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Sacred waters

Opening doors in the environmental construction sector

Water plays a role of primary importance in the culture of India. Here it is both a vital resource for daily life and also an element charged with sacred, even spiritual value. Architect Vedhant Maharaj, whose firm Rebel Base Collective is located in Johannesburg, South Africa, developed a proposal on this theme which won a LafargeHolcim Next Generation Prize for Asia Pacific in 2017. 

by Jean-Philippe Hugron

The goal was to ‘purify’ water. To do this, engineering alone would not suffice. He also had to adopt the approach of a sociologist, anthropologist and architect. “This project, aimed at purifying the waters of the Ganges, is positioned between the sacred and the profane,” the designer explains.

“I think this proposal, which blends water treatment infrastructure with public bathing, is a beautiful synthesis of Indian architectural and historical features in a water purification system,” emphasises Meejin Yoon, head of the Department of Architecture at MIT and member of the jury of the LafargeHolcim Award for Asia Pacific in 2017.

The LafargeHolcim Foundation, by acknowledging this project, also highlighted the originality of a young architectural practice. “We have acquired recognition, in a very short time, in the environmental construction sector. This award has opened new opportunities for us,” Vedhant Maharaj explains.

Since then, his office has been working on an ‘incremental’ school, to be built step by step, and on developing an artificial intelligence programme to assist communities seeking self-built housing solutions.

Vechant Maharaj shares his experience in the special edition of international design magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA) dedicated to architecture competitions. Read the full interview and jury member comments by Donald Bates, Chair of Architectural Design and Associate Dean, Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia and Meejin Yoon, Head of the Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Sacred waters: Interview with Vedhant Maharaj (English flip book)

Au fil de l’eau: Entretien with Vedhant Maharaj (French flip book)

Agua sagrada: Entrevista con Vedhant Maharaj (Spanish flip book)

Donald-L-Bates.jpgProf-J-Meejin-Yoon.jpgJury comments

“Key to the proposal is not only the treatment of the highly polluted water, but most importantly the making of a ‘genius loci’, uniting the sacred with the profane.” – Donald Bates, Chair of Architectural Design and Associate Dean, Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia and Head of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Asia Pacific in 2017.

“The ‘acupunctural’ design solution, as well as the considerations of the multiple temporalities surrounding the project itself, especially the design for various flooding conditions, were some of the impressive aspects of this proposal.” – Meejin Yoon, Head of the Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA and Member of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Asia Pacific in 2017.

LafargeHolcim Awards open for entries

Design competitions boost projects, careers, and networking opportunities. The LafargeHolcim Awards seeks leading projects of professionals as well as bold ideas from the Next Generation that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence.

The 6th cycle of the international competition is open for entries until February 25, 2020. The Awards offer a total of USD 2 million in prize money and foreground projects and concepts from architecture, engineering, urban planning, materials and construction technology, and related fields. Enter your contribution to sustainable construction in the LafargeHolcim Awards – the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

More information

Enter the competition

Last Updated: August 16, 2019
Article Details
Location
Varanasi, India
Related Information
Related Project
Sacred and Profane in India
Sacred and Profane in India

Poetic interpretation of a water purification infrastructure as public space along the edge of the Ganga River in Varanasi, India.

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