Thanks to all those who participated in our “Behind the Building” competition! Here is the first of our 3 winning entries — Communique Solutions Headquarters by groupDCA. We encourage all architects to continue uploading Project Connections to be considered for feature!
The dream of Brutalism is alive in Gurugram, India. When Communique Solutions contacted groupDCA to design their new headquarters, they were presented with plans for a building that didn’t only draw on the aesthetic of Brutalism, but also followed the modernist ethos the midcentury movement represented.
“Honesty — structural and material — and humanism are central to the idea of Brutalism,” explains groupDCA; “it’s choice, therefore, reflects groupDCA’s strong belief in the movement’s foundational principles of modernism and socialism.” The company adds that this value system matched the needs of the client, a forward thinking marketing company that promotes a transparent, egalitarian workplace.
So how does one go about designing a building that does away with “physical metaphors of authoritarianism?” To start, the workplace is organized in a manner that eschews the expected hierarchy of spaces. The highlight of the building’s interior is the glass-enclosed mezzanine that floats above the amphitheater-style, multipurpose event area. This central space, though, is occupied not by a director’s room or any other kind of office, but a conference room, placing collaboration at the literal center of scheme.
The other big surprise is the location of the wellness center, which occupies the top floor and benefits from direct sunlight. The well-being of the workers is not, in this building, given a marginal role but is rather integrated directly into the overall plan, which is notably open and transparent throughout and contains various different kinds of collaborative workspaces.
In order to achieve their desired transparent and democratic effect, groupDCA needed to take care to optimize conditions of light, space and airflow. Here are some of the products that helped them in this endeavor.
Corten Steel Cladding for Façade
Manufactured by AV Aquafloat Glazings Pvt Ltd
Brutalism is generally associated with one material: concrete. However, groupDCA recognized that a completely blank concrete facade in balmy India would be prone to discoloration. Corten steel, on the other hand, only becomes more beautiful over time, as surface oxidation enhances its trademark copper tone. The northern-facing front of the building includes a pleasing checkerboard façade of corten steel cladding while the eastern and western sides feature vertical stripes of steel that add a bit of visual variety in between the large windows. For the weathering steel, groupDCA turned to an Indian company named AV Aquafloat Glazings that offers a large assortment of cladding materials.
Laminated Glass Windows
Manufactured by Saint-Gobain
For a heavy concrete building, luminescence is key. groupDCA handled this challenge by maximizing natural light—not the amount, that is, but the quality. The northern and southern facades of this building are outfitted with large windows made from Saint-Gobain double glazed laminated glass, while the eastern and western edges are totally blocked. These windows are glare free, and their positioning was designed in response to a careful analysis of daylight conditions on the site. Planters along the window and vertical green walls running inside the building help to reinforce this connection to the outdoors.
Recessed Laser Blade Lighting
Manufactured by iGuzzini
The carefully calibrated lighting scheme in this building does not end at dusk. groupDCA enlisted iGuzzini to install an artificial lighting system that can be adjusted to complement the light conditions outdoors. iGuzzini’s trademark recessed “laser blade” fixtures are hardly even visible, yet they are hard at work all day long to provide a clear and comfortable work environment as well as a seamless transition from day to night.
Aluminum Window Frames
Manufactured by Royal Arch Solutions
Brutalist buildings are built to last. The window frames at the Communique Solutions Offices are thick and made of hearty aluminum from Royal Arch Solutions. The industrial aesthetic of the project meant that the designers didn’t need to find window frames that appeared delicate or subtle. These are strong, heavy windows and they look the part!
Central Air Conditioning
Manufactured by Weather Comfort
Only so much can be done with light and spaciousness to make an interior space comfortable in Gurugram, India, a suburb of New Delhi that, in certain months, has an average temperature of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In these conditions, air conditioning is a must. The central air conditioning system that Weather Comfort installed regulates temperature throughout the building. groupDCA left the air conditioning ducts exposed, adding to the industrial appearance of the interior as well as to the project’s ethos of transparency. Employees simply need to look up to be reminded that the building, too, is hard at work.
Manufactured by Schindler
One of the most pleasing aspects of this building is the way it was designed to facilitate the functional movement of employees. The transparency of the design means that almost all of the workspaces, from the offices on the top floor to the ampitheater below, are visible when you walk into throyal arche building and it is very easy to orient oneself. For the most part, movement will be facilitated by staircases that look out into the office. However, in order to meet the needs of disabled employees, there is also a centrally positioned elevator in the building. This was contributed by Schindler, one of the world’s leading names in elevators and a company known for its wide array of products that meet the needs of diverse clients. In this case, the elevator is quiet, subtle and efficient, yet positioned in a way that makes the building just as intuitive to navigate for disabled visitors as anyone else.
Manufactured by Asian Paints
The exposure of raw surfaces was important to groupDCA as it emphasized the building’s Brutalist aesthetic and the ethos of transparency it implied. The concrete, brick and corten steel of the interior and exterior of the building are largely left in their raw, unfinished state, and are complemented by similarly unadorned furniture carved from birch and plywood. However, even a Brutalist building requires a pop of color. The exposed brick on the interior is largely painted white, brightening up the space, while the paneling along the walls of the ampitheater is navy blue. These painted spaces, along with the vertical green wall, are enough to make the space appear warm and inviting rather than a cold exercise in modernist purity. For the paint, groupDCA turned to the Indian company Asian Paints — the largest supplier of paint in the country — which is known for its affordability and wide array of products.