“Castles In The Air” – A Review

Cover copy copy

Architecture is one hell of a profession, but is undoubtedly one of the noblest.Building a roof and a shelter over man, Architecture provides joy in habitation.

Author Sangeet Sharma says:

“While Architecture is in itself a spiritual exercise, the practice of the same may not be. The pleasures and pains experienced by me and many others needed to be penned—I did it. The courage required to do so inspire me to lead, and I thought, this was the right path to spew the venom that my heart, and hearts of many others had stored for long.”

It was important to communicate and regale at it.Laughter is said to be the best elixir and the book is a satire on architecture written by one who knows the bricks and concrete of the profession by heart.  The author, an architect himself, delves into the journey of a professional practice. The book is witty with acerbic humor.  Word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page, every scene unfolds like a screenplay, leaving the reader amazed with the brutalities of life in architecture, and life itself.

Says the author “Writing this book was necessary: Necessary, because the nature of this profession was on a somersault. It was important that someone bell the cat— I became the bell; and I become the cat.

The book is not for architects alone; it is for the clients who initiate jobs establishing noble and worthy projects. It is for the builders and contractors who execute them; it is for the craftsmen and the masons, who, by the dexterity of their hands create magic in details. It is for the services consultants and allied engineers who ensure the smooth functioning of the buildings. It is for the sculptors, painters, and artists who induce art into architecture.

It is for the students of architecture who will be in the profession in times to come and should be well-prepared to face the challenges ahead. It is for lay readers who are curious to know how architecture and connected vocations function.

The most important thing about “Castle in the air ” is that, it’s a cocktail of a student’s experience and a experience of a professional architecture. The story of the book is narrated in such a way that the reader can easily get everything about architecture. It also deals with all those problems an architect faces in both student life and professional life.

The book is for the eager housewives who misconstrue design with decoration. It is also for the politicians who are the kingmakers and implement the magnanimous visions into reality.

It is for all who are even remotely connected with the building industry.

As Architecture is all about habitat and human comfort, the book is therefore about life, and its challenges.

What we learnt in schools and what we practice are often in contradiction. Beginning from college days, to thesis, to opening of an office, procuring a job, interaction with the clients, payments, competitions, running of the office and bearing the challenges of the daily strain in Architecture—all these and more became the basis for this book.”

Many contributed to make the framework of this narration:

Author’s observant eyes, naughty banter at parties, agonized clients, contriving builders and contractors, jealous fellow professionals, vindictive teachers, unprofessional colleges, unsupportive professional bodies, lecherous girls at architects’ meets, conniving staff members, clueless government officers, sadistic engineers and high-headed bureaucrats, flawed architectural agreements, uninterested students, unconcerned hostel wardens, aggressive principals, brutal seniors, scheming invigilators, heartless examiners, nagging wives, incompatible families, interfering patrons, egoistic couples, partial journalists and opportunist vendors formed fodder for this book.

Says Sangeet Sharma, “The book is purely a work of fiction, but, the incidents in it are not. Stories that unfold in the book may have many parallels in reality.”

Some of the occurrences narrated here, without doubt, would have happened to him or others. All said and done, Architecture is not full of pitfalls and hurdles alone but good things don’t need be written about—the unsavory aspects actually glue the readers to a book.

The author candidly sums up:

“I may be wrong—but not untruthful.”


The book is available in all leading stores and on Amazon and kindle.



Sangeet Sharma is a well-known practicing architect in Chandigarh.

He is widely published, awarded, quoted and celebrated for his sustainable and contemporary modern architecture.

Sangeet is a multifaceted personality: An architect, poet, architectural critic, artist, author, motivational speaker, thinker, and a musician.

He has authored four books on Architecture: Architalks,(A3F Publications) Step by Step Hospital Designing and Planning(JayPee Publications), Architecture Life & Me (Rupa & Co.), and Corb’s Capitol (A3F Publications).  He has also published a book on English poetry titled ‘The touch of moon’.

Recently his latest book Castles in the Air was awarded the “National Book Honour Award” under the category of ‘Faction’. The award was given on 10th January 2018 in Mumbai.




(This is Synopsis of Ultra- Tech India’s Next Competition, 2016-17 entry by Pappal Suneja & Associates with Status of First Runners Up: North Zone)


The Garli village in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh is one of the first villages of India to have ‘heritage zone’ status. The village is the original homeland of Sood community. They showcased their opulence for by building monuments, villa & bungalows in their local village Garli. The structures in this village have a blend of many architectural styles with Indo-Saracenic as a predominate one. Most of the building in this village represents power & influence of Britishers who chose Shimla as their summer capital.

Most problems in rural India are universal and can be addressed where ever one is with simple and innovative Architectural Interventions, on the contrary, Re-modeling of the village on a hill for a smart society calls for several additive contextual factors like Landslide Prevention, Smart Sourcing, Use of Animal as a Resource, Zoned Construction etc. Thus, the basic concept for SMART Society undertaken is this development is Transforming settlements from within by focusing on Regional & Community Design, Water Conservation, Energy Flow & Energy Future, Judicious Land use & Site Ecology, Bio-Diversity with ‘Highest Sustainability’ as a Concept at stake in an Architect’s Hand.

