A library in rural Maharashtra designed by Sameep Padora and Associates is an inspirational structure created by assimilating building sciences from different time periods and geographies.
The Library Building for the Sharda School in rural Maharashtra designed by Sameep Padora and Associates is special for many reasons. It demostrates a will to build in a way that is inspirational to the students who occupy it, as well as pushes the boundaries of architecture as is currently being practiced in India today.
It is about stepping away from the “sameness” of building typologies. It is about exploring an ancient building technique and adapting it so that it’s relevant today. It is about being senstive to context and material.
The Sharda school library building is located in Kopargaon on the outskirts of Shirdi in rural Maharashtra. The form of the building is almost like a landscape that invites school children to climb on it, or walk under it and explore its cavernous volume. This library explores how architecture can become a part of the memories you associate with your childhood. It aims to create an experience that imbeds itself into the imagination of the children that grow up in the school.
It has been built with brick tile that is used to its utmost efficiency. The structure also explores a novel the ancient building methodology of the Catalan tile vaulting technique of 16th century Spain and is inspired by the works of Spanish architect and builder Guastavino.
Additionally, the design team of Sameep Padora and Associates were also influenced by the work of an engineer from Uruguay in the 1960s called Dieste, who worked with compression rings and was able to create fantastic cantilevers of brick vaults.
Examining these ancient sciences, the architects combined their learning with a new-age form finding software called RhinoVault, developed by the by the Block Research Group at the ETH University in Zurich, to create an exceptional free flowing organic expression for the building.
What is critical about this project is that the design expression takes the origins of the Catalan Tile Vaulting system and pushes that idea further. In essence the architects have been inspired by an ancient building technique and using current knowledge resources and modern software pushed that idea even further.
The speciality of this vault is that it uses brick tile as a structural material, unlike in most other structures where it’s used as a cladding material. The means to build this structure was an ardous task which required a shell to be created that would replicate the exact shape and form of the desired structure as determined by the RhinoVault form finding software. It was extremely critical to get that shape perfect because that is what gives it the structural integrity.
Using a formwork created of steel rebars the architects plotted poles at exact co-ordinates (and with exact heights) to replicate the required shape of the building. This form was then overlayed with three layers of brick tile within which a geo-textile membrane was inserted to take care of lateral forces. Once this was done the rebar formwork was dismantled and removed, leaving a completely free standing load bearing structure.
The team at Sameep Padora and Associates have been inspired by ideas and techniques from different periods of history and different geographies. Assimilating these varied sciences thay have responded in a way that demonstrates a sensitivity to local conditions and even more significantly created a building that is an inspiration to the school children who occupy it to enable them to think with an expanded horizon.
Sameep Padora recently shared a keynote at the Roca Think Turf event in Kochi. Partnered by Design Owl, Roca Think Turf is a series of architectural conversation that takes place across India. These exchanges aim to create a fellowship of thought leaders to deliver a better environment through a process of inquiry, dialogue and action.