The site is designed in two parts, namely:
- Kalaikoodam (the tangible experience)
- Vayakaadu (the intangible experience)
The main access to the site is designed in Zone 1 with a recessed entry thereby inducing a sense of interest to the tourist right from the edge of the site. Being along the NH66, the recessed entry provides an opportunity for stops along the road, thereby encouraging more inflow of people. A sense of suspense and expectation is created when the user drives along the access into the entry. There are three other accesses to the site, namely:
- A secondary access from the neighbourhood road for the use of community facilities like the restaurant and auditorium
- A service access for the loading and unloading of materials in the site and for maintenance
- An access to the fields, exclusively for the farmers and logistics associated with farming
When the user turns the corner into the site, it creates a sense of focus, which is achieved with the visual axis to the entrance plaza. The colonnaded plaza set against the stone carved wall, with luscious green cover in the foreground sets the heritage context to the experience centre.
Drawing a parallel to the morphology of the temple, the entrance gateway into the plaza is a modern-day adaptation of the Gopuram. The scale and proportion of the Gopuram are kept intact as the structure becomes more imposing as the user approaches it. Just as the Gopuram opens into a contrasting vast span of land, this access way opens into the colonnaded plaza. The experience of the gopuram is achieved through its scale and its abstract form through a trabeated structure.
The plaza offers the primary gathering space where tourists can sit and pause for a while before and after visiting the complex. It is an elliptical colonnaded prism surrounding a central fountain that is provided with the existing depression on the site, making use of its conturs. It opens into the tourist info centre and the festival ground and provides the user, a choice.
The Tourist Info centre/Admin Block:
Being the control room for the entire site, this block consists of the both the administrative facilities and the introductory tourist facilities like the information desk, cafeteria, waiting area. It also provides an access to the guest house and is closely linked with the curation centre, gallery and auditorium.
The gallery forms the corridor to the rest of the complex. It is lit with clerestorey lighting and its sheer scale provides the sense of high enclosed volume. By virtue of being the access way, the exhibit spaces provide a glimpse of the art forms to be experienced in the site, creating a sense of anticipation.
Right across the gallery is the auditorium, which functions as the orientation hall except when it is used for indoor performances. There is a separate access to the auditorium from the site, which is kept open for renting out the auditorium for other gatherings to the community.
The Curation Centre
The curation centre consists of a library and studios for the curation of the various art forms of the site, thereby encouraging research and development of these endangered art and craft forms of Thanjavur.
The Performance Lawn
The gallery opens into the performance lawn which is an amalgamation of the Chola and the Maratha style of architecture, with the performance staged in the mandapa flanked by jali walls on either side, which bounds the spectator’s field of vision. The performance acts as the auditory stimulus that channels the user towards this space.
As the crowd progresses from the performance lawn, it spills out into a tree-covered walkway that culminates in the OAT complex, which forms a stark skyline with its domes – a Maratha form of tangible experience. As they approach the complex closer, they get to see the farmers’ market where the produce from the agricultural fields on site are sold, during the harvest seasons. Otherwise, these spaces are used as stalls. This complex is set amidst the lawns, divided by the access-way into the Palm lawns and the restaurant spill-out area, which act as pause points for the tourists.
The Palm Lawn
This lawn is set against the backdrop of palm trees which forms the ecological heritage of Thanjavur. The produce from these palm trees is sold in the tender palm stall at the end of the lawn. The produce includes, tender palm, jiggery and palm water. The lawn overlooks the practice area of the performance artists, which becomes a visual stimulus. The water-body running along the lawn creates a gentle breeze which produces a cooling effect, thereby giving the tactile experience. Sitting in the lawn and feeling the grass also adds to this experience.
The Irrigation Pond
This pond designed with the natural contours of the site, contributes towards the irrigation of the agricultural fields. It is a major design element as it physically separates the artists’ village from the rest of the site, but giving the visual connectivity between them, also physically accessed by the bridges, by the tourists. It also enables the blending of the two parts into one, even with the two representing their contrasts. It merges the past (kalaikoodam) with the present (vayakaadu), preserving it in its original context.
The Coffee Deck
This is the most involving experience of heritage of Thanjavur in the complex. It consists of a platform with:
- madras-terrace roof
- athangudi tile clad floor
- arched openings
Visual experience: This overlooks the ‘Vayakaadu’, along the irrigation pond with the agraharams set amidst the agriculture fields. This contributes to the visual experience. During the rains, sitting in these swings and watching the water drip from the roof becomes an experiential element.
Auditory experience: The OAT lies right adjacent to the deck. Any performance happening there becomes the background sound, thereby involving the sense of hearing.
Tactile experience: Set beside the irrigation pond, the cool breeze from the water adds to the tactile experience while moving gently in the swing on and off the tiled floor, holding a brass tumbler of hot, freshly brewed coffee.
Olfactory experience: The pleasing aroma of the degree coffee brewing becomes the key stimulus for this experience. During the monsoon season, the smell of wet ground becomes the stimulus. During the harvest season the smell of the paddy becomes the stimulus.
Taste: The taste of freshly brewed coffee is the prime stimulus that organizes the other senses.
The guest house is provided with 1BHK facilities for both the tourists and the performance artists together. The performance artists are given rooms adjoining the practice lawn and the tourists are given the other rooms in both the corridors. The guest house is styled in the Maratha style of architecture as the performance arts were highly significant during the Maratha reign of the city of Thanjavur.
The factors considered for the design include:
- Privacy for the artisans
- Tourist interaction with the artisans
- Contextual setting for the artisans
- View decks to the fields
Approach to the village
Based on art and craft forms in practice, artisans are categorized on the two main time periods of Thanjavur, namely:
- Chola period
- Maratha period.
Both the periods are focused individually in both the market avenues. The public avenue loops between the two.
The Agraharam style of Architecture is employed in the physical morphology of the building, with elements of bazaar style of market spaces added to it.
A few adaptations of the Agraharam style include:
- Thinnai – Sales area which is the first line of interaction between the artist and the tourist
- Ulthinnai – Artist’s workspace which is the main artist-tourist interaction space
- Mittam – Double height light well integrated with the living room of the artist’s stay
- Kollai – Backyard of each house that becomes the artist-artist interaction space
- Macchil – Mezzanine providing an aerial view to the avenue