Art Gallery

Posted on: March 27th, 2015 by wp-indigo


Posted on: March 20th, 2015 by wp-indigo

Shrujan is a non-governmental organization working in the field of women’s self employment programs through the revival and development of traditional embroidery crafts since 1969, based in Kutch region of Gujarat State in Western India.

The Shrujan campus is situated in Bhujodi, 10 kms from the city of Bhuj in Kutch. In contrast to the arid desert vegetation around, one encounters a well tended orchard with varied fruit trees reminiscent of the ‘wadis’ or the orchards in the south-western region of Kutch.

The program incorporates an expressive public face with its main retail store, visitor’s lounge, an exhibition gallery, as well as internal workshop areas, textile design cell, offices, textile conservation cell, auditorium space and residential quarters. The client brief demanded a sustainable architectural response taking into account seismic stability and the harsh desert climate. The flagship store for its products was to be incorporated in an attempt to create a new face for Shrujan and provide a marketing platform for its wholesale international clientele.

“A need to reassert the unique cultural milieu and the resilient spirit of the Kutchhi people in the wake of a devastating natural calamity provided the underlying sub-text for the project.”

The architecture responds to the broad physical context of the region. It attempts to evoke the desert archetype through a vocabulary of massive, continuous shielding ochre coloured walls, controlled openings, the deeply shaded courtyard, and the wind towers. The two overriding features of the plan are the inward looking courtyard and the enclosing walls with the wind towers on the south and the west.

The protective walled enclosures on the heat gain side, contrast with this open courtyard that coalesces views and movement in its shaded precincts.

Workshop areas which require even daylight open towards the court with large continuous bay windows towards the north. Circulation is both through and around the court. The courtyard also offers a dynamic release of space at the corner on a diagonal axis to the main entrance. The entrance is signified by tiered plinths and a short flight of steps to access the retail store. A ramped corridor links the entrance to the visitor lounge, the workshops and the café, on the ground level. Space is modulated in its proportions as one moves through the building, providing vignettes of the courtyard and the sky. The resultant architectural form is a layering of contrasting elements.

Light in all its modulations was a constant concern, brought in through recessed openings and bounced off of gently curving or sloping roof profiles.

The sense of contrast is carried into the choice of materials and textures within the building. Rough pebblecrete of the copings and the plinth contrast with the ochre painted walls. All exterior areas are paved in exposed brick, and rough kotah stone continuing into the courtyard. The courtyard is designed as a multifunctional space, capable of informal congregations as well as quiet moments of repose for an individual.

Harnessing the prevailing breezes and shielding the work areas from the harsh light and heat were essential to the organization of the plan. The principal idea of wind catchers oriented towards the south and west directions create a passive cooling mechanism that works for all the major spaces. Small exhausts mounted in the circular barrel openings on opposite walls induce the required air changes for comfort.

The wind scoops were designed to also act as structural anchors for the building, capable of taking lateral forces and counter seismic movement. The architectural program required the spaces to flow continuously around the central north facing courtyard.

The structural resolution came about by way of expansion joints starting above the grade slab level, separating the building into four zones.

The building is designed as a combination of moment resisting frames and shear walls in RCC and brick masonry and was detailed as per code provisions outlined in IS 13920-1993 for ductility and seismic resistance.

A three chambered rain water harvesting tank was built in the main courtyard capable of storing unto 100,000 litres of rain water, channelled through a carefully worked out system. This tank is connected to another tank which stores water from the bore well. Recharge wells located in the parking area and in the lower courtyard prevent runoff.

Shrujan is an attempt to weave together holistic concerns of the site, context and the program to define an architecture that heralds a contemporary idiom even as it is inextricably rooted in its local sensibilities.

Emerging to an altered reality, from the destruction in Kutch, it seeks to reinstate and reassert the vigour of an institution on which basic sustenance of village artisans rests.

Ajrakh Studio

Posted on: January 20th, 2018 by wp-indigo

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.

Natarani amphitheatre

Posted on: November 20th, 2018 by wp-indigo

The Sabarmati riverfront development project in Ahmedabad, impacted the existing Natarani theatre precinct. A major chunk of the stage area was lost to the riverfront edge road and sidewalk, rendering the theatre inoperable for several years.

It is in the context of this reality that its renovation was both imperative and desired for its activities to flourish. The new proposed layout not only attempts to mitigate this situation, but also reimagines Natarani theatre to improve upon its existing infrastructure and capacity.

A state of the art amphitheatre, accessible green rooms, utility spaces, improved sound and lighting capabilities with a catwalk over the seating were, the main programmatic components of the project. A mandate from our client, Mallika Sarabhai to use every possible strategy to be sustainable, helped anchor the new design.

