Shanti Sadan: The Restful Abode of Seekers

Nestled amidst nature, Shanti Sadan is a place of worship and service designed by BetweenSpaces in such a way that the spatial planning, the materials used in construction, and the simple form that defines the building are a reflection of the austere lives of The Sisters of St. Ann, Luzern in Mysore. The architects also made a conscious effort to understand the semiotics associated with religious architecture and separate the design of Shanti Sadan from the pervasive image of architectural forms and shapes representative of the specific religion. 

The planning for the facility began when there was just a two-storied structure, adjacent to an existing hospice, which had become weak due to disrepair and age and couldn’t accommodate the current and future needs of the congregation. The Sisters of St. Ann, Luzern in Mysore invited principal architects, Divya Ethirajan and Pramod Jaiswal of BetweenSpaces, an architecture and interior design firm founded in 2010: a firm that has won the IA&B Young Designers Award 2016, to design a new facility that could accommodate a few bedrooms, a dormitory, a classroom, a dining, and kitchen facility, an office, and a chapel.

 “The building has two important parts– the accommodation facility and the Chapel. The dormitory, the bedrooms, a classroom, an office, the dining, and the kitchen are all clubbed together in a linear arrangement over two floors, whereas the chapel has been detached from the main block and pulled out into the greenery around. Metaphorically, this arrangement helped us in detaching ourselves from worldly affairs while in the place of worship,” explain Divya Ethirajan and Pramod Jaiswal, Principal architects, BetweenSpaces.

The overall aesthetics of the building drew its inspirations from Buddhist caves at Ajanta with vaulted ceilings, the apsidal planning of the Durga temple at Aihole, Buddhist caves at Ajanta, and the typical Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic Church plans, according to the architect-duo.

“The two-storied linear mass on the northern side has an RCC vault roof finished in China mosaic to reflect the summer heat. This not only creates a more heightened spatial experience akin to the ones we get in all religious buildings but also keeps the interior cool by pushing the ceiling higher and accommodating the bunker beds in the dormitory,” says Ethirajan.

Spatially, the double-storied linear mass in the rear is connected to the single-story programmes in the foreground through two small courtyards. These courtyards bring in the pause points in this small building and allow good cross ventilation.

“The Sisters had complained about the summer heat in Mysore and hence we adopted a few mechanisms to deal with this issue. The programmes are planned around a small courtyard that helps the internal space breathe. The vault roof over the linear mass prevents complete exposure of the roof to direct sun and the white mosaic cladding on the vault roof reflects the heat thereby cutting down the indoor temperature. The south side has a perforated brick apron that allows wind movement into the built space behind and shades the indoor spaces from the south sun. Also, the entire rain water from the roof is channelled into an existing well adjacent to the building, through the gutter all along the vault roof,” explains Ethirajan.

The linearity of the vaulted roof is punctuated by the verticality of two towers – a small one over the Chapel, more symbolic in nature, and another in front of the vault roof which in fact is an overhead water tank.

 “The second tower was deliberately given a certain mass to give it a significance of a typical church spire yet not be similar in shape or form to a spire,” adds Jaiswal.

The entire southern façade has an apron of intricate lacing of bricks. The brick screen shields the habitable spaces from the southern sun and gives a sublime visual experience on arrival. The brick screen wraps around the chapel defining the passage leading to the sacristy which would enable the priests to get ready before entering the chapel. The entire construction is load bearing, which helps in a significant saving on the cost of concrete and steel.

“Our approach to this project was to understand the semiotics associated with religious architecture and separate it from the pervasive image of what architectural forms and shapes define a specific religion. Our proposal not only addresses the climatic condition through a series of design decisions we made on the project but also maintains an identity that the community could relate to,” explain the architects.

Images Courtesy BetweenSpaces