by Devanshi ShahMay 29, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.