Garli Village Panel 1

The predominant simple and powerful innovations undertaken in this proposal include Solar Community Kitchen, Twin-Pipe Latrine system to enable the use of basin water for flushing, use of Vetiver plant for waste water (Domestic generated) treatment which could be utilized for gardening purpose and Storm water could be treated for drinking purpose or recharging of the water table. Further, one of the 5 HP submersible pumps could be replaced by Bull driven borehole line shaft pump. This pump is a positive displacement screw pump that is driven by two bulls connected to the pump rotor through a gear and chain and pulley arrangement. Furthermore, Bull driven oil expeller and flour mill demonstrate the utility of bulls and this helps to make oil and flour in an Eco-friendly fashion.

Garli Village Panel 2

Also, use of bio-digestorsenables theuse of Biomass as a renewable energy resource derived from the carbonaceous waste of various human and natural activities. Biomass does not add carbon-dioxide to the atmosphere. Moreover, Symbiotic Recycling Model calls for utilization of the waste generated within a stipulated time frame, for instance during day time hens could be fedwith muggets and the left out of the same could be eaten by frogs during the night and fish leftovers could be consumed by ducks. Ultimately the waste generated if used at right time for right resource development we may end up with the production of eggs in the morning. On Similar vision, we may sanitize dumping ground waste with Natural & Herbal enzymes, with this the natural waste shall be decomposed with flies’ action and the scrap & plastic shall get segregated on its own to be sent to the recycling yard.

Alternative Energy; Bio Gas

Cost saved = Money earned. We would like to give a brief idea as to how shifting to bio gas generation may help us cut down costs. Below data is as of Dec 2016 for Garli Village.

Number of LPG cylinders saved per month




Amount saved per month on LPG cylinders

(Cost of cylinder is Rs 1300)


Rs. 78,000


Savings from Slurry per Month

(Market value of raw Materials, saved)


Rs. 11,000


LPG procurement costs

(For shuttling between Town and Village)


Rs. 4000


Amount saved on Fuel per month


Rs. 2000


Total savings and revenue


Rs. 95,000




Salary for 1 person Rs. 5000


Maintenance cost Rs. 3000


Fuel Cost per month


Rs. 6000


Diesel cost per month for running the pulveriser and blower


Rs. 4000


Total Cost incurred


Rs. 18,000




Net Savings per Month Rs. 77,000


Besides these, the evolution criteria’s include smart sourcing that is to reduce the overall carbon footprint, 90% of the materials can be sourced from within  50 km radius of our facility. Then, Zoned Construction enables that the Construction activity is not allowed to spread all throughout the village. It should be restricted to only some areas with all the sun-dried brick production units strategically placed near those areas to minimize transportation activity.Further, Garli Village shall focus on the behavior and impact of the occupants, with less reliance on technology for generating energy. Everything from choices made during construction to the way occupants eat and sources of food is governed by local resources. On a Concluding Note, the need of the hour states that wastewater management system and Symbiotic-Recycling model, linked with bio gas generation on site, Water Conservation, and Organic Farming etc. should be basic parameters for design consideration of Rural India.




Architect Sanjay Goel – First Nominated Director Of Any Smart City In India


Architect Sanjay Goel is the first nominated Director of any smart city in India as Chairman of a Chapter.

He was nominated in SPECIAL PURPOSE VEHICLE (SPV)  meant for running affairs of upcoming smart city of Ludhiana which is one the largest city in Northern India after National Capital of Delhi and is also known as Manchester of India.

Goel who has worked hard in past decades to uplift standard of art , architect and architecture was chosen by state and district administration in SPV along with many senior IAS , IPS and Political persons.

Out of 100 smart cities to be made in India Ludhiana was chosen in first list of 20 cities and Sanjay Goel was chosen as Director to guide all as Architect.

No IIA Member has till today joined as Director SPV in any other upcoming smart city of India.

Goel was awarded many times for his contributions as Director Ludhiana Smart City Ltd.

He also attended video conferencing with PM Narender Modi in the past.

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He has successfully set the trend for other architects to be chosen in future for smart cities. Goel is also former chairman of IIA Ludhiana Centre & is presently chairman of IIA Punjab chapter. He has delivered many lectures in international, national and state level architectural events.


Architect Sarbjit Bahga Conferred With First Friday Forum Award For Creative Excellence

Ar Sarbjit Bahga
Architect Sarbjit Bahga receives FFFACE Award from Dr. SS Bhatti

First Friday Forum Award for Creative Excellence in architecture and journalism has been conferred on Sarbjit Bahga – a Chandigarh based architect, urbanist, author, and photo-artist. At present, he is Principal Architect at BAHGA DESIGN STUDIO LLP, and India Reporter for worldarchitecture.org.

The award citation states as, “We are pleased to confer on Architect Sarbjit Singh Bahga First Friday Forum Award for Creative Excellence in recognition of his diverse contribution to the practice of Architecture. His work reflects his rich experience in architectural research and journalism beside his uncanny ability in authoring valuable books on Architecture.”

“Unlike many other architects he has kept his calmness and composure unruffled by unhealthy competition, and pursued architectural creativity as his lifelong mission for the amelioration of the human condition through the power of Building Design. He has imparted to many building-types the serene grace of disciplined creation. He brings to his work the veracity and variety of seasoned designing skill illuminated by rare self-culture.”