The backdrop: The rebuilding of the new theatre was on the site of the older amphitheater, built in 1994 by Ar. Kirti Shah and the new acoustic wall by the firm Abhikram in 2017. Critical to our new intervention was the adjacency of a small library built in 1963 by Ar. B V Doshi and the Darpana building built in 1968, by Ar. A.P Kanvinde used currently as a dance school. The edge to the river front road along the site was built out as a retaining structure by HCP Ahmedabad, to house the Mrinalini Sarabhai Gallery in line with the acoustic wall. An intentional gap between the two elements along the river edge opened up possibilities for us to re- establish the lost connection to the river.

Architectural strategy: The proximity of the existing modern era buildings in exposed brick and concrete, as well as the new acoustic wall inspired the warp and weft of the new theatre. The architecture sought to express continuity with the older materials through the use of exposed lime bricks, recycled from the debris of the demolished older structures, including the library that was in state of disrepair.

Fanning out the existing layout increased the theatre capacity. The natural contour provided the necessary depth below the cascading tiers to house the green rooms and utilities including the infrastructure for air circulation and cooling. The cross section of the tiered theatre culminates at the stage with its huge water harvesting tank below and the towering scale of the acoustical wall as its backdrop.

Juxtaposed with the solidity of the brick mass around, the curved metal cable stayed catwalk hovers high over the seating space expressing a nimble lightness. The metal work defines its own purpose of making, to provide the necessary flexibility for new age performances and state of the art lighting and sound. This tension between contradicting elements defines its own idiom as a performance space. The scale of the entry and the back wall close to the Darpana building is modulated to adequately enclose the theatre.

The earthy seating tiers are expressed through the use of traditional china mosaic, using terracota coloured ceramic tiles, interspearsed with the dark charcoal grey of the lime plastered walls. These two colours have been emblematic of the older Natarani as well. The grey of the exposed concrete copings and the edges is extended through the grey pebblecrete in high wear thresholds and stepped edges. All metalwork is charcoal black which essentially gets negated at night, during performances. The physicality and scale of the theatre reverses dramatically at night with enhanced lighting and a sharp central spatial focus. The stage is built with a hard wood assembly flooring, while the entrance plaza is defined by rough grey kota stone slabs that unites the semiopen and open areas of adjacent buildings, which use similar materials.

Passive thermal comfort and design strategies

The design integrates several strategies to be cost effective and sustainable. Preventing the building from gaining heat was an important design objective and all services and green rooms are located below the theatre steps. Lime is used in construction along with dolomite plaster to provide the necessary thermal advantage and longevity. The building is designed on the principle of ‘thermal draining of the structure’. A rainwater-harvesting tank below the stage, with a capacity of 1.0 lac liters collects all the water from the steps to become a cool thermal storage mass, below ground. A pump sends it to a higher level where it is cooled by a natural process. The cooled water then comes down by gravity through the pipes under the seating tiers and empties into the tank in the process absorbing the solar heat from the entire structure, thus keeping it cool and comfortable. Additional comfort is provided by the “Displacement Ventilation” system that provides a gentle flow of cool filtered air from several small outlets distributed along the seating tiers. They form a blanket of cool air in the seating zone by displacing the warm stale air.


Posted on: March 20th, 2015 by wp-indigo

Living & Learning Design Center- Ajrakhpur, Kutch

The idea for establishing an institution of this nature emerged soon after the earthquake of 2001. The wide spread after effects of the quake were varied. First, the physical impact that destroyed the built habitat across the region resulting in the loss of human lives, and means of livelihood. The second, as is usual, once a natural calamity has passed – an extraordinary pouring in of help – monetary, emotive, genuine and also otherwise. The tax sops offered to industry by the government to set up shop almost immediately started to change the landscape. The indigeneity was under a serious threat. Native artistic skills were being lost to jobs offered by industry. A dangerous trend that had begun to take shape slowly, ensuring that an entire generation and its skill set would be lost.
In the wake of this disaster, Shrujan, an NGO based in Kutch led by Chanda Shroff, led the initiative to restore the livelihood of the people. They intervened at several levels, building temporary shelters and workspaces for women to go to and work. A belief, that it was only work, that would help them eventually lift their spirit and take pride in their enterprise.

LLDC – The Living & Learning Design Center

The living and learning design Center (LLDC) was conceived as a project during this time. It was meant to be a ‘place’ that would becomes a tactile and visual repository of the various crafts of Kutch. Its primary role as a resource center for artisans doubles up as a public museum and place for demonstrative, hands on learning.
The predominantly hot, dry and arid landscape of Kutch, its people and cultural nuances formed a rich backdrop to our intervention. There has been a tendency to preserve, emulate and replicate the notion of what may be deemed vernacular, in this case Kuttchi. (Or visually seen as belonging to Kutch)
Our interactions with the artisans, their craft and their aspirations led us to believe that inspite of being geographically remote, their vision and outreach had gone beyond the boundaries of the region. The milieu allowed for a wider exploration of the built.
Their pioneering spirit was an inspiration to create a contemporary environment that reflected their artistic, frugal and industrious attitude.

