The hour glass moves at its pace, drifting through civilizations, dynasties, kingdoