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Maya Somaiya Library in Kopargaon, India, by (sP+a)

Architect: SameepPadora + Associates (sP+a)

Project team: SameepPadora, Vami Seth Koticha, Archita Banerjee, ManasiPunde, AparnaDhareshwar

Structural engineer: Sameer Sawant (foundation design); Rhino Vault, VivekGarg (superstructure)

Photographs: Edmund Sumner

 

Maya Somaiya Library reaffirms engineer David Billington’s remarks regarding the tenets of shell structures: economy, potency and elegance. Mumbai-based SameepPadora +Associates (sP+a) have designed this, this slender brick vault structure creates a fluid, free area for 10,000 books.

Seamlessly merging with the landscape, the makeshift Catalan vault bathes in light, and, to paraphrase the Uruguayan engineer EladioDieste, ‘dances while no effort’. In previous projects, sP+a have explored and experimented with construction techniques, crafts, and strategies of putting buildings along. Maya Somaiya Library extends this spirit of inquiry.

‘In its lightness and fluidity, the brick vault seems much like a fabric tent than a masonry structure’

Set during a fertile region that cultivates sugar cane and cotton, Kopargaon could be a small town east of Mumbai with a population of 65,000. Aspiring parents sought after Marathi-speaking region, non-public schools that teach in English during this predominantly.

When ShriShardaSchool found the library, it is one of eight schools that deliver education in English. Until a few years past, the school had a tiny low hall that doubled unsatisfactorily as a library for its 1,800 students.

In response to a growing need, the trust that supports the school commissioned a new and improved facility. The programmed may be merely distilled to ‘a place to read books’.

Tightly sandwiched between 2 buildings within the north-east quadrant of the school, the Maya Somaiya Library connects 2 playgrounds frequented by students. The plot delineated for construction was little and irregular, however, this constraint created chance.

An irregular form paved the way for unorthodox geometry and visual variations. Central to the design is that the idea of chhatri, a traditional Mughal pavilion.

However, unlike the Indian version, primarily a trabeated, umbrella-like structure, the architects drew on Mediterranean construction techniques to make a Catalan masonry vault that at the same time shelters and defines space.

Though the Catalan vault system had a Roman precedent, it came to fruition in the 14th-century Kingdom of Spain.

Also known as a timbrel vault, the Catalan vault may be a thin domed structure that spans and encloses space by means that of compression. It usually comprises 3 layers of brick tiles held together by a quick-setting mortar and made employing a minimal formwork made of timber slats.

Dominating in Mediterranean countries, it later expanses across the planet. Nevertheless, whereas it eventually went out of fashion, engineers like EladioDieste rediscovered it and elevated it into a structural art.

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Maya Somaiya Library

 

Modern Catalan vaults don’t seem to be as symmetrical as ancient ones, exploit complicated shapes covering completely different types of footprints.

The Block analysis group (BRG) who research pioneeringat the Institute of Technology in architecture at ETH Zürich has created such improvisations possible.

The Swiss research team introduced advanced computational techniques to enhance aesthetic qualities, explore new tiling patterns and develop different forms of curvature.

This has led to a lot of radical experiments and outcomes, for instance, Brick-topiary Spanish architecture firm Map13 in Barcelona.

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Maya Somaiya Library

 

‘The choice of the vault was a natural one’, says sP+a principal Sameep mythical being. ‘It was an appropriate form that met our design intention to create a pavilion for the books.

I was already acquainted with the work of EladioDieste and therefore the impressive vaults he had in-built Uruguay. After we were pondering over the design for the library, ideas and inspiration came together.’

Drawing on the ETH analysis, Maya Somaiya Library takes structural innovation a stage further. With a width of 25ft and span of 150ft, it’s in all probability the widest and longest example of the Catalan vault built to date and is additionally the first permanent structure of its kind.

Unusually, it has no intermediate supports; therefore the resultant form generates a free-flowing, unobstructed space.

