The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala cites vernacular architecture in rippling brick

With a brick façade that flows and ebbs, The Red Oasis is a community centre designed by Pune-based PMA madhushala as a relief from monotonous housing patterns in the Indian city.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jul 03, 2021

A rippling brick façade adorned with patterns that resemble the ribs of a gothic vault encloses the multipurpose hall of The Red Oasis, designed by Indian firm PMA madhushala, known for their contextually rooted interventions. The recreational community centre is located within a densely knit residential block in a suburb of Pune, India. The structure is a celebration of the humble red brick, breaking boundaries and exploring the versatility of this reliable, age-old material tied intimately to the vernacular architecture of India.

01 min watch The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala located in Pune, India | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala located in Pune, India Video: Suraj Pawar and team, Courtesy of PMA madhushala

Conceived and completed in a span of three years, The Red Oasis is presented as a near monolithic mass, shaped and moulded by the hands of local craftsmen into a work of structural art. The pavilion-like space is a fitting counterpoint to the multitude of stacked, modular residential units lining the edges of its site.

"Architecture holds the power to transform the perception of a home as a mere four-walled requirement, and show people what their lives can be despite economic barriers," says a statement from the Pune-based firm founded by Indian architect Prasanna Morey. “The Red Oasis is a similar experiment that celebrates a small open space in a densely packed neighbourhood of residential complexes, and tries to create an ideal alternative lifestyle,” it continues.

  • Envisioned as an ‘oasis,’ the project is a refuge from congested housing settlements | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Envisioned as an ‘oasis,’ the project is a refuge from congested housing settlements Image: Hemant Patil
  • Densely knit residential settlements line the edges of the site | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Densely knit residential settlements line the edges of the site Image: Hemant Patil

The 715 sqm plot that the project occupies was the last stretch of open space remaining after multiple residential developments cropped up around it. Such a scenario is abundant in modern Indian cities where open recreational space is becoming increasingly scarce in an ever-expanding jungle of urban housing that attempts to satiate the demands of migration. Hence, the architects wanted to maximise green space and minimise infringement upon the site to enable the creation of an 'oasis,' a place of refuge from the monotonous, congested atmospheres of mid-rise apartments.

  • Ground Floor Plan | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Ground Floor Plan Image: Courtesy of PMA madhushala
  • Section | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Section Image: Courtesy of PMA madhushala

The design team elaborates on the programming, “By understanding the manner of living within the surrounding residential complex, an alternate program was carved out, comprising a multifunctional community hall, a playground, library, seating areas, walking pathways, an open-air amphitheatre and a temple." In addition, the design's conceptual point of origin lay in conserving the open space at the heart of the site while shifting all functional areas to its periphery.

  • Brick was used extensively, particularly in the children’s play area | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Brick was used extensively, particularly in the children’s play area Image: Hemant Patil
  • A combination of hexagonal and triangular modules constitute the playground’s paving | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    A combination of hexagonal and triangular modules constitute the playground’s paving Image: Courtesy of PMA madhushala

Forging connections with the earth, the architects employed local labour and natural materials, taking advantage of their economic benefits, and ensuring a circular economy. Exposed brick was utilised extensively in various forms, ranging from the triangular and hexagonal modules that make up the children’s playground, to the fluid masses of the community hall.

The community hall acts as a refuge with undulating load-bearing brick walls enclosing its spaces | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
The community hall acts as a refuge with undulating load-bearing brick walls enclosing its spaces Image: Hemant Patil

The latter functions as a place of shade and respite, with a series of staggered steps forming the outdoor amphitheatre, leading up to the library that occupies the mezzanine level. Its lower floor is submerged below the external ground level to limit the hall's visual dominance over the site while creating a unique micro-environment underneath.

  • Submerged below the external ground level, the multipurpose space and store area overlook landscaped sit-outs | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Submerged below the external ground level, the multipurpose space and store area overlook landscaped sit-outs Image: Hemant Patil
  • On the upper level is a library, accessed by the steps of the outdoor amphitheatre | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    On the upper level is a library, accessed by the steps of the outdoor amphitheatre Image: Hemant Patil

Here, a multipurpose area and storeroom make up the subterranean spaces, which overlook landscaped sit-outs at the other end. Nine-inch-thick masonry walls surround the space, built with undulating, doubly-curved forms to attain the required structural stability and centre of gravity while minimising material wastage. Interestingly, the architects employed load-bearing construction - a tribute to brick's most prominent application in traditional architecture - with geometries extracted from complex intersections between three circles of varying diameters.

01 min watch The wall geometries were derived from the intersections between three circles of varying diameters | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
The wall geometries were derived from the intersections between three circles of varying diameters Video: Courtesy of PMA madhushala

As a result, the walls ebb, weave and fold along reinforced pointed arches, with pivoted grille doors, anchored by buttressed structures that carve out shaded seating areas. Jaali or latticed patterns often observed in traditional Indian architecture are embedded into the brickwork to permit natural ventilation, as the walls merge with floors and plinths to shape walkways and planters running along their sides, making the structure appear as a natural extension of the earth. Stone floors, clerestory windows, a curved wood panel finished ceiling, and coloured glass on the front facade complete the design, which uses scrap metal from construction waste for the door frames, furniture, and the roof canopy.

  • Folding, weaving buttresses anchoring the structure outline shaded seating areas | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Folding, weaving buttresses anchoring the structure outline shaded seating areas Image: Courtesy of PMA madhushala
  • Reinforced pointed arches line the external walls, featuring pivoted grille doors and jaali patterns for natural ventilation | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
    Reinforced pointed arches line the external walls, featuring pivoted grille doors and jaali patterns for natural ventilation Image: Hemant Patil

Conscious of its environmental and infrastructural design aspects, PMA madhushala also structured the form of the brickwork to create drains that direct harvested rainwater towards an underground storage tank. Furthermore, planters and additional landscaping within the play area and open ground complement the raw earthy hues of the brick massing, imbuing warmth into its adjoining spaces.

The simplicity and warmth of The Red Oasis provides a place of relief from the hustle of city life | The Red Oasis by PMA madhushala | STIRworld
The simplicity and warmth of The Red Oasis provides a place of relief from the hustle of city life Image: Hemant Patil

A refreshing example of indigenous design and construction, The Red Oasis reinfuses a sense of context and natural beauty into a packed urban neighbourhood. “Now standing in their full form, the unrendered bricks naturally weather and transform as life dwells around them over time. The project is an abode of enthusiasm amidst the lethargy of everyday life. It is an escape from reality, an oasis in the desert,” the architects reiterate.

Project Details

Name: The Red Oasis
Location: Pune, Maharashtra, India
Site Area: 715 m sqm
Built-up Area: 150 sqm
Year of completion: 2020
Client: Ankit Soni
Architect: PMA madhushala
Design Team: Naresh Shivakoti, Prasanna Morey
Structural Designer: Subduction Zone Consultants

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