Update from the Hilltop in Palitana

From 3800 steps up in the mountains of Palitana, here is an update on our most remote project to-date.

In 2021, a unique project opportunity was presented to Xylotek – to build hilltop and foothill canopies for a congregation space at the marble temples in Palitana, India. Years later, team Xylotek has completed the hilltop structure and is preparing for the foothill site. Read on for more about the installation programme, design, and materials we used!
Team Xylotek and Gujarati contractors at the hilltop site.

With temperatures rising to 38° Celsius, the team had to climb the 3800 steps to the hilltop site daily in the cooler morning hours to avoid the day's intense heat. Working in this way, maximum productivity and safety could be achieved for the installation programme.  

Led on-site by Wilf Handy and team, Xylotek used a Genie lifting system to raise the roof panel elements and affix them to the canopy rafters and braces. With wind speeds high in the mornings around the hilltop site, there was a challenge presented to time the lifting for midday and into the afternoon when wind speeds were tailed off to reduce the risk to the panels and team.  

Whilst away from the UK, the team have experienced the vibrancy of the local culture, including Gujarati weddings, food and music. From 8th March, the Holi festival in India takes place. This means down-tools for everyone in order to celebrate for 8-9 days. This presented the opportunity for the UK team to fly back for a break before the second pavilion installation.

Team using the Genie lifting system for the roof panels.
Looking up at the roof of the pavilion.

Nestled in the marble courtyard, the hilltop pavilion, made from pressure-treated pine CLT, spans 12 metres by 16 metres and measures about 6 metres high. This will allow significant shade and gathering space for the Jain pilgrims during the pilgrimage season over the summer months.  As designed by SJK Architects (a female-owned architecture firm based in Mumbai), the canopy has no visible steel fixings or components. Instead, the structure rests on 8 supporting beams with connecting nodes. The structure is built primarily for the context of the temple space, aiming to complement the existing site and fit with the outlook from the hilltop over the surrounding hills and landscape.  

The technical choice to build using pressure-treated pine not only nods to the natural material, in keeping with Jain religious practices but has the practical advantage of resisting decay and termites. The red tone of the wood catches the sunlight and contrasts with the bright white marble to designate the separate gathering space under the canopy. The teak water-based wood stain, supplied by Simonin, was chosen for its opacity in order to show the wood grain through.  

We are excited to see the development of the foothill site next – stay tuned for updates on the reciprocal framework installation and images!
About the author:
Wilf Handy
Junior Install Manager

Wilf has ten years of practical experience in a range of projects including large-scale stage set productions for UK and European festivals, music videos, adverts and awards ceremonies, as well as traditional joinery.


Temple Pavilions - Palitana, India

Xylotek are collaborating with Arup, SJK Architects and Expedition Engineers to design, fabricate and install two canopies in the temples for the Jain community. The Glulam and CLT pavilions will be installed at the foothill and hilltop sites of the Palitana Temples in Gudjarat, India.

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