Nilshi, Pune, Maharashtra

The YMCA International Camp Site, set upon a hillock, overlooking Andhra Lake, in Village Nilshi, near Pune, is a multi-functional facility focused on street-kids from the metropolitan cities of Maharashtra.  A small plateau on the hilltop was selected as the center of the design, integrating underground cabins, tent sites, sanitary facilities, a multi-purpose hall, a crescent guesthouse and catering facilities into the landscape within an organic landscape of subterraneous structures.

Entering the campsite, one cannot see buildings, boxes or little holes with people trapped inside! Yet the giggles of children, and the laughter emanating from within the dense forest indicate one has entered into a human habitat. Low walls disappear within earth mounds, covered by carpets of green grass. A white parasol-like tensile structure, floating over low walls with greenery growing up the sides, covers a lively catering center. Greenery is everywhere. The winds blow through leaves and branches, surrounding a meandering path, leading to small descending ramps, and stairs that link all of the components of this organic plan into a free structure along this bending spine and its branches. This unique pattern results in structures being posited under earth mounds and within hill slopes. These mounds appear to be mystical places with pointed wind-catchers reaching toward the sky.  The human eye first perceives it is in an open garden with only a walled dining court covered by a tensile parasol. The descending ramps and stairs tempt one to explore what appears as entries to underground caves. Yet, on further exploration these lead to foyers, and on into generous rooms with large glass walls opening out to the vast Andhra Lake’s fingers and surrounding green forests.  Of particular interest is a crescent shaped, earth-covered guesthouse, with glass walls facing the lake. Ventilators and skylights appear as sculptors on the earth mound roof. The composition emerges as a large organic garden integrated into a natural setting.

But why this beautiful garden spread over acres of hilly forest? This campsite was created for the street and slum children of Mumbai and Pune who may have never seen a tree, raw nature or a clear blue lake. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds come in neighborhood groups to learn swimming, rock climbing, trekking, boating, archery, camp craft and many games. Often they come in the weekends during the school year leaving the weekdays for the facility to be used for corporate training and brainstorming. The income from this usage subsidizes the running of the campsite, making it possible for economically challenged children, women’s groups and low income households to experience a relaxing and reflecting environment.

The project is conceived in natural, local Basalt stone, with concrete roves. A floating column supports a tensile structure over the dining area letting in natural light and ventilation from the sides.

LocationNilshi, Pune, Maharashtra

Built Up Area2,375 Square Meters

Site Area66.7 Acres



 The Bombay YMCA






Prime Contractor

Millennium Engineers and Contractors Pvt. Ltd and Bakale Constructions


Structural Design : C.E. Godse, Satish Marathe Consulting Engineers, Pune


Ramprasad Akkisetti and Deepak Kaw

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger, Daraius Choksi, Rahul Sathe, Deepak Guggari and Harsh Manrao


2006   Archidesign Award for Architecture

Institutional Building

2006   Indian Institute of Architects Award 2006 for Excellence in Architecture

Best Institutional Building