Abin Design Studio presents exhibition on place-making in small-town India

Abin Design Studio’s Making of a Place at the CEPT University in Ahmedabad addresses productive collaboration between a practice and a passionate community in Kolkata.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Mar 26, 2020

Kolkata-based Abin Design Studio recently held an exhibition that narrated an intriguing story, through a sequence of events, discussing the idea of ‘place making’ in a small-town in eastern India - Adisaptagram. Abin Chaudhuri, the principal architect of Abin Design Studio, came up with this idea as being bought up in the community, he felt a sense of belonging and an urge to give back to his locale.

The exhibition began in early March 2020 at the CEPT University’s Lilavati Lalbhai library, Ahmedabad, India, which has been designed by Rahul Mehrotra and Associates, and is on until further notice.

  • The exhibition showcases the power of architecture interventions in the fabric of the small town in Kolkata, India | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
    The exhibition showcases the power of architecture interventions in the fabric of the small town in Kolkata, India Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio
  • Abin Chaudhari giving the inaugural speech | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
    Abin Chaudhari giving the inaugural speech Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio
  • The entrance to the exhibition and the library building | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
    The entrance to the exhibition and the library building. Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

The exhibition narrated how a tiny spark introduced an entire community to the impact architecture can make and influence the visual and material culture of its immediate context. It showcased how design and technology, when adapted to suit local constraints, celebrates the cohesive efforts of local influencers and the huge gamut of people involved in the successful realisation of peri-urban projects. The exhibition Making of a Place presented 10 private, public and community driven projects of multiple scales through the dual lens of intent and process, as mentioned further.

Bamboo Pavilion instilled a sense of good design benefitting the community | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
Bamboo Pavilion instilled a sense of good design benefitting the community Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

1. Of Places and People: The Bamboo Pavilion

In 2012, while already a member of one of the community clubs in Bansberia, Chaudhuri decided to assist with the design of their yearly pavilion, incorporating his professional expertise with the engagement of enthusiastic club members. It needed to be simple and easy, yet create an impact. Limited funds meant optimum use of available resources, and creating an intense sense of good design within the community.

Thus, came about the Bamboo Pavilion, generating an immensely positive response from the locals and visitors alike. Bamboo Pavilion gained international recognition, being published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and winning the International Architecture Award 2015 from The Chicago Athenaeum. News of its global reach imbibed a heightened sense of pride within the community.

The Pool House, a private home build with a contemporary approach | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
The Pool House, a private home build with a contemporary approach Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

2. Labour of Love: The Pool House

Upon learning the news of international recognition, an owner of a brick manufacturing units and a respected, influential person in the region, Mr Das, approached Chaudhuri to build an extension for his home.

Pool House, as it came to be known, was the first-of-its-kind consigned project in the vicinity. What started as a casual social favour, ended as a sophisticated and complex manifestation of the studio’s expression. The powerful and human outcome of such treatment was felt strongly in this project. People wanted to work here and put in their best efforts.

Adisaptagram Workshop set up by the Abin Design Studio for material research | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
Adisaptagram Workshop set up by the Abin Design Studio for material research Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

3. Two Needs, One Deed: Adisaptagram Workshop

Inspired by the account of one of the woodworkers at the Pool House, where his life transformed from being a political worker to a skilled craftsman, Chaudhari felt a responsibility to do something for the local community.

It led to establishing Adisaptagram as a workshop and material research centre. Having been able to provide employment to 20 locals by the end of the first year, it proved to be a successful endeavour. Abin Design Studio (ADS) is currently in the process of a massive expansion of this facility.

The Pavilion of Canopies was built in 2015 | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
The Pavilion of Canopies was built in 2015 Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

4. A Forest Enchanted: The Pavilion of Canopies

The 2015 Kartik Puja Festival was the theme to celebrate 50 years of inclusion of indigenous Forest Tribes into the community. The Pavilion of Canopies was designed to allude to the symbiotic relation of man with the forest while pursuing an agenda to promote sustainability and co-existence with nature.