Bahga has 37 years of experience in designing of various building-types, complexes and campuses. He has worked in the Department of Architecture, Punjab; Punjab Health Systems Corporation, Punjab Mandi Board. His completed works include administrative, recreational, educational, medical, residential, commercial, and agricultural buildings.

His architectural designs are interesting and responsive to function, climate, and materials. A monograph on his selected works titled MODERN REGIONALISM: The Architecture of Sarbjit Bahga has been published. Bahga is a staunch modernist and an ardent, yet not blind, admirer of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Louis Kahn.

Bahga is a keen researcher, and a prolific writer. He has eight books to his credit: Modern Architecture in India; New Indian Homes; Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret: Footprints on the Sands of Indian Architecture; Contemporary Architecture beyond Corbusierism; Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret: The Indian Architecture; Trees in Urban Habitat; Contemporary Indian Houses, and Landscaping Human Habitat.


He is three-time recipient of World Architecture Community Awards. His name has been featured in Guinness Book of World Records for designing “longest covered concrete corridor” in Vidya Sagar Institute of Mental Health, Amritsar.

First Friday Forum was established in October 1999 to provide an open platform for experience-based discourses. Initiated by professionals from different fields of human endeavour to evoke interactive participation from people of diverse backgrounds and occupations for  lateral thinking and mutual enrichment in the pursuit of general public good through the beautiful means of versatile creativity.

The Forum acts as an Art Nursery for Interactive Propagation of Creativity, Culture, and Civility. It has been regularly organizing lectures and audio-visual presentations, on the First Friday of every month, on the themes and issues a varied as Indian Classical Music, Rainwater Harvesting, Art & Culture, Heritage, Architecture, Theology, Vāstu, Yoga, and Modern Urbanism.

The Built-Environment, as an offspring of Architecture-the Mother of all Arts, is the product of multi-aspected, many-layered, collaborative creativity of architects, planners, engineers, landscape-designers, administrators, and builders. When put to active large-scale use, it comes alive by many vital inputs from litterateur, writers, poets, painters, sculptors, theatre-artists, musicians, photographers, educationists, etc.

 It is this hard-to-define exceptional individual talent for the promotion of Psycho-Social Urbanism which First Friday Forum constantly endeavours to identify, articulate, encourage, and honour in the old and the young alike covering all walks of life-transcending the artificial barriers of innumerable disciplines and the so-called modern-day specializations.

First Friday Forum Awards for Creative Excellence (FFFACE) were instituted in 2006 to honour those professionals/select individuals who have, without hope or desire of reward, contributed selflessly but significantly to the aesthetic enhancement of the Built-Environment through outstanding work in their own diverse fields.


Preservation of Architectural Heritage in the Hills

Sarbjit Singh Bahga


Hills have and will remain one of the most attractive tourist destinations worldwide. Be it the serene landscape, pleasant weather or the beautiful architecture that hills are an abode to, the excitement to capture their view will never drop. Year on year people throng the hills in search of peace, adventure, fun and knowledge. All this while what has been deteriorating are our Mother Nature and the man-made beauty – our Hill Architecture. We need to protect them both, for a sustainable future and a memorable past. However, the current focus of this article is on the heritage we built hundreds of years back. The unique design, structure and variety of architecture in the form of Dhajji walls, Kath-kona walls, wooden temples, Dzongs ghats, British architecture, etc. can be found in the hills of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Bhutan, etc. It speaks volumes about the effort, intelligence and meticulousness of the olden times. This article explains these various forms of architectural designs vividly. The urgent need to preserve and maintain this heritage has been stressed upon. This article suggests various ways and means, which if adhered to, can be the building blocks for a change which our heritage lying in the hills is longing for. 

Architecture is a social art. It represents living styles of people, their resources, material and techniques of construction relevant to the physical, topographical and climatological needs of any particular region in a particular time-span. Ruins of historical buildings not only link our past with the present but also make us knowledgeable to maintain harmonious continuity in our culture. What our fore-fathers have built is a source of inspiration today and what we built today will inspire future generations. Our culture has an uninterrupted continuity from pre-historic times to the present. If we want to ensure this continuity in future we must preserve “anything which can be looked on as artistic, picturesque, historical, antique or substantial, any work, in short over which educated artistic people would think it worthwhile to argue at all; as William Morris father of conservation movement in England said it. On preservation, Indian Constitution under the fundamental duties states,” it shall be the duty of every citizens of India to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.”

The traditional hill-Architecture with its vitality in crafts and skills is a valuable cultural resource. Any neglect of this resource will not only reduce the potential diversity of material artifacts but also make us poorer in the confidence with which they could continue to create knowledge. To create awareness for its preservation we must, understand its essence, rationality and appropriateness. When we talk of Hill-Architecture the first impression which comes to our mind is its vernacular style with organic character – the use of local building materials like mud, stone and timber without any artificial covering. The indigenous construction techniques like, Dhajji walls, in which mud and stone pieces are packed into wooden frames and the surface finished with coat of mud and lime plaster, or the kath-kona system of wall construction with alternative layers of wooden beams and courses of locally available stone without any mortar.

