A steep sloping site, facing the west presented a unique challenge for the design of the Malabar Group Headquarters at Calicut, in the tropical context of Kerala, India. The design is resolved as a series of levels along the contours which reduces the intervention on site to a minimum.
The lower four levels accommodate the parking and service areas, with an interesting pattern of terracotta jaalis and greenery defining the facade. Office spaces rise up from the large landscaped podium above this, which serve as the main entry level. The podium level is accessed through an interestingly designed bridge and has thoughtfully done landscaping which help create a sense of arrival. To take advantage of the wonderful views all around, the office areas are designed as transparent open plans and rise up four floors above the podium. Responding to the sloping site, the office spaces are resolved as two separate blocks with a green landscape spine in between. Strategically placed balconies with large trees and vegetations on the western facade cut out the intense sun, creating a green buffer. They also serve as gardens in the sky, providing spill out spaces which can be accessed from various floor levels. Intermittently placed wooden trellises allow climbers to grow, which helps in cutting out the harsh sunlight, along with the double glazed units on the western façade.
The roof is designed as a landscaped gathering space which slopes all the way down to the ground and has amphitheaters, lounges, pavilions and plenty of vegetation, serving as a space to get together and unwind. The green roof slopes down to the ground on the South to reduce the intensity of the southern sun and also acts as insulation to the office spaces below. There are cut-outs in between, which allow the employees to move out onto the green roof.
The interiors are an expression of a contemporary design aesthetic with exposed materials like polished concrete flooring and cement board finishes which contrast with the sleekness of glass and mild steel. Innovatively designed furnitures and artworks accentuate the vibrancy of the space. A conscious decision was taken to avoid using false ceilings so as to reduce the material usage. The services are thus exposed and are completely finished in black above the eye level, creating a raw industrial aesthetic in the interiors, which is contrasted with the bright colours of the furnitures and the artworks.
Natural vegetation comes into the interiors through spill out balconies and the central landscaped spine with dense greenery, providing opportunities for social interactions and enhances the psychological well being of the employees. The central landscape has a solar screen roof on top which help in meeting the energy demands of the building. Rainwater collected on the roof and other surfaces are channelized to percolation pits and help in recharging the ground water. The inherent honesty in usage of materials along with the contextually relevant design helps in creating a highly sustainable building, one which is integrally connected to nature.
Stapati is an architecture practice established by Tony Joseph in 1989. After his masters in design from the University of Texas, Austin, in the Charles Moore program, Tony returned to India and started Stapati, which has steadily grown into a multi-disciplinary practice emphasizing values of integrity, sustainability and innovation.
Stapati’s architecture emerges from a sensitive understanding of the context; one where the evolution of design is firmly rooted in the region’s traditional narratives, while interpreting the elements in a modern context. Stapati, under Tony’s able leadership has won numerous awards and recognitions over the years and has been selected as one of the Top 50 Most influential design firms in South Asia by Architectural Digest for five years continuously, from 2014 to 2018. Tony is also the Founder Chairman of Avani Institute of Design, a Center of Excellence in Architecture and Design education located in Calicut.