Amid the rural setting in Kopargaon, a town in the Indian state of Maharashtra, Sameep Padora and Associates (sP+a) has created a one-of-its-kind library for children that has just won the coveted Beazley Award 2019 for Architecture. Set against the backdrop of the existing Sharda School building, the Maya Somaiya Library celebrates growth and facilitates learning while simultaneously providing an interactive space for its users. The project was chosen the winner of the prestigious award, whose previous winners include Sir David Adjaye & Heatherwick Studios.
With the school on one side and a proposed playground on the other, the structure bridges the gap between learning and play, quite literally. Having been facilitated with a narrow strip of land as the site for the library, the Mumbai-based firm sP+a resolved to design a space that would break the linearity, thereby drawing attention to its form, and at the same time generating curiosity for the visitors. In order to achieve this, sP+a conceptualised the space with the idea that children would prefer to explore the landscape as well as the built structure.
In the pursuit of making the building interactive, a unique form was created by blending the ground plane with the structure’s accessible roof, making it seem as though the structure is an extension of the ground itself.
One enters the book room to find an unobstructed singular space that modulates with respect to the volume, owing to the vaulted ceiling and the outer form of the structure. With the central space spanning 45m by 8m, the design allows freedom and continuity to flourish, enriching the space with comfort and ample light to read. The users can enter and exit through the pivoted doors on all four sides of the building, thus giving them the liberty to choose their approach to the space. The interiors of the library have varied spatial and seating arrangements - a floor stool system towards the edges for a more intimate study area, and towards the centre are tables and stools for collaborative study.
Further manifesting the intention of the form merging into a usable built environment, the firm looked at several ways of designing a structure that would modulate the landscape. For the same, varied construction methodologies were considered before narrowing down to one. The outcome of this design process was a fantastic culmination of technology, local materials, advanced technique and structural mechanics brought together from various countries, illustrating the firm’s vision of enriching the regional context through the extended capacities of global trends.
The making of the building saw the adoption of the Catalan Tile Vaulting System, used earlier in the 16th century; the compression ring detail from the work of Eladio Dieste in Uruguay, and the Rhino Vault from Switzerland, developed by the Block Research Group at the ETH University, to articulate a pure compression form for the project. The structure is supported by concrete pedestals dug into the terrain where the vault meets the ground, allowing the users to climb up and down and move across the space.
While the superstructure is made of 20mm thick brick tiles, various other materials have been used in the sub-structure. The flooring has been done in Kota stone and the furniture in pre-laminated wood ply. The windows are a composition of aluminium, wood and glass .
Moreover, with the movable furniture there is flexibility and dynamic quality in the layout of the space. The self-structured window bays are striated profiles for increased stability with economical window section sizes, enabling an interesting play of light and shadow in the space.
A part of student’s daily routine, the Maya Somaiya Library has become a pavilion that can be accessed directly or indirectly. The spatial quality and the experience the library provides is estimated to function as a magnet to attract students, making the area a hotspot for cultural activity. This storehouse of knowledge in Kopargaon is certainly a location where one can experience the joy of reading . We congratulate the team on the big win!
Name of the project: Maya Somaiya Library
Location: Maharashtra, India
Area: Sharda School, Kopargaon
Year of completion: 2018
Architect: Sameep Padora & Associates
Design team: Vami Seth Koticha, Archita Banerjee, Manasi Punde, Aparna Dhareshwar
Foundation design:Sameer Sawant , Superstructure: Rhino Vault, Vivek Garg