KIRAN CENTRE INDIA
Learn about our role in the master-planning, design and construction of a centre for children with disabilities in rural India.
On Easter Sunday 1998 I had a chance meeting with Sangeeta in Kolkatta. She was looking for an architect and I was looking for a job, and this meeting was the start of a wonderful adventure in India for myself and my wife.
Sangeeta was the founder of Kiran, a centre for children with disabilities based in Varanasi on the northern plains of India. She was in the process of developing the Kiran Village which was a therapeutic and educational centre on the banks of the Ganges.
The development was 50% completed when I arrived and Sangeeta had big plans and was in a hurry to get them finished. Being new to India I wanted to start on something small to learn how things were done and to get to know the people I was working with, but the first thing I did was to learn Hindi.
The first building I completed was a small storeroom with some staff accommodation above. The materials were very simple, hand made bricks, concrete and steel. Bricks were much cheaper than concrete and steel so I researched ways to reduce the concrete and steel to an absolute minimum.
The next biggest challenge was to deal with the climate. In Varanasi it was 5 degrees and damp in winter, 50 degrees and dry in the hot season, and soaking wet in the rainy season. This is where I learned about sustainability, letting light in but not the heat, keeping the rain out but not causing a flood and keeping everything as simple as possible so that it could be made without any power tools.
The lessons I learned on the store room were developed and refined during the construction of the 12 other buildings I completed in the two years I worked in Kiran. They were all variations on the same theme: Have a heavy roof to keep the heat and rain out, provide passive ventilation to keep the rooms cool, allow the light in but keep the sun out, make beautiful spaces that were flexible and adaptable and lastly make buildings that made people feel that they were an important part of something bigger that was making a real positive difference to the quality of their lives.