Indian architecture is considered to be some of the oldest in the world. Its origins can be traced back to the cities of the early Indus culture, in the third century BC. A type of construction known as Hindu Temple or Mandir has been practiced since the seventh century AD.
Preference for clay blocks
The architect Hari Krishna Karri planned a plain temple, dedicated to the saint Shirdi Sai Baba, which was to be constructed in Tandur stone, a common local building material. However, during the consultation with the clients and the authorities, it was decided to switch from the grey stone to a more robust building material due to its better performance.
The use of materials is innovative and unique: 15 cm-thick, perforated clay blocks were used for the inner and outer walls of the temple room. For the seven metre-high shikhara, as the convex, stepped spire is called, 10 cm-thick blocks were used.
“In retrospect, I am very happy with this development,” says Karri, the architect, “The way that sunlight sometimes falls to cast symmetrical shadows and, at other times, dances unpredictably across the surface of the structure means that light itself becomes an ornament.”
The choice of material is harmonious, because the red not only reflects the earth, but also the different saffron tones that are to be found in many Hindu buildings and objects. “But the most important element of every temple,” says the architect, “is the ornamentation, which usually depicts people, animals, and deities. In this temple, however, the resplendent decoration is abstract in the pure geometry of the shikhara.
An oasis in the heat of the city
And the colour … it comes from the people who go in and out of here.” The whole temple area benefits from the wind blowing through the perforations in the clay blocks, delivering a refreshing breeze. The cooling effect is enhanced by the mass storage capability of the clay blocks – they don´t heat up easily and serve as natural air-conditioning for all the temple visitors. Together with a large tree, they create shelter from the heat of the day and a place to rest one’s thoughts in a spiritual environment.
Project nameThe Temple and the People, Vennached, India
ArchitectSEA – Studio for Environment and Architecture
Porotherm Smart bricks (clay blocks)
Year of completion2015