The Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre, designed by Mumbai-based IMK Architects, occupies the lower slopes of a forested hill in Lavale, Pune. The multi-specialty hospital and state-of-the-art research centre aim to provide world-class healthcare and education facilities, while also ensuring outreach to peripheral, far-flung and access-compromised settlements.
Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre / IMK Architects
- Location: Lavale, Pune, India
- Architects: IMK Architects
- Site Area: 96100 m2
- Built Up Area: 41,800 m2
- Status: Completed
- Year: 2019
- Cost: ₹ 160 crores
Constructions in hilly regions are looked down upon for one major reason; the wastage of precious hill sites due to cut-and-fill operations leads to considerable environmental damage. The Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre, however, is the ideal example of a sustainable hilly construction that refrains from such wastage.
The SUHRC has been planned as a robust curve along the contours of the land; the cluster of buildings minimize cut-and-fill requirements and draw from the idea of Biophilia. Reflecting the essence of a space for recovery and rejuvenation, the iconic structure is also an exemplar of passive design and sustainability.
The Design Concept
Centric to the design was the need to create a calming, peaceful oasis; emanating both a sense of grandeur and resonating with solidarity, care and shelter for wary patients. This was given expression through aesthetically pleasing green spaces unlike the mundane hospital environments India is used to.
Augmenting the occupant’s connectivity to the natural environment through a Biophilia, IMK Architects have tied space and place with nature for a healthier built environment. “All departments and spaces of the hospital are designed such to bring in daylight and natural ventilation. Even areas like OPD, waiting have courtyards on both sides and are naturally ventilated,” IMK Architects shared with Arch India.
The architects envisioned lively, naturally lit spaces with adequate natural ventilation in required areas for both energy efficiency and organic freshness to the spaces. Extensive daylighting also manages to simply way-finding in the building, which is otherwise a complicated affair for users seeking different spaces or departments within a hospital.
At the same time, the spacious courtyards created the much-needed buffer zones to reduce cross infection. The soft landscape, flowering shrubs and trees help reduce anxiety while also promoting passive design and sustainability.
The Design Programme: Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre
A Symbolic Entrance
The hospital block has two entrances – one for emergencies and the other for regular visitors. A gently curved canopy shades a large portion of the entry plaza. This enables people to wait outside too, in case the interior waiting area gets overwhelmingly occupied; a foresight indeed for hospitals handling numerous patients in a single day in the wake of a sudden outbreak in the city.
The smooth curves of the canopy also manages to mellow down the sheer scale of the hospital structure in the backdrop. “A balance between light and shade has been achieved with smaller skylights within the roof, and a larger opening towards the upward bending tip,” say IMK Architects. “The upper surface of this canopy was converted to a terrace garden, such that even the single bed patients would be treated to a biophilic space, which would promote healing.”
The Hospital Block
The Symbiosis University Hospital boasts of 5 Operation Theatres, 22 ICU units, and a dedicated Radiology Department offering MRI, CT, X-Ray, Fluoroscopy, BMD and other scans. The Cardiology department houses Cath Lab facility and Kidney Dialysis with 9 beds. A separate Gynaecology Department houses and independent OT facility.
Functionally, the entire hospital has been divided into four sections: General Hospital, Procedure, Multi-Specialty and Skill Centre blocks. The idea was to facilitate ease of functionality and avoid crisscross movements. Spatially, however, the Symbiosis Hospital is planned across five levels:
- Ground Floor: Departments such as the OPD, Casualty, Radiology, MHC, and others that require easy ground access and are frequented by large number of patients daily.
- First Floor: General, Twin- and Single-Bed Wards overlooking garden spaces.
- Second Floor: Critical Areas such as OTs, Pre- and Post-Ops, ICUs, Caths, and others, segregating the sterile zone from the other areas of the hospital.
- Third Floor: Earlier planned for future expansion, now converted into a ward floor with 200+ beds.
- Basement and Lower Ground Level: Service areas including Parking, Stores, Morgue, Medical Gas/Equipment Storage, Workshops, Engineering Offices, Garbage Disposal, and others.
Movement and Circulation
Apart from segregation of blocks for privacy, they are well-connected for ease of access without any disturbance. Amongst the 900 beds in the General Hospital block, 600 have further been assigned for free patients and procedures to be attended to by students of the medical college.
Corridors have been restricted to one side, while departments are on the other, thus reducing any clashes of movement. A 2.5 metres wide ramp also opens into the central courtyard; it would help patients and staff to evacuate in the case of a fire, without having to depend on any mechanical systems.
The Skill Centre
As mentioned before, the second block of the Skill Centre has been provided with a separate, grand entrance at the ground level, and is planned on the fourth and fifth floors. This reflects the legacy and a futuristic vision of Symbiosis University’s association with the field of medicine and research.
The block’s majestic entrance takes users 8 metres up to a large porch through a flight of steps. The architectural expression draws inspiration from the stainless steel surgical instruments used in hospitals to create a mammoth silver steel bird, with wings wide open, at the building entrance. The same structure also evokes a strong contrast with the visibly humbler second block in its backdrop, and acts as a natural beacon guiding the visitor to the entrance from afar.
The double-height entrance then leads the visitor into a curvilinear cafe, connecting the ground level to the 4th and 5th storeys where the Skill Centre is located. Ample daylight and natural ventilation have been provided in the Cafe as well, besides large windows for pleasant views.
