Rahul Mehrotra and Associates Accommodation for the Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Modern Ayurveda

Ayurveda the Science of Life

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Tuljapur (Maharashtra), 2000

Progetto Agriturismo

Ground plan

cooling for rooms are crucial features of Indian planning, courtyards mean that air and light can be admitted indirectly. But Rahul Mehrotra takes up the existing air circulation on a hilly site and turns it into the highly dramatic and most impressive motif in the design: wind towers capture the wind at great height and carry it down their shafts into the rooms, above all the bedroom accommodation. This demonstrates an imaginative approach to the ecology of a building, using nature rather than the customary expensive solution of artificial climatisation. These wind-catchers are a motif from ancient Iranian cities that has been rediscovered, they make their own quite natural contribution to the building's air-conditioning. The materials for the group of buildings were also selected in terms of this aspect: locally available basalt became the dominant building material, because it was the only one available without requiring long transport distances. For the floors and ceilings the architect used cap-vault ceilings made of narrow lightweight concrete shells; these isolate very well, and can carry heavy loads, they also save material and are reasonably priced. The load-bearing walls are in heat-resistant basalt, set unrendered in their natural roughness, and these shape the overall appearance of the design. No plaster, no colour was used, but the surface of the stone, which looks lasting and durable, subject to very little change, guarantees long life without the need for continuous maintenance and restoration because of the long monsoon rains. The natural beauty of this black stone homogenises the complex as a whole, it ties all its parts together and expresses the design's ecological approach directly. It would scarcely be possible to find a better way to formulate such an intention aesthetically, and it would also be scarcely possible to use the local conditions better. But the poetry of Rahul Mehrotra's design thrives on its contradictions: a horizontal flow of individual buildings, with vertical tower emphases; solid dimensions and slight movement; topographical response and artificial line; closed outside and spacious inside; geometrically rigid and fluid in motion. Also, the material conveys a feeling of protection, solidity, security and honesty. Associations with medieval fortresses are easily at hand with this solid-looking material and the formal language of a fixed base with tall towers, and this may indeed be a motif that influenced the design idea. The occupants feel thoroughly protected in this introverted residential complex with ecological features and expressive, almost symbolic material.

TRADITIONAL

This four-storey building is inside a cramped, densely developed suburb of Mumbai, surrounded by multi-storey apartment blocks. The architect Shimul Javeri Kadri and her colleagues (this is an all-female architecture practice) were faced with the particular challenge of dealing with a narrow plot only 16m wide. As the building was to be a clinic, there also had to be 4m between the building and the street on both sides, so that that finally there were only 8m available. But this rule applied only to the ground floor, and so it was possible to skilfully create the additional space needed on the other floors with protruding balconies and external closed supply shafts.

The brief lays down a complex programme: the main entrance is on the ground floor with a passage-like corridor opening up to the outside world, plus cafeteria, kitchen and shop. Here the building is still very public. The first floor contains the large waiting area and the adjacent consulting room for three assistant doctors and the two principal doctors. Above this, on the second floor, are the treatment rooms, which are designed for use of the special, traditional old Indian method of treatment using nothing but purely natural medicaments, called Ayurveda. These rooms were intended to make the treatments associated with this approach possible, and needed a special technical equipment for automatically supplying high-quality oils and other fats. As in the two storeys below, the east side of the building, which faces away from the monsoon, opens up towards a passage. The third floor with large closed balconies on the west side was intended for in-patients, wards with double and single beds linked to an open terrace by a centrally placed corridor.

The overall appearance of the building is both fascinating and disturbing, as both the fa├žades and the interior are characterised by traditional architectural elements. There is a severe set of structural piers, but these run out into areas of light-coloured rendering and thus remain definitely "modern." The secondary architecture is dominant: protruding roofs in carefully detailed traditional timber structures with visible brick cladding; pre-existing timber posts with carved base and capital decoration; old wooden windows with wooden shutters; Venetian blinds and profiled frames from anonymous buildings of the past; richly ornamented doors in fine woods and elaborate door-furnishings with frame figures and stone plinths from buildings of earlier centuries that were undoubtedly significant. But there are also round double pillars, a steel spiral staircase, modern window frames and furniture from both the past and the present. The architect blends forms from different times and style with great virtuosity, combines found old material with carefully selected new items and tries to let the material quality of the parts speak for itself. The use of natural material with natural surfaces brings out the different inherent tactile qualities. It is clearly the wish of its users and builders to succeed with genuine nature. This is where the special aesthetic fascination of this building lies, illustrating the significance of the ancient Ayurveda for our days, in architectural terms, in its combination of modern structure and historical elements. A traditional architectural pictorial language is placed alongside

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