Skyon, Gurgaon, India - In the early 1980s the automotive company Maruti Suzuki located its large scale operations in Gurgaon, India, catapulting the town from farming village to growing commercial sector. Lured by tax reforms and proximity to the new Indira Gandhi International Airport, private firms and multi-national corporations began flocking to Gurgaon as Indian markets opened up to global investment. A decade later, the largely undeveloped land in Gurgaon began to appeal to real estate developers as the need for expansion of this satellite city in Delhi’s metropolitan area became increasingly apparent. Gurgaon has been nicknamed the ‘Millennium City’ and has seen an unparalleled period of development that has significantly outpaced progress on infrastructure and municipal support structures.
Finding inspiration from a place still struggling to define its own urban context was a key challenge in the design of this large-scale multifamily residential project. For this commission, the architect found influence in rich cultural and urban landscape of Northern India – from brightly colored textiles, to bustling markets, to historical landmarks in cities like Jaipur. Part of a larger new township, the residential development, Skyon, is located at the south-eastern edge of Gurgaon in Sector 60 and is connected to a station on the Delhi Metro. To integrate this burgeoning urban context, the architect understood that controlled density could provide an opportunity for this community to flourish and would breathe life into the commercial explosion of the past two decades.
The goal was to design a project that imparted a human scale and organization to the cacophonous environment of Gurgaon. To organize a diverse set of housing typologies and programmatic amenities across a 22-acre site, the designer envisioned a Common Green, in which a single, iconic tower anchors one end of a large quadrangle bounded by mid-rise buildings and interspersed with community amenities. The focal point of the Common Green is a 40-story residential tower with a pinwheel layout, composed of four stacked units radiating from a rectangular core. The plan for the tower is derived from powerful symbols in Indian cultural memory, including the Hindu symbol for good luck. Its simple geometry not only proves advantageous during construction in this high seismic zone, but also affords each unit unobstructed views in three directions, while still maintaining privacy. Within each unit, bedrooms and living spaces are pushed toward the outer fully-glazed walls. This contrasts with the opposite wall, which is solid and utilizes a pattern of punched windows to light the space. The tower’s ornamental façade remains a tenant of the architecture, as exterior balconies are modulated to create undulating forms akin to paper origami. The rhythmic shifting of balconies from floor to floor creates a dynamic impression of movement and interest along the height of the façade. Calculated to provide effective shading under both high- and low-angle sunlight, these residential balconies extend along the length of the glazed façade and reduce the tower’s total energy consumption. Skyon’s Common Green acts as a park for pedestrian circulation and activities. Residential midrise buildings, ranging from nine to thirteen stories, border three sides of this central green space. Views from these units are directed either inward to the garden oasis or outward to the nearby Aravalli Hills. Midrise façades incorporate a generous use of balconies to echo the tower form. The Clubhouse, the social center of this community, includes squash courts, swimming pools, fitness rooms, lounges, and a restaurant, opening into an adjacent garden. In contrast to the tower design, this building is conceived as a low-lying pavilion, partially sunken and belonging more to the landscape than to its neighboring buildings. The double-curved roof and canted glass exterior remain true to this concept. Throughout the project, cultural influences, such as Vastu – the science behind spatial geometry – and Rasta – traditional circulation methods referencing holy paths – inspire the design and planning of Skyon. The project at its core, however, emphasizes community, sustainability, and reclamation of a pedestrian lifestyle for Gurgaon’s ever-growing number of residents. Suman Sorg established Sorg Architects in 1986 and, under her leadership, the firm has completed projects in more than 30 countries. Suman’s extensive portfolio includes multi-family residential, commercial, educational, civic, and private projects, with a focus on creating vibrant, livable communities, and providing design solutions tailored to the context of the myriad locations around the globe where the firm has won commissions. Suman emphasizes a philosophy of “light touch,” so that each design becomes a powerful tool for simultaneously communicating history and ideas and thereby enhancing the human experience. As such, her approach is to strive for simplicity and clarity of design, working with existing buildings and environments, cultures and contexts, to produce elegant design solutions. She believes that when a building serves its function and the people who inhabit it, the project is successful in providing clarity and in reflecting its human purpose. Suman’s work has been recognized with numerous honors, having received more than 60 awards from regional, national, and international associations and clients.