Shiv Temple by sP+a

Shiv Temple by sP+a

Architects: sP+a (Sameep Padora & Associates)
Design Team: Sameep Padora, Minal Modak, Vinay Mathias
Documentation: Viresh Mhatre, Anushka Contractor, Maansi Hathiwala, Prajish Vinayak
Location: Wadeshwar, Maharashtra, India

The Shiv Temple was designed by Sameep Padora & Associates in dialogue with the priest and the people from Wadeshwar and Shindewadi villages. The temple comes under the purview of the Bhima Shankar temple, a Shaivite (dedicated to the lord Shiva) pilgrimage center in western Maharashtra about 100 kms from the site.

On being asked for monetary donations to build a ‘pucca’ (RCC) structure for the proposed temple by the priests and villagers, sP+a offered instead their services pro bono to help design the temple.

In realizing the temple design in close consultation with the temple priest & the villagers, sP+a attempted to sieve out through discussion & sketches the decorative components from the symbolic. The temple design thus became a collaborative effort, with discussions ranging from simple silhouette studies to notions of iconography.

Adhering to the planning logic of traditional temple architecture, the form of the temple evokes the traditional shikhara temple silhouette. Only embellishments integral to the essence of temple architecture and symbolism associated with its narrative actually appear in the finished temple.

Built through ‘Shramdaan’ (self build) by the villagers, the temple was constructed on a shoestring budget, using a local basalt, a kind of lava stone as a primary building block because of its availability near the temple site.

Another reason for the choice of that particular stone was that the stone’s natural patina seems to confer age, as if the temple had always existed… before inhabitation.

The heavy foliage of trees along the site edge demarcates an outdoor room, which becomes the traditional ‘mandapa’ (pillared hall), a room with trees as walls and the sky as the roof.

The path to the temple winds in between white oak trees till two free-standing basalt stone walls embedded in the landscape create pause as well as direct a person onto the East-West axis on which the garbagriha / inner sanctum lies.

The threshold coupled with a low height doorway to the inner sanctum is integral to traditional temple architecture. In our design the entry to the sanctum is through an exaggerated threshold space, which in turn frames the outside landscape for the inside. It besides being a transitional space also manifests as a space of pause and repose. Its wooden cladding is meant to contrast with the basalt stone further highlighting its presence.

Stepped seating on the southern edge of the site negotiates steep contours while transforming the purely religious space into a socio-cultural one used for festival & gatherings.

Religious Iconography in the form of statues of the holy cow, Nandi and Lord Vishnu’s Kurma avatar as a turtle become installations in the landscape and hence find their positions in a natural setting of the metaphoric sky-roofed mandapa.

Another critical departure from traditional temple architecture was a skylight in the inner sanctum and garbagriha that not only emphasizes the verticality of the space within but also it’s connection with sky and light.

The ashtadhaatu (8 metal composite) temple kalash (finial) is held in place by a frame which also anchors the skylight allowing light to penetrate the inner sanctum/garbagriha.

The main shikhara form is built through corbelling of hand dressed basalt stone. The size of the stone varies from 15 inches by 9 inches to 9 inches by 6 inches with the stone courses becoming thinner as they rise vertically. The shikhara skylight embedded in a steel frame acts a a capstone locking the structural stresses of the form in place.

Locally found coarse fieldstone is used to construct the free standing guide walls acting as markers in the landscape.

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