Even though the diamond trade center is in Antwerp, Belgium, most diamonds come from mines in Russia and Africa. However, Surat, India, some 150 miles north of Mumbai, is another major diamond-cutting center.
The state capital of Gujarat now has a structure of unprecedented size in which to accommodate its massive manufacturing sector.
Over 65,000 diamond professionals, including cutters, polishers, and traders, are expected to frequent the newly inaugurated Surat Diamond Bourse. More than 35 acres have been devoted to the construction of the 15-story complex, which consists of a series of nine rectangular buildings radiating out from a central “spine” and linked to one another.
The designers of the trading center claim that it contains more than 7.1 million square feet of space, making it the largest office complex in the world.
Prime Minister Modi to open new Gujarat (India) facility later this year
After four years of construction work, two of which were hindered by Covid-related delays, the facility is poised to welcome its first inhabitants in November. Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi, who was born in Gujarat (India) and once served as the state’s chief minister, is scheduled to officially open it later this year.
CNN exclusively released photos of the building’s marble floors and bright atriums, which connect more than 4,700 office spaces and may be used as diamond cutting and polishing businesses. The 32 billion rupiah ($388 million) structure has 131 lifts, restaurants, shops, medical facilities, and meeting rooms.
The project’s chief executive officer, Mahesh Gadhavi, claims that the Surat Diamond Bourse will eliminate the need for thousands of individuals to take the train to Mumbai every day to conduct business.
“It’s tough… He explained the decision to move enterprises to Surat as a “better option” because “some people have to spend three and a half to four hours, daily, to come from their homes to their offices and back home again” through video call.
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A layout that’s ‘democratic’
Following a global design competition, Indian firm Morphogenesis conceived the building’s layout. Gadhavi told CNN that beating the Pentagon was not a requirement of the tournament. Instead, he explained, the project’s scale was set by demand, and diamond businesses had already purchased all of the office space before the building even began.
When describing its design, Morphogenesis claimed it provided a “level playing field” for companies of all sizes. Sonali Rastogi, co-founder of the architecture company, called the layout, which features interconnected offices along a central corridor like an airport terminal, “democratic.” This layout gives all employees easy access to the building’s many services.
They wanted it “to be exactly the same for everyone,” she said on a video call from New Delhi; she also mentioned that no office would take more than seven minutes to access from any of the building’s entry gates. (Gadhavi, however, claimed that a random drawing was conducted to determine which companies would be assigned to which workspaces.)
The design was additionally influenced by Morphogenesis’s investigation of the Indian diamond trade. Rastogi highlighted the nine 1.5-acre courtyards that have seats and water elements and can be used as informal meeting spaces for businesspeople. Rastogi said the company was inspired by the reality that many informal transactions take place outside of the office setting, and the landscaped areas were designed to reflect this.
“Email orders are probably taken inside, but human-to-human transactions are almost all outside,” she said, characterizing the courtyards as “like public parks where we are assuming all these activities will take place.”
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Strategies for change
Aerial views of the area around the Surat Diamond Bourse reveal that it is now surrounded by rather low-rise buildings. But if the 7 million-person city’s ambitious reconstruction plans, which have earned it the nickname “Dream City,” come to fruition, that might all change.
The “smart” city project will cover around 700 ha (1,730 acres) of land in south Surat and has received public praise from Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. According to Gadhavi, the new diamond hub would be an “anchor tenant” in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Rastogi informed the group that her company is in discussions with prospective clients about other projects in the area, including a convention center.
The architect acknowledged that Surat does not have a “very remarkable architectural language of its own,” but she expressed optimism that sustainable design would guide the city’s future growth, as summer temperatures in Surat may reach above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Morphogenesis asserts that their design may achieve an Indian Green Building Council “platinum” grade while using up to 50% less energy than is required to do so. The architects claim that the central spine’s flared shape was created to channel prevailing winds into the building, and that “radiant cooling” uses the circulation of cooled water under the floors to maintain comfortable temperatures inside.
Although typical air conditioning will be used in individual offices, Rastogi believes that around half of the building is cooled by natural airflow, and solar energy will be used to power the general areas.
Its proposal for the project was “based on environmental and sustainable design more than a particular architectural language,” she said, adding that the team “decided to create something that is iconic, that borrows… from its context and the community we are working (with).”