Then came the high pitched-slanting roofs made in timber and covered with stone slates or wooden shingles forming an interesting skyline in harmony with the mountain peaks in the background. This most dominating and stimulating feature of Hill-Architecture is the outcome of centuries old solution to the acute problem of controlling high rain/snow falls in the mountainous regions. All these features, coupled with high quality of craftsmanship and traditional skills to use the local building materials not only for functional purposes but also for fulfilling the artistic urges of the people in accordance with their rituals, beliefs and customs, make the Hill-Architecture perfect.

As testimony to this blend of function and beauty, there are still numerous pieces of architecture which have survived over a long period of time and unlimited forces of decay. Prominent among these are some wooden shrines in Himachal Pradesh which must have been built since early time e.g. Lakshana Devi Temple in Bharmour, Shakti Devi Temple in Chhatrari both in Chamba District and Markula Devi Temple in Udaipur in Lahoul-Spiti District. Though all of them were renovated to lesser or greater degree in subsequent periods of history yet these are worthwhile examples still available for study to research scholars. Towards the East in Bhutan there are some old architecture wonders called Dzongs, which are perfect examples of site-structure and surrounding unity. Prominent among them is Paro Dzong in Paro Valley in inner Himalayan Mountains of west-central Bhutan. This composite administrative and monastic centre having court of justice, revenue offices, monastery of the prevalent Vijraina Buddhist sect now dominant in Bhutan and royal palace for visiting royalty is a legacy of great architectural tradition of this mountainous region. The structure though a dominant one with massive white washed mud walls, yet blends well with dark hill slopes and snow clad mountains in the background. Its massiveness is well punctuated by decorative touches like carvings on the wooden windows and balconies painted dull red, the balustrades carved and painted in other primary colours.

lakshana-devi-temple-in-bharmourLakshana Devi Temple in Bharmour

shakti-devi-temple-in-chhatrariShakti Devi Temple in Chhatrari

Markula Devi templeMarkula Devi Temple in Udaipur in Lahaul-Spiti District

In Darjeeling the Ghoom Buddhist Monastery situated 6 kilometres away from town and Bhutia Basti Monastery situated below Chowrasta are some of those Buddhist shrines in the region which can be considered as landmarks in the traditional hill-architecture.

ghoom-buddhist-monastery-darjeelingGhoom Buddhist Monastery, Darjeeling

One of the beautiful examples of the community architecture and urban planning in the northern part of Himalayan region is the densely built-up portion of the city of Srinagar along the river Jhelum. Though developed in a long time-span of more than six hundred years, yet the cohesiveness and proportional harmony are the unique features of this built urban form. The river and parallel streets running behind the buildings abutting the river edge, on both its banks act as main circulation arteries. Cross bridges at regular intervals interconnect these streets. Narrow cross lanes emerge from these streets and descend in flight of steps (ghats) down to the level of water in the river, which are the major areas of community activities. Delicately built in timber frames and brick masonry, the three to four storied houses along the river front have endless variations in the treatment of façade and steeply sloping roofs. The other typical feature of these houses is a cantilevered bay window forming three or five sided seating alcoves inside these river-front houses.

Another feature of the river front is the low-income housing in boats-moored along the river edge near ghats. Locally known as doongas, these house boats have linear arrangement of multi-functional rooms with kitchen at the end. Walls of the doongas are of wooden panels inserted between frames and roofs are gabled and covered with wooden shingles with ridge running along the length of the boat. For ventilation purposes either some panels in the walls can be slid out or some hinged sections along the ridge of the roof can be lifted up. These doongas and river front houses are great assets of our traditional craftsmanship.

doongas-or-house-boats-in-srinagarDoongas or house boats in Srinagar

Later in the history, from end of 18th Century till the beginning of 20th century, the hill architecture underwent as enormous change in its form and character under the British Rule. During this period, the Britishers developed more than six dozen hill stations all over India. Out of these Mussorrie, Dalhousie, Nainital and Shimla are some prominent stations in North India. Shimla, the jewel among all of them have numerous buildings built in the Elizabethan style of Architecture. Viceregal Lodge, Rothney Castle, Barnes Court, Auckland House, Wildflower Hall, Gorton Castle, Legislative Assembly Chamber, Christ Church, Kennedy House and Gaiety Theatre are some of the majestic and enchanting buildings having architectural, historical and archaeological importance. Among these the Viceregal Lodge is most magnificent and fascinating piece of hill-architecture. Built by Lord Dufferin in 1888, this stone house continues to occupy a privileged position. Presently, it houses the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Situated amidst the dense forests and lush green lawns on a hill top, it commands a panoramic view of the picturesque summer hill. The masonry of the walling is light blue limestone and wrought stone work is all of sandstone of a very fine grain having a beautiful light grey tint. It is famous for its décor and amazingly beautiful woodwork in teak and walnut.

viceregal-lodge-shimlaViceregal Lodge, Shimla

The Gaiety Theatre which was built in 1887, served as cultural centre for the English residing in Shimla. It is the finest example of the 19th Century theatre- architecture. The small stage stands on the end of dome-ceilinged hall. The acoustics are so fine that the smallest whisper is clearly carried to the audience as far back as last bench of the 250 capacity hall. It was built when public address system was unheard of and voice culture was needed to convey the exact emotions.

The Kennedy House, named after its owner Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy is the first permanent house built in European style in Shimla in 1924. Subsequently, it acted as a trend-setter in the hill architecture that developed during the British Rule. This substantial Villa presently houses several Government/Semi-Government offices.