The Skill Centre comprises four departments – the Centre for Health Skills, the School of Nursing, the Institute of Health Sciences and a School of Open and Distance Learning. Amenities include 9 classrooms housing 60-90 students each, a 300-seater auditorium, a library, meeting rooms, labs, and also changing areas for surgeons, doctors, nurses and others.
Landscape Design: Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre
In contrast to the multi-faced, sharp angular walls emanating orthogonal earthen tones on the facade, the landscape design of the campus follows a more free-flowing organic form. Colourful plants, flower shrubs, and small trees abound, radiating a healing effect on patients and pleasant distractions for stressed hospital staff, visitors and the like.
The landscape plan also features a vast retention pond at the lowermost level to faciliate zero discharge. Its massive retaining walls have been lent a touch of aesthetic adornment with greens to prevent a visible blank mass on the approach to the hospital.
According to IMK Architects, “Carefully and strategically planned, the building attempts to make gestures that are grand, yet local and responsive with attention to details such as the brick-art and the exposed concrete.” Describing the relevance of the landscape design in response to the surrounding context, they say, “Sitting comfortably on the fringe of the hill, the inner courtyards seem like a continuation of the hill, where the built form amalgamates with the site. Allowing nature to be a part of the hospital and integrating it as a comforting element for the patients, the hospital creates a space for recovery and rejuvenation.”
The New & Progressive Face of Healthcare Infrastructure in India: Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre
The Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre utilises naturally-compressed sundried earthen bricks, that were produced on site, for creating double-skinned, boxed forms. Besides, the massings help create deep shading projections automatically, reducing heat gain considerably.
For added strength of construction, post-tensioned slabs have been used in the design. These have provided added benefits of greater flexibility, minimum beams and larger spans, making it easier to support different room size arrangements and easier routing of ducts. Further, the same flexible grid has been implemented for structural synchronisation across all levels.
Skewed, twisted and tapered variations of bricks have been used for creating interesting boxing forms. This leads to a dynamic facade that does a brilliant job reflecting light and creating varied shadows. One can say the facade changes multiple times in the course of a single day, complimenting every mood indeed!
The brick facade does more than enhancing aesthetic appeal and flattering the hills beyond together with concrete; it helps reduce pollution, ensures stability, cuts carbon emission costs. “For the Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre, Pune, we wanted to design a façade, which required minimum maintenance. This influenced the choice of using Sundried Compressed stabilised Earth Bricks in our project.”
Making the bricks on site helped reduce transporation costs and material wastage. Sundrying them, as oppposed to kilning, made the entire process extremely eco-friendly indeed. Besides, hiring local masons from nearby villages for the task generated additional employment opportunities from the project.
At the same time, through the porosity of CSEB used in cavity walls and jalis, the structure can cope with climate of the region and allow the building to breathe.
With the reduced internal heat gain, maximum comfort has been ensured with minimum energy consumption. “To ensure efficiencies in terms of cost, time, and impact, all details such as glass façade, percentage of glass vs. brick (not more than 30% glass on the entire façade), shading factor, temperature, and humidity requirement, etc. were finalized at early design stages. This ensured energy efficiency as per functionality and not based on other projects or standard values,” IMK Architects share.
Compared to a centrally air-conditioned hospital, which consumes 50%-60% of the total power through AC alone, the architects chose to work with water-cooled chillers with variable speed drive, premium efficiency pumps and cooling towers with CTI certification. The by-product from water cooled heat pumps is taken back into the chilled water system to reduce the load on the chillers.
Healing with Architecture: Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre
The architects have taken into account even smaller details to promote the sense of healing, while also encouraging an environment of research and study. For instance, spaces have been assorted into critical/ non-critical areas through colour coding. “To maintain a warm and tranquil environment for patients, soft home-like colors cover the inner walls of the hospital. The ward rooms are designed with warmer and subtle hues of colors that are complemented with teak laminates.”
Similarly, nurse stations are highlighted with shades of warm yellow and orange for easier way-finding. Acoustic treatments for ceilings and corridors further reduce noise pollution and provide easy access to services.
Accolades and Mentions
IMK Architects was honoured as a Supreme Winner at the prestigious 2021 Surface Design Awards, London, for their multipspecialty Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre (SUHRC), in a virtual ceremony on February 11, 2021. They also won in the ‘Public Building Exterior’ category for its design.
“We wanted to design a hospital that could last around 50-100 years,” IMK Architects say. “Driven by this aim, we designed a façade with natural materials that would save on energy. The facade reflects the light from the sun in different ways through its twisted brick-boxed forms, to reduce internal heat gain and create a gleaming effect of light.”
- Principal Architect: Ar. Rahul Kadri
- Location: Village – Lavale, Taluka – Mulshi, Pune, Maharashtra, India
- Client: Symbiosis Society
- Design Team:
- Ar. Nithin Hosabettu
- Ar. Sahil Bipin Deshpande
- Ar. Viraj Naralkar
- Ar. Aakash Kumar Srivastav
- Ar. Oshmi Sengupta
- Ar. Pallavi Rai
- Photography: Rajesh Vora
- Structure: The Axis Structural Consultants
- MEP Consultants: Radiant Consulting Engineers
- Civil Consultants: The Axis Structural Consultants
- HVAC Consultants: Radiant Consulting Engineers
- Lighting Consultants: IMK Architects, Radiant Consulting Engineers
- Landscape and Facade: IMK Architects
Images shared with Arch India by IMK Architects