light and ventilation, cutting down on energy consumption that contributes to air pollution. Vidur Bhardwaj's haveli design for Wipro is not only an homage to traditional Indian buildings, but also provides cost-effective cooling—via the open-air public courtyard — that's necessary for hot Indian days. Carlos Ott's forthcoming Chennai campus for Tata Consultancy Services uses these ideas and also recycles waste water to conserve resources, following the lead of the 2003 CII—Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Center in Hyderabad. This 20,000-square-foot minimalist office building became the only structure outside of the U.S. to receive the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environment Design) Platinum ranking when it opened.
Will the new forms of Indian architecture endure as long as the spectacular Elephanta rock-cut temples (built circa 600 A.D.) or the elegant Taj Mahal (a wonder of the world dating back to the 17th-century Mughal era)? Only time will tell.