The work of multiple award-winning Sameep Padora & Associates (sP+a) is anything but typical. The studio — which Padora established in 2006, after his return from the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University — works on projects ranging from small-scale urban interventions to large-scale developments. Each project is aligned with the atelier’s belief that India’s vast breadth of socio-cultural environment requires multifarious means of engaging with the country’s varying contexts. Type, program, design and building processes are subservient to the immediacy of each project’s unique frame of reference.
So while Jetavan is a Buddhist Learning Centre in rural Maharashtra, with an exuberant V-shaped roof that allows the sky and the trees into the internal environment, and features rammed walls rendered from a mix of basalt dust and waste fly ash, a Shiv temple — again in rural Maharashtra — is a religious edifice erected with the help of villagers and chiselled from local basalt. The latter’s form evokes the traditional Shikhara (mountain peak) temple silhouette, and is fronted by a mandapa with trees for walls and the sky for the roof. Similarly, while the staggered, stacked form of The Lattice House references the organically developed architecture of the informal settlements in the surrounding, the Host House, a hostel in Kota, is informed partly by the traditional courtyard haveli.
These are only a few examples of the endeavour of founder Sameep Padora and his 30-strong team of architects towards extending the brief beyond its programmatic capacities, in a bid to appropriate techniques beyond their traditional use, to allow them to evolve and persist. Design head Vami Koticha acknowledges this fact when she talks of projecting India’s rich historical antecedents of form, event and networks into their projects. “Our work is, in spirit, more aligned with traditional systemic knowledge and skill rather than a focused architectural agglomeration,” she says. Her colleague Aparna Dhareshwar, Studio Head, highlights the eclectic nature of what inspires them: art, music, theatre, books… perhaps, this is why sP+a creations are more spatial narratives and less architecture.
The two team-members emphasise that each project has helped shape their ideologies and design philosophies. Udaan, an affordable housing project, for instance, catalysed the formation of sPare, the studio’s research wing — with an intent to investigate architecture and the city, and contribute to the discourse on built environment through rigorous documentation, analysis and their first publication, In the Name of Housing.
All this is in line with their desire to improve quality of living, forging new grounds in research and applying that knowledge to newer ways of approaching projects, as well as collaboration with like-minded design studios to create a platform/institution that performs beyond individuals.

Looking Back

The Shiv Temple, Indigo Deli (Palladium, Mumbai) and their publication ‘In the Name of Housing’ are projects that are particularly momentous in the studio’s 12-year-long journey. The housing research, in particular, is significant for its insights into history and culture and is prescriptive of the future.

Looking forward

Among its upcoming projects is a library that team sP+a has just finished for a small school in rural Maharashtra. With this project, the architects hope that the spatial experience, designed with great detail and precision, will create an inspiring space for learning.

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