It also optimizes the use of materials. 3 layers of 20mm brick tiles were laid perpendicular to every other and held together by mortar; therefore the structure carries only 140 tonnes of self-weight. The steel cage employed as formwork to construct the first tile layer was later reused in other buildings.

Every layer of tiles needed around four weeks to construct, therefore the building took about 9 months to finish, comparable to the more conventional steel and concrete frame structures that surround the library. However, when it comes to sustainability, efficiency, and elegance, the library clearly prevails.

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Maya Somaiya Library plan

 

The fluid form emerges out of careful consideration and manoeuvring of parameters. The vault’s springing point was located so the library entrance orients towards the playgrounds. Its arches face the landscaped area, encouraging students to step outside during cooler months of the year.

The flow and proportions of the curve were adjusted to achieve an acceptable working height also as visual impact. Laid out in a zigzag pattern, timber-framed windows of variable dimensions cover the openings below the arches.

The zigzag arrangement was necessary because the windows had to stand up and be self-supporting. The lower halves of the windows are glazed, whereas the upper parts are coated by netting to permit the flow of air, affording a well-lit, adequately ventilated and comfortable area.

Inside the curved, vaulted area, bookshelves are organized diagonally along a central spine. Taking account of future needs, the shelves are designed to hold 3 times their current capability. Places to read are clustered along both sides of the shelves.

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Maya Somaiya Library

Senior students sit on stools, whereas younger ones are comfortably squat on stone seats in quiet corners. The floor is made of polished grey-green Kota, a widely used natural stone, adding to the sense of warmth.

Fans, a necessity within the tropical locale, are hung from mild steel frames that hug the bookshelves. Their constant gentle whir penetrates the studious silence.

Though delightful, the building’s innate simplicity is additionally its drawback, as the design creates an unlettered space unsuited to hosting other kinds of activities.

School libraries are no longer mere repositories of books, they need to interact, inform and entertain. Some spatial subdivisions might have encouraged the library to embrace this extended role, enhancing its educational and social potential.

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Maya Somaiya Library section

Within the library, students don’t seem to mind the conspicuous absence of the latest media and interactive devices. Presumably, this was a conscious decision to stay them away from digital distractions. Rather, they seemed to be enthused by and fascinated with the new structure.

School principal KL Wakchaure with pride notes that library usage has substantially increased and students eagerly anticipate their set periods within the new space. Requests to use the library have conjointly enlarged, prompting the {school|thevarsity|the college} to stay it open beyond school hours.

Residents and students from other institutions regularly visit the school to inspect the new addition. The pride of students and employees is visible, a testament to the impact of architectural imagination.

Maya Somaiya Library, shell structures, shell structures in india, library design architecture, sameep padora and associates, timbrel vault, roman vault, catalan vault, brick vaults, arch and vault, catenary arch, library design, library design ideas, modern library design, library design for school, timbrel vault architecture, library, archinext, archinex.net
Maya Somaiya Library

‘We wanted a structure that appears to emerge from the landscape organically and so slowly descends into it’, says Pandora.

The brick vault extends upwards, effortlessly spreads and punctiliously tucks into the ground. In its lightness and fluidity, it seems additional like a fabric tent than a masonry structure, inviting rather than intimidating.

Pandora hopes that students are able to walk over the vault as they shuffle between the 2 playgrounds, an idea that would help to develop an intimacy with the building.

However, this can be nonetheless to be absolutely realized as the school needs to get used to the idea of students walking over buildings with all the attendant anxieties of supervision. Yet if and once it happens, it would cement the bond between the students and their library still further.

The significance of this building lies not only in its innovative form, technical virtuosity, and economy. A lot of importantly, it’s a commendable effort to endow a school in a small town with a much-needed sweetness.

Most libraries in India’s schools are poorly serviced and under-utilized, so this generous building could be a welcome contrast. By inviting students from the rural hinterlands to dwell in books, reflect, imagine and grow wise, it embodies a strong sense of hope.

 

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