In short, we have countless such examples of built forms having historical, architectural and archaeological importance. All of them have their own significance and contribution to our rich cultural resource and strongly need to be protected against the forces of modernization. The migration of population, from the villages to the cities for better employment opportunities, the advent of new inorganic building materials and technological advancements, rising land prices and commercial exploitation of space, more frequent contacts with international influences and rapidly changing land uses are some of the factors posing serious threat to our traditional hill-architecture, and immediate efforts should be made for its preservation.

Fortunately, we have many government, semi-Government and voluntary organizations working in the field of preservation of our built cultural heritage in India. Prominent among those are Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.), Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property (NRLCCP) at Lucknow, Indian Heritage Society, Conservation Society of Delhi, The Golconda Society and Save Bombay Group. Besides, there are several academic institutions and voluntary action groups engaged in the field of conservation. Though the emergence of these Organizations, evidence a healthy professionalism taking root in India, yet a lot needs to be done to make the conservation/preservation a broad based public movement in the spirit of the fundamental duties laid down in the Constitution of India.

We should assert and use our influences and resources to create awareness in the society to value and preserve historical-built-environments of which hill-architecture is a part. The electronic and print media should come forward in making the preservation of our rich cultural heritage a peoples’ movement. Ours is, still largely a traditional society and the conservation of tradition or its elimination is an important issue in defining the nature of our future development. Any laxity on our part will result in break with the tradition, raising questions about the appropriateness of change.

To make conservation and preservation more effective and a peoples’ movement there is a need to thoroughly consider and implement the following points:

  • There should be special heritage cells in the Central/ State Government’s Town Planning Departments, Architecture Departments, Urban Development Authorities, Municipal Corporations etc. These cells should be entrusted with the job of identification of heritage zones and buildings of archaeological, historical and architectural importance required to be preserved and work out the necessary strategy plans.
  • To involve the people, Advisory Committees should be formed at City/Town levels. These Committees should comprise of prominent citizens from the concerned fields like History, Geography, Archaeology, Town Planning, Architecture, Engineering, Economics and Law etc. These Committees will keep an eye on the new urban development taking place in their respective areas and inform the authorities of any victimisation of any historical-built-environment.
  • Technical Universities, Art and Architecture colleges and similar Institutions should introduce special subjects on conservation/preservation in their curriculum so as to give greater emphasis to the study of the history of Architecture.

These measures will help a great deal in creating mass awareness not only to protect and preserve our historical-built-environments but also to plan our future in harmony with our past. Only then we can ensure an uninterrupted continuity in our culture.

ConclusionWe can summarize that hills are home to a plethora of architectural designs and techniques. Therefore, we need to strive for continuous improvement in maintaining the Hill Architecture treasure and develop innovative ways of doing so. A collaboration from all fronts of life – academia, government, private entities, individuals, is required to create a future where our children can have a wholesome view of the past with a lot more to learn and remember!


Sustainable Architecture: Punjab Mandi Bhawan, Mohali

Sarbjit Singh Bahga –

It is widely known today that Sustainable Architecture refers to the creation of a building, structure or composite built-environment through a process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from site selection to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. Sustainable buildings are aimed to reduce the overall impact of the built-environment on human health and natural environment by:

  • Saving energy through passive and active means.
  • Efficiently using water and managing storm water / recycled water.
  • Protecting the occupants’ health by improving indoor air quality, and enhancing productivity.
  • Reducing waste, construction materials, pollution and environmental degradation.
  • Improving the micro-climate by landscaping the surroundings.

In India we have a long tradition of sustainability. It is deeply rooted in our culture. The holistic approach was the mindset of our forefathers. The Indian way of life is aparigraha (minimum possession), conservation (minimum consumption), and recycling (minimum waste). These three attributes are the guiding principles for sustaining buildings. With these attributes and its rich heritage, India can make a substantial contribution in this field and eventually lead the world on the path of sustainability.

Less than a hundred years ago, Industrial revolution came to India and changed the many of traditional sustainable practices in Indian buildings. The insatiable thirst for progress and comfort-at-any-cost altered the equation with nature forever. Concrete, steel, aluminium, glass, and later plastics became the dominant construction materials, beyond stone and wood of yesteryears, Power supply, artificial lighting, water supply and disposal, thermal environment control within built-environment, are no longer the luxuries but are the necessities today. Over the years Indian architects are striving hard for striking a balance between the two extremes i.e. (1) providing modern amenities and comforts, and (2) reducing the negative impact of buildings on the natural environment. In the light of the above, the author presents a case study of one building- Punjab Mandi Bhawan, Mohali, India- which is incidentally designed by him.



Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board is a semi-government corporate body established in 1961 with an objective to control and supervise the marketing network of sale, purchase, storage and processing of agriculture produce in the state. It is also a local authority with power to acquire, hold and sell property.

Earlier the Board was functioning from its own head office building in Sector-17, Chandigarh. With the growth of its activities and increase in staff strength, its office space became inadequate. More so there is acute shortage of parking space around it. The Board thus decided to construct its bigger and efficient corporate office building in Sector-65 A, Mohali adjacent to Chandigarh.

