Morphogenesis is recognized globally as one of the leading Architecture firms from India. Founded in 1996, the firm is based out of New Delhi and is a collective, offering specialized services in Architecture, Interior design, master planning, Urban design, Landscape design & Environmental design consultancy. The firm is led by Senior Partner, Architect Sonali Rastogi and Managing Partner, Architect Manit Rastogi.
City Center Mall – Siliguri
Nestled in the base of the eastern ranges of the mighty Himalayas with river Mahananda flowing beside it, Siliguri is an offspring of the Indian state of West Bengal and exists as a bridge between the rest of India and the seven states of North-East India. Accompanying the development of Siliguri as a Tier 2 town, the city desires improvements in the built environment and in the general quality of houses, schools, hospitals and other socio-cultural facilities. The key concept explored for the planning and design was the formulation of a new urban system addressing issues of settlement identity, dynamic and flexible infrastructure, landscape and open space distribution, and perceptual paradigms. The project strives to address these very issues and generate a development that may serve as a model for future such developments. The City Centre attempts to create a much-needed, organized commercial district for the city of Siliguri. It is positioned as an interface between the township and the city that envisages a new destination for the local community and emerges as an urban landscape in the master plan.
Siliguri is situated at the base of the Himalayas in the plains. The Mahananda River flows past Siliguri. Siliguri has three main seasons; summer, winter and monsoon. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 38°C. It is considerably cooler than the southern and central regions of West Bengal. During this season, tourists from all over India stop in Siliguri en route to the cooler climes of the northern hill stations. Winters are relatively cool and temperatures range from a high of 15°C to a low of about 3°C. Light rain and dense fog are seen during this season. During the monsoon season between June and September, the town is lashed by heavy rains often cutting access to the hill stations and Sikkim. The climate is suitable for growing tea and the surrounding region has many tea gardens.
Context | Location
The Uttorayon Township is a 400-acre development on a non-productive Tea Estate in Siliguri, West Bengal. The guiding objective of the project was to create a model for low-cost development in India which enhances the community while respecting the environment. The Township is located on the fringe of Siliguri, along the National Highway 31 with a total projected development area of 400 acres. The larger part of the proposed development lies to the north of the highway, and gently slopes up to the north with panoramic views of the Kanchenjunga, river Chamta, and the distant Siliguri town. The smaller part to the south of the highway is more uneven with steeper slopes.
The guiding objective of the project was to create a model for low-cost development in India which creates communities and respects the environment. The Township was intended to be self-sustainable in terms of its Social equity, economy, and ecology.
Proposed residential population: 30,000
Master-planning Cost: $3000 / Acre
Housing Construction Cost: $20 / SqFt
To keep development costs low, the main strategy was to respect the natural topography of the site and to use it for an integrated surface drainage system. By precisely calculating the correct slopes of roads and using existing natural streams, costs were saved in expensive underground piping networks. While these services are exceptional by Indian standards the total developing costs of the project added up to only 6$ per square meter. The Budget dictated by the brief was INR 13.5 lakhs/acre whereas what was achieved was INR 12 lakhs/acre.
Siliguri is on a very strategic location as it forms a transit point for road, rail and air traffic for neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Siliguri is a location that demonstrates strong economic growth and is a developing Tier 2 town like many others in the country. Trade links are flourishing and the city is benefitting significantly from its strategic location as the gateway to the northeast. Both domestic and foreign Investments are being maintained at high levels with continuing opportunities, growing prosperity and secure incomes. It is surprising to note that Siliguri has grown from a small town to the second largest city after Kolkata in West Bengal. Ever on its rise and en route to larger horizons, Siliguri boasts of growing commercialization and is turning into an exciting business hub. The city sells a maximum number of T’s – namely, tea, timber tourism and transport and these form the main businesses of Siliguri.
The site has a permissible FAR of 4.0. The City centre was envisioned as a family entertainment centre is a judicious mix of retail, F&B outlets, entertainment areas; children’s play areas and a large 4-screen multiplex. It required 4 lakh sq ft of mall area and 1.5 lakh sqft of office area to be constructed as part of Phase I and the remaining 1.5 lakh sq ft of offices (office tower II) in the second phase. Building 5 as marked will be finished as part of phase III. The sanction was obtained on a 1.75 FAR loading on the site with Phase III construction as a business hotel.
Massing | Morphology (Form development)
The structure of the city centre was designed to sit on a large podium with multiple entrances ways allowing easy circulation for the people coming in. The visibility to all retail segments was enhanced by the use of a large central atrium space, which also serves as a multi-function arena for other activities. Vertical circulation was organized with escalators enhancing accessibility to all levels of the centre. The centre consists of retail spaces in diverse sizes ranging from small kiosks to a large hypermarket, interspersed with various restaurants and cafes as breakout spaces. Apart from these, there is also a dedicated space enclosing a large food court area. Open leisure areas were attached to these spaces with other entertainment zones providing video gaming, a bowling alley, and other indoor adventures. The development was completed with a large modern 4-screen multiplex cinema.
