The building as a Kumbh personifies an embodied spirit. The very purpose of ancient Indian architecture has been to connect humans with infinity in the pursuit of bringing happiness to the inhabitants of that building. It happens easily when there is a marriage of art and architecture. Art is something that makes one go deeper into the internal experience, bringing the mind to the present moment and connecting with the soul. This is why such architecture is also called soulful architecture.
The city of Prayagraj has great geographical, political, historical, cultural and spiritual importance. Geographically it’s the confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati; politically, it falls in Uttar Pradesh. Historically, River Saraswati which used to flow here, that has now vanished. Culturally, Prayagraj is rich in art in all forms and spiritually, Kumbh Mela happens here every 12 years and is the biggest spiritual expo in the world.
Kumbh is a pot and also a symbol of embodied spirit. Independently, a lump of clay and space have no value but when that lump of clay becomes a pot, the space inside gains value. Similarly, it’s said that a soul cannot achieve enlightenment until it gets a human body. An embodied and elevated spirit is referred to as Kumbh a pot, symbolic of fullness and perfection.
In this structure, the Kumbh represents a human body with a soul which has taken birth on this earth for achieving enlightenment. Even the last journey of Hindus happens in a Kumbh when the ashes of the body are immersed in the confluence of three rivers. Inspired by the significance of Kumbh, I decided to keep my building’s shape as that of a Kumbh.
A simple sketch led to a lot of brainstorming among the team of architects, structural engineers, services and HVAC when their crazy team leader asked for a difficult but unique and mind-blowing job. What seemed impossible became possible with the help of structural steel. We used a hybrid structure having the main auditorium building as RCC and the exoskeleton system of MS pipes made it look like the Kumbh. The spaces around the auditorium turned out to be useful for displaying the art and culture of Uttar Pradesh.
The plans, sections and 3D views were all developed side by side. Sometimes we would check the sections and go back to the plan and change it. At times sections were changed due to plans. It required many detailed sections, to get to the exact shape. The truss would rest on the RCC column and still be below the neck of Kumbh/Kalash. The topmost floor is planned as a cafeteria with a panoramic 360-degree view of the city Prayagraj and the Sangam area.
The basement of the structure is used as parking. The floor above the basement i.e., the lower ground is used as a convention center with big halls and a cafeteria. There are two entrance lobbies, one from the front and one from the back which have staircases and lifts which lead to the upper floors. On the front end, there is an elevated vehicular entrance to the auditorium. The auditorium has a balcony above which lies the 360-degree cafeteria. The second entry is from the back side which has exhibition spaces on the lower ground floor and green rooms and a VIP room on the upper floor approachable by a staircase and lift.
An auditorium with a capacity of 1500 persons is planned along with a balcony. To take the Sangam theme ahead even in the interiors, we planned acoustic walls as 3 rivers accordingly.
Ganga – known for knowledge and self-inquiry depicted in blue,
Yamuna the witness of Radha Krishna’s love in black and
Saraswati, symbolic of wisdom and fine arts depicted as cove lights in white color as Saraswati is now subsided.
The structural design of the Convention cum Culture Centre at Prayagraj was a very challenging task. Even the placement of columns was tricky since the basement was being used for car parking and the auditorium on the first, second and third floors. Along with this, the outer columns also take the load of a cage Kumbh structure which is a steel structure.
The core structure comprises of RCC framed structure with the columns having huge spans. The outer façade of the building i.e., the Kumbh is designed as a steel structure that goes up to a height of around 50 meters. The roof of the auditorium is a truss, moreover, there is a restaurant resting on the truss of the auditorium.