Indigo Architects churns out a sustainable design for an institute that addresses the onus of responsibility towards stalling the ceaseless erosion of the invaluable local art and culture of Kutch.
‘Shrujan’ is primarily a non-governmental organisation working in the field of women’s self-employment through the revival, development and sale of traditional embroidery pieces and artifacts in the region of Kutch, Gujarat, since 1969. The new building was commissioned soon after the devastating earthquake in January, 2000, to address the ineluctable need to reassert the unique cultural milieu and the resilient spirit of the Kutchi people.
Chanda Shroff, the managing director, swans the idea behind Shrujan, “This culture of embroidery that has been handed down for generations from mother to daughter has given birth to a particular lexicon of stitches and motifs specific to each tribal community. Currently, Shrujan works with 16 different styles done by 3,500 women across 100 villages.”
Uday Andhare and Mausami Andhare of Indigo Architects were roped in to design the institute. Approached by a small access road off the highway from Anjar to Bhuj, the new alluring institute sits on the same site as the old one. In contrast to the arid desert vegetation around, one encounters a well-tended orchard. This creates a cooler micro-climate and protects the exterior walls from a direct hit of sunlight.
The programme incorporates an expressive public face with its main retail store, visitor’s lounge, an exhibition gallery, internal workshop areas, a textile design cell, offices, a textile conservation cell, auditorium and residential quarters.
The principal idea of wind catchers, which are oriented towards the south and west directions, creates a passive cooling mechanism that works for all the major spaces. Small exhausts mounted in the circular barrel openings on the opposite walls induce the required air changes for comfort. The inward looking courtyard and the enclosing walls with the wind towers are the overriding features in the architectural vocabulary of this project.
Moreover owing to the destructive earthquake, the building is designed as a combination of movement resisting frames and shear walls in reinforced cement concrete and brick masonry.
A 3-chambered rain water harvesting tank was built in the main courtyard. This tank is capable of storing up to 1,00,000 litres of rain water that is channelled through a carefully worked out system. The idea was to use rainwater sparingly throughout the year by blending it with water from the bore well thereby reducing the quantity of total dissolved solids (TDS) to make it potable. All the overflow of water is rationally recharged into the ground through recharge wells.
Mausami elucidates, “An attempt was made to dissolve the notion of a rigid demarcation between the outside and the inside. We have created large open-to-sky zones that remain shaded at different times of the day to effectively capture the beauty of both the mornings and the night skies of a desert.”
The ochre painted walls evoke the desert, while the rough pebble crete of the copings and the plinth contrast with the walls. The roughness of the exterior plaster and the smoothness of the internal plaster is dramatically played up by the natural light.
The mirror-finished Kota stone flooring provides a high degree of reflection in the interior spaces. The semi-open spaces are delineated with 6”x 6” rough Kota stone laid in a cobbled pattern.
All exterior areas are paved in exposed brick, continuing into the courtyard, to form a concentric circular pattern radiating from the ‘Kadamba’. Horizontal wooden windows are treated to a dark oiled finish which is further carried through in all the timber work of the interiors to strike harmony.