Inclusive Architecture by Studio Lotus
Krushi Bhavan, a government facility in Odisha, India, designed by Studio Lotus re-imagines the relationship between the state and its people. Its inclusive architecture uses a visual identity derived from regional materials and vernacular narratives, expressed in a manner that is responsive to the local climate.
Krushi Bhawan is a facility developed for Government of Odisha’s Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment. The 130,000 sq.ft administrative centre has been designed as an office for a team of nearly 600 people, in addition to accommodating spaces for community engagement and learning.
The facility is Located in Bhubaneshwar, the state capital of Odisha; home to multiple agrarian communities, the state is the third largest contributor to India’s grain supply.
Studio Lotus Principal, Sidhartha Talwar with a domain of of over 28 years of architectural practice founded Studio Lotus in 2002 along with Ambrish Arora and Ankur Choksi. And this project is close to Talwar as it encapsuled Otto Königsberger‘s original vision for Bhubaneswar where this architect saw the Capitol Complex with a host of government offices becoming “a lively point of public life”.
“Krushi Bhawan is a project of great significance to us. We were able to expand the brief and help our clients, the Government, envision the building as an urban, inclusive entity,” he says.
“Krushi Bhawan was originally planned as a purely administrative space; our suggestion to include public functions and community spaces to create a building that would add to the city’s social infrastructure was willingly embraced. This attempt to include the building into the public domain has been achieved by designing the ground floor as a free-flowing public space that opens out into a plaza, which is an extension of the street,” explains Talwar.
Congruent to the project objective, the ground floor comprises of a learning centre, a gallery, an auditorium, a library, and training rooms. Similarly, the roof top has been designed to house urban farming exhibits and demonstration of agricultural best practices.
“Thus, we created a structure that embraces vernacular materials and techniques, actively involves the community and addresses sustainability,” he states.
A Temple of Crafts
This project witnessed the coming together of over 100 highly-skilled artisans to create a vibrant and contemporary narrative of traditional Odia craft depicting agricultural folklore and mythological stories.
“When we commissioned the local craftspeople, led by Sibanand Bhol, we only offered a broad idea and granted them creative autonomy to develop the narratives and artisanal elements. This approach resulted in the creation of a built environment with a strong sense of cultural familiarity, something that the users could easily associate with,” says the architect.
From the light fixtures to the metal screens with animal figures and foliage, the tribal craft of dhokra, or metalwork employed in the interiors establishes a strong, contextual connection. Similarly, agricultural motifs have been displayed across the building through a variety of craft techniques – the bas-relief carvings in the Public Plaza, which depict paddy crops in the Odia Pattachitra (cloth-based scroll paintings) style. In the Central Court, a crop calendar has been created on a stone inlay floor, which shows the harvesting cycles for the most prevalent crops in Odia farms.
“For instance, the tribal craft of dhokra (cast metal craft) has been adapted to make light fixtures that wrap around the ground floor columns, as well as metal screens that line the building corridors. The pedestal level and North Wing use locally-sourced laterite and khondalite stone. Hand-carved khondalite lattices provide a sense of enclosure to the Central Court. Similarly, agricultural motifs have been displayed across the building through a variety of craft techniques – such as the bas-relief carvings in laterite along the Public Plaza, which depict ripe paddy crops illustrated in the Odia Pattachitra (cloth-based scroll paintings) style. In the Central Court, a Crop Calendar has been created on a stone inlay floor, which displays the harvesting cycles for the most prevalent crops in Odia farmlands,” explains Talwar in detail.
Another beautiful work that puts the focus on the building is its stunning brickwork façade.
Talwar explains the process in detail, “The plan of the four-story, 140,000-square-foot structure is based on a grid of approximately 15 feet by 15 feet. While the upper floors are private and house workspaces for the State department and directorates, the ground level has been designed as a free-flowing public space that opens out into a plaza and can be accessed by the citizens.
“We designed the facade by drawing inspiration from the area’s timeless ikat handloom weave, a native textile tradition of Odisha. The zig-zag lines are translated onto the façade, expressed in pigmented bricks that signify the geographical diversity of the state.
Sustainability was also incorporated in its design and construction by consciously sourcing sandstone and laterite from nearby regions, thus reducing the carbon footprint incurred in the construction process. The bricks were sourced from northern India and featured coloured clay in different colours, reflecting the geographical diversity of Odisha.
“Addressing the climatic context of the project, it was imperative to design Krushi Bhawan to provide thermal comfort for its users. The building uses passive design strategies such as courtyard morphology, recessed windows and balconies, and a reduced window-to-wall ratio to lower heat gain. A double-skin brick facade not only reduces the heat gain but also maximises daylight penetration.
“The provision of a stilt level further facilitates optimum air circulation throughout the building, maintaining cool temperatures,” says Talwar,” We also integrated an innovative night-purging ventilation system suited for the tropical context within the northern facade of the building. A first in an office building in Odisha, the mechanism pulls in cool night air and traps it within the structure, efficiently keeping it cool during the day while the exterior temperatures soar.”
Therefore, only 20% of the interior space in the building require air-conditioning. Other sustainable interventions in the building include solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and a solid waste management system that generates water and compost for maintaining the landscape.
Krushi Bhawan transcends the typical closed office campus morphology by integrating governmental functions with direct community engagement and education. Through a meticulously developed spatial programme, the complex brings the Odia farmers and the citizens of Bhubaneswar into the fold and facilitates their interaction and collaboration.
“It thus seeks to present with its design and building process a model of frugal innovation that celebrates culture, seeks to include the neighbourhood and is highly sustainable and relevant to what countries such as India need. It also serves as an example of how the government can become a key patron of regional crafts, and sustain the communities and economies built around them,” explains Talwar.
Krushi Bhawan thus seeks to embody the idea of truly inclusive architecture – created for the people, built by the people, and expressive of their collective cultural identity.
Project Information Sheet
Typology: Institutional (Government Administrative Centre)
Name of Project: Krushi Bhawan
Location: Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Name of Client: State Government of Odisha (Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment)
Design Firm: Studio Lotus
Design Team: Ambrish Arora, Sidhartha Talwar, Raman Vig, Sachin Dabas
Site Area:2 acres
Built-Up Area: 1,30,000 sq.ft
Start Date: 2013
Completion Date: 20th September 2018
Photographer: Sergio Ghetti, Andre Fanthome