The new Head Office Building becomes part of large multi-utility complex comprising state-of-the-art fruit and vegetable market, commercial shops and showrooms established by the Board on a 20-acre plot. The Head Office Building is located on a plot of two acres on the south-west fringe of the complex. It is approachable from two sides, one from main road on north-west and the other from side road on the south-west side.

Challenges before the architect were:

  • To design the office building which will match in comfort and ambiance with modern corporate offices being built now-a-days.
  • To evolve an architectural vocabulary which will be a blend of those of Corbusian era as well as latest trends in office buildings viz-a-viz new materials and technologies?
  • To make building sustainable / energy efficient and portray these measures on its exterior and interior expression.

The building is located on a plot of 2.08 acres (10,067 square yards). It has an area of 152000 square feet on six floors in addition to 57000 square feet in the basement. Covered area on ground floor has been kept minimum that is 24950 square feet. Thus the ground coverage is only 27.5 per cent. Out of the remaining 72.5 per cent open area minimum has been kept for vehicular movement and surface parking leaving sufficient area for green parks. These parks are envisaged to improve the micro climate around the building.

Basement is meant for parking of 150 cars and requisite services. Two circular ramps provide ingress and egress to the basement. The ground floor accommodates mainly entrance foyer, multipurpose hall, and miscellaneous services like bank, health clinic, gymnasium, maintenance stores etc. all the main offices are on upper five stories.

The built-form of the office building has been evolved ingeniously keeping in view all the constraints and goals. In plan, the block is fragmented into three blocks. Two square blocks of 75 x75 feet size each at the ends have been rotated to an angle of 45 degrees. By doing this major portion of the office building made to fall in north –south direction which is considered good orientation. These blocks which accommodate the major chunk of the offices draw natural light mainly from north or south side. East and west facades have been made largely blank. The central block which accommodates rooms of senior officers remained in south-west and north-east directions –the orientation dictated by the lay of the plot. Out of these two directions, the north-east side is considered good as it receives morning sun which is always welcome. Hence no special treatment was required. The unwanted sun on the south-west side has been cut off by a combination of vertical louvers and horizontal roof overhangs. This vocabulary has been inherited from Le Corbusier as the architect wanted to incorporate it in the design of this building as a mark of reverence to the master especially when it falls in close vicinity to his works.

As per the client’s brief given to the architect, the building has to incorporate the latest innovations for human comfort and ambiance. As a result the architect has to go in for a fully air conditioned building with ultra modern gadgets, lighting, furniture etc. Since the building has to be hi-tech and fully air conditioned the need to incorporate sustainable architecture / energy efficient measures becomes even more.

Saving energy through passive and active means

The following measures were taken to reduce the energy consumption in the building:

  • Moulding and orienting the building in right direction.
  • Exploring the concept of mutual shading.
  • Minimizing the penetration of sun by vertical louvers and horizontal roof overhangs.
  • Emphasis of natural light.
  • Drawing maximum day light from north and south directions.
  • Making east and west facades predominantly blank.
  • Use of cavity walls on outer façade.
  • Use of double-skin solar control glass (6mm+12mm+6mm) which blocks upto 73% of solar heat by reflecting it to the outside.
  • All solid portions of external façade are clad in aluminium coated panels (ACP) which also reflect the solar heat outside. Also the gap in between the structural wall and cladding acts as cavity which further cut off the solar heat.
  • Special efforts have been made to cut off the heat of sun from terrace. Use of foam concrete has contributed a lot in this regard.
  • Incorporation of building management (BMS) and Light Management System (LMS) for optimal use of air conditioning and artificial lighting.



 Efficiency in using water and managing storm water

While designing the building, efforts have been made to use the potable water very efficiently. All the fixtures and fittings in the washrooms kitchens and pantries have been selected with a view to minimize the use of water. Likewise the rain water has been managed quite effectively. A sufficiently large underground rain-water collecting tank has been constructed in the front lawn. The entire rain water from the flat roof terrace, plaza and paved areas at ground floor is being collected in this tank. This water is then used for irrigating the landscaped areas around the building. The average annual rainfall in this region is 1110 mm, so sufficient water is available for the purpose. This way the potable water (which uses lot of energy) is saved to a large extent.

Improving indoor air quality, and enhancing productivity

While designing the building sincere efforts have been made to create a healthier, enjoyable, comfortable and more productive work environment inside the building. Such environment incorporates good air and light quality, views to outside, comfortable temperatures, minimal noise pollution and low-toxicity ambiance. Good indoor air quality has been ensured by adequate intake of fresh air through mechanical air handling systems. It is a well known fact that most people prefer to work in natural light and have access to outside views. Special emphasis has been laid on providing natural light in all work areas as well as circulation areas. Fenestrations /glazing have been provided so judiciously that almost all areas get natural light throughout the day. Even the inner circulation areas are well lit with natural light. One will notice that on any given day, in a fair-weather, there is very little dependence on artificial light. This has been achieved by avoiding very deep areas, that is, away from external glazing. A full-height atrium in the centre is top-lit through a giant skylight fitted with translucent poly-carbonate sheets. This cut-out together with stairwells (which also abut external glazing) are sufficient to provide adequate natural light in the central circulation areas.

