For religious societies, heritage and traditions play an important role in maintaining identity, culture and allowing for the community's self-improvement, both spiritually but also in a spatial sense. Therefore, the way people occupy the place in which they live leads to the material fulfillment of religious aims.
With the creation of a place that follows their sacred order—the Jetavana—the community can be enriched while performing their traditions and rituals in a specific and proper way through architecture.
Created for a religious community with poor economic resources, this project designed by Sameep Padora & Associates achieves this purpose and delivers a space with great spiritual significance and value through the reincarnation of materials, minimal intervention in the natural environment and by gathering a community’s traditions. In the following text, the architects elaborate on some of the factors that made this ArchDaily's Project of the Month for July.
Criteria used for selecting re-used materials
The primary driver was a monetary and material frugality, but ease of access to construction material as well as their maintenance over time were important concerns. The seasoned wood for the roof structure came from ship breaking yards; the fired mangalore roof tiles from older dismantled buildings and the rammed stone dust walls from a basalt stone quarry nearby. The design process became almost reactive, responding to our fast-changing understanding of context, an understanding that evolved in tandem with the construction of the project. I think the significance of the project lies in this.
Almost all of our assumptions about locally sourced materials are challenged in this project: rammed earth needed too much cement for stabilization, bamboo and thatch for construction were both of poor quality. This light-footed, nimble and reactive process, divorced from the weight of a fixed and preempted solution, enabled a response that is both appropriate and rich.
Stone Dust: What features does this material have in comparison to concrete? What other possibilities can this material give to local design?
The extremely hot and dry climate of Sakharwadi required a material that would insulate the interior from the heat. As opposed to concrete the thick rammed stone dust walls keep the interior extremely cool.
The aim of the stone dust rammed wall construction was also to turn the project into a demonstration of how local material which is traditionally seen as waste could be used to catalyze a new form of indigenous construction. We hope that it kickstarts a new "local" technique, not one based in nostalgia but specific to its time.
How is the Buddhist spirituality reflected in the architectural design concept and program?
The center is built for the local neo-buddhists, the "Baudh" community, but is open to all religions.
The opening of the center included religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities as well. The Baudh community has traditionally been an economically disadvantaged section of Indian society and while they do have a substantial political presence in the country the center attempts to fill in the gaps of spiritual programs like meditation and yoga as well as vocational training for the youth. Therefore, the two largest spaces within the precinct house a meditation hall and a workshop.
The primary directive was to do no harm to a single living thing, hence the center is split and fragmented between trees rather than being a consolidated singular block. Not a single tree was cut during its construction.
The repetitive rhythm of the wooden structure, used to bring focus to a deity statue, references the stone ribbed interior of the Buddhist cave architecture. Some of our early study models also alluded to the vaulted section of the cave roof, but the logic of visually connecting to the foliage of the trees outside we felt was eventually the more dominant and desirable experience.