Labour of love

It’s not everyday that one gets to design something that has “Asia’s biggest” prefix attached to it.

Written by ShevetaBhatia | Published: January 19, 2009 11:12 pm

Back after successfully designing Asia’s biggest naval academy,city-based architect Namita Satnam Singh talks about two decades of working on the project

It’s not everyday that one gets to design something that has “Asia’s biggest” prefix attached to it. And when one does,it sure is a happy moment. Back from Ezhimala,Kannur,after successfully designing Asia’s biggest naval academy,Namita Satnam Singh,trots in her office with elan. “Twenty years of work has paid off well,” she smiles,satisfied with the end result. A presentation of the design in hand and a clay model in the backdrop,she sits down to give us a glimpse into the making of her dream project. One,which saw the lady fulfill the daunting tasks of retaining the beauty of the site.”During my first visit to the virgin land,I decided that no man-made intervention would mar the beauty of the place,” she goes back to 1988,when she secured the Rs 721-crore academy project through a two-stage national-level competition. A promise that she was able to keep. “The design of the academy exploits the magnificent sight of the mountains and the sea from every building,” she explains,pointing at a spur jutting out on the clay model,which now forms the main building. “With all other structures designed around it,the buildings are designed in conversation with the mountain,” says Namita.

Always been in favour of conserving nature,at the academy too Namita has displayed her eco-friendly design sensibilities. The ridgeline has been conserved,trees have been preserved and the flora and fauna has been kept intact. “Keeping the climatic conditions in mind,courtyards have been built to enhance natural lighting and ventilation and lot of windows have been kept,” she reels,this time round talking about the use of local materials and inspiration from the local building traditions. “The roads and foundations acted as quarries. Whatever laterite and granite we obtained from the site has as been used as blocks and gravels,” she tells us that it not only saved a lot of money,but also put natural resources to optimum use.

Built over an area of two lakh sq.m; 2,300 acres of the western coast,seven km of beach land and seven peaks,here the training facilities provided for include an Olympic-size covered swimming pool and diving pool,a firing range,athletic tracks,parade grounds,large covered drill sheds and watermanship training facilities. “Ever since the work started in 2000,I used to be on the site for a week every month to oversee it,” she reels the hours of toil,still surprised at the magnitude of attention that the project has gained after completion. “Been my baby and grown with my son Vishal and daughter Gaurind with the help of my sister Preeti,the praise for the project is like getting a reward for raising a fine child,” smiles this product of the Chandigarh College of Architecture,1970,already set to work on a few IT projects in Chandigarh,along with the Nehru Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) at sub city centre plaza in Sector 34.

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