Work stations have been accommodated in open halls in the ends. These halls receive abundance of natural light from all sides. Each and every work area also gets natural view to the outside. Another major factor to indoor environment quality is temperature control. It has been taken care of fully with latest provisions like central air-conditioning, heating, temperature control devices etc. Noise can interfere with concentration and conversation and cause fatigue, irritability, headaches and stress. Special efforts have been made to minimize noise in the interiors so as to create workable and pleasant work place. Double-skin glass and cavity walls on external sides cut off the outside noise to a maximum extent. In the interiors, false ceilings have been provided in semi-perforated mineral-fiber sheets which absorb internal noise adequately. Besides the above, special emphasis has been laid on selecting the materials used in interiors which emit less volatile organic compounds and are thus less harmful to users’ health.

Reducing waste, construction materials, pollution and environmental degradation

The building is constructed in reinforced-cement-concrete frame structure with brick in-fill walls. These materials are locally available, durable, maintenance free and easy to use. Apart from this, these materials generate very less waste during construction. The concrete was prepared in ready-mix plant temporarily located at site and was being prepared as per exact requirements. So there was absolutely no wastage. The broken bricks produced some waste but this was used underneath the floors as brick blast.

External finishes of the building include aluminium-coated panels, toughened-double-skin glass with aliminium frames. Aluminium and glass are, no doubt, materials with high embodied energy, but their application have been preferred due to the following reasons:

  • These materials contribute to lower operating requirements.
  • These materials can more easily be reused and recycled if required in future.
  • These materials will significantly extend building’s life.

Use of wood has been completely eliminated as timber extraction from forests has the potential to cause habitat loss, species extinctions and to displace indigenous people from their lands.

All false ceilings in the building are in gypsum board and mineral-fiber sheets. Both these materials are recyclable. In flooring, either granite stone or vitrified tiles have been used. These materials are very durable, hard, maintenance free and do not absorb dust, thus remain clean. All the internal partitions are in locally made clay bricks with cement plaster and good quality paint.

Improving the micro-climate by landscaping the surroundings

Efforts have been made to improve the micro-climate by landscaping the earmarked open spaces around the building besides due inputs have been made to minimize the impact of development on natural environment by simple measures such as protecting the top soil, landscaping with local native plants, minimizing soil run off during construction and control the water flow across the site. Social and visual amenity has been improved by allocating space for lawns in the site. These lawns are ideal places for community interaction amongst the staff during lunch breaks. Apart from this these landscaped areas add grandeur to the built environment and make it more productive, colourful, and attractive. Since the plot area is limited there is little space for big trees. Therefore some indigenous trees have been planted along the periphery. When fully grown, these trees will provide shade to the driveways and protect the building from harsh summer sun.

The building is a showcase of architect’s accumulated philosophy and incorporates salient features like ‘strict geometric order’, ‘symmetry’, ‘clarity in structural systems and services’, ‘use of contemporary materials and technology’.


 Project Details:

  • Location: Sector -65 A, Ajitgarh, Mohali.
  • Area of plot: 2.08 Acres.
  • Covered area: 2, 09,335 Sft.
  • Covered area on ground floor: 24950 sft.
  • Ground coverage: 27.5 per cent.
  • Architect: Sarbjit Singh Bahga, Punjab Mandi Board, Chandigarh.
  • Project team: Baljit Kaur, Kulwinderjeet Kaur, Ravinder Kaur, Parwinder Kaur, Deeksha, Darshan Singh.
  • Contractor: Deepak Builders, Ludhiana.
  • Structure: Harbhajan Singh, Techpecific, Mohali.
  • HVAC: Anuj Aggarwal, Ambience, Panchkula.
  • Electrical: N.K.Jain, Panchkula.
  • Networking: R.K.Dhanda, Ludhiana.
  • Project coordination and supervision: Engineering Wing of PMB headed by Chief Engineer R.P.Bhatti.
  • Cost: Rs. 66.00 crores.

Significance of Open Spaces in Architecture

Sarbjit Singh Bahga –

Architecture is the art of creative play of spaces, both covered as well as open. Covered spaces or built-up masses have tangible qualities and they are capable of recording photogenic impression on the minds of the viewers.

Open spaces, on the other hand, have something intangible in them, which can only be felt or experienced by involving oneself in them. These spaces by themselves have no tangible expression or aspect but they can enable the viewers to appreciate the beauty of physical massing of the other. One, without the other, has little or even no relevance in architecture or urban design. The intimacy and quality of relationship between the covered and open spaces, is key to good architecture. One can feel this relationship. It is like a poem, good or not so good poem. Even in not so good a poem, the composition of words convey of being it a poem. But if the message that these words convey have stimulating and lasting impact on the minds of the readers, we call it a good poem.

Similar is the case of a sculpture. A cylindrical piece of wood or a cubical mass of clay, rock or concrete are not sculptures themselves. These are only the raw materials or basic forms. To make a sculpture out of them one needs to carve some portion out of it, leaving thus a void. It is that void or negative space that makes sense. The aesthetic quality of a sculpture depends upon the creative play of solids and voids.

Likewise, in architecture the negative or open spaces if creatively and harmoniously blended with the positive or covered spaces, can relieve the harshness of built-form while complementing it.

