smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat

smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat

smritivan earthquake memorial museum

 

Atop the Bhujiyo Hill in Gujarat, India, Vastushilpa Sangath LLP has constructed the Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum. This project is part of a bigger Memorial masterplan designed to commemorate the victims of the 2001 earthquake with Bhuj at its epicenter. 

 

With a focus on the unique heritage, culture, crafts, villages, and wildlife sanctuaries of the Kutch region, the museum aims to anchor its journey in the city of Bhuj. According to the architects, the design strives to create not only a museum but a civic space for people to gather, celebrate festivals, and enliven the region. The Smritivan Memorial also fulfilled the need for a green space and park in the city, enhancing the community’s lifestyle. The museum’s galleries trace the various crafts and skills of the Kutch region, reflecting its diverse range of programming.

smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat
all images by Vinay Panjwani, unless stated otherwise

 

 

taking its cues from the rough topography 

 

The hill’s steep slope posed a challenge in finding a way to construct a building that blends with the landscape. The hill holds cultural significance to the community, and erecting a large-scale box that contrasts with the hill was deemed inappropriate.

 

Instead, the natural contours of the hill informed the design approach. The form of the building recalls the relic of the fort wall, zig-zagging its way up the hill like a line that follows the contours. This mimics the natural paths taken by animals or humans when climbing a hill or following a pilgrimage route to a holy site. ‘We, as architects, strongly believe that walking is essential to the making of a place, as it enables us to connect to our surroundings in a unique way.’

smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat
image by Sohaib Ilyas

 

The essence of the museum lies in the gradual ascent up the hill, a meandering journey of 50 meters punctuated by various galleries. The spine of the building acts as a veranda, providing a place to linger, reflect, and marvel the scenery. ‘This tensile structure also creates a soft glow over the monolithic buildings which are covered in a local stone quarried from near the site.’ As a civic space, this central spine of the museum operates even when the galleries are closed.

 

The idea of temporality is integral to the museum’s concept. Therefore, each gallery rooftop is adorned with diverse species of indigenous flora that change with the seasons, just like the hill, marking the passage of time. These gardens also host various events such as temporary exhibitions and performances, allowing visitors to reflect and assimilate, which is critical to the museum’s purpose.

smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat
this central spine of the museum operates even when the galleries are closed

 

‘Like most settlements on a landscape, the museum is designed for incremental growth. The modularity of the galleries and the trace of the central spine is such that any extension will always remain aligned with the genius of the place. It is then a settlement, as old as Bhuj, and as young as the memory of the last visit.’

smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat
image by Sohaib Ilyas

smritivan earthquake memorial museum zig-zags up the steep hill in gujarat
the building zig-zags its way up the hill like a line that follows the contours

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