This is a commission to design a traditionally constructed Hindu temple to be built on a hill at Venkatapura near Nangali in Kolar District, Karnataka, India, in the complex 12th-century style of the Hoysala dynasty. The stone is to be the blue-grey soapstone (chloritic schist) beloved of the Hoysalas. The temple is to be dedicated to Vishnu in the form of Shree Venkateshwara (or Balaji).
While lineages of practitioners from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat continue build traditional temples in their respective traditional styles worldwide, no ‘Hoysala’ temple has been built since the 14th century, hence the need for Hardy’s expertise. The brief is not for a copy of a Hoysala temple, but for a new creation arising from the design principles manifest in the tradition. As well as religious motivation, the client aims to revitalise regional cultural traditions: the temple is to provide a setting for dance performances, with schools of dance and sculpture envisaged at the site. A group of master craftsmen proficient in the Hoysala style of sculpture has been identified to work on the project and to train apprentices.
The client, the Shree Kalyana Venkateshwara Hoysala Art Foundation, signed a contract with Cardiff University in 2009 for Adam Hardy to produce the overall design of the temple and surrounding complex. The design was developed during 2010, with refinements thereafter. The bhumipuja (initiation of the project, orientation of the temple, worship of the goddess earth) took place on 21 March 2010, and the shilanyasa (foundation stone ceremony) in April 2012. Large granite blocks are (2013) being transported to the site and lain to create a level platform for the whole complex. The next stage of the project, production information, is awaited, while the granite platform and site infrastructure are put in place and further funds raised. While the objectives of the project can be fully realised only when the building is complete, the first phase presented here has constituted a coherent piece of research through design, its relevance enhanced by having a real client and real practical, financial and political constraints.