Set along the backdrop of an existing water body and overlooking a football field, the project is a community club that capitalises its unique physical context. It is located in Saptgram, a once-prosperous city of medieval Bengal that got relegated to a forgotten outpost with the rise of Kolkata as capital of British India. Presently a rural town of a developing nation, the community faces numerous challenges. There is a lack of basic infrastructure like sanitation, clean water supply, critical health care and regular power. In such conditions, the aspirations and needs of a community are often overlooked in the development agenda.
Saptagram Coaching Club, founded by community members, provided a platform for talented youths to receive training in athletics and sports. The members also initiated various social events and activities for the community operating out of the homes of philanthropic members. With inadequate funds from the state, enough only for a bare-minimum shelter, a dire need was felt for a permanent solution. With encouragement from Abin Design Studio, the community members came together with their contribution to explore possibilities through this project.
The result is a two storied community hub having an area of 226.5 Sqm. While the ground floor houses a multipurpose gathering space that seamlessly connects with the outdoors, the upper floor is rotated about its axis to face towards the community's playing field. This acts as a viewing deck for the locality's popular football matches. The staircase to the upper floor is modified to form a raked seating gallery and the space below used as Store and Pantry.
Designed as a Multi-Use flexible space, resource optimization was the key aspect without compromising on the quality. Hence the staircase to the upper floor doubles up as a seating gallery. The area under the staircase is designed to be used as pantry and storage services leaving the rest of the ground floor a clean space, a portal that frames the water body.
The ground floor allows effective visual connection and physical continuation of space acutely reflecting the tropical roots of the context. The architectural language is robust and grounded punctuated by a generous mix of shaded and sunny spaces.
Semi-open spaces mitigate the difference between interior and exterior, there is unhindered flow of people. light and air within and all around. The idea was to create a public space that flows at many levels. The gallery extends to the upper floor deck and out through the terrace. Interaction and communication is fostered holistically in creating a continuous connected network of gathering places not only in the horizontal plane but also vertically transforming this from a club into a community hub.
Working in the context of a virgin landscape, a language of solidity and emptiness was juxtaposed to capture a balance of strength reflecting the strife of community and fragility of a waterfront site.
The project aims to be a holistic sustainable development for the community. Minimizing the cost of construction becomes a critical issue for such investments across the country and a considerable factor in design development. To be Built primarily with the contribution of the community members, Responsible Consumption and Production was the key goal of the project. Members of the club have no access to Clean water and Sanitation during their training sessions. One of the primary utilitarian aspects of the club building was to provide dignified solution to this. Drinking Water and Showering facility is provided. Separate provision is provided for girls to encourage them to take up sporting activities, who pan India are statistically seen to even drop out of school due to lack of such basic amenities in rural background.
Gender Equality was a prime concern in terms of all facilities. The Arena will be a platform to promote health and wellbeing awareness. It is planned to host various events, conduct Yoga and meditation classes especially for the elderly members of the community. During construction, materials will entirely be sourced locally, engaging only local workmen in order to promote inclusive and Sustainable Economic growth of the community. The sportspersons the club trains will find alternative decent work opportunites and platforms in the future. Ultimately the Waterfront Arena will be the institution and identity for a community for promoting a Peaceful, Inclusive and Just Society.
This project is a search, from social existence to the dynamics of space and form, from the beauty of light and shadow to striking a harmony with nature.