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This special section covers the out-of-the-box design having steel as an essential element of the design. The main aim of this section is to showcase how steel can be innovatively used in today’s world of architecture.

Here Ar. Shashirekha, Chief Architect, Space Studio unveil their out-of-the-box design concept that ought to turn the tables in the future…

Cesta in Sanskrit means movement. The theme represents the ocean in built form. The sculptural steel facade expresses the form of an ocean wave, corrugated steel / containers form part of the fabrication of exterior walls, an overstated anchor symbolism in steel embellishes the rear side facing the backwater; together the design elements capture the spirit of the ocean in a steel structural form. The colour scheme is predominantly grey with accents of primary colours green, red and blue.

Almost all great ideas begin with a why. When questioning a normative idea, a designer usually finds his path to inspiration and creative solutions. This is how great designs; engineering feet and massive structural wonders are built across ages.

This is how we came about building cars, airplanes and monumental habitable structures in steel and concrete. The answers never appear before the question does.

At Space Studio Chennai, a Chennai based architecture firm, the design process begins with a why closely followed by how. This is how their architects arrive at appropriate design aesthetics for buildings, especially for this steel building purported to be a warehouse and office space for a shipping company.

Why should warehouses be boring, dull, uninspiring? They asked.

How can we make it interesting and even inspiring? They sought to wonder.

How far can we stretch our imagination in building something with steel? They seem to have questioned themselves.

The answer is a corrugated steel enclosure with a facade that is free flowing, fluid and seemingly as whimsical as waves can be. It started out as a boring box building and transitioned into an interesting form.

As they say, the answer usually appears after the questioning begins.

Concept Note
The design brief from client is to create a warehouse and office building for a shipping office. The spatial planning brief is to include warehouse/storage space in the basement ,ground level and first floor level, office space in floor two and top management in floor 3 three, with an active terrace space to house conferencing facility, canteen and a terrace garden.

Prefabrication & Structural system
The architects have ideated a prefabricated steel structure that can be built to specifications and brought to site for building and assembly. The substructure, staircase and lift walls are in reinforced cement concrete. The rest of the super structure including the supporting structural framework is prefabricated steel.

Architect’s Interpretation

Façade systems are a form finding process that can often thrill and surprise both the designer and the onlooker. The design decision of Ar. Peter Zumthor led to thin, elongated bricks at Thermavale and led to Ar. Frank Gehry using titanium as an exterior material. It is possible to take an existing material and stretch it to form a whole new shape or to find an unusual usage for a usual material. As architects when we attempt to stretch the limits of a specific material, we end up finding a whole new form as seen in Cesta where steel is given a sense of free-flowing form. Apart from the design aesthetics the functionality of a façade system is crucial. The louvered steel form here acts as a shade blocking about 70 per cent of direct sunlight on the east side while also providing an interesting visual aesthetics.
Chief Architect, Space Studio Chennai

Steel as a material
Steel as a material, much like concrete, can be surprisingly fluid or flexible despite the superior strength it offers. Steel can be bent, beaten to a specific shape, hot rolled, moulded, modified and fabricated in almost any shape, size and strength. The immense strength of steel is an advantage to buildings in use as structural support system. Steel structures perform better under seismic pressure as they bend but do not break so easily. However, at high temperatures the material can lose its strength too soon which makes an appropriate fire protection treatment necessary for the specific material. Another concern with steel is to adequately address the corrosive properties of the material. Heat retention could be higher in steel and requires adequate coolant treatment prior to using steel as an enclosure wall material.

Innovation in steel
The façade massing is disruptive in parts while also following an order in chaos, much like the waves of an ocean. The louver like design permits adequate lighting and ventilation to the interior spaces. The façade form creates an interplay of light and shade that constantly moves with the direction of sunlight, rendering a sense of movement. The façade is wrapped in free-flowing steel members that twist, turn, and are sculpted in a parametric pattern of striations.

The future of steel
The ductility and tensile strength of steel makes it a more manageable material. Steel could be a great material for 3-D printing parts or whole of a built structure soon. This offers greater freedom to architect in imagining various design possibilities with steel. The possibility of building with steel only gets limitless as we move towards finer aesthetics in steel structures.

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