Since its inception in 1996, an Indian architectural firm, Morphogenesis has ballooned into a behemoth of energy-efficient and sustainable design. Known for its innovative adaptation of traditional typologies into the framework of climate-sensitive building, the latest undertaking of this firm has broken a record held for more than 80 years by the Pentagon, that of the world’s largest office complex. With the Surat Diamond Bourse completed in 2022, India is now home to a gargantuan 15-storey, nine building edifice sprawling across 6.7 million square feet.
Until now, the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Bandra-Kurla, Mumbai was the lone diamond trading hub spread out over 2 million square feet. While 9 out of 10 rough diamonds in the world are cut, polished and processed by the local karigars (technicians) in Surat, there was no well established trading base in close proximity to the manufacturing facilities. Consequently, most traders were having to travel back and forth while specialised diamond couriers hauled Rs 100-crore worth of diamonds a day to Mumbai with a liability to pay back the entire value of the consignment if lost in transit. This was an inefficient, long-winded trajectory for the diamond trade and many merchants were losing sleep and precious quality time with their families as a result of six hours or more lost in daily commute.
Looming above the National Highway in Surat and nestled amidst the DREAM City (Diamond Research and Mercantile City), the new international diamond bourse aspires to overshadow the diamond exchanges in Mumbai, Israel and Belgium by converging the traders and polishing industry within its office towers that are all connected by a central axis.
The core strength of the design strategy lies in the amalgamation of the horizontal and vertical planes seamlessly through walkable corridors, very similar to airport terminals, thereby reducing the time it takes to reach any of the 4,500 office spaces from the points of entry in less than seven minutes — an architectural feat very few structures can brag about.
Building in Surat entails grappling with the heat. In the summers, the mercury can rise up to 32 degrees Celsius and above on average, meaning that the designer Manit Rastogi had to figure out how to get the temperature on site to decline by at least 5-7 degrees to create a more comfortable microclimate. By the intuitive placement of green courtyards, cross ventilation of air through the central spine and the carbon neutral system of radiant cooling, the world’s largest office building cuts down heat largely through zero-energy means.
The Surat Diamond Bourse was constructed to accommodate more than 65,000 workers. To orchestrate the flow of bodies through the complex, there are multiple entrances and exits for services and customs to synchronise peak hour traffic and prevent congestion. The central axis connecting the nine rectangular office towers also gives way to breakout spaces, vegetated atriums and an assortment of art installations to dismantle the monotony of being inside a lonely and expansive complex. Thus one can find oneself wandering the endless corridors until suddenly stumbling upon a meditative pocket of silence or a buzzing common area, depending on which direction we choose to walk in.
Costing more than 3,200-crore rupees to develop, this comprehensive diamond hub poses as a laudable specimen of high density architecture with an environmentally conscious design, three times larger than the Bharat Diamond Bourse such that its sheer dimensions can be quite stupendous at first glance. The project CEO Mahesh Gadhwani told CNN that almost all its offices were purchased by diamond companies prior to construction. The building will be inaugurated sometime in November this year, with prime minister Narendra Modi as the guest of honour.