by Zohra KhanApr 19, 2022
Mimicking the character of a street where people, activities, and stories coalesce and a spirit of celebration permeates, Studio Sangath manifests this inspiration into the design of an art and cultural centre in Ahmedabad, India. Referred to as 079 Stories – the title’s 079 is drawn from the city’s code whereas Stories represents the inherent interest of the space in conversations and the power of spoken personal expressions.
Located on the outskirts of western Ahmedabad, along one of the main arteries that connects the neighbourhood to the city, the area is largely residential and populated by two storied buildings. The architecture of 079 Stories presents itself as a rust red cubical mass tucked behind an enclosure of neem trees. The built form reveals an array of openings, interconnected planes, and carved out volumes.
The starting point of the design for architects Khushnu Panthaki Hoof and Sönke Hoof of Ahmedabad-based Studio Sangath was "to create some sort of a street that would pull you into the space from the road - very much like the pols of Ahmedabad - where the central space becomes the heart of spill over activities and conversations." Pols are enclosed residential clusters whose essence is characterised by a network of small streets, side lanes, shrines, and open community spaces. This settlement pattern has a rural origin prevalent in the villages of north Gujarat.
One sees this parallel taking form right at the building’s entrance. Much like the chowk of the pols where different paths converge towards a spirited centre of the home, the entrance gently drifts into the heart of the building – an inner courtyard. Engulfed in a black and white landscape, the space is animated by a staircase leading to the gallery on the first floor, and a series of protruded elements and irregular apertures punctuating the enclosing walls. Within the two storied building, this level constitutes a double-height café, a co-working space, an amphitheatre, and an office.
The idea behind 079 Stories, as per Studio Sangath, was “to create a versatile space that could adapt and initiate a dialogue between fine arts and varied forms of performing arts such as theatre, dance, and music." Conscious of the understanding that stories are fodder for the creation of art, the design team made sure that a certain fluidity permeates through the building and that there are serendipitous connections within the built form for people to stay connected.
Visual connectivity is another aspect that has been closely looked at in the architectural scheme. To prevent an isolation of programmes and people on the two floors, Studio Sangath created a bridge-like feature that pierces through the double height café, allowing people to remain connected to the courtyard, to look over the amphitheatre and landscape outside, or to simply sit out for impromptu discussions. The inner courtyard too has a balcony that people could inhabit for informal interactions. “This conversation between the inside and outside spaces as well as the first and ground floor have been the main driving force behind the design,” states the design team.
Throughout the day, natural light transform the moods of the inner volume and the outer landscape. The east façade of the building, which is oriented towards the amphitheatre, draws sunlight into the building, and manifests an ephemeral layer of shadowed planes and voids that stand out in the black and white space.
Material palette for the porous cubical mass and the landscape of the centre employs red oxide plaster on the exterior walls, patterned granite flooring for the interiors and the amphitheatre, and exposed concrete on the ceiling.
Speaking with STIR, architect Khushnu Panthaki Hoof shares that the most special aspect of the project for her has been “how activities get intertwined and enliven the space, how the space adapts to the changing temperature, sunlight and climatic conditions throughout the day/year.” 079 Stories, she adds, “provides opportunities for a wide array of activities, ranging from exhibitions, concerts, performances, gatherings as well as pottery markets.”