Creating a sense of belonging in design
With a rich cultural and religious heritage, Varanasi is the holiest of the seven sacred cities of India. The project brief listed out an additional terminal building adjacent to the current integrated terminal building. For the same, various options were listed out and it was decided that the existing terminal building would be left as it is, with a small section of the building serving as a domestic terminal while the new one would be developed wholly for domestic functions.
The planning of the new terminal building aims at effective vertical segregation of functions to promote ease of passenger movement. The arrival areas along with the bus lounges are planned on the ground floor of the building, whereas the departure areas are planned on the first floor. A flyover connecting the city side of the departure terminal of the new building has been proposed to enable efficient circulation and without disturbing the movement in the existing terminal. But the building is not planned in segregation entirely; it is also internally connected to the existing building through bridges overlooking landscaped courtyards thus making the entire project in sync with the overall development.
The offices are placed on the mezzanine floor with the arrival corridor, along with day stay area for the passengers, and child care areas to increase the amenities and usability of the terminal building.
Since Varanasi is located on the banks of the holy river Ganges, water is an integral part of people’s lives and forms a strong connection to the people of the city. Thus, the form of the building intends to replicate and represent the fluidity of water. The roof and the canopy structure of the building is an adaptation of continuous undulation of the waves which is also seen in its basic curved profile, thus lending a dynamic character to the design. It is also instrumental in the easy drainage of water collected on the roof of the building, thus not being only metaphorical but functional as well.
Sarnath, is a universal embodiment of peace, and is the basis of the simple geometrical arches used as the repetitive element in the façade, lending the most flexibility to the structure in terms of its shape and span thus enabling the large column free spaces of the airport. The metal jaali used in the façade creates interest in the otherwise steel structure and takes its inspiration from the patterns made by the boats parked near the banks of the river.
The building has been oriented based on the sun’s movement while the circulation and the planning enable maximum day lighting. The façade uses GRIHA rated high performance double glazed glass, thus minimising the usage of artificial lighting while skylights are constructed using poly carbonate sheets. In terms of material usage, double standing seam kalzip roof has been used for the main structure, while zinc and stainless steel cladding are used on the front façade for exterior finishing.
“Creating an Identity through Design”
One of the major efforts while designing the project was the conscious inclusion of the culture and art of Varanasi. The city is famously known for its sarees, the city skyline with triangular peaks of temples and the ghats along the river. All these form the basis for the inspiration of this culturally rich proposed airport building which proves that airports are not mere transit points but also create a sense of belonging and identity for the passengers.
The boat shaped sculptures in the check- in areas showcase the existence of life on the holy river – ‘Ganga’ and are encrypted with Sanskrit shlokas, while the hanging bells resonate with the sounds of the temples, clearly making the visitor feel that they have entered the sacred city of Benaras. The backdrops for the baggage and check-in counters are also proposed to be illuminated high pressure laminates which are inspired by the skyline, stepped Ghats, chhatris and color palette of Varanasi.
Throughout the security check and hold areas, the ceiling has been designed with the pattern derived from the Banarasi Silk sarees and will be constructed in PVC, while the false ceiling uses metal baffles with wooden finish – which also offer acoustical treatment. Keen eye has been put to the details, from the internal finishing materials to the pattern of the flooring which is designed in granite with specific colour scheme for easy way finding for the passengers.
The landscaped areas within the terminal building offer a sense of relief while the innovative sculptures create interest at every corner. The use of umbrellas as a wall mural and the installation with saree pattern on the metal sheet depict the variety of culture and diversity the city has to offer.
An innovative take in use of materials is the inclusion of moss wall for the toilets. These not only add to the aesthetics of the airport, but also help in cleaning the indoor air quality, while lending the sense of green in the building. With low installation cost and zero maintenance it serves as a perfect material.
Apart from serving its basic functional usage of that as a transit point, the Varanasi Airport is an ode to the cultural landscape and heritage of the city, thus representing how architecture should respond to its surrounding context and airports should be thought of as much more than just a facilitator of travel.
Name of Project, Location: Expansion of Integrated Terminal Building at Varanasi Airport, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Name of architectural Firm, designers: Creative Group, New Delhi; Prof. Charanjit Shah, Ar. Gurpreet Shah
Client: SGS India Pvt. Ltd / Airport Authority of India
Built up Area: 50,600sqm. (Excluding basement)
Year of Completion: Ongoing (Expected 2024)
Cost of Project: Rs. 654.56 crores