Guests could be forgiven to imagine that they are at a resort when they come into the 22-acre Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) campus in Andheri, Mumbai. With its nearly 100-year-old trees, fruit bats, birds and butterflies, it is hard to tell one is in an industrial area of the city. TCS had bought the Redlands property in 2003 when it had only four bungalows on the wooded campus. These were restored by Somaya and Kalappa Consultants (SNK) in 2006. When TCS decided to expand the campus, they appointed US-based architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (TWBTA) with SNK as associate architects to collaborate on the design of this new campus.
Last week, the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) declared the Tata Consultancy Services, Banyan Park as “Best in Competition” of the 2019 Design Awards, among numerous projects from across the world. For Mumbai-based Brinda Somaya, Principal Architect, SNK, it has been a long and passionate journey. “Mr Ratan Tata and the TCS senior management got Tod and Billie on board with us. As a firm, TWBTA is known for their design and exploration of materials. SNK is also known for their design and contemporary expression of arts and crafts in their projects. The campus became a canvas to showcase Indian arts and crafts. Large ikat weaves were designed and installed on the walls as well as suspended from the ceiling within the workplace. Women Weave helped with the looms for these custom-made weaves. Jaalis from Jaipur and bidri work were also used in various parts of the building,” says Somaya.
The AIA, on its website, notes about the project: “Modern reinterpretations of these local techniques add character and beauty to the campus and emphasise a sense of place that is particular to India.”
Williams and Tsien, who believe that “being in India, you should feel like you’re working in India”, have designed former President Barack Obama’s Presidential Centre, which includes the museum, the forum and the library, in Jackson Park, Chicago. In a Harvard lecture, the couple spoke about the Banyan Park project, and how they were inspired by the stepwells of Ahmedabad that were almost embedded into the earth. In the TCS campus, they kept the buildings on the sloping terrain, not more than three-storey tall, with ample walkways and spaces for interaction. The buildings are connected with shaded walkways, making most of the area pedestrian-friendly.
The campus, which hosts nearly 2,000 people, is also the company’s headquarters, with training, conference and recreation centres, and has a library and a cafeteria. With external courtyards and elliptical openings in the roofs to let in light and air, much of the workspaces are naturally lit, thus reducing the energy costs on campus. “This workplace for TCS is a subtle intervention, maintaining a good balance of the built and unbuilt, leaving ample open areas, thus allowing it to become a green lung in the city,” says Somaya.