Photo courtesy: DKA Architects
An Introduction to the Bengaluru Metro
India is fast approaching Urbanisation - with rapid growth in population and in an attempt to decongest crowds, metros in major cities of the country are springing up. With Kolkata and Delhi already experiencing the benefits of rapid transit system, a number of Indian cities including Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai are fast on the track to attain the same. Bengaluru - India’s Silicon Valley stands tall amongst the cities which are brimming with metro work going on in full vigour. Apparently, several MRTS proposals for this IT Capital have been in the pipeline for the past 24 years. Dating back to 2003, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Services) prepared a detailed project report for the Bengaluru metro rail with the proposal of two double line corridors: East-West (EW) and North-South (NS) with their lengths respectively being 18.10 km and 14.90 km. With a nod of approval from the Karnataka government in 2005 and the Union Government in 2006, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) was founded in 2006 as a joint venture between the Government of India and the Government of Karnataka for the implementation of Bangalore Metro Rail system. The East-West Corridor starting from Byappanahalli will terminate at the Mysore Road Terminal whereas the North-South Corridor will begin at the Hesarghatta Road Terminal and end at Puttenahalli.
Metro Stations by DKA
Amongst the 43 metro stations being planned for the city, 11 have been designed by local architects - Dutta & Kannan Architects (DKA). This is indeed a major achievement in a country where such technical aviation designing is left to international architects and only a handful of architectural firms have been able to do justice to designing metros. It is common knowledge that initially all the metros stations in Bengaluru were given to leading architectural firms in the city to design; who came up with brilliant concepts but however exceeded the budget of 35 crores (for each station) that was permitted. This is where the Government had to reconsider the proposals and RITES, the general consultants for the project stepped in. It was decided that all the metro stations needed to be redesigned. Tenders were floated for the same and were won by L&T (an electrical and civil construction company), S N Bhobe (an electrical company who are also currently handling the Mumbai metro) and SNCL. Indraneel Dutta who did his graduation from Chicago, following which he worked in London for five years, is the principal architect of DKA. He says, “For an architectural firm to qualify for a project worth 1000 crores, they need to collaborate with a structural engineering firm. Thus came in our collaboration with SNC Lavalin, an engineering and construction company. SPAN, a structural engineering firm (which is currently doing the Hyderabad and Chennai Metro) was bought over by SNC Lavalin for the same. SNC Lavalin’s responsibility for this project was structural design and project coordination while DKA was heading the architectural, MEP and fire fighting.” The project got launched in 2007; the east-west stations are looking forward to completion in Dec 2010 and the north-south in Dec 2012.
DKA has been into commercial architecture for sometime and have been working on contemporary designs. They are working towards opening offices in Kolkata and Chennai. The Metro project was the first of its kind which they decided to work on, all thanks to senior partner Brinda Kannan who has worked on three underground metro projects and two airport terminals in London before she moved down to India to form DKA three years back. Without making any other metro stations as their reference, the firm thus plunged into the project. A lot of calculations are involved in the design of the metro since it needs to have a dynamic structural design. Talking about the complications in designing a project as challenging as this, Indraneel informs us, “Any building takes dead load and thus requires a four point check. In the case of metro stations, they take load passing through them and thus require a 12 point check. As architects we were never trained to design metros which have lots of calculations and an important consideration in its cost factor”.
The metro project was divided into four reaches – Reach 1 (R1), Reach 2 (R2), Reach 3 (R3) and Reach 4 (R4). DKA are the project leaders of R2 and R3B. The stations designed by them on R2 are ‘on the road stations’ with carriageway on both the sides – comprising of stations at Mysore Road (terminal station), Deepanjali, Vijayanagar, Hosahalli, Toll Gate, Magadi Road. The stations on R3 are ‘off the road’ and comprise of stations at Peeniya Village, Peeniya Industrial Area, Jalahalli, Dasarahalli, Hessargatta (terminal station). Apprising of the difference in both Indraneel adds, “Off the road stations are possible in non-packed areas where there is lots of available land. It is easier to design compared to ‘on the road’ stations which are a structural challenge since in them there is a median of a single pier of columns to which the load gets transferred. On ‘off the road’ stations you have columns at both ends of the structure for the load to distribute.” The Terminal stations have been designed on a budget of 45 crores.
