Contours of land and life……Lives matter, even the dung beetles. It is the language of the land that goes back four billion years of embedded intelligence, standing testimony to the events unfolding in this endless time period, interpreting and connecting the same to the current day scenario of technology and development.
Project Name: Auditorium in Agastya International Foundation
Design firm: Mistry Architects
Design Team: Ar.Sharukh Mistry, Ar.Sandeep Umapathy, Ar.Vinoth Kannan, GK Kulenthiran, Vishwanath
Location: Gudivanka, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, India
Project Type: Institutional
Client: Agastya international foundation
Year of completion: 2014
Built up area: 2325 sqm
Plot area: 3.15 acres
Structural consultants: Cruthi Consultants
Electrical & Plumbing consultants: Maple Hydraulics Consultants
Photography: Umeed Mistry,Tasneem Khan, Anand.R
It is a case of translating this intrinsic, exquisite story into design where the communication is not too loud, but subtle, infused so finely into the lines of the structure so as to lay open the script for all to read.
For Sharukh and his team, design is one that is connected inseparably with the narrative of the land and distinctive traits of the user, expressing in a dialect that is fun, exotic, yet easy to fathom, the simple lines powerful in their message, underlying the very essence of creation.
“As architects we always have two choices to augment what naturally exists and build upon its language or to obliterate. Without sitting in judgement both have their values. At mistrys we invariably relate to the first option and build layers to understand the deeper meaning of that existing script.”
This award winning design of the auditorium at Agastya International Foundation in Guddivanka (AP) amply reveals this inclination, the lines speaking the sentiments lucidly, the structure evoking the image of the lives that prevailed in the site prior to their displacement. The auditorium emulates the body of the dung beetle, the curved roof and structure hugging the ground, the fins holding the structure miming its multiple legs.
The site housing the auditorium is on the Deccan Plateau, situated between two valleys that drop 20m from North to South, amidst an undulating terrain of 172 acres in the picturesque rolling hills of the rural district of AP. The valley on both side of the structure are connected to a series of water holding ponds that not only harvest rain water, but also recharge the natural aquifer of the land, enhancing the microclimate and vegetation on site.
The architectural response for the program was tucked in to the existing lay of the land. Minimum cut and fill became the process of integrating the structure to the slopes.
“The auditorium is part of Agastya’s big pictures thrust into rural education, catering to children where the learning is not confined to classrooms but to hands-on experience where the children can experiment. The standard of tutoring being cutting edge, going beyond the mundane textual/classroom pedagogy”, says Sharukh. In short we have done away with the classroom model and created multi-functional spaces that are fun and exhilarating to use.
Imagine the head of ‘design thinking’ from Stanford university interacting with bright and enthusiastic rural children. An unbelievable joy for me…… says Sharukh.
The institute reflects this ideology in the manner of its physical structure, the spaces designed to permit an active interaction and learning ambience for the children where educationists, researches can interact with the students. Culminating in some arresting models and findings that have gone forth to elicit recognition at the national level.
The auditorium, built on this approach to education, brings forth a design that is sensitive to the site and nature while permitting multi-use that addresses varied kinds of gatherings. Celebrating a range of occasions, be it a science workshop, yoga, cultural fest, exhibition, art, ecology and several other disciplines.
As for choosing the dung beetle to reflect the exterior contours of the structure, Sharukh says, “The insects of the site are the original residents who are now displaced when we put our footprint here, taking away their domain. Be it the snakes, the beetles or the birds, we never stop to think about their domain being hitherto occupied. The dung beetle resemblance is a reminder of this reality.”
Given the rural setting and the firm belief in eco-solutions, the earth bound structure, merging with the land is erected using steel pods, with steel trusses hugging terra firma. Random rubble masonry using locally available stone form. The exterior walls, the inner walls laid with bricks along a curvilinear profile served as a good insulation for heat and sound.
The interior of the auditorium is naturally lit and ventilated, the presence of the perforated sheets in the roof and the turbo ventilators sucking out hot air naturally. While the 600 odd seating is built along the natural slope of the land, the backstage is cleverly placed, the huge 30 foot sliding doors opening out to the valley’s embrace. The changing rooms are tucked beneath the stage, out of sight.
The external spaces marked by rugged random rubble masonry, which is attractively peppered with the locally abundant shale rock, are used as galleries to display exhibits, house the office spaces as well as rest rooms. Paved concrete with leaf imprints and shale rock mark the floors while steel reinforcement waste rods are turned into attractive railings.
No regular windows mark the structure. Instead concrete Hume pipes available locally have been converted into picturesque windows that speak a language of their own. “The structure had to conform to a budget where the money has been consciously spent. Yet, the creative, scientific spirit of the Agastya foundation aimed to take forward and instill pride amongst these children, needed to be reflected in the design and evolution of the structure”, adds Sharukh.
While the structure effortlessly captures the essence of strong character of the site, there is no doubting the design addressing in full measure the very mission of the foundation-to inspire and transform the economically disadvantaged children through the innovative presence of science education.
- INSDAG 2013-14 National Award Competition-Professional 2nd place on Structural Steel Design and Construction.
- JK Architect of the Year Awards 2015 for Institutional Buildings.
- Invited to present at World Architectural Summit at Montreal on 17th October 2017.