Ajrakh Studio

About

Conceived as a resource centre for the 4500 years old craft of Ajrakh block printing in Kutch, it serves to showcase the technique, production, and the art of Ajrakh. Our client, Dr. Ismail Mohmed Khatri is a highly acclaimed artisan and a community leader, carrying forward his ancestral craft. He was instrumental in facilitating and spearheading the relocation of the community to Ajrakhpur from Dhamadka village after the earthquake devastated the community of ajrakh printers in 2001. Much of the village had collapsed and the flowing river Saran-Ganga also ran dry, hampering the processes of dyeing and washing the fabric in fresh running water.

The new settlement of Ajrakhpur village is about 15 kms SE of Bhuj in Kutch. Its plan was drawn up by the community with a series of plots measuring about 350 to 500 sq.m each separated by roads and common open spaces. Subsequently, some dwellings had a printing shed within its compound and a roof or courtyard to dry and wash printed yardage leading to the emergence of a sparse disjointed dwelling typology. A central community resource of water for washing and drying with open tracts of land, a small mosque, community spaces and sparse vegetation characterised the larger context.

The site (for the new studio) was originally a block printing shed that sat in an open courtyard adjacent to the family home of Dr Ismail Khatri. The new studio draws from the old typology of their original family home in Dhamadka, comprising a distinct layering of spaces from the public to the inner working private courtyard with a wall separating the home from the work space.

The ajrakh studio is a series of two volumes oriented NS lengthwise with inclined roofs on the shorter sides, united by an open court and held at the two short ends by services.

A compact site adjacent to a dwelling space, it is designed to occupy the periphery and leave out its heart, open to the sky above. The central open court buffers the public functions from the focused inner work-space and also becomes an informal place to socially congregate while providing a  processing space for dyed textiles.

The first volume holds the public interface comprising, the entry, a small office / studio space, a retail shop and a large hall for public meetings, discussions and for people to view films on the craft of ajrakh. The second volume is the printing workshop flanked by a storage area and the wood fired chulha (wood stove) and wash area for dyed yardage.

Concerns to modulate light so as to ward off heat, funneling prevailing breeze and addressing issues of thermal comfort led to the evident choice of materials and elements.

Local fly ash bricks with lime mortar, lime plaster finished with dolomite plaster and yellow mineral pigment from Kutch, wooden louvered doors and windows from recycled teak wood,  protective overhangs and roofs out of corrugated sheet metal define the palette. The terraces on the south and west have access to fabric drying structures detailed in steel and bamboo and are emblematic of such elements used widely by printer communities in western India.

The louvered openings allow for a better control of light and ventilation through spaces, while effectively create the needed air changes. Openings at the roof level also help to control entry and exit of hot air depending on the season. The roofs collect rainwater leading it into a large underground harvesting tank below the printing shed. This water is used for drinking purposes, some select printing processes and for radiant cooling through pipes embedded in the floors. This along with insulated under-decks of the roofs ensure a stable thermal environment to work and dwell, eliminating the need for any other method of active cooling.

The nature of space in the studio is multivalent and contagious, as an exhibition space, as an audio-visual area, can be screened off internally by bamboo chik screens for demonstrations of certain printing processes and for congregation.

An apparent opacity of the form externally actually reveals a porous interiority along the east west axis, brought about by the large doors with operable louvers, creating an interesting play of light through and from various orientations. Deep shade, shadows and patterns on lime plastered walls provide ornament, depth and refuge at different times of the day.

Client : Dr. Ismail Mohmed Khatri
Location : Ajrakhpur, Dist - Kutch, Gujarat
Architects : indigo architects, Ahmedabad
Design Team : Uday Andhare, Mausami Andhare, Geet Khurana, Darshik Parejiya, M. Naeem Shaikh
Consultants : Ami Engineers, Ahmedabad Plumbing Consultants- Chetan Vyas, Ahmedabad
Site Area : 4,060 sq.ft
Building Area : 3,085 sq.ft
Completion Year : 2017
Civil Engineers : Kishor Parmar, Bhuj
Photo Credits : Uday Andhare