Diagram for the Different Reaches
The metro stations have been designed bearing in mind the vision to provide passengers with a secure, comfortable and an attractive commuting experience. “We got the preliminary design report by the BMRCL which contained a detailed survey of the area on which the track has to come up, its alignment, soil test data, rider ship data and norms to be followed. These stations have been designed considering the public in general, operator and the passengers”, says Indraneel. Each of the metro stations has standard dimensions – 135 m long x 16 m /18 m wide. The width of the stations was finalised considering the length of roads in Bengaluru which are between 18m - 24m. The length was calculated keeping in mind the length of the coaches (the width of one coach is 19m). According to designs and calculations three coaches would suffice for the amount of people travelling up to 2015; after which the length has been maintained to adjust three additional coaches. Provisions have been made for peak hours till 2015 for the addition of three more coaches if the existing three don’t suffice. It is also of note that these trains will be electric trains sans engine.
The stations have been so conceptualized that any station can be evacuated in five minutes flat. This is based on the calculations of the ridership data that the government has provided the architects. Based on this data which keeps in mind the population and local transit, staircase widths and platform widths have been finalized. NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and international norms have also been adhered to.
Referring to the other metros in India Indraneel maintains that he prefers the Kolkata one, since the Delhi metro concentrates more on function without paying much importance to form. Abroad, his any day preference is the Jubilee Line, London.
The architect came up with creative ideas–like having photo voltaic on the roof of one of the metro stations, different roof forms to get in light, and harvesting rain water; but these concepts weren’t okayed. Within very strict timelines the product had to be delivered, and Indraneel didn’t want to repeat any of his designs. The result is definitely some swanky looking designs palpable of Bengaluru’s contemporary architecture and evocative of a mesmerising image of the IT Capital. Structural Glazing and Natural stone form a part of all the metro stations, with varied additional materials being used in them individually – like sandstone in the Peeniya Village Station, ACP in Ulsoor Station and regular plaster in the Mysore Road station. All thanks to the design, there is no artificial light needed before 6 pm. Track ceiling lights like ‘Hunter Douglas’ with mirror optic tube lights and CFL’s light up the stations after evening. The architects have also envisioned the Metro as a means of ameliorating the quality of urban life. Besides the stations serving their basic functions, there is a plaza for street performance at the Mysore road terminus, space for fairs, exhibitions and a commercial complex at the Magadi Road Station, site for advertising and pathways to be used for temporary exhibitions and shopping.
Dwelling on the structure of the stations Indraneel adds, “The structural design was very challenging on the single pier design as the entire load of the cantilevers (9m on either side) and tracks station loads were on a single pier. Also, the structure had to take into account a lot of movement from the trains coming in and out. The roof truss had to be designed to take into account a lot of wind load from an approaching train.”
Bengaluru has a population nearing seven million. The number of passengers expected to travel on the metro everyday is estimated at 10.20 lakh in 2011 and 16.10 lakh in 2021. With so much of pressure on the transport system, everyone is waiting for the metros which have been in planning for long. Once complete, they would be easing out the traffic congestion, strains on the road and reduction of pollution levels. It is envisaged that the travel time from end to end on the east-west corridor will be 33 minutes, and on the north-south corridor will be 28 minutes. At the time DKA took on this project, there was no rule book in India detailing fire norms for the design of metros. The Kolkata Metro was designed without a rule book and the Delhi Metro was designed on international norms. But the relevance of metros is fast pacing up in India, with today a set of rules being adopted for metro constructions. The Bengaluru metro story doesn’t end here. It is touted to be one of the biggest infrastructure projects for the city till date. Though at present 43 stations are being constructed which would get completed by 2015 but the DBR (Design Basis report) issued by BMRCL shows an approval for 162 stations which means that in future there would be tributaries on the North-South and East West corridors.
For DKA, the approach to a project involves a thorough knowledge about the programme, an in-depth study of the images that the client has in mind, stressing on the form and then fitting in the function into it. Brinda and Indraneel have also formed HybridArch under DKA for out-of-the-box thinking projects, for experimentation with architecture and product designs, one of them being a luxury hotel in Slovakia that they are currently working on. On a concluding note, Indraneel affirmatively says, “We are amongst the five firms in India which specialise in metro design. We just need the ridership data to design a metro station. We are a young firm and have established ourselves as a totally architectural firm since 2006. In three years, we have completed 3 million sqft of construction in commercial and residential projects. Our firm is consciously working towards aviation projects like airports, bus terminals etc. The Bengaluru metro project once completed will be the best in India.”
The metro debate however does exist; making everyone ponder if this would be the best solution for Bengaluru people and traffic. Options like BMTC buses might just fare better considering the coverage, accessibility, commute time, cost and economic viability. With bated breaths, we need to wait and watch!!!
Bangalore-based architect Apurva Bose Dutta is an architectural journalist and she can be contacted at