INSTITUT FRANÇAIS INDIA
French Cultural Institute
BUILT UP AREA:
The Institut Français India, which is the cultural wing of the French Embassy in India, occupies a historic colonial bungalow, dating back to 1935. The lime washed structure, popularly known as ‘Lutyens Bungalow’ is located in the heart of New Delhi. The building’s architectural heritage value is embedded in the iconic association it has with the image of New Delhi. The project thus required that the elements of that era that lent identity to this place enhance while introducing contemporary elements to define the space as an Indo- French cultural institution. Also the functional demands of a contemporary office space needed to be carefully reconciled with the constraints of a heritage structure.
The adaptive reuse project was unique such that the function of the space after the intervention was to remain the same.The preservation of the built was prioritized without large scale structural intervention. Elements which had been added over time were removed to reveal the original structure. The volume of common spaces was accentuated with vaulted ceilings while interventions at smaller scale included defining the details on doors.
Light was used to sculpt the spaces through material and technological interventions. Sun tunnels were used to increase the intensity of diffused natural light and bring it to the inner parts of the building.
The building was being used by Institut Francais India, and had grown with ad hoc additions since. These new layers were in conflict with the existing and compromised both comfort and architecture of the existing building. New departments were operating out of extensions while central spaces lay underutilized with no light and ventilation made worse with panelled ceilings and cabinets choc-a-block with storage. The potential of the bungalow form – high vaulted ceiling, generous arches and walkways, thick masonry that acted as natural temperature control and a stately façade - remained unseen and under-utilized.
Overall, the design strategy necessitated that the new office space follows measures for sustainable energy consumption, and at the same time have a minimalist approach while removing the clutter of the existing architecture. As an outcome, the venture achieved a visually appealing and functionally relevant building, which brought out the fundamental principles and essence of the colonial era heritage structure