Studio Lotus wins competition to design new Mehrangarh Fort Visitor Centre in Jodhpur

Studio Lotus, a multi-disciplinary design practice founded in 2002, has emerged as one of the most path-breaking architectural firms in India, with Ambrish Arora, Ankur Choksi, Sidhartha Talwar, Pankhuri Goel and Asha Sairam at the helm as design principals.

Now, the Delhi-based Studio Lotus has won the architectural competition to build the new Visitor Centre and Knowledge Centre at the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort precinct in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The Studio’s winning proposal of metal and stone dry construction methodology explores frugal innovation, flexibility and modularity that allows for the buildings to be reshaped with evolving needs.

The closed design competition, organised by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, invited proposals from eight leading Indian design practices, selected at the discretion of the Board. The brief sought design solutions for the next phase of Adaptive Re-Use of the Mehrangarh Fort and Museum precinct. Picked from among three finalists, Studio Lotus’ winning entry attempts to create an architectural system, rather than a mere set of buildings for the next phase of interventions in the Fort.

The design takes the brief forward through a highly functional and responsive approach towards the existing context – focusing on ease and efficiency of construction, high degree of localisation, re-configuration and modularity. The creation of these inserts within the Fort presents an opportunity to create a framework for architecture, which could become the basis of continued development over the next few years of the envisaged masterplan.

Providing an alternate entrance experience, the Visitor Centre is designed as a highly flexible and adaptable intervention that will help mitigate the high footfall with minimal ecological impact. A parallel pathway along the main fort entrance has been proposed, culminating at the Jai Pol Plaza. The junction of the plaza and the pathway will house the Visitor Centre, populated with woven steel lattice-based modules fitted with stone tukdi slabs.

The proposed Knowledge Centre is sited along the north-western ramparts overlooking the Chokhelao Bagh. Developed as a series of interconnected decks descending from the Palace Plaza, the Knowledge Centre will consist of Exhibition Galleries, Seminar Halls, Community Spaces and Scholar’s Studies. The spaces, placed sequentially from public to progressively more private, along the decks, have been designed around a steep lightwell. Stone jalis and a system of trellises formed through extensions of the building’s primary steel structure will characterise the façade.

Studio Lotus’s proposal seeks to create new linkages in the fort precinct by means of sensitive spatial interventions that bolster the existing circulation scheme. The towering edifice of Mehrangarh and its various outcroppings constitute a staggeringly intricate built character, as much a testament to the beauty of the built form as it is an embodiment of the region’s culture and heritage.

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