Archohm design studio, having begun its journey into the domain of architectural practice with a toll plaza projects, has now become an authority on this uncommon typology of the built environment. The latest in line is the Ahmedabad-Vadinagar-Maliya toll plaza. Principal Architect Sourabh Gupta, Director of the firm briefs.
In the state of Gujarat, archohm was commissioned to design eleven toll plazas, both primary and secondary types, each with twelve lanes. Of these, the Ahmedabad-VadinagarMaliya toll on the highway that led to the port at Kandla, was to cater to a heavy volume of traffic. It was not located ‘in the middle of nowhere’, (as most tolls are) but abutted the urban area and was endowed very limited and premium acreage and even lesser width. From this constraint emerged what turned out to be a very unconventional, successful and compact plan, wherein the two plazas are staggered by three hundred metres or so with a twenty-metre wide connective diagonal median island that snugly fits in the control and administrative component and services.
Conventionally, the toll booths are linked underground by cable-carrying and hi-tech equipment containing service tunnels, whose length is to be minimised to avoid data transmission losses. Since the staggered plan was contrary to these logistics, the concept of tunnels itself was done away with and in its place are built directly beneath each of the booths, structurally sound pits. These have been then connected by waterproof, precast concrete pipes strong enough to resist the traffic load.
The control and administrative building is envisaged as a linear volume, a simple cuboid with blank-walled facades. However natural light and ventilation have been amply supplied through large internal courtyards that also echo the functionally introverted nature of a toll building. The literal and metaphorical twist in the tale comes from dramatically siting the control tower as a projected volume in glass, parallel to the road to enable complete panoramic visibility and at an angle to the block below. Its membrane roof gives it a signature silhouette and allows the internal curvaceous volume to be drenched in diffused up lighting that incidentally can also be seen from a distance.
Tolling is indeed big business. But it is also unimaginably complex in every aspect of its establishment; from the very nature of activity to the workability, from the sheer area to the investment figures and from the technology to the construction protocols. For a design office to conceive and coordinate all these interconnected aspects and go beyond the already composite brief to make it an architecturally revered edifice is ‘thinking out of the box’ approach for a service-centric building.
A toll building is completely access-controlled with the public interface limited to the sales point entry cum lobby and so has its own parking. This part sits on one edge and on the opposite side was the restricted service entry. A large open-to- sky courtyard adjacent to the canteen at the upper level, with large circular cut outs provides openness and relief to the employees. Apart from the inherent design challenges, the project also involved dealing efficiently with issues as the management of traffic and that of an existing operational temporary tolling, along with material storage.
The canopy at this plaza is designed to be the lightest possible and replicated in the remaining plazas in Gujarat to bring down the cost of its construction by a tangible twenty percent. The canopy is perhaps the ‘loudest’ element in a toll plaza, forming a shelter in the roof plane. Here, the structure punctures the canopy and emerges out of it, making it look even more fragile. The white steel arches are designed to stand out, both during the day and at night. From the overall concept to the articulation, attention has been paid to each and every part of the design.