Shilpa Architects & rat [LAB] reinterpret vernacular with parametric design

Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Chennai

The Architecture and research firm rat[LAB] Studio and Shilpa Architects have recently designed a Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Koppur, Chennai that reinterprets the vernacular architecture of India through parametric designSURFACES REPORTER (SR) presents a sneak peak into the collaboration of two indian firms, the blend of vernacular with parametricism and the overall concept of the temple. What do you think of the design, tell us in comments.

Architectural Design Firm in India-Shirdi Temple, Chennai

India crowns the title of the holy land because of its ancient, well preserved and sacred temples. South India is spread on an area with thousands of divine temples that are torchbearers of the glorious heritage of India.

Situated on the peripheries of Chennai and spread over an area of 11 acres at the centre of a 338-acre masterplan, the temple attributes a hendecagon (11 sided polygon), which is often enunciated as a 3-d polyhedron. Embracing the "Land of Temples", Tamil Nadu, the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple is set to be completed by 2021-22.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

Check out some of the striking features of this temple on SURFACES REPORTER’s exclusive report.

Number 11

The Sai Temple revolves around the ‘Master Number’ 11 symbolizing balance, vision, purity; Masculinity as well as Femininity in Indian mythology. Surrounded by a series of promenades, podium and lush green landscape, the Sai temple is a reflection of spiritual contemplation that will appear 66m (11x6) above the ground, making a mesmerizing experience for visitors entering the temple.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

Because of the client’s profound faith in Numerology and Vastu- Indian traditional ancient science- he had a strict indicative to incorporate the number 11 in the design, and thus the new temple was created through an algorithmic process while balancing the sacred geometry with engineering logic. Taking an unprecedented approach, the concept design developed with an 11 sided polygon - Hendecagon, articulated as a three-dimensional polyhedron. Moreover, the holy shrine is unveiled on an 11.11-acre site that is proposed at the epicentre of a 338 Acre master plan project of Chennai.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

Known for their expertise in Computational Design and Parametric Techniques, rat[LAB] saw this as an untapped opportunity to explore computational design for a religious space in a novel manner. Using mathematics, sacred geometry, structural logics, an algorithmic process was developed to use evolutionary computation to create a plethora of forms, using spatial and structural constraints as parameters. The 11 sided polygon is evolved into three-dimensional spaces while assessing ecological aspects such as solar heat gain, daylight, and shadows.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

Design Details:

Comprising of 4 zones: Front promenade, Temple Complex, Rear Promenade and Statue, the spiritual temple will be built on the principles of Vastu Purusha mandala. The Front promenade marks the beginning of the temple complex by inviting the visitors into the complex after drop off. The area is spatially divided into counters for storing baggage and shoes, frisking area and ablution area. 

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

There is a pure white space inside the temple which is lit by sunbeam diffusing from the oculus on top. The concept is to provide a form that is as pure and perfect as possible in colour, texture and philosophy.

The proportions and sizing of all aspects of the design rely heavily on the understanding of the golden ratio and principles of mathematics and origami.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

The flooring pattern inside the main hall of the temple follows the mathematical looping system by using 11 vertices of the hendecagon. These vertices are folded to create interstitial spaces within the geometry. 

Promenade frames the view to the temple, as well as guide the devotees to the 154 ft (11x14) Sai statue.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

The repeated division of curves designs a central point at the ground level where the design bends and guides the people for prayers and offerings.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

The overhead design spotlights double-fold origami structure creating a rigid form with fluid columns that ideally merges with the inner area while allowing a long-span shell-like structure.

The first view of this divine architectural pilgrimage is revealed to the devotees at Gopuram. To keep the interest alive, the view is partly hidden through the landscape. Green strips and shops break the monotony of the 525 ft promenade walk on either side of the pathway.

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

The area of prayer and meditation is based on the 11 point circle pattern that is reiterated throughout the design of gathering spaces and the roof of the garbagriha. The flooring of the garbagriha is done specifically to shift the focus to the far end of the room rather than the centre beneath the oculus of the polygonal roof intersects.

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

Dividing the outer circumference into 11 equal segments, the position of the deity within the garbagriha is fixed.

The arcs that radiate from this fixed position connect to the segment points on the circumference forming a petal-like pattern which is also translated to the oculus on the rooftop.

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

This design measure creates a point of focus that is not the centre of the polygon while maintaining symmetry and sanctity to the Master Number.

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

The devotees reach the podium through the maha mandapa from either the VIP room or the general queuing system in place. Once they reach the podium, the devotees are offered a panoramic view of the entire development and could go to the temple, the three shrines in front of the garbagriha, meditation pockets, or gathering spaces as and when they prefer. 

Gode Neem Tree- An Inspiration

Shilpa Architects took inspiration from the Gode Neem Tree of Shirdi, Maharashtra to devise the masterplan for the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple. Along with this, the firm has done a series of explorations on mathematical progressions resulting in an Agama-shastre based plan as the foundation for the design. The design of the garbhagriha is form-driven while trying to adhere to principles of numerology, Vaastu and powered by computational design. 

Shirdi Temple, Chennai

This place is destined to be a spiritual centre to seek tranquility and introspection. It is going to be one of the rare projects of this scale where computational design, parametric methods and algorithmic approach is being deployed to design a spiritual space in India, making way for redefining a blend of contemporary and traditional architecture in a heritage-rich country.

Shilpa Architects Planners Designers is a global, award-winning Architectural Design firm that was founded in 1979 in Chennai, India by Sheila Sri Prakash. And, ratLAB (Research in Architecture & Technology) is an award-winning design studio & independent research cell based out of New Delhi. 


See the Project Diagrams Below:

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai



Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

Shirdi Sai Temple, Chennai

Project Details:

Project Name: The Sacred Hendecagon: Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
Location: Koppur (Outskirts of Chennai), Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Architects: Shilpa Architects in collaboration with rat[LAB] Studio
Design Team: Sheila Sri Prakash, Pavitra Sriprakash, Amrit Sahasranamam, Joe Paul (from Shilpa Architects, Chennai) + Sushant Verma, Darshi Kapadia, Praneet Mathur (from rat[LAB] Studio, New Delhi) 
Master Planners: Shilpa Architects
Clients: Urban Tree
Completion Year: 2021-22 (Expected)
Gross Built Area: ~25000 sq.m. (Temple Hall = 10,000 sq m.)
Renderings credits: rat[LAB] Studio (Sreekanth Damodaran)               

* Image and info Courtesy- rat[LAB] Studio

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