Sangath is Balkrishna Doshi’s own architecture studio, located on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India. With its buried vaults, interior-exterior spatial combinations and traditional bioclimatic architecture, it represents a synthesis of the architect’s main concepts.
Doshi and the Vastu Shilpa
Balkrishna Doshi was an Indian architect born in Pune in 1927. He grew up in a country fighting for its independence, finally achieved in 1947, the year Doshi began his architectural studies. In the 50s, he travelled to Europe to work under the supervision of Le Corbusier in Paris, training him following the ideas of modernist architecture. When Doshi returned to India in 1954, he supervised Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. He later worked with Louis Khan and Anant Raje on the design of the Indian Institute of Management in the same city.
In 1956 Doshi opened his own practice in Ahmedabad, called Vastu-Shilpa, a traditional Hindu system of architecture and design that is based on principles of cosmic energy and the alignment of physical structures with the natural environment. In 1978 he started to build Sangath, a compelx to house his own architectural office, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Sangath stands for moving together through participation. The Sangath complex also houses a research center, the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation and spaces dedicated to artistic experimentation.
Modern architecture and climate
Sangath’s architecture follows the principle of Vastu Shilpa. The 500m² complex incorporates a mix of open and closed spaces, punctuated by vaulted forms. These dominant forms are designed following a combination of local materials and traditional Hindu architecture. The entrance features a courtyard divided into terraces of different levels, distributing access to the various structures. Semi-buried and semi-open vaults stand out, while other units emerge from the ground, playing on a system of double-height spaces.
The vegetation of the site is an integral part of the project, on the one hand to confirm the building’s integration into its environment, and on the other to enhance the interaction between the building and the surrounding natural elements: water, plants, air. The sun’s heat is absorbed by the grassy mounds preserving the underground spaces. Materials such as recycled white mosaic placed in trencadis diffuse the intensity and absorb the heat before it enters the buildings. Rainwater is channeled and runs down the length of the buildings, while pools refresh both the interior spaces and the outside air. The architecture of the sunken vaults also allows control over the natural light into the spaces; The form increases the interior volume and forces the hot air to rise, the traditional cooling devices integrated into the construction help the natural ventilation.
The building borrows both from traditional architecture, developing natural techniques for adapting to its environment, and from modernist architecture, making it the most representative project of Doshi’s architecture.