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Tuesday22 July 2014

Arup-designed library for north Indian school takes centre stage

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Arup Associates has unveiled designs for a new library at its award-winning Ladakhi Druk White Lotus School in northern India.

The pro bono project formed a case study for an RIBA-hosted symposium — on the role of architecture and the environment in preserving local and traditional cultures in the context of globalisation — held in London last week.

According to Arup, the Pema Karpo Library represents an exemplar scheme where traditional values meet 21st century engineering technology.

Exhibition and archive rooms face a circular central courtyard — modelled on the Buddhist symbol of the dharma wheel, which represents the “unity of all things” — while a balcony offers access to the library.

The traditional mud roof helps with insulation and acoustics, while timber panelling and glazing provide a contrast with the granite walls that encircle the courtyard. Rooftop solar panels provide electrical power and heating.

Local expertise and craft skills were fundamental to the design. Mostly indigenous building materials were used on the project, from sustainable sources.

Key speakers at the symposium last Thursday included Unesco world heritage chief Francesco Bandarin and architect and author Juhani Pallasmaa.

Arup Associates director Declan O’Carroll used the event to criticise architects who impose generic “signature designs” in inappropriate cultural and geographic locations.

“We need to question what is driving us toward creating generic buildings. What is it that society demands, and not just the developed world?” said O’Carroll.

“Design needs to celebrate a unique society, not be a consequence of a default, predetermined signature style.”

The Pema Karpo library project is set to be completed in 2010.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • The structure is beautiful. I particularly like the generous courtyard dimensions. A Pro Bono project of this significance is truly inspiring. Three cheers for Arup and everyone involved.

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  • Nice. What is the relationship with the existing - previously published (and admired by this reader) - school? Also I would be concerned about the open deck on the upper level and the possible vortex for cold winds coming off the snow capped mountains

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