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Amdavad's Sanskarkendra –A tale of juxtaposed duality

Monday, 18 February 2013 - 1:11pm IST | Agency: dna

Sanskar Kendra is one of the two public building commissions Le Corbusier got to realise in Ahmedabad.

Sanskar Kendra is one of the two public building commissions Le Corbusier got to realise in Ahmedabad. The then mayor of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the late Chinubhai Sheth, asked Corbusier to design the cultural centre in Ahmedabad, which gave the ace architect the chance to actualise the theory of spiral, growing museum which he was projecting through his articles two decades earlier. Essentially a square donut, the building has the peripheral built mass with the open to sky courtyard in between. Perhaps an inspiration from the traditional building chowks!

This built prism in the exposed brick surface is lifted above the ground through a grid of columns in exposed concrete, set twenty feet apart. Thus the building plays with juxtaposed dualities of: peripheral mass and hollow centre; of heavy top and visually transparent ground with only piloties; also of the bare finishes with nature as filigree. The austere look of the façade was meant to be relieved by the creepers to be grown in the exposed concrete channel wrapping around the building as the green ribbon. The free form curvilinear water body and the freestanding sculptural outcrop of concrete as the refreshment counter at the ground floor also offer the counterpoints to the straight edge geometry of the built mass. Sanskarkendra is the truest translation of the Domino-house concept of Corbusier, with concrete frame and stairs. It is simply a grammar of wall planes as infill around the concrete column as the structure. This organization while containing the voluminous space inside the museum relieves the mass through lighter column structure so that eye travels further and sense of volume and scale is comprehensible always.

The mezzanine floors inserted in four quarters, along with the window apertures drawing light, punctuate these nodes visually and volumetrically-subtly dividing the contiguous space into four sub spaces. The court and light source in the inner periphery serves as a reference. The internal space is otherwise lit dimly through indirect skylights to avoid heat and glare and bring in diffused light just appropriate for the display function without damaging the exhibits from ultraviolet rays and direct sun.

The upper floor remains accessible through his trademark element-the ramp. This provides not only for leisurely stroll overlooking the water body in the court but also remains accessible path for all and barrier-free design feature for the disabled as well as transport of heavy display objects.

The peripheral walls are built as cavity walls providing much-needed insulation in hot dry climate. The insertion of the service floor between the museum floor and the terrace also shelters the main floor from the radiation and heat from the roof. Moreover the roof was designed with water troughs to further insulate spaces below. The freedom of program brief and the iconic status of the building as cultural centre inspired Corbusier to explore few ideas beyond the architecture.

For example Corbusier, consistent to his thoughts on putting roofs to productive purposes, provided for the water channels where hydroponics were meant to be grown. In his architectural volumes, Corbusier enthusiastically writes more about the aqua culture possibilities and growing tomatoes in these water troughs, than describing the building.

The original sketch for the museum shows four extended arms on four sides where permanent display about Museum of Man, Museum of popular Tradition and Museum of Scientific research were to be housed along with the amphitheatre. However these have not been realized in the initial phase so far. The Sanskar Kendra building became the precursor to the Museum building in Chandighar as well as Museum of Modern Arts in Tokyo.

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