By Ar. Ajay Sonar
|Cave-like Paper Museum made from papier-mâché|
Designing the Paper Museum in Pune has been an opportunity to connect with a glorious past and develop a recreational space that experientially interacts with the hoi polloi in a multiple format.
We, as architects, are very much interested in understanding the urban setting in which the project sits before designing it. In this case, we reversed the thinking process by starting with the urban analysis before coming to the individual programs of the project per se.
We were asked to design a showroom for paper display; reorganize and refurbish an old office structure; and develop a multi-dimensional exterior landscape and eatery; in all create a vibrant happening public space.
So, what is a public space? - a question we asked, looking at the crowded streets, hawkers and lack of space for recreation of thousands of students and working class in the centre of Pune city. The answer was to perforate or blur the boundaries of a government institute, to allow public intrusion into the campus, which had huge old trees and a fairly large vacant ground for activities.
|Cave-like interiors of Museum|
|Display alcoves carved into the dome|
The challenge in designing the museum then was to create an impact rather than just focus on functional integrities, to make people aware about handmade paper, its strength and a multiple application to prove its relevance in the modern era of plastic and glass.
|Play of light|
After understanding the properties and character of handmade paper, we decided to do a papier-mâché installation in a 75 year-old existing pitched roof. Using papier-mâché seemed more sensitive for a place, where handmade paper and paper products were made using similar technique; this space has the essence of a cave, which we consider to be the purest embodiment of space.
In contrast, the office space provided an opportunity to experiment with restoration. Like at an archeological site, the challenge was not so much to create something new but rather to discover the hidden structures and virtues that the building was composed of; to rediscover the purity of an old architecture hidden away behind gypsum sheets.
Additionally, outdoor activities include an open-air painting gallery that completely rejects conventional closed exhibition spaces and creates a unique experience with free-standing brick walls as display panels and an open-air amphitheater, which is used as a restaurant by day and a live performance space by night.
All these activities together create an art village open for every local walking on the streets.