Jetavan

Sameep Padora & Associates (sP+a) as Architects

In Buddhist mythology Jetvana is the name of one theBuddha’s most important spatial edifice which when literally translated means: the grove of Jeta, land donated to the sangha for founding a monastery. It was of semiotic significance that the site offered by Samir Somaiya owner of the neighboring sugar factory in rural Maharashtra for the Buddhist Learning Center was thickly forested, an idyllic grove of sorts.

The institute was programmed as a spiritual & skill development center for the native Dalit BaudhAmbedkar Buddhist community. The mandate of Jetavana is to provide a spiritual anchor for their practice of Buddhist thought through meditation and yoga while also imparting training and skill development for members of the community.

With the mandate of not harming a single tree on site the sizable program was split up into 6 buildings each situated in gaps between the heavy planting. Through the design process two courtyards emerged as links suturing these buildings into a common identity.

Further by inverting the roof profile with a center valley in the middle and rising edges the interior spaces were visually connected with the foliage outside. The interior spaces hence are also a function of the outside setting, with a lightness that belies the heavy programs on site. The separation of the roof  from the walls while providing much needed cross ventilation also scales the building towards the courtyard.

Working closely with Hunnarshala, an institution looking to revive and resuscitate local building traditions we collated a material palate that uses rammed loadbearing walls of basalt stone dust. The stone dust, which is waste from a nearby quarry, is mixed with waste fly ash, a by-product from the adjoining factory that in the past was paying people to cart the waste fly ash away. Repurposed wood from old shipping vessels act as roof structure, withthe understructure made of mud rolls, which are also great insulation. The roof itself is finished withclay roof tiles, remnants from older demolished buildings.

The flooring is a traditional mud and dung floor done by members of the local community, which is known to have antiseptic properties.

Our approach to the Jetavan projectlooks to extend the idea of the regional paradigm whilst separating it from the pervasive ‘image’ of what defines the local. The construction process also sets out an approach that looks to further construction techniques based on local materiality not necessarily used natively but appropriatefor it’s context.

 

Client Description

Jetavan is a beautiful Centre, in rural Maharashtra, built for the holistic development of the community. The half acre plot has over 40 trees, and not one was cut to make place for the centre. Jetavan was built using fly ash, quarry dust, to make the walls, cow dung for the floor, and mud rolls made from used gunny bags placed on wooden rafters from old ships for the roof.

The centre was designed by Sameep Padora and associates. Artisans from Hunarshala in Kutch helped build the structure, land was contributed by Godavari Biorefineries (flagship company of the Somaiya Group), and funded by donors from India and abroad.

This is an initiative of the K. J. Somaiya Centre of Buddhist Studies, Somaiya Vidyavihar, and was conceptualised when Ven. Dhammadipa visited Sakarwadi 2 years ago, and thought that a Centre to cater to the all round development of the community was necessary.

Many members of the community here follow Ambedkar, and follow Buddhism. Ven. Dhammadeepa felt that they must be educated in what were the basic principles of Buddhist thought. Academically, this fit in well with what the K. J. Somaiya Centre of Buddhist Studies wanted to do, as an outreach project. More importantly, Shri K. J. Somaiya wanted to create a society which was inclusive, and members of society that Hinduism had earlier denied opportunity , would be treated as the main part of Hindu Society.

I believe, that Jetavan will be a Centre to teach academics, vocational studies, health, and spirituality to all members of the community. It will be a complement to the 3 schools that Somaiya Vidyavihar runs in the area.

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