Sunday, July 14, 2024

Hampi Art Labs: A Fusion of Heritage, Contemporary Art, and Architectural Poetry

Hampi Art Labs, a visionary arts center gracefully positioned near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi in southern India, presents an enchanting spectacle when observed from a distance, as if engaging in a magical act of levitation. The mastermind behind this architectural marvel is none other than the esteemed Indian architect Sameep Padora, celebrated for his noteworthy projects such as Lattice House and the Temple of Steps, both recipients of the Wallpaper Design Awards Best Public Building in 2021. This artistic haven, sprawling over an expansive 18-acre canvas, is the brainchild of Sangita Jindal and Tarini Jindal Handa, influential figures from the powerhouse JSW, and it stands as a testament to their commitment to seamlessly blend contemporary art, heritage, and nature.

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Exterior view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

The recently inaugurated Hampi Art Labs is not merely a structure; it is a symphony of form and function, housing exhibition spaces, studios, workshops dedicated to ceramics and printmaking, lush gardens, residency apartments, and a charming café. Nestled against the backdrop of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire, a bustling capital from the 14th to the early 17th centuries, Hampi Art Labs is a delicate dance between the historical narrative and the avant-garde vision of the present.

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Interior view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

Sameep Padora, in his role as the founder and principal of his eponymous Mumbai-based architectural practice, approached this project with a profound sense of responsibility to tread lightly upon the storied land. The historical significance of Hampi, with its forts, royal complexes, temples, and waterways, provided a rich tapestry for inspiration. Facing invasions that left scars on many structures, the surviving architectural gems now share the landscape with the renowned rugged hills and granite boulders that Hampi is equally famed for.

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Interior view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

Padora’s design philosophy oscillated between referencing the historical architecture and paying homage to the barren landscape. Ultimately, the latter prevailed, marking a conscious effort to contextualize the new build with what endured over the centuries, rather than what succumbed to the ravages of time.

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Interior view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

Each space within Hampi Art Labs becomes a mirror to the undulating topography, creating a symbiotic relationship with the nearby Tungabhadra River. The gallery and studios, designed to resemble a meandering river, echo the ebb and flow of artistic activity. The architectural finesse doesn’t treat the landscape as a mere backdrop but as a canvas itself, where the roof seamlessly merges with the ground, challenging conventional spatial boundaries. Locally sourced terracotta adorns the exterior, while garden beds along the rooftop walking path promise to intertwine with the verdant surroundings, gradually camouflaging against the natural splendor.

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Top view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

The artist residences, envisioned as pebbles in a stream amidst water-inspired courtyards, embody a harmonious fusion of local and global sensitivities. These abodes, equipped with modern conveniences, showcase native materials reimagined in contemporary forms. Reflecting the global outlook, Hampi Art Labs extends a warm invitation to artists from around the world, emphasizing a commitment to fostering cross-cultural collaborations and enriching the artistic tapestry.

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Exterior view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

The inaugural exhibition, ‘Right Foot First,’ meticulously curated by Phalguni Guliani, draws from the prestigious Jindal Collection. It unfolds a visual narrative that transcends various disciplines, generations, and eras, featuring renowned artists like Andy Warhol, Atul Dodiya, Annie Morris, Ai Weiwei, and many more. The exhibition’s design, with its curvilinear walkways, mirrors the philosophical concept that one can never step in the same river twice, underscoring the ever-evolving nature of Hampi Art Labs.

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Exterior view of Hampi Art Labs (Image credit: Hampi Art Labs, 2024, courtesy of JSW Foundation)

As the doors swung open in February 2024, Hampi Art Labs emerged not just as an architectural marvel but as a living testament to the seamless integration of heritage, contemporary art, and the nurturing embrace of nature. It stands poised to be a cultural beacon, drawing visitors from near and far, and contributing significantly to the vibrant arts infrastructure of the country.

Source: hampiartlabs.com

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