It is not just another brick in architect Srijit Srinivas’ impressive design portfolio. A stylish, sprawling building made of red bricks and brickwork louvers exudes serenity in the middle of a crowded semi-urban space in Thiruvananthapuram. Sunlight streams into airy rooms and the play of light and shadow on the floors and walls create a fluid work of art that keeps changing all through the day.
Spread over 17,500 square feet on a plot of nearly 31 cents, the Benziger Hospice Home was meant to be a sanctuary for indigent cancer patients who flock to Thiruvananthapuram for treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC).
For Srijit’s vision and the care with which he designed the Hospice, he won the Jury award at the World Architecture Community Awards 34th Cycle 2020. His work was among 24 such projects shortlisted by the jury and he is perhaps the first Malayali to win this award.
A project of The Malabar Province of the Order of Discalced Carmelite (OCD) – affiliated to the Catholic Church, the home was built to accommodate cancer patients coming for treatment and check-ups at RCC.
Srijit’s brief was to build a hospice for patients who came from all over Kerala and neighbouring districts of Tamil Nadu.
“However, we did not want a dehumanised environment for patients and their caretakers. We wanted a comfortable, convenient space for them to rest and recover with basic facilities for medical help. And Srijit has more than fulfilled that with a hospice that has become a tranquil place that offers food and accommodation, all free of cost, for cancer patients,” says Father Jose Mechery from the Malabar Diocese who has worked closely with the project.
Srijit emphasised that the building must not only provide shelter but also emotional and mental support to patients going through physically taxing treatment methods. An alumnus of the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, he believes that buildings must be more than mere brick-and-mortar spaces.
“Completed in about seven-eight months, I envisaged a place where the patients would get plenty of privacy with community areas to engage with each other, play games or watch television. Every floor has such spaces and a kitchenette. Moreover, since the space is in a densely populated area, the double-slanted louvered brickwork façade shield them from prying eyes while they can enjoy the fresh air and sunlight. It also makes the building cooler,” explains Srijith.
Patients of the RCC and their relatives can stay at the facility for three weeks without paying any charges. “After that period, if there is an emergency, they can extend their stay but that will depend on the situation and it is not meant for all patients. Naturally, the hospice is mainly for those coming to Thiruvananthapuram from other districts. We have already begun accommodating patients,” adds Father Joseph.
The ground floor opens into a landscaped central courtyard that floods the building with natural light and air while the warmth of the bricks and the soothing greenery of the plants create a calming ambience for patients and their caretakers. It also has a chapel, dining area and spacious kitchen.
Prior to this award-winning hospice, Srijit had won the World Architecture award for Brickhaus, an eco-friendly residence in Thiruvananthapuram he had designed with rainwater harvesting and solar power.