Project details

Client: Synergy Lifestyles Pvt. Ltd.
Area: 30,000 Sq. ft
Designed: 2003
Completed: 2004
Materials: Stone (Random rubble in local quarry stone) load-bearing vaulted structures with stories combined with RCC structures, Hollow clay Hourdi blocks for a roof, Flooring in Attangudi cement glazed tiles from Chettinad, and other local stones
Team:  Shimul Javeri Kadri, Vaishali Shankar, Rubel Dhuna, Sonali Bhargava

The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet1
External View_©


The little town of Karur in Tamil Nadu is the pivot of the export-oriented home textile industry in India. The place can be characterised to be scorching hot dusty but enriched in tradition and progressive at the same time. The prime activities in the industry include dying colored yarn, weaving, stitching fabric, cushions, and table linen, and these activities are performed primarily in the courtyard of village homes. The products of this courtyard industry are gathered and transported, often by the traditional bullock cart to the checking and packaging factories, from where the products are shipped to the international retail market. Thereby, factories play a crucial role in the local and global markets. Despite the tropical climate and historical and religious involvement of this town, Karur’s factories portray the attitude of modern architecture with glass facades and Doric columns.

The prime requirement of Synergy lifestyles was a comfortable environment for their factory artisans. The principal objective was to create a cocoon that would shield the space within from the sultry external conditions like heat and glare. This objective helped the architects derive their basic architectural structural idea that would create a joyful work environment despite the extreme climatic conditions of Tamil Nadu state in India.

The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet2
Internal View_©
The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet3

Studies of the local architecture and climate served as their mood board to draw inspiration and helped them develop a building that is linked with courtyards, both small and big, and include passive energy-saving technologies in the building. 

They discovered that the little town had a fascinating history of gable walls, a local stone quarry, and many other traditions of country-wood joinery for doors, an entire village that specialises in metal hardware for locks and hinges, etc.

The entire building has been encased with 18” thick random rubble masonry walls which is a good insulator of heat that helps to block off excessive heat. Rubble masonry walls had the added advantage of not requiring any plaster or paint over the exterior surface and hence had a touch of local materials that mirrored the village architecture. They chose a vaulted roof for the building over clear stories for the sole advantage of allowing shaded north-south light.


The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet4

An 8′-0″ corridor is placed towards the west of the most used spaces to cut down on the heat gain through radiation. Although the heat gain through east-west walls is the same, it is important to shield/insulate the west wall as the ambient temperature in the afternoon is already high.

The courtyard is located to the west of the most densely occupied space of the building to further reduce afternoon heat gain by providing a vegetation buffer. Also, the predominant wind direction is from the South West-North West, so this would cool the breeze as it enters the building. This also controls and shields the dust that the winds bring in.

The Barrel Vault Roof

The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet5
Vault Roof_©
The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet6
Section through vault_©

The primary function of checking fabric for defects or flaws requires a width of 50′. As the maximum room width recommended for natural light and ventilation through an external window is 21′, they needed to derive additional light and ventilation through the roof to make up for the same.

Heat gain on a flat surface is much more than on an inclined surface and is least for a semicircular vaulted roof. Therefore, they chose to go with a vault. It was also important to align the vaults east-west with the directory along the north-south to get as much diffused light as possible and minimize roof exposure to the higher East-West radiation. 

A grid of 5+9+5 was derived from the furniture layout and the vaults and superimposed on the same Although, the attempt was to maximize the curved surface area. They wanted daylight to spread evenly through the entire space so they ensured to stay within the recommended height-width ratio. Another way to vent out hot air was by encouraging the venturi effect.

The Crafted Workspace by Shimul Javeri Kadri - Sheet7
External View_©

The roof was built using hollow terracotta blocks which were fitted within a grid of precast RCC ribs, which were spanned between semi-circular beams of steel. A thin cement screed with a china mosaic finish over it completed the roof construction, making it economical, light-weight, and cutting out several degrees of heat gain. Several small and large courtyards on the west reduce afternoon heat gain by providing a vegetation buffer. The west also brings in the winds, which are filtered by the plants and trees of the courtyard.

The attempt has been to build locally for a global context, using local materials, labor, and technology to create a very much part of a global market, functionally and aesthetically. However, our ultimate payback has been the end user’s response wherein. “The production has risen two-fold”!



Sriya Mitra is a student of architecture from Kolkata with a strong interest in journalism. Apart from being a student, she is a fencer which allows her to travel to new places and explore more.