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Sustainable design for Nandyal temple

Photography: Edmund Sumner

Mumbai-based Sameep Padora and Associates has designed the Temple of Steps in Andhra Pradesh, which was to plan a Balaji temple for the residents of Nandyal.

The architects were tasked with creating a structure that blended with the dry Nandyal terrain and the surrounding cotton and chili farms. Groundwater recharging was the first step in the ecological strategy, to direct the water overflow from the limestone quarries into a low-lying recharge pit called the kund. Imagined as a social space, the pit resembles a traditional ghat with a flight of steps leading down to the water body. This created water tanks within the temple premises, a significant aspect of Hindu temple architecture, which harvests approximately 1,370,000 liters of water.

Spread across 2.5 acres, the temple is based on a 10th century temple for the same deity at Tirupati and includes shrines for Balaji and Varahaswamy with a pushkarini (water tank). Locally-available black limestone slabs were corbelled to form the main body of the temple, which incorporates soil and planting in the lower part to buffer against the heat. The use of corbels symbolize how the temples achieve their versatility and make the form rise from the ground, thus destabilizing the notion of the structure as a simple figure.