Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum in Kutch designed by Vastushilpa Consultants exhibits region’s unique crafts

Traversing the  snaking contours  of the Bhujiyo  hills, Vastushilpa Consultants designed the museum around 50 metres up the sloped site. The building is actually designed with the intent to create a public space for people to celebrate the local crafts of Kutch, including textiles, mirror work, glass and beadwork.

The museum anchors its journey in the city of Bhuj and the Kutch region’s unique heritage, culture, crafts, and its many villages and wildlife sanctuaries. The design intent was to create not just a museum but a civic space where the citizens could gather and celebrate their many festivals and more.

The hill side below the fort site  was restored as part of the project, on the outskirts of the city of Bhuj, near the epicentre of the earthquake.

Placed on either side of the meandering public space are various galleries with exhibitions on the impact of the earthquake and showcasing local Kutch crafts, including textiles, mirror work, glass and beadwork.

Architecture studio Vastushilpa Consultants has created a museum and memorial in India to honour the victims of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and celebrate the resilience of the local Kutch community.

The museum walls are built with the stone quarried from a local site and the gallery roofs were topped with planted gardens, which provide additional exhibition and performance space.

According to the studio, the Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum has a modular design that can be added to for future expansion. “The modularity of the galleries and the trace of the central spine is such that any extension will always remain aligned to the genius of the place,” said the studio to denzeen.

“It is then a settlement as old as Bhuj and as young as the memory of the last visit.” Exterior of the Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum by Vastushilpa Constultants with stone walls zigzagging up a sloped site. While the museum was located at one end of the fort, which runs along a ridge, the studio designed a hilltop platform as a reflective space at the other.

It features a circular reinforced concrete structure with shuttering made from wood battens and symbols used by Kutch farmers imprinted on the concrete surface. The structure acts as a lunisolar calendar charting the movement of the sun and moon, and cuts around the rim mark days of cultural significance

The circular structure was designed to be a reflective space as the land between the museum and the sun point is intended to be a “green lung” for the city and memorial forest, with one tree planted for each of the 13,805 earthquake victims

The dams take the shape of a stepped tank or kund, a traditionally social space with a series of square steps that provide space for people to sit around water.

According to the designers, “The various effects of holding water and giving it to the land have allowed the land to transform – as trees have taken root the landscape has changed and now one can spot wild animals and hear bird calls there,” the studio added. “The sound of the landscape and its temperature all have affected the city at large.”

To make the forest self-sustaining in the arid, desert-like landscape, Vastushilpa Consultants created a network of waterways and leaky check dams that let rainwater filter into the earth.

Photographs by Vinay Panjwani, Sohaib Ilyas

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