Coimbatore, India

LMW Corporate Headquarters

The LMW (Lakshmi Machine Works) Corporate Office building in Coimbatore is structured around three courtyards, each varying in scale. The entrance courtyard is the most public from which you ascend to the more secluded inner courtyards.  Therefore, the six large offices that catered to maximum traffic and visitors were arranged around the first courtyard.  The second courtyard has a private entrance for the directors of the company (who are located on the upper floor) as well as the cafeteria, conference facilities and other functions.  The third courtyard is even more intimate in scale with the boardroom and director’s area, and this overlooks all three courtyards.  These spaces are placed such that they provide a vista through the building, establishing the idea of centrality and a clear axis along which the various components of the building are organized while also respecting the privacy gradient that is necessary of the organization.

The inner courtyards of the building contain water bodies.  This water is circulated to humidify the space for cooling – an ideal device for the hot dry climate ofCoimbatore, which lies in the rain-shadow of the Nilgiri Hills, though in every other aspect very much a part of the tropics.  Furthermore, as the building is never more than ‘one office thick’, cross-ventilation and air-circulation, coupled with the humidification of air, cools the building very efficiently. Local bricks with plaster and a clay tile roof  were the primary building material that were sourced in and around the city. The blue granite for the flooring is also  a local material and the wastage strips resulting from the dressing of the stone were salvaged and used to create ripples in the waterfall that connects the two water bodies.

Contemporary artists were specially commissioned to design the building elements such as railings, gates, trellises and installations in the double height spaces.  The Client is one of the largest manufacturers of machine tools, and has enormous scrap metal wastes.  Using this scrap the artist Yogesh Rawal, in collaboration with Rajeev Sethi, created an array of screens and trellises that not only secure the building but also facilitate the movement of air and light.  The synthesis of these traditional elements with a contemporary sensibility was a broader design concern that was addressed in the articulation of the architecture of the building itself. Designed and built in the first few years after India liberalized its economy , this corporate building was a critique and resistance to the numerous glass clad towers that were proliferating the Urban Indian landscape in response to constructing an image for India as  an important player in the global economy. Here the architecture attempts to appropriate a traditional vocabulary and spatial sensibility to construct a new type for a program of a corporate office which has real historic precedent in the architectural tradition of the region.