The development is a prime example of how the built form can work with its local climate rather than against it. Intensive studies were conducted on the streetscapes, setbacks and other built-form elements to ensure the predominantly northern wind flow can penetrate the built volumes. The City Centre was planned, keeping in mind the cross-ventilation and the warm humid climate of Siliguri. Special attention was paid to easy and efficient serviceability. The infrastructure networks laid on the site, too, are made efficient to achieve economies of construction cost and maintenance. This project is intended to act as an exemplar to provide a socially and ecologically sustainable developmental model for commercial development in upcoming towns.
The large retail complex was designed with corridors and atriums being naturally ventilated along the line of the prevailing wind direction. The shops were given the option of either being naturally ventilated and/or being air-conditioned. The public areas function well without air-conditioning and some of the shops have even opted not to go for air-conditioning. Sensible design helped to reduce the requirement of air-conditioning and the amount of time for usage in a year.
Skins | Facades
The front elevation of the mall was designed as an advertisement panel by itself, wrapping the building edge along the main service lane. A series of receding vertical faces were used to frame the three-storey high hoardings as a monolithic element sitting adjacent to the road. In between these framed hoardings were three separate entries into the mall, which culminated in a large atrium space located at the centre of the layout. The very regular band niches in the elevation scheme were derived from observations in retail space design, where the uncontrollably multiplying need for signage and advertisement space led to an almost unordered array of ad panels creeping over the entire elevation. The intent behind these bands was, therefore, to discourage any additional panelling to cover the existing elevation design.
The Screen was planned as a semi-unitized structural system designed to provide a visual and functional connection between the celebration square and the shopping block abutting it. The retail space on the first, second and third floors on this edge had no connection to the lively open space outside because these shops essentially opened into an internal corridor. This system was hence arrived at, as a composition of advertisement panels, show windows and opaque coloured cement board in a comprehensive monolithic element. The advertisement panels were allotted to the respective shops and sold out as regular signage space, with show windows essentially framing the interiors of the shops behind. The Screen is therefore a picture window of still and moving images giving a transient quality to the elevation.
To connect the buildings with the surrounding, a geometry that would encompass the building and its relationship with the site, also including the flow of human traffic at the same time was proposed. The site conclusively is a site with slight contours. Adapting to the existing contoured geometry, the idea of a curvilinear landscaped area was conceived, whose geometry blends with the existing topography, aiding in channelizing of human traffic movement. The bold curvilinear movement helps to energize the building interface with the surroundings and hence resulted in the energized flow of people from the interior to exterior spaces of the building. Though no distinct spaces were created between the much-intended formal and informal spaces in the landscape, segregation was done in the form of feature walls and wooden bridges which help to break off the continuity of the human traffic, creating room for exploration. Features such as a stage for displaying local arts and crafts, a stage for performance and kiosks for the display of products of all variations were also added to break the monotony and create ‘pauses’ in the flow of movement. Informal seating arrangements were designed which resulted in positive interactive spaces and rest abode. Ornamental trees and water bodies were used to add shine to the landscape and hence, created relief in the warm and humid climate of Siliguri.
For the city centre roof, A series of oversized mild steel plates were used to span across the 18 m distance between the 4 long arms of the front entry and the rear block. The column grids on both ends of this metal beam were not on a common grid; thus, the beams were directly supported only by the visible columns on its southern end. The truss is at once a structural component and a space in itself, also forming the singular contrasting element in the atrium space. The covering used on top of the metal beams was an 8 mm multicell translucent polycarbonate sheeting.
There is a unique artistic theme that was manifested in the various spaces of the mall in the form of sculpted artworks on the inner and outer façade of the building. The large atrium space was envisaged as the hub of the development, with spines running across on one side and the courtyards on the other. Each floor was provided with break-out spaces in the form of landscaped terraces. The building was so designed that the largeness of the program never assumes daunting proportions. In keeping with the traditional Indian schema of high streets and porous spaces, the centre breaks down into a complex of well-scaled structures offering a maximum interface to the users.
As per the structural system goes, the building has a conventional system with partition walls of fly-ash block work. The finishes of the building were kept simple, with plaster and weatherproof texture paint with pastel shades of Earthy brown and Almond sand. These colours on the scale of the project formed the backdrop canvas for the graphic artist to create his work of art. The other materials that have been chosen were done so with the intention of easy maintenance as well as to enhance the scale of the special quality. A mix of black granite, steel grey granite, Sadar ali and vitrified tiles were used for flooring of the atrium spaces as well as corridors, whereas the spines, which spread out to the external landscape have rough kota and a mix of black and steel grey granite. The shop front has been worked on a metal framework with heavy-duty cement particle board as backing with a vitrified tile finish. A seamless false ceiling has been made with calcium silicate board finish with POP, coloured in white and the coves in smoked grey. The handrails for the corridor have MS railings with teak wood handrail which gives a character different from the usual SS and glass. The large atrium covered with MS structure spans more than 20 meters in width and 80 meters in length and is covered with a polycarbonate sheet, with the ends louvred out with an aluminium box section. The pastel shades of the texture paint along with the shades of white, grey and black gives the space a subtle richness, which is further enhanced by the graphic work.
Photographs: Andre J Fanthome