Excerpt: ‘Dholavira Interpretation & Research Centre’ – an academic project by Prachi Nagar from Faculty of Design, CEPT University, focuses on climate responsive building form. The project proposes an innovative architectural form, derived from passive design strategies, to maximize thermal comfort in the extreme climatic conditions of Dholavira, Kutch, India.
Introduction: The project focuses on designing an Interpretation and Research Centre at the famous Harappan archaeological site of Dholavira, located at Kutch, India. The design for the Centre was developed by keeping the extreme climatic conditions of Dholavira in mind. The primary criteria for design development were: uniform distribution of indirect Natural Light in the exhibition areas and passive design strategies to gain thermal comfort. The design was further developed using a set of secondary criteria, such as: zoning of various functions between public, semi-public and private areas, and articulation of the design with appropriate selection of materials/details, keeping the extreme climatic conditions of Dholavira in mind.
The functions of the Interpretation Centre were: Reception area, Interpretation / Exhibition Area, Cloak Room/ Lockers for visitors, welcoming Foyer, Documentation/ Photography room, Amphitheatre for screening of documentaries, Office for a curator, researchers and supporting staff, Toilets for Visitors and staffs, Cafeteria and Kitchen.
Dholavira is the fifth largest archaeological excavated site of the Harappan civilization, which was discovered in the year 1968. It is located at Khadir Bet in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District, in the state of Gujarat in western India. The Interpretation and Research Centre is placed on the arrival of the Dholavira site, marking as an entry point to the archaeological site and also providing necessary information about the site in the form of exhibition and orientation. The building further connects the visitors to the excavated archaeological site through a pedestrian bridge over an existing stream.
Dholavira archaeological site is located in the hot and arid region of Kutch district, with an extreme climate during the summer and winter seasons. During the summer, temperature ranges from 35 to 50 degree Celsius; and in the winter, temperature goes down in the range of 0 to 10 degree Celsius. The total annual rainfall in the region is 450 MM, making it a hot and arid landscape.
The design process for developing the Centre began with creating a matrix of ideas with multiple solutions for desired criteria such as: design strategies for maximising views from the site, passive design strategies for heat and wind, design strategies for optimising natural light. Based on the matrix of ideas, the building form was developed, first by selecting and prioritising design ideas, and later by superimposing them to arrive at various iterations.
The design development took place along the following criteria:
To maximise the wind flow through the main spaces an aerodynamic form was explored that had a smaller opening (aperture) on the windward side and larger openings on the opposite side, creating a larger negative pressure (wind shadow); hence, maximising the wind flow through the space.
To prevent direct heat gain to the main spaces a skin, enclosing the main volumes, was explored
The exhibition space demands indirect light. The roof section, incorporating skylights, was explored to bring ways of bringing indirect light.
To get the right amount of lux levels in the exhibition space, simulations were done using VELUX software.
The final form was arrived for the Interpretation Center based on the analytical study and many iterations. In the second stage of the design process, an architectural language for the project was developed by applying appropriate material, resolving structure and various details.
The final design for the Interpretation Centre has the following qualities/design features to achieve thermal comfort, desired lux level in the exhibition spaces, and views of the archaeological site from the proposed centre:
(Thermal Comfort) A double skin Structure to prevent direct heat exposure into the Centre act as a climatic barrier for the internal spaces.
(Thermal Comfort) An aerodynamic form that maximises wind flows through the main spaces
(Thermal Comfort) The openings in the main structure, on the windward side, work as air cooling agents with humidifiers to reduce the temperature of the wind flowing through the main spaces.
(Light) A roof with skylights that provides indirect light to all the main functioning spaces
(View) The openings in the skin are created to give perfect views of the excavated site, and generate curiosity amongst visitors to visit the excavated archaeological site.
The skin structure, wrapping the main spaces, was proposed with Glue laminated timber sections, interconnected with Mild Steel Pipes and braced with steel cables. The skin façade consists of Wooden planks and transparent glasses (to have a particular view of the excavated area). The main structure is made up of concrete with Aspen evaporative cooling pads for openings in a windward direction to maximize the natural cooling of the main spaces.
[This Academic Project has been published with text submitted by the student]
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