Design strategy: The site for the LLDC (Living & Learning Design Center) is located in Paddhar village, about 18kms from Bhuj. The 8 acre parcel of land with well-planted mango, chickoo and coconut palm trees. There was also a large patch of land that was non-arable due to the presence of sub soil water, a unique characteristic of the site.

The overall master plan has three main components: the museum, the crafts school and the residential enclaves. The museum block was part of the first phase of work on site. Its strict guidelines for conservation and preservation of textiles meant that the building had to be inherently thermally stable so as to rely less on artificial means of conditioning. This concern was followed right through the design of the buildings and became the core of the building design strategy.

The architecture of the museum block is a series of large solid volumes, punctuated by conidial skylights that cut out the elements and the dust. Along with this core, are the ancillary passageways and shaded spaces for craft demonstrations and impromptu workshops that attach to the core as porous appendages, allowing spontaneous and simultaneous experiences.

This archetype for a museum seeks to establish the primacy of place making over, manneristic form making prevalent in public architecture today. A museum, in this context, is thus a “ place” to experience, move through and habit in an informal way, making language and information more tactile than textual in nature.
The vocabulary is purposefully simple and contemporary in nature, emblematic of the nature of craft as industry and vice- versa today.

Sustainability issues and solutions: Economy of means and materials were to be the backbone of this endeavor. Judicious use of materials and sustainable design strategies aimed at thermal comfort were developed and integrated in the design of the campus.

Thermal barriers: Lime and fly ash bricks were manufactured on site using waste carbide lime slurry, sand and fly ash to reduce cost and get the required strength and thermal stability compared to any other material. Lime mortar was prepared on site by slaking lime in large ponds and grinding it with sand and crushed brick. Gauged lime mortar was used in the masonry work and natural lime plaster using traditional methods* was used in three coats in some areas.

Fenestrations: Meticulously details windows and cutouts on the west and south allow the winter sun to warm the interiors while keeping out the summer sun. A simple strategy to ensure ventilation without affecting thermal gain.

Stored rainwater cools the structure: Rainwater harvesting tanks were integrated in the design of the foundations to collect about 7 lac liters of rain annually. The building plan attempts to reduce thermal gain and creates shaded zones that are inherently cool and can depend on passive cooling to reduce operating costs. Use of cooling pipes (radiant cooling) on terraces is planned as a way of insulating the roof from the heat, to attain stable temperatures throughout the year.

Grey water usage: Decentralized wastewater treatment system (DEWATS) is designed to handle all the wastewater from the site including the process effluents from the printing and dyeing workshops.

Program details and buildings: The museum comprises of four galleries including a temporary exhibit area. The main gallery is devoted to the permanent collection of the ‘Design Center on Wheels’ (DCOW) program run by the NGO Shrujan in Bhujodi. The collection includes 1150 exquisite demonstrative embroidery panels that have been painfully documented over the years.
The other galleries house traditional artifacts highlighting the textile arts related to everyday life of the indigenous people of Kutch. The DCOW archive and conservation block within the museum enclave forms its core. A library for visual and textual resources, instructional auditorium space and conference room, classrooms for artisans and public orientation and information kiosks outside the galleries, complete the ensemble.

The Crafts school is the other significant half of the institution. Working spaces for every art and craft of Kutch makes it the single largest living and working craft environment in Kutch. The architectural plan organizes activities along a central movement spine, reminiscent of the covered ‘suq’ or covered markets of other arid desert regions of the world. It creates a climatically appropriate gesture coupled with sustainable methods of building to define these working areas. Complex interweaving of functions brings about interest and diversity of experience.

The crafts shop and museum shops are run by the artisans in training, to develop skills aimed at marketing their craft in the right manner and learning to preserve what is essential to the survival of the craft.

On-site housing for the master craftsmen, artisans, visiting academicians and scholars is the third built component. Integrated along with the work environment, yet separate, the housing is designed as a series of modular courts with dwelling units linked by internal streets. Artisans enjoy living and working in the company of their apprentices and colleagues in an atmosphere of creative synergies, mutual admiration and support. Individuals with diverse cultural and social needs, food habits and patterns of life will be residents here.

Places for common dining, recreation and celebration of social events are an essential component of the plan. Several un-built spaces, planted groves and spaces between buildings become places for interaction, recreation and multiple uses. The three major building components are organized loosely around a generous courtyard that allows people to congregate in large numbers on occasions such as the annual product exhibit fair and even otherwise.