Abin Chaudhuri, who founded the studio that bears his name in 2005, sees architecture as a process of relentless research and discovery of all forms of harmony between the social aspects of existence.
His Calcutta-based studio uses an approach based on listening and continuous adaptation to circumstances: a vision that has proven invaluable in the Gallery House project in Bansberia, West Bengal, India. The client’s initial intentions have been reconsidered, resulting in an unexpected result that serves a larger purpose.
The project was built in early 2020 for the same client as the House Wall, a 640 square meter villa in Bansberia covered with Corten steel panels and travertine slabs, with large windows that soften the impact of this fortress-like house closed on itself. Imposing, protective and statutory walls give way to a desire for interaction with the streets of the city.
The client’s new project looked like a simple one: a covered parking lot. The Wall House owner had previously purchased land across the street, directly across from his house, to store his vehicles and provide temporary accommodation for staff who use them.
Abin Chaudhuri is a sensitive architect particularly aware of the context in places like Bansberia: like many Indian cities, Bansberia has a high population density and a chronicle lack of collective facilities, places where people can meet and celebrate life in public.
The architect therefore proposed to his client a different idea for the immediate use of the new volume, suggesting the construction of a new civic space. Starting from the original garage plan, with a large wallless space on the ground floor and more compartmentalized spaces on the upper level, Abin Chaudhuri designed a public building accessible to all that could one day be converted to its original use. .
With this shift in focus, Abin Design Studio no longer turned to the models of the conventional 20th century Indian home, but based its work on the architectural expressions characteristic of community spaces, i.e. -say, places of worship. The town of Bansberia is famous for the presence of a monumental site surrounded by water containing two famous monuments, the hindu-ratna Hansheswari temple, completed in 1814, and the oldest Ananta Basudeba, completed in 1679 in the eka-ratna style. The complex bears witness to the traditional cultural and social values ââof the people of Bansberia. Monuments and places of pilgrimage, prayer and observation, the temples may well be the only public meeting places in the city, where people can spend as much time as they want, enjoying the vast gardens that surround the temples. and are part of the site, providing opportunities for socializing, where people can also contemplate the precious old terracotta decorations tell the stories told by the epic poems of India.
Introducing another form of architecture to the community, the building draws its inspiration from temples and pays tribute to local craftsmanship from the Bengal region.
Inserted in a dense row of buildings of the same scale, the new building is distinguished by its bare brick walls, laid in horizontal bands and decorated with ceramic inserts. The terracotta bricks were purchased from the workshop of a local craftsman, although the ceramic tiles are industrially made. Working with a local ceramist, the blocks were collected and inserted into the wall to form a dense multiple texture inspired by temple ornamentation.
The rounded corners suggest a three-dimensional observation of the volume from a drone-like perspective, making the Gallery House a building that successfully balances the old and the new. Its form is derived from a continuous subtraction approach, in which the initial prismatic block is transformed into a combination of concrete partition walls wrapped in a layer of bricks, made permeable by large openings. The structure appears light even if it is made of materials undeniably linked to the earth and traditional constructions. The interiors are arranged over two levels leading to a roof terrace. At street level, what was originally intended to be a garage contains an entrance hall and large multipurpose room, a unique space for hosting various community events and meetings, or for practicing yoga. Beyond the foyer, on the first floor are, in order, a meeting room and a training center with a kitchen, a dormitory with five beds, bathrooms and a small hanging garden.
Expressive fulcrum of the Gallery House, the foyer could be described as a space baroque expressiveness, accessible by a large white concrete staircase starting almost in the street. Above, the brick wall opens in an arch of sculptural design, beyond which we can see the lower surface of the upper staircase, carved into the terrace to imitate the shape of the entrance staircase in a passage expressing an intrinsic dynamism, which seems to have been designed to welcome processions and local community celebrations. It is as if the intention was to invite participants into the room so that they can descend its vibrant staircase.
Seen from the outside, the entrance, the balcony on the opposite side and the white concrete roof terrace stand out against the brick walls, creating a âpolyphonicâ image for the civic center. The effect of alternating solid and empty spaces greatly lightens the structure, allowing the building to blend into the public space of the district by a gesture of return space from private property to the local community.
Architects: Abin Design Studio http://www.abindesignstudio.com/
Location: Bansberia, West Bengal, India
Surface area: 380 mÂ²
Completion: January 2020
Lead designer: Abin Chaudhuri
Design Team: Sohomdeep Sinha Roy, Qurratul Ain Maryam
Structure: Soma Kazi
Project coordination: Debjit Samanta, Debkishor Das, Dipankar Mondal
Collaborator: Partha Dasgupta (ceramic artist)
Photos by: Edmund Sumner