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Auditorium at Agastya International Foundation, Kuppam Understanding the language of the land

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Ar. Sharukh Mistry

Agastya International Foundation is a non-profit educational trust. The campus is set in 172 acres of undulating terrain amongst the rolling hills of a rural district, Guddivanka in Andhra Pradesh. The mission of the foundation is to spark curiosity, nurture creativity and build confidence. It seeks to transform and stimulate the thinking of economically dis-advantaged children by bringing innovative science education to their door steps. The site for the auditorium project was located between two valleys that dropped down from North to South by about 20 meters. The essence of the project was to build along the lay of the land and capture the views of the surrounding hillside. Ar. Sharukh Mistry, Mistry Architects & his team members Ar. Sandeep Umapathy and Ar. Vinoth kannan.G talk about the design process of the auditorium. Over the decades, Mistry Architects has been practicing ‘natural architecture’ constantly innovating to include every known sustainable means to strive towards an ever lighter footprint.

Ar. Sandeep Umapathy

“Effortlessly the structure slips into the land, wanting to be one with it.”

The Auditorium project has been envisioned with a clear understanding that all sites have stories. So if we designers understand the language of the land, we would be able to design Sustainably, Meaningf u l l y , Economically and Contextually to the cultural determinants of the community around and finally have a lighter footprint. So the questions in our mind were, how do we capture the essence of the strong character of this beautiful site? Will our interaction make or break the landscape? What we ultimately decided to do was to build along the lay of the land. Cut and fill became the process of integrating our structure to the slopes, hence the idea was eventually to merge the structure with the existing profile of the earth.

Ar. Vinoth kannan.G

“The earth pod with the steel pod over it”

• The large span, roof profile, construction timing and overall economy determined the necessity to propose and adopt a structural steel system and roofing.

• There is also the added advantage for adding and altering spaces for future requirements considering the flexibility of the material. Hence space frame and tubular configuration.

• The hollow section by inherent nature are stable for torsion. By formulation of triangular cross section, the girder and the curved nature of the roof profile makes it extremely rigid for strength, stability / serviceability.

The structural design by virtue of material (RHS / SHS / CHS) coupled with geometry and shape of the roofing system makes it economical.

Considering that the steel that supports the pod also, came out of the same earth lent a larger meaning to our architectural statement. We felt a certain connection that gave strength to our belief that however cold that this material is made out to be…. its sensitive handling can create a feeling of warmth to the people inhabiting it.

“Place based learning became the glue that set the design into its surrounding.”

The skin of the structure was built from locally available brick and stone which served as a good insulation for heat and sound. The shale rock available in the terrain is used in combination with random rubble masonry, which in-turn adds character to the exterior.

Acoustical performance was achieved by the judicious use of local bricks along a curvilinear profile without any use of costly materials. Inherent properties of bricks became the material that satisfied our purpose.

Due to the location of the site in a rural setting, construction methodologies were customized to suit context and available labour. Natural stone boulders were integrated in the structure and in landscape elements. Traditional methods of forging steel was used for bending smaller steel plates to profile. Local material was integrated with steel structure simplifying construction process.

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