The slightly hermetic concrete exterior. 2

A soaring atrium unites the various volumes and functions. 3

Blood donation suite.

cross section

Providing services for blood collection, storage and research, Prathama Blood Centre in Ahmedabad, regional capital of Gujarat, attracted the jurors' attention as an example of a large and quite complex building in the developing world. Designed by local practice Matharoo Associates (whose Kahnian crematorium featured in the 2003 awards cycle, AR December 2003), the blood centre is conceived as a pioneering new type of health building (prathama means 'first' in Sanskrit) that combines sophisticated laboratory and testing facilities with an enlightened, humanistic approach.

The centre is the outcome of a competition staged by a charitable trust with the aim of recasting and restaging the act of blood donation in a more inviting public domain, so mitigating the fear and repulsion subconsciously associated with such public spiritedness. The new building can store and process 200 000 units of blood, making it the largest blood bank in India. Donations are entirely voluntary, and the centre's on-site facilities are backed up by a fleet of mobile collection units.

Despite the programme's ambitions, the budget was parsimonious ($200 per sqm, including fit out and site development). Costs were kept in check by custom designing and locally fabricating internal elements such as doors, windows, modular furniture, partitions and work stations. Even so, Matharoo Associates have succeeded in making a building that has an evident decency and dignity.

A four-storey glass-clad stack of laboratories intersects roughly at right angles with a hermetic concrete volume housing administration and support services. Between these clearly articulated functional elements is a more free-form atrium space, created by stretching and curving the concrete wall. Contained within this concrete skin at ground level are user-friendly enclaves for blood collection (separated from the more clinical blocks), so that people can just wander in and make a donation. To encourage a regular throughput of donors, there are none of the formalities and inhibitions of a formal hospital setting. Helping to soothe nerves, the donation suite overlooks a tranquil reflecting pool, while within the atrium there are views and glimpses through to the more specialised laboratory spaces, communicating a sense of the building's gravitas and wider social purpose. C. S.


Matharoo Associates, Ahmedabad Photographs

Courtesy of the architects cross section

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