The inter-relationship between built-forms and open spaces (if exceptionally good) can have a lasting impact on the minds of viewers. One can recall one’s experience (how much old it may be) of a visit to a good piece of architecture or composite built-environment. What is that which have entered and lasted for long period in our subconscious? It is more of the experience of negative spaces than the positive ones. One may forget the architectural treatment of the facades of the Cannaught Place, Fatehpur Sikri, Jama Masjid, Golden Temple or some south Indian temple complexes, but it is the feel of the negative spaces enclosed by positive massing that have remained in our subconscious for so long a time. An architectural critic has very rightly said,” It is the open spaces that reflect clearly the strong sense of vitality that hold these complexes together. The spaces are rich and varied with a scale that befits the function they are required to serve.”

To achieve perfect ‘yin and yang’ relationship between the covered and open spaces and to make the latter more appropriate, rationale, purposeful and aesthetically appealing the following areas must be explored to the best of one’s imagination, experience, and creativity. These include scale, proportions, size and shape, spatial arrangement, continuity/relationship with adjoining spaces, besides, of course, purpose, treatment and texture, identity etc.

The scale, proportions, size and shape though are all interrelated terms, yet each one deserves to be given a conscious thought. More than that it becomes of paramount importance – the self-drafted guidelines indicating what? What should be the scale, proportions or size and shape? To achieve precision in thought one has to be extra-ordinary space sensitive, constant observer and self critic. It is only after the firm conviction that one should start the process of designing the built-environment. The end result then depends upon one’s ability to translate abstract ideas into reality.

The scale and proportions of open-to-sky enclosed spaces are as vital aspects as in the case of covered spaces or built-up massing. The narrow open spaces enclosed by comparatively high built-forms give a feeling of claustrophobic feeling while the sprawling spaces with horizontal massing around give a feeling of agoraphobia. Likewise, different shapes of these spaces give different feelings. Irregular spaces convey informal character while the geometrical shaped spaces tend to look more formal. The circular, rectangular, triangular, square and oval shaped spaces are capable of unfolding variety of experiences. It all depends upon designer’s ingenuity that which type of space is required in a particular situation.

The next in the line we may put the element of spatial arrangement i.e. the system or combination of number of open spaces. If variety of such spaces is envisaged in a particular built-form, it must form prelude whether these should be in conjunction with each other or in isolated denominations. Again this becomes a matter of designer’s personal experience and imagination that which way one chooses and what are the results one is looking for? If a feeling of sequential spaces with gradually unfolding new vistas is the pre-requisite then one has to opt for a system of contiguous open spaces lest, the combination of isolated spaces may be adopted. Besides the above, the relationship between the open spaces and covered ones is, nonetheless, an important factor to be thoroughly considered. If an abrupt relationship between the open and covered spaces is the need of a particular situation, the same can be achieved by enclosing open spaces with massive external surfaces of the built-form. Contrariwise, for a gradual transition from covered to open spaces, semi-covered/semi-enclosed spaces in the form of verandahs, roof-overhangs, canopies or pergolas may be designed to decrease the degree of abruptness of change.

‘Purpose’, of course, is a primary factor of consideration. Before initiating the process of carving out open spaces, designer needs to be absolutely clear in his/her mind that what is the intended purpose to be fulfilled. Is it utilitarian in nature, like gatherings and social interactions? If so, the question like, how large the space should be, how it will be accessible, where it should be located, must be answered by the designer himself. If the space is required for climatological reasons, again one has to consider thoroughly and make sure what purpose it is intended to be fulfilled. Is it cross –ventilation or lighting or both? In the regions where climate is hot and dry, narrow open spaces which can remain cool during the day due to mutual shading of adjoining built-forms may be useful. Such spaces if imaginatively and strategically located can be used as an outdoor living area during winter when the inner rooms are cold or as sleeping areas on summer nights while the inner rooms emit the heat absorbed during the scorching day. Similarly in hot and humid climate a system of sequential open spaces together with appropriate fenestrations may help in generating continuous air-currents.

Treatment and texture too, is an un-ignorable factor. The nature of landscape must be in tune with all the factors discussed above. Landscape should be representative of the broad functions of the built-form. There is hardly any need to convince that details and décor of open spaces in hospitals, offices, schools, hotels or apartments have to be different from each other. Besides the use, the factors like macro and micro climate of the area, the initial cost as well as subsequent maintenance cost, soil conditions, availability of water, and types of vegetation that can be grown, must be given serious thought before starting the actual detailing work.

Though the consideration of number of above said factors may result in achieving individual identity of every space yet a sincere effort in this regard may help in achieving better results. Every space must have an identity of its own. This will provide a sense direction to the viewers. Intentionally created focal points or landmarks may help people to orient themselves in the built-environment and help identify an area.

Besides the above mentioned aspects, which are generalized in nature, there may be many more particular issues need to be explored thoroughly by the architects or urban planners themselves. The purpose of this paper, as may be evident, is not to provide any ready-reckoner for designers. Instead, it is to emphasize the need to realize that open spaces viz-a-viz urban design and architecture are perhaps more vital aspects then that of built-forms. Hence, it is direly required to devote greater attention to their planning and designing. In fact, it will be more appropriate to conceive built-form not only as a solid but as spaces modeled by solids.

central_park_connaught_place_view_from_parikarma_restaurantCannaught Place, New Delhi

fatehpur_sikri_agraFatehpur Sikri



Golden Temple, Amritsar

yoga-7592Capitol Complex, Chandigarh