Knowledge and Visitors Centre
Mehrangarh Museum Trust Competition, Participation - 2018
PROJECT AREA: 2480 sq.mts
PROGRAM: CONSERVATION, ARCHIVE CENTRE, DIGITAL STUDY AND CONFERENCE, MULTIPURPOSE HALL, ADMINISTRATION
The Mehrangarh Fort has a unique position as a contemporary public space. It has transformed itself over the years into a repository of information and cultural exchange. Its role as a democratic institution for public engagement is being forged by current interventions and one can only rejoice at the potential for this transformation in involving the citizens of the city of Jodhpur as well as visitors from across the globe. The fort with its organic growth across five centuries expresses each unique era through built form. We must then express the current moment while respecting the traditions of the past.
The Knowledge Centre, located through the master planning efforts of RJB and the Trust provides significant opportunities for public engagement through its location. Sitting on the western face of the more ornate ramparts of the fort , within a depth of approximately 14 m. its location, sandwiched among fort walls offers backward and forward views of fort walls from a potential terrace. The 'sunken' nature of the project provides for a cooler protected building mass and the lowest portion of the site connects to the lesser visited Chokelao Baug. These were the opportunities we recognised and have attempted to address in a 21st century repository of knowledge of the past.
Access to the Baug Creating a public access to the neighbouring Baug from the plaza above through this site is an opportunity we did not want to miss. This had to be done in a way that disturbance to the ongoing activities of the building is minimised, but the presence of the archive, the conservation effort, and its importance could be observed and appreciated. So a broad stairwell pays the role of connector as well as a viewing gallery for the building. The stairwell connects to the building at various levels through connecting bridges, and the space under it is a wonderful library overlooking the adjoining courtyard. This courtyard created as a buffer between the building and the stairwell becomes a spill out at the ground level for the multipurpose space that will accommodate conference and discussion through workshops, seminars...etc. The possibilities of the terrace Light and sound shows have been extremely successful in bringing history alive across various monuments in India. The possibility of one at Mehrangarh could further engage the local residents as well as tourists. We saw this as an immense opportunity afforded by the terrace of the new knowledge centre, wherein the beautiful west facade of the fort and approx. 120m of viewing distance is ideal for a show- laser or just light and sound. We have created an amphitheater to this end, which will seat approximately 100 visitors. The format of an amphitheater will also create a pause point for visitors to relax or picnic during the day and shade giving trees have been planned for this eventuality.
The north facade overlooking the courtyard and stairwell opens up completely with vertical louvers to bring in cool diffused light, enhanced by the balconies and look-out points created to overlook the courtyard and stairwell. The south, in this situation, being well protected by the existing wall, also affords diffused light and opens up similarly. This allows for cross ventilation and cool winds from the north east and south west to flow through the building. The conservation areas on the upper level, get entirely natural light, the two archival floors below are protected from heat and water by their position- floating between the water prone ground level and the relative heat of the uppermost level. The lowest level of the multipurpose hall opens into the light wells all around the structure to green ground spaces and spillover discussion and meeting possibilities.
The architecture of the fort, using stone columns and beams follows rhythmic grids- often to a distinct rhythm, and often random. We have drawn from these rhythms in the facade of the building -a lime plaster & painted wall building that opens lightly on the north and south facades, with its contemporary grid allowing balconies and pause points. And the more closed west facade, opens only at select locations to the views of the bagh and the western ramparts flanking the bagh.
The location and the program offer a quiet but dynamic opportunity to gently infuse the fort with more possibilities for public involvement. The building will sit immersed within the existing walls- and open itself to the possibilities of discovery and cross-pollination.