Ashok Lall designs Butterflies Resilience Centre, a temporary home for street kids

The Butterflies Resilience Centre by Ashok B. Lall Architects in New Delhi exemplifies a model of urban regeneration with sustainable design and adaptive reuse of doors and windows.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : May 15, 2020

Butterflies, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has been working toward helping and bettering the life of street children in India, wished to build a humble abode in Jaunapur area of New Delhi. To design a new home to benefit the organisation and the life of the city’s street children, they invited and collaborated with Ashok B Lall Architects, led by veteran architect Ashok Lall. Keeping in mind the generosity and the noble cause of this learning space, called the Butterflies Resilience Centre, the architects treated the design, construction and execution with an utmost humble intent to create an example of social and educational architecture.

Explaining the concept behind this temporary home for kids rescued from crisis situations, Lall says, “I recall my own childhood living in a big rambling old house, and it was such fun. Going up and down, in and out, in so many different ways around the house. I thought a place for children has to be a place that they can explore, where they can find their own corners in it. From the ground, to the inside, from the courtyard, even to the rooftops. And not only that, one should be able to climb from the rooftop onto a perch and lookout into the horizon”.

14 mins watch Butterflies Resilience Centre, designed by Ashok B Lall Architects: The patron, the architect, the contractor and the administrator talk about the impact the humble abode attempts to make | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
Butterflies Resilience Centre, designed by Ashok B Lall Architects: The patron, the architect, the contractor and the administrator talk about the impact the humble abode attempts to make Video Credit: Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects

The design provides a robust as well as a flexible framework to house facilities for childcare and rehabilitation, tuition for secondary level education and a culinary training centre that supplies meals to the homeless in the city. Designed along a linear elongated site, the centre incorporates facilities by creating an energised network of spaces allowing the children to explore, move around and feel at home. The integration of artwork through the use of natural materials embellished with vibrant colours express a cultural ethos of aesthetic delight.

  • Colourful louvres in the café at the Butterflies Resilience Centre | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Colourful louvres in the café at the Butterflies Resilience Centre Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • Café louvres being seen from inside blocking the sunlight | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Café louvres being seen from inside blocking the sunlight Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects

Keeping in mind the linearity of the site, the formality of the traditional ‘haveli’ courtyard type has been reconstituted by integrating green concepts. The design also attempts to demonstrate a strategy for sustainable regeneration of existing urban villages being enveloped by expanding cities. The traditional 'haveli’has been interpreted as a deep plan (55m), narrow frontage (9m) system of plots with mixed use. A narrow lane offers access to the depth of the plot.

  • The courtyards have been inspired from the ‘havelis’ of traditional Indian architecture | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    The courtyards have been inspired from the ‘havelis’ of traditional Indian architecture Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • Butterflies Resilience Centre - Section showing all functions | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Butterflies Resilience Centre - Section showing all functions Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects

A hybrid structure of loadbearing walls and RCC with CSEB infill walls provides an earthquake resistant armature forming a robust spatial framework, allowing changes of function and internal subdivision as desired, over the lifetime of the building. Lall mentions, “The DNA of the design is its underlying spatial structure and the elements of innovation in construction and materials. These make the design an effective solution to replicate for urban fabric regeneration.”

  • Children looking out from the windows that open into the courtyard | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Children looking out from the windows that open into the courtyard Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • The Donors tree that symbolises that every student is unique | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    The Donors tree that symbolises that every student is unique Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • The diagram showing water and waste treatment cycles within the building | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    The diagram showing water and waste treatment cycles within the building Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects

Low carbon construction has been a consistent concern and thought kept in mind. Soil excavated from the basement has been used as the primary building material for walls, and around 80 per cent of doors and windows have been bought and reused from local second-hand stores. Recycled construction debris and city waste has been used for short-span filler slabs. These techniques not only set an example for ease of construction but also provide a sustainable, cost-efficient and eco-friendly approach to buildings.

  • Reused Jharokha and CSEB wall used from brick made using excavated ground for basement | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Reused Jharokha and CSEB wall used from brick made using excavated ground for basement Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • Bubble deck slab used throughout the building brings lightness to the structure | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Bubble deck slab used throughout the building brings lightness to the structure Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • Exposed wall in the corridor with reused doors and windows | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    Exposed wall in the corridor with reused doors and windows Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects

Extremely simple and effective sustainable means have been used to enhance the performance of the traditional building type such that the air conditioning is minimised and 70 per cent spaces receive day light. Roof gardening has been implemented to turn the grey water and composted kitchen waste into a productive cycle. Solar heaters and photo voltaic panels on the roof minimise the consumption of resources. Cool air that rises from the courtyards is stored through assisted ventilation and is being used to relieve humidity. Courtyards painted in white act as a funnel to filter daylight into the spaces.

  • The roof garden and terrace are open spaces for children to explore, and for solar power to make the structure sustainable | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    The roof garden and terrace are open spaces for children to explore, and for solar power to make the structure sustainable Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects
  • The night view of the terrace | Butterflies Resilience Centre | Ashok B Lall Architects | STIRworld
    The night view of the terrace Image Credit: Chetna Singh, Courtesy of Ashok B Lall Architects

Lall concludes by explaining the cultural DNA they tried to imbibe into the building through the design, “An environmentally aware lifestyle of simple comforts with enjoyment and beauty, achieved with simple means - a sustainable lifestyle – shall be imbibed by all those who would come to live and work here. The project renews and enhances the traditional fabric with a richer life, from the cool basements to rooftop gardens. It exemplifies a model of small grain urban regeneration.”

Project Details

Name: Butterflies’ Resilience Centre
Location: Jaunapur, New Delhi
Site area: 505 sqm
Time taken from conception to construction: 2013/14 to 2017
Time taken for construction: June 2017 to December 2019
Architectural firm: Ashok B. Lall Architects
Design and project management: Ashok Lall, Chetna Singh, Gagandeep Yadav, Anmol Arora
Artwork: Chetna Singh
Solar PV panels: Aspiration Energy CP
General contractor: BK Fabricator
CSEB blockmaking machine: Provided by Tara Machines and Tech Services Pvt, Ltd. (an enterprise of Development Alternatives)

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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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