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Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

India Architecture News - Apr 25, 2023 - 15:46   1416 views

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Vastushilpa Sangath has built a circular-shaped earthquake memorial dedicated to the victims of earthquake which occurred on January 26, 2001 in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India.

Called Smritivan Earthquake Memorial, the memorial was designed Vastushilpa Sangath LLP formerly known as Vastushilpa Consultants, a firm founded by the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Balkrishna Doshi.

Situated on the hilltops of Bhuj, the earthquake memorial honors the 2001 victims of the earthquake which was hit by a 7.6 magnitude and caused the death of 13,805 people. 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

"The destruction of habitat, property and infrastructure ran in billions. The trauma it caused cannot truly be mapped," according to Vastushilpa Sangath.

The architects designed a circular memorial which has a rounded concrete top wraps the strurcture, sitting on the highest point of the hill. 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

While the rear sides of the concrete structure continue as walls, massive columns continue to support the structure as they move towards the front and open the views towards the landscape. 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

"Kutch is familiar with the vagaries of nature. It traces its roots at least to the Harappan civilization, thus at least 4500 years. In this period, it has been subject to numerous natural disasters, including cyclones and droughts," said Vastushilpa Sangath.

"Consequently, it has evolved a culture of resilience. Water remains the scarcest natural resource, and so, the region’s ecology, economy, culture, social structure, festivals and struggle for survival all revolve around water."

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

The project brief was very precise given by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, now Prime Minister, Narender Modi. Modi's aim was to "plant a tree for each victim". It was a simple yet profound brief, according to the studio.

For a tree symbolizes rebirth, renewal and hope, the beginning of the journey of life once again. How better to commemorate the loss of human life than through such a symbolic act of regeneration? The planting of trees also suggested the making of a forest. The forest also symbolizes a collective that is made of many that are diverse.

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Acording to the studio, this proposed two intertwined paths: one for the families of the victims who would come as pilgrims to remember their loved ones, and the other, would be a path of sustenance of the trees, of resilience in an arid place such as Kutch. 

"We earnestly believe it is only necessary to initially assist the earth, till the new initiative takes root and then nature takes over," the office explained. 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

The assistance involved the identification of local species, the paths through which water flows, as well as the soil and nutrients that the water collects on its journey and most importantly thee design of the tanks and places where the water could seep into the earth slowly. 

The design then evolved by strategically planning small-scale reservoirs on the 452 acres. The first phase of about 199 acres has now been executed. 

As nature heals and cultivation grows, the experience of the memorial, of Smritivan changes. 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Slowly the diverse vegetation will grow into an ecosystem that will merge with the built forms, thus eventually engulfing them into one cohesive maze of green and blue. Smritivan is then neither a monolithic memorial nor a garden, but a living memory, and homage to the hope and resilience of Kutch. 

As the studio emphasized, the memorial was also aimed to be "an engaging public space". Thus, the studio created the reservoirs and a sun point. Since it is located at the top of the hill, it offers vistas of the town that invite reflection. 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

It charts the movement of the sun and moon in the form of a lune-solar calendar, with different cuts in the circular ring marking days of cultural significance. Thus, relating one to the cosmic, reminding one of the larger cosmic event one temporarily inhabits.

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Phase 1 masterplan

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Phase 1 and Phase 2 masterplan

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Water shed study

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Site sections 

Vastushilpa Sangath built circular Smritivan Earthquake Memorial on Bhuj hilltops

Diversity of scales of reservoirs

The Smritivan Earthquake Memorial is located in the same region with the Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum which was completed by the same studio.

Project facts

Project name: Smritivan Earthquake Memorial

Architects: Vastushilpa Sangath

Location: Bhuj, India.

Size: 19,100m2 

All images © Vinay Panjwani.

All drawings © Vastushilpa Sangath.

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