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Striking Urban Façades

By: Stephen Coates, aCTA

ACTA has been designing and delivering buildings in India, primarily Kolkata since 2004. Some of the projects have been completed or are close to completion so far. Each ACTA Facade project appears to be quite different on the surface, however, they demonstrate certain similarities in response to two key questions – quality engineering and the environmental impact on marketability.

ACTA Facade DesignsMost of ACTA’s designs in Kolkata are built without a main or management contractor. This presents design challenges at critical junctions between sub-contract packages leading to poor execution, and which can lead to design failure such as water penetration.

The four projects featured below fall in to two camps: single package external envelope and multiple package external envelope.

Single External Envelope Contract Package:

Separate Packages:

  • Windows and precast RC panels
  • Windows and external louvres

ACTA Facade DesignNot surprisingly, the projects with single contract package enclosures were or are being delivered quicker and to a higher quality of finish and provide better protection against the elements. Furthermore, having a single sub-contractor responsible for the whole external envelope means less chance of failure and better warranties.

Environmental Impact on Marketability: With the increasing understanding of the damage that CO2 emissions are doing to the health of the planet, the market is demanding better environmental performance from buildings, and the construction industry is addressing these failures through initiatives such as the Indian Green Building Council.

Three buildings have achieved a Gold or Platinum rating from IGBC. The design of the façade is fundamental in each case. Façade design details of two projects are discussed in detail.

Judicious Incorporation of Timber Effect

ACTA Facade DesignsOn a site with stunning views over the gardens of the adjacent German Embassy, A6, Hastings Park Road, Crosswinds is a 10-storey luxury apartment development in upmarket Alipore. Lying derelict for 30+ years, planning permission was granted to reconstruct the building, on the condition that the core and height of building were unchanged. The challenge was to accept these restrictions and still create luxury apartments for the 21st century. ACTA achieved this while creating two much larger and Vastu compliant apartments per typical floor, instead of the four smaller units planned originally.

ACTA Facade DesignsThe architecture of the building is derived from the judicious use of beautiful timber effect vertical sliding aluminium louvre panels that help to achieve the following:

  • Provide the owners some protection against the low east and west sun while allowing the apartments to be fully naturally ventilated
  • Provide privacy
  • Cover up the ugly existing structural design that could not be altered to create a strong modern aesthetics
  • Supplied and installed by one single sub-contract package to minimise package

The timber louvres are actually aluminium with a special powder coat finish painted and textured to resemble wood. Aluminium is preferred for its light weight and less maintenance than real wood.

Project: Crosswinds
Location: Hastings Park Road, Alipore, Kolkata
Developer: Keventer Projects
Floors: 11
Completion of the project: 2017

Redefining Residential Architecture

ACTA Facade Designs

At 350,000 sq m and 170 m height, Urbana is the largest and tallest private residential development to have been completed in East India in recent years and is the recipient of numerous and prestigious Real Estate Awards from CREDAI, CNBC and CMO Asia Real Estate.

Set on the eastern edge of the city, phase 1 comprises seven towers providing 1,170 units and 40 detached bungalows set in 60 acres.

All apartments are orientated either north or south to provide optimal views away from the low sun, and enjoy the wonderful cooling south-easterly breeze that wafts in from the Bay of Bengal, thereby minimising the need for air conditioning.

The characteristic and precast giant “jali” (screen) satisfies a number of design intents:

ACTA Facade Designs

  • Break up the monotony of stacks of identical windows
  • Give depth to the façade, and some shading/ protection from heavy rains
  • To create an organic effect while unifying the 7 towers into a cohesive composition

Altogether over 12,000 windows and 12,000 precast panels were installed. Construction of the in-situ RC structure used aluminum form work which improved quality and speed of construction immensely.

Achieving a project of this scale and quality has taken a huge effort by the whole team including 3,000 people on site for the past 6 years.

ACTA and the Urbana team are currently developing the design for phase 2 which will feature three 50-storey residential towers designed to complete the full composition of 10 towers providing almost 2,000 apartments and 500,000 sq m of luxury accommodation.

Project: Urbana
Location: Anandapur Road, Kolkata
Landscape Design: Green Architects, Bangkok
Structural Engineer: Predrag Eror, Dubai
Status of the Project: Completed (Phase 1)

Stephen Coates, aCTA

Executive Director & Principal Architect

Stephen Coates is an internationally acclaimed architect based in Singapore. He began his distinguished architectural journey from London and also worked with Hong Kong-based practice Aedas as founding executive director of the firm. After having worked with renowned firms, he established his award-winning firm aCTa, based in Singapore, in 2004. The firm leads various architects and consultants across Asia for a wide range of sectors, including residential, master planning, offices, retail, hospitality, industrial and infrastructure. Their major works range from designing/remodelling of an 800 ft micro house in Kensington, London to a 5,000 acre master plan of a new town in China. Notably, the firm has overseen the design and completion of the tallest residential complex constructed in Kolkata and the entire Eastern India.

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