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Arthshila by Banduk Smith Studio, Ahmedabad

This project celebrates the unintended outcomes that arise when a building lives beyond its program. Arthshila, the brainchild of architects Sachin Bandukwala and Melissa Smith of BandukSmith Studio, integrates versatility through time. A multigenerational family home turned into a single-family residence, then an open-plan office has further transitioned into a library and design centre!

Ar. Sachin Bandukwala and Ar. Melissa Smith, co-founders of BandukSmith Studio have an interesting project in their impressive portfolio. Arthshila – a library, as we now know it – as a building, has undergone many architectural adaptations.

Picture from the  restoration of the  Chhatrapati Shivaji  Maharaj Vastu  Sangrahalaya Museum  (CSMVS), Mumbai

The Tower House – as it was originally called when built in 2014 - was an experiment in vertical living: a five-story house that fit snugly into a relatively small site, and offered multiple views from varied openings on all levels. Within a year or so, the multigenerational family home was converted into a nuclear family residence. This change did not need major spatial reconfiguration, however another couple of years later, it had to be reorganized into an open plan office space! 

In 2021, the building once again changed hands – which is when it was redesigned as a public library and design centre. The shift from a private to a public zone is expressed at the ground level, where opening up the walls has enabled a larger, continuous space which now includes an amphitheatre too. 

The compound wall blends with the built area of the site, facilitating two entry points.

The norm-defying element, and one that further highlights the public nature of the building, can be said to be the five-storey steel framed bookshelf that is visible throughout the building; along with and the carefully placed steel staircase. Nestled between the bookshelves at a depth of 4 ft and shielded by a well-protected window, lies an intimate seating enclave. Adjacent to this cosy nook, is a transparent glass surface that enables a view of the building’s section – a quirky, but deliberate design decision that came out of the removal of the original staircase. 

This design implementation bridges all the floors together and injects a sense of unity throughout the space. The dynamic interplay of different beam levels and surface elevations is merged with the help of a dual-frame steel structure providing sturdy support for the cantilevered shelf.

Changing the fenestration system was another important decision for the building which was now intended to be used as a library. The facade wrapping balconies break the logic of the vertical structure.

Overall, through its many typological transitions, the building has been intelligently adapted for varied uses and requirements. Such design challenges compel idiosyncratic solutions that enable architecture to celebrate design imperfections while also graciously serving repurposed outcomes.

Text : Ar. Manasi Nighot

Images: Courtesy Banduk Smith Studio

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