Monday, April 23, 2007


Golconde is the dormitory that The Mother wanted to build for her disciples, in Pondichery.

The commissioned architect was Antonin Reymond, who was practising in Japan. He came to the country to assist in F.L.Wright's Imperial hotel, and then went on to open his own office, in 1920.He was known for his love for RCC and incorporating Japanese values and practices in his buildings.

In 1935, he was given the task, by The Mother, to build a dormitory for Sri Aurobindo's disciples. He was assisted by George Nakashima ( an architect in Raymond's office) and Francois Summers ( a Czech architect who worked with Le Corbusier before coming to Pondy).

The building has distinct Corbuserean influences. The strong horizontal lines, the shading devices, the recessed semi-basement that makes it seem like the building is floating.
It has a few Wrightian ideas incorporated in it too - the way the building is tilted at 20deg to the road to catch the breeze, the principles of "organic architecture" - where the building is a part of nature.


The first RCC framed structure to be built in India, the building is an archetype for detail.
Everything, including the furniture has been designed to suit the climate.
The building has been so sited that the longer facades have been designed to face the North and South. There are no walls - only asbestos louvers that screen the interior from the exterior, providing shade from the sun while ventilating the interior space.
The Southern garden is heavily wooded, while the Northern garden is sparsely planted.
The difference in temperatures facilitates conventional currents through the building.
CORRIDORS on the NORTHERN SIDE - access to the rooms
Sliding teak doors with no rollers and panels alternating on the inner and outer frames provide constant ventilation, while ensuring privacy.The flooring is of black cudappah that has been laid with large joints to disguise the stones' irregular edges which were a result of a lack of precise cutting instruments. The few walls have been plastered with Chettinad egg plaster, which is dense and highly reflective.
The extended low sills, highly polished black cudappah floor, the shining white walls and the constant breeze through the building proves to be the perfect canvas for the play of sunlight streaming in through the louvers at different angles.

The furniture has also been aptly designed to suit the climate.The bed is made of cane, with provisions for a mosquito net, the chairs have cane seats and backrest for ventilation.The extended low sill allows for additional seating, with a view into the northern garden, which has narrow reflecting lotus pools.

The utilitarian core consisting of the main staircase, bathrooms and laundry area services the building.The wiring and plumbing are concealed and the building is provided with lightning conductors.

From the street, a large exposed concrete wall with an oversized entry door forms the dominant part of the elevation, behind which is visible a series of louvers that form the northern facade.

The subtle shifts in scale and accent - between form, structure and detail make the entire building a harmonious union.

The Golconde ( named after the Golconda Fort ( a mine of jewels)) , funded by Akbar Hayadri, the then Diwan of the state of hyderabad , remains a vital part of Modernist Indian Architecture for being the first "home-made" building of its kind ( all the parts were manufactured in the Ashram's workshop, with a highdegree of precision and specification) and its success in merging aesthetics, craft and technology almost-perfectly.


Cardie said...

Does anyone know where to find the furniture reproductions? These were being imported by someone in the state of MA with a store called Mirabelle but that has disappeared. I have not had a reponse from the Nakashima foundation. I would like to find these reproductions.

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ApoorvA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ApoorvA said...

well said!
I am trying to find out more about the golcome or golconde...your writeup was a gr8 help :)