Project: Karmapa International Buddhist Institute, New Delhi
Architects: C P Kukreja Architects
There is an undeniable dichotomy within the urban fabric of New Delhi, where its rich heritage coexists with the chaotic, unplanned development of the city. In such a context, the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute stands an oasis of calm and serenity within the frenzy of the city. Built in 1990 for His Holiness, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, this institute of higher learning in Buddhist treatises, is nestled in a thick cover of greenery in the Qutab Institutional Area of south Delhi. The site is an inspiration for its students, who are offered magnificent views of the expansive green cover around. The design is a seamless integration of this natural aspect with the built form.
The majestic scale of the front façade is imposing, leaving its visitors spellbound with the beauty of its traditional Sikkimese design. The flow of volume in spaces is seamless through the exteriors to the interiors of the buildings. The harmonious rhythm in the alignment of the different rooms creates a sense
of serenity within the institute. As one enters the campus, one is engaged in a balanced symphony of a combination of colours and textures. The architects derived their inspiration for design sensibilities from the Buddhist philosophies. The inwardly designed campus is, thus, an inspiration for the students to delve deep into their meditation practices, thus encouraging them to look within.
The central courtyard is a hearty extension of the colourful façade, from the vertical face of the buildings to the horizontal landscape. Neatly lined with pruned flowering shrubs, it provides
a welcoming space for the faculty and students alike, to bask and soak in some sunlight during the sunny winter mornings in the Capital. The imposing blocks at the entrance act as guards, to sieve energy flowing from the exterior of the institute to its interiors, creating a safe haven for those practicing Buddhism within its hallowed walls.
The main block of the institution consists of a large prayer hall, classrooms, meditation rooms and a library. The prayer hall is a magnificent space with opulently-designed interiors. The ornate mouldings and traditional art motifs translate effortlessly from the exterior façade of the building to the interior of the hall. A clear demarcation of the worshipping students and monks from the holy deities has been established through a difference in levels. As one moves through the corridors, one is greeted by the inner courtyard from the individual blocks, which allow for transparency, ease of visibility and unobstructed flow of air and light between the different floors. Since, the design brief for the classrooms and meditation halls was to accommodate a significant number of students, so they’ve been made expansive in their spans. Natural light floods in through the large windows, making the interiors seem more spacious and airy. Additionally, the provision of wide window openings passively regulates the temperature in the rooms.
The overall design was inspired by the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. In order to replicate the intrinsic architectural features of the original monastery, around 50 highly-skilled local craftsmen from Sikkim were engaged in the building of this institution. This gave them an opportunity to showcase their workmanship, thereby empowering them. This project also placed special focus on sustainability, as only natural dyes and pigments were used to create the artworks in the buildings. While the Rumtek Monastery is built almost entirely of timber and stone, the architects recreated the Tibetan architectural vocabulary in brick and concrete, materials that are more suitable to the climate of the capital city.
Site area: 0.5 hectares
Year of Completion: 1990