Simplicity and adaptation to local conditions

(June 2013) Everything in this building is made of sandstone, well almost everything. The reasons are manifold: Rajastan’s Marwarth District where the Bissel Farm is located, is rampant with termites, so stone was the material of choice i.e. for door frames. Sandstone is, after all, readily available in the Arravali hills in close proximity.

Another convincing argument for the implementation of stone is the barren climate: the thick rubble-stone walls and mortise can absorb cool temperatures at night and thus help lower the temperature indoors during the day’s sweltering heat.

The contractor’s order: „Build a Dharmashala.“ A Dharmashala is a spiritual dwelling or sanctuary to which architect Rahul Sen adds: „Simplicity and frugal needs guided the design decisions“.

A few words regarding the landlord: William Bissel, is CEO of Fabindia, which has been producing furniture and textiles in cooperation with local craftspeople and artists. The products are made of natural material produced locally.

Sub-contractors’ skills are promoted by Fabindia, which finances the life-long-learning. So an anexe of two buildings was added to the Bissel farm for training facilities and for guests.

The architect responsible was Rahul Sen of Sensen Design in New Delhi. One of the extensions is completed and topic of this article. The project was awarded one of the All India Stone Architectural Awards (AISAA).

The complex includes 6 flats and an inner court.

Parts of the building were constructed in hand craftsmanship i.e. the rubble stone wall. Some of the stone blocks used were precut in the quarry.

E.g. the pillars and stone beams which the masons fit into place with the help of a crane. The elements are held in place by gravity and mass as well some help from an adhesive agent.

The roof elements are also made of prefab stone slabs. They are 5 cm thick (2”), 28 cm (11”) wide and span across 3.30 m (11’ – 11’6”)

The slabs also serve as steps to reach the roof.

Rahul Sen emphasizes that he, too, learned a lot from locals during completion of the project. E.g. it is local tradition that each flat has a veranda on the shady side to ensure that the entrance is protected from the glaring sunlight and excessive heat.

Also the walls of the inner court are white-washed to intensify reflection of candle light at night and heat during the day. „We are conservative and conscious of the usage of electricity“ writes Rahul Sen in a mail.

Kota and Dholpur sandstone was used.

Rahul Sen (Mail)