Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Essar Steel Visitors Center

Hazira, India


The Essar Steel Visitor Center is situated between one of Northwest India’s major industrial hubs and a major center for health tourism in the region. Hazira is a major economic city in the Gujarat region, having historically been the site for the country’s rapid advancements in industry. Sitting on a peninsula between the Arabain Sea and a major entry port to the Tapti River, its relative connectivity to Surat and Mumbai places it within the spectrum of important and accessible sites in the country.

Inspired by the typology of its industrial context and informed by the importance of its holdings, the building design further expresses the linear nature of the steel manufacturing process, setting a binding connection to the content it displays. Conceived as a series of shifting bar-shaped buildings creating a single mass, the building sits in complementary to its context by breaking down the scale while maintaining one cohesive vision. The six structures forming the building mass are interconnected with a glass enclosure threading it to the exterior, offering light-filled passages with views.

A series of gallery spaces are accommodated all on one level by the simple modularity of the building’s linear design, combined with double-height volumes that allows the dramatic presentation of the art and artifacts from Essar. Use of diffused natural light within the gallery spaces is an important consideration in the building’s design. Cantilevered roofs shade the building’s exterior and accommodate the introduction of natural light into the gallery through full height transparent walls of glass framed in metal together with continuous linear skylights.

The Center is organized to provide an uninterrupted path through its exhibits in a sectional movement. Visitors traverse through the gallery spaces in an orchestrated spatial sequence experiencing art, architecture, and landscape. The building geometry continues beyond its perimeter engaging the exterior environment through generously proportioned reflecting pools that create a strong relationship between the building and landscape.

Water as one of the five classical elements, can also be a prominent feature in the landscape. It is used here for its reflective qualities, in addition to recalling India’s rich architectural legacy. The placement of the large reflecting pools at the building’s edge provides for lightness as the structure meets the ground, while it contributes to the micro-climatic environment by regulating the temperature and humidity of its immediate environment.

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