As the city increasingly finds itself getting filled with buildings and falls short of public open space, the experience at Business Bay in Pune is a refreshing change. This is a rare project that gives back public space to the city, and that too a well-designed one. Conceived as a commercial venture with the second largest built- up commercial space in the city, this project should serve as an example of best intentions turned to reality using the best design sense. The design of the huge complex is simply resolved as three linear towers bordering three sides of a huge podium. The podium is raised on three floors- two floors above ground and one basement- accommodating all the parking requirements as well as MEP services. The podium is approachable from the sidewalk by two sets of broad stairs and a gradual ramp that reveals its greenery as one ascends to its level. The three towers are set back to the farthest edges of the rectangular podium, not touching each other, and leaving the fourth edge free to overlook the bustle of the street below. It provides a shaded and safe haven to pedestrians from the street traffic and delights them with an extensive thicket of tall bamboo grass sheltering covert resting places within. A thin sheet of water stretches from one end to the other in the central area of the podium. It alternatively reflects the matt green of the bamboo and the metal sheen of the towers. A light steel structure with a court sunk in the podium provide for any active recreation needed in this quiet pedestrian realm.
Of the three towers, two are designed for large offices while the third is a luxury star hotel. The office towers offer 1.6 million sq ft of sunlit space supplemented with energy efficient services. The 90 m long towers wrap free and flexible office space around two central service cores. Full height double glazing encases the office spaces on their longer side bringing in natural light to its deepest areas while cutting off the heat. The selection of transparent glass is deliberate so as to allow visual connections between all parts of the building. The view from one tower to offices in the other, from the offices to the podium, from the food court to the offices ensure that one does not feel isolated and lost in the maze of office cubicles but is always a part of life happening in the building around him/her.
The mass of the ten storied towers is broken down by expressing them externally as bundles of floors wrapped in well-proportioned metal cases stacked above each other and back to back. The blank metal surfaces and continuous glass facades give no clue of the number of floors contained within them and the viewer is left to gauge the height of the buildings from the perceived size of the floor bundles. This significantly reduces the perceived height of the buildings making them appear nearly as walk-ups and of a humane scale.
The public realm of the podium is further extended in the towers too. At the podium level, the entire floor of the towers is given to retail. The central floor of both towers, expressed as a recess between the two stacked floor bundles, is a food court seating more than 1600 persons. Enveloped on their outer edges is a walkway covering the entire perimeter of both the buildings. From here, in the absence of the curtain wall, one connects directly to the podium it overlooks thus extending the pedestrian realm right to the centre of the towers.
The material palette for such a huge project is contrastingly minimalist, almost suggesting a Japanese influence. The white metal and blue glass of the towers are complemented by the green bamboo and black stone of the podium. The large sheet of water is a neutral surface reflecting different images from different vantage points and creating an ever changing collage on the podium’s surface.
Above all, this mixed- use building satisfies all demands of its various stakeholders. For the developers, it offers high quality commercial space fetching high rents. For the offices, it offers flexible layouts and space divisions with state-of-art infrastructure facilities. For its occupants, it provides a lively working space, very unlike many introvert offices. But above all, it offers the city and its citizens at large an excellent public space, an experience of a pedestrian precinct complete with shopping, food, entertainment, and above all, peace, quiet and tranquillity.
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