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Based in India’s capital, Studio Lotus challenges the norm of typically private government offices with Krushi Bhawan, an inclusive administrative centre in the northeast state of Odisha that celebrates regional craft and community empowerment with free-flowing public amenities.

The 12,077-square-metre Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment is a floor-to-ceiling canvas for local artisans, its every surface imbued with textures and motifs unique to Odishan culture. A pleasant breezeway inspired by traditional open-air markets called haats connects public learning spaces on the ground floor, providing comfortable, shaded areas for informal gatherings and knowledge-sharing.

“The way that this complex integrates art, folklore, architecture and community is a great accomplishment and the definition of meaningful social impact design.”
Mia Lehrer, AZ Awards juror

Adjacent to the breezeway, a lily pond surrounded by indigenous trees and plantings offers a cool reprieve from the tropical climate. Above this plaza are three floors of naturally lit private office space, ventilated by passive methods including a double-skin facade wrapped in multicoloured clay bricks — an homage to Odisha’s geological diversity.

The vibrant patterning imitates the warp and weft of handwoven ikat textiles native to the region, while rust-red laterite brick walls throughout the building are hewn in low relief to mimic the textures of rice-paddy crops in the Pattachitra (cloth-based scroll painting) vernacular.

More than a hundred skilled artisans have helped shape Krushi Bhawan’s atmosphere of cultural belonging to engage the local farmers it serves. Contrasting the rich, heavy masonry are delicate screens and lighting elements in traditional Dhokra metalwork, depicting silhouettes of flora, fauna and human figures in harmony.

A crop-harvesting calendar sits at the project’s centre, lightly carved into the paving stones of the main courtyard; it honours the natural cycles that govern the art and science of agriculture.

In recognition of this critical relationship to the natural world, the building features on-site wastewater treatment, incorporates rainwater harvesting and boasts a rooftop urban farm. A vital model of inclusive architecture in support of rural populations, Krushi Bhawan illustrates how a government facility can be a vehicle for the patronage and preservation of local culture, craftsmanship and economy.

Location Bhubaneswar, India Firm Studio Lotus (New Delhi, India) Team Sidhartha Talwar and Ambrish Arora with Sachin Dabas and Raman Vig

AZ Awards 2020 Winner: Krushi Bhawan

Studio Lotus turned a brief to create a government building into an occasion to foster the entire community. It’s the official winner and the people’s favourite in our Social Good category.

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