Showcase 19 Jan 2017

Fluidity in Rigidity: Automated Warehouse Facility by AKDA

Sprawled on a 7 acre site, the Automated Warehouse Facility by AKDA is located in Anangpur near Faridabad, an urbanising village on the fringes of Delhi. An interesting brick façade among other design features help make this static-looking building, usable and humane, and we dig out how.

The project brief for Amit Khanna Design Associates, AKDA, for the Automated Warehouse Facility at Anangpur was to create a “large warehousing facility that would be  equipped with a high degree of automation.” The programme is divided into three parts: the loading bay, the warehouse, and an office block between the other two buildings. While many areas in the warehouse and loading bay are automated and human habitation is limited, the building has nevertheless been designed to meet human comfort levels.

Strikingly, the difference between the inside and outside temperatures of the Warehouse after occupancy, have been recorded to be around 10 degrees celsius apart – an amazing fete for a modern industrial building. Considering the extreme climatic context of Delhi, and the dusty micro-environment, a perforated façade is nearly relegated from one’s mind. One would expect the mundane functional warehouse to be hidden, tucked away in a corner, or ignored aesthetically, and very sturdily shielded since it mainly serves a mechanical function. But neither is the case.

“Rather than overlaying a conventional window-based punctured façade over the structural frame, the warehouse and loading bay are wrapped in a perforated brickwork screen.” A single skin isn’t adequate and therefore, the perforated brick screen primarily shades a glazed dust barrier, recessed by 1200mm from the South and North façades, which cuts the glare. The recessed buffer area serves as a utility zone and provides passive insulation, and the glazing is openable for ventilation.

While brick as a material is the unifying element in the exterior, the design of the façade itself subtly varies across the four faces facing the four directions. The recessed glazing is protected by the perforated North and the South façade, while the West façade “is mostly blank with  only a sliver of brick screen near the ceiling to permit evening illumination and the completely blank East façade faces the loading bay.” A seemingly inconspicuous yet a powerful design difference. Brick as a material is robust and renders a rigidity to the unfinished appearance; earthy yet vernacular in the unclear, confused and in-between urbanity/rurality of Anangpur.

The façade of the Warehouse alone isn’t enough to support the overall efficiency of the building. A part of it is sunken with naturally lit parking and canteen spaces, and the open ground adjacent to the site, provides insulation. The slope of the site is planned to drain runoff from rainwater by diverting it to a local well nearby.

The architecture is sensitive to the site, and rooted in it. The building sits well within its context. Brick as a material becomes a response to the inside and the outside of this building tying it to the landscape. Simple systems of perforation, insulation and the age-old science of designing for light, shade and heat along the cardinal directions, remain resolute while underscoring the functional nature of this Facility.

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