The first thing that one notices on entering the Indian Habitat Centre (IHC) is the amazing courtyard inside the building. The tall exposed brick building masses are oriented so as to create a large open space in the centre. The spaces are so juxtaposed that one is led to explore and discover the remaining areas. The courtyard is green, with lots of trees, palms etc, creating an image of a tropical forest, with a constant flow of natural air through the spaces. Sunlight streams into the space, being broken by the large space frame structure on the roof level with blue sun shading elements. Light & shadow play on the textured surface of the building, creating beautiful patterns which change along with the time of the day.
|The External Facade|
|The main entrance to IHC|
|The Sun-shading device over the Courtyard|
One of the reasons why the courtyard is so comfortable is because of its scale. It is monumental. The tall building masses enclosing the large space in the centre are completed by the huge palms & other trees, which tower to the roof. Yet, in spite of the monumental scale, one does not feel lost in this space. There are plants along the base of the large trees scaled to the human height, which help in breaking down the scale. The edge of the planters doubles up as seating spaces for the people. The mystery of the space is further accentuated with level differences & steps leading to enclosed spaces and even a half concealed amphitheatre. There are strategically placed sculptures which give an artistic touch to the spaces.
|Play of light & shadow|
|Plants help in breaking down the scale|
The building was designed by architect Joseph Allen Stein and is a hub for cultural, economic, business and social events. ‘The Habitat Centre should be conceived as an ideal physical environment with a range of facilities that maximise the effectiveness of the individuals & institutions, in their holistic support of the habitat. The principal resolve of the centre – “to restore at every level – environment and ecological – a balanced, harmonious and improved way of life”, is to be reflected in its concept & design’ (Source – Wikipedia). Theatre performances, folk arts, art exhibitions, film shows and discussion forums create a vibrant active space. There are various gallery spaces for artists like the Visual Arts Gallery, The Open Palm Court & the Experimental Art Gallery, creating a platform for highlighting the creativity of the artists.
|Skywalks connecting the building blocks|
There are different functional spaces in the various blocks, like office spaces, exhibition spaces, conference facilities, cafeterias etc, not only to house the various organisations but to encourage their interaction as well. There are 5 main building blocks which are interconnected by means of aerial walkways. There is also a basement floor for parking of around 1000 cars. The external facade is in a language of exposed red brick, exposed concrete and glass.
As given in the website of IHC - http://www.indiahabitat.org/, 'The India Habitat Centre was conceived to provide a physical environment which would serve as a catalyst for synergetic relationship between individuals and institutions working in diverse habitat related areas and therefore, maximise their total effectiveness'.