A glass paradise in the valley
The administration building of Kashmir University designed by ANA Design Studio celebrates traditional timber design in a contemporary context
Kashmir University in Srinagar is one of the oldest and most respected institutions of higher learning in the valley. The university has grown in size and stature over the years, and a need was felt to create an administrative hub that could accommodate the office of the vice chancellor, the registrar and deans, apart from the administrative heads such as finance and accounts, estates and development and various other administrative functions.
The university wanted a building that was respectful of the vernacular language and, yet, would be a high-performance, contemporary building. They wanted a well-lit building that would utilise current trends in open work culture, informal interaction spaces and be comfortable for all weather. At the same time, the building needed to be secure, allowing for confidentiality and security in keeping with the environment.
The new administration facility for the University of Kashmir in Hazratbal, Srinagar, is a showcase of the openness, inventiveness and contemporary nature of the university, while respecting the sense of place, culture and environment. The building is designed for spatial and material optimisation, energy efficiency, human interaction, comfort and the celebration of traditional timber design in a contemporary context.
The building is located in the main campus, at Hazratbal, adjacent to the existing vice chancellor’s secretariat. The building overlooks the cricket ground, and onwards to a fabulous view of the Dal Lake and Zabarwan hills beyond. An existing fir tree provided the impetus to create a “central” space. The building functions are developed in two distinct blocks, defined by the level of security and planned around a central atrium space. The tree forms a focal point from the entrance through the atrium with interconnecting bridges flying through the space. This atrium becomes an “all-weather” space for gatherings, chance meetings, discussions and setting up of temporary exhibitions.
The two blocks on East and West form the bulk of the offices. All the offices are naturally lit. There is extensive usage of glass and colour to create well-defined and visible “departments”. Workstations and cabins are planned to encourage interactions and collaborative working.
Each zone or department is independently climate-controlled, using all-weather VRV air-conditioning. The circuits of the glare-free LED lighting are designed to maximise the use of natural lighting. Hence, lights close to the windows and glazing can be switched off separately, while some interior lights may continue to be used.
The air-conditioning system also has enthalpy control, so when the outdoor conditions are pleasant, the compressors shut down and only fresh air is circulated through the building. Even in very warm and cold conditions, adequate fresh air is provided to ensure healthy indoor conditions. The central atrium also has heat sensors and mechanical ventilation fans. These switch on to flush warm air, in case it rises above a set point. The atrium is also lit with high efficiency, high bay lighting to allow its usage after sunset.
The façade is made from glass wool insulated panels and high-performance glass. The façade allows light to enter but controls heat entry as well as heating loss during winter. All service areas such as pantries and toilets that are near the façade have a built in trombe wall system. The trombe wall provides pre-heated air within the office spaces and can be shut during summer months. This free heating complements the electro-mechanical heat pump in the central climate conditioning system.
All the toilets have insulated piping, including drain pipes, to avoid freezing and cracking during winters. The toilets and ablution areas are provided with eco-friendly, low-flow fixtures. The entire structure of the building including the façade panels, insulated roofing and beams/columns are made from factory fabricated steel. The interior partitioning of the building is made from dry walls, insulated with glass wool.
Despite being a difficult to reach place, with its own peculiarities, the building was successfully built using local contractor teams and BIM. Since all the building design details, elements and components were modeled and coordinated using BIM, the contractors were able to prep, fabricate and erect the components without running into fouling and difficulties. The 3D imagery and live models allowed them to virtually walk through the building and understand each component.
Name of the project: Kashmir University administration building
Gross built area: 3,025 sq-m
Architecture firm: ANA Design Studio
Lead architect: Amin Nayyar