The House of Sweeping Shadows retained an existing structure to give it a new contemporary extension | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
The House of Sweeping Shadows retained an existing structure to give it a new contemporary extension Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

5. Full Metal Jacket: The House of Sweeping Shadows

While the Pool House was under construction, another resident from Bansberia in West Bengal approached ADS for professional help.

The House of Sweeping Shadows catered to the existing structure of the house with a new programme and extension. The house came about to be a composition of masses, bold crafted metal extension with soft verdant landscape and the dark hues complementing the open skies over the reflective water body made for a serene, contemporary extension to the client's residence.

The Wall house uses the idea of integrating the wall into the design of the house | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
The Wall House uses the idea of integrating the wall into the design of the house Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

6. Turning a Corner: Wall House

At a busy intersection in Bansberia, where the client required the house to be built, a 12-foot tall boundary wall was the prime requirement for ensuring privacy and security.

Minimal setbacks and an unavoidable boundary wall prompted the idea of integrating the wall into the design of the Wall House itself. The house is designed as an inward-looking series of masses with internal courtyards to bring in light and ventilation to the harmonious sequence of spaces inside.

The Waterfront Clubhouse generates a sense of community to celebrate and collaborate | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
The Waterfront Clubhouse generates a sense of community to celebrate and collaborate Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

7. Club Culture: Waterfront Clubhouse

Football has always been an integral part of the cultural fabric of eastern state of West Bengal. One of the local coaching clubs of Bansberia approached Abin Design Studio in early 2019 to build a clubhouse, especially to facilitate young passionate footballers in the area.

The resulting club house structure is now a symbol of culture and community recreation where children and adults come together to celebrate, collaborate and hone their athletic skills. A philanthropic initiative by Abin Design Studio with support from benevolent community members, this project is a manifestation of the hope for a better future of a rural community in a developing nation.

Adisaptagram Society Hall - a collaboration with the local body to build an auditorium, to open in 2020 | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
Adisaptagram Society Hall - a collaboration with the local body to build an auditorium, to open in 2020 Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

8. Double Take: Adisaptagram Society Hall

Another association came in the form of a collaboration with the region's Panchayat for the construction of an auditorium in Adisaptagram. This Adisaptagram Society Hall came with a lot of constraints from the governing bodies, with the intent of reaching out to a people at large.

Scheduled to be completed by mid 2020, the design hopes to invoke a sense of appreciation for architecture and a notion that there is always room to improve from conventional presets.

Narayantala Thakurdalan is a podium to carry out religious rituals | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
Narayantala Thakurdalan is a podium to carry out religious rituals Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

9. Gods of Men: Narayantala Thakurdalan

The Thakur Dalan is a permanent covered podium reserved for frequent rituals of various deities and focal venue of religious festivals that stands across the Wall House. For the conception of the new Narayantala Thakurdalan, the relationship of the people with the place was observed over a span of several weeks.

Although the existing structure held immense sentimental value to the people of Bansberia, they were quick to take on ADS' suggestion to rebuild completely when they saw how the new proposal respected the same idea and sentiment of the place.

The Gallery House is multi-purpose activity space designed for the client of the Wall House | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
The Gallery House is a multi-purpose activity space designed for the client of the Wall House Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

10. One Step Further: The Gallery house

The client of Wall House procured another parcel of land across the street from his home as a parking lot for his vehicles. The Gallery House was thus planned as a garage on the ground level with a multi-purpose activity space on the upper level intended to be used by the neighbourhood. Looking at the way the building was shaping up, the client decided to let go of his initial requirement of a garage and embraced the suggestions of re-purposing the ground floor as a community hall while the upper floor housed a multipurpose-room, a sitting area and a pantry.

A compilation of the projects | Making of a Place | Abin Design Studio | STIRworld
A compilation of the projects Image Credit: Courtesy of Abin Design Studio

This journey of these 10 projects that started in 2012 in the region of Bansberia in Kolkata, India, highlights how an architectural intervention in any location can include the community and make a difference. The people, trials, challenges, and adaptations involved can convert an initial idea that rippled onto a wide spectrum of people and their perceptions.

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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