How does one pay tribute to a personality as legendary as V. V. Shirwadkar? A celebrated Marathi poet and writer known as ‘Kusumagraj’ to his readers; he was not only a Gyanpith award winner but a humanist, a keen social activist and an eminent literary inspiration to many. Could a piece of architecture do justice to such a personality?
Global Architecture & Design Awards 2018
Second Award | Category: Public Building (Built)
Architects: Environ Planners
Team Members: Sanjay Patil Minaz Ansari
Having envisaged this issue, the members of the Kusumagraj Memorial trust decided to entrust the design to an architect who had been associated with the poet and hence could do justice to his philosophy and character. The selection was thus based was a limited competition amongst three local architects. The design that came into being is located on a sloping piece of land allotted by the corporation to the trust. Since the land was initially earmarked as a public open space, the architect planned earth-sheltered spaces with the roof used as an accessible garden, hence respecting the original use.
The unassuming memorial complex is in sync with the humble, down-to-earth persona of the poet. Swaying ‘kadamb’ trees dot the entrance, paying a silent tribute to the poet who treasured them the most. The sheltering entrance canopy, is another symbolic tribute to the ‘Dak bungalows’ revered by the writer.
A meandering cobblestoned pathway descends in harmony with the natural site contours, leading the visitor to various activity pockets which include the ‘Jeevan Darshan’ of the writer, a library, art galleries and seminar rooms. A narrow stream of water clings to its edges providing company to the visitors as they move along. The street finally culminates into the amphitheatre serving as an apt focal point.
The canopy and the gradient generated by the steps often serve as a stage, used to conduct debates and discussions on various literary or social issues. The rhythm generated by this circuitous axis creates an interesting series of path and goals and is figurative of how this social activist often chose lesser known roads in his lifetime. The connections formed by concrete bridges tie the roof gardens on both sides. Use of exposed concrete in the spaces and stack ventilation with turbo roof extractors for natural ventilation symbolizes the poet’s love for simplicity and truth. Roof gardens soothe the eye with their emerald green spread.
The simple flow of spaces is a strong metaphor of the poet’s personality. The entire campus is an echo of the unpretentious life’s journey of this greatly revered figure. It is not only a tribute to his past but also a means of keeping his works alive and provides inspiration to the future generations to follow in his footsteps.
A stroll through the Kusumagraj Memorial can prove to be an insightful experience.
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