The ashram project executed for the Samta Yog Sect at Salhapur, Delhi had a very simple requirement-“Simplicity”-the basic principle of Maharaj ji’s life which crept in all his preachings. The brief stated towards creating a large congregational space which would be the main ashram hall alongwith other ancillary spaces, which would house functions like library, meditation room, conference area, retiring rooms for the disciples and a large semi-covered area which would double up as a “Langar area” during events like annual satsangs.
The attempt was towards creating a monumental yet subtle architectural statement. There lay a challenge in assimilating such contradictory propositions. Conceptually,the building dons a very introvert character. Large blank running surfaces, with no direct fenestrations, generate a childish sense of anxiety. Large interior volumes which are required to house voluminous gatherings, are comfortably tucked amidst landscape. The ovoid shaped structure sits pretty amidst landscaped berms and bears a character which is generic to the ground.
As one walks through the main access road, the building unfolds and rises subtly above the landscape. Revealing what is repressed in the ground is a strong architectural element. The circular form of the building abides by the principle of energy concentration. A nice walk on the pedestrian path, along the curvature of the building, throws open the sprawling mesmerizing bermed greens, before one lands on the central plaza, with a “kund”- a water body at the center. This kund and its placid waters impart a tranquil ambience to the whole plaza. The focal plaza binds the two blocks- the residential block which houses the living rooms and service areas with the main satsang hall at the other side of the axis.
The main ashram block is an array of layers, each layer unfolds to house a function. The outer ring houses all activities like the library, meditation, etc. The corridor of this area doubles up as an art gallery, displaying the life and preachings of Maharaj ji. Skylights and cutouts bring in all the natural light to make these areas throbbing. Naturally washed wall surfaces impart a perfect setting for a function like this.
The main entrance foyer of this block with a court at the axis, leads to the main hall from either sides. Before visitors become aware of it, they are standing in a large col-md-4 free space- set amidst natural environs, yet cordoned from the exterior hustle bustle. The main hall flanked by a beautifully landscaped court on one side and a lily pond on the other, sets the desired ambience for pravachans and meditation. The ceiling designed to be free from the conical inclined wall surfaces, symbolizes openness of the mind and a desire to free your mind from the day to day strictures. The ceiling is an inclined steel structure, kept free form the walls, supported through slender steel pipes at typical junctions. The upper edge between the walls and the ceiling takes complete glass. This strip glazing shows the sky and facilitates the curved Alucobond panels all along the periphery to flow from interiors to exteriors. The main hall opens out into beautiful greens, once you open the retractable moveable shutters. The brief required this space to double up not only visually but also functionally to allow the gathering to spill out during annual events.
The pedestrian path, termed as the meditative walk, runs around the main building and takes a visitor through a myriad of experiences, pausing at sit out pavilion, before reaching back to the office block and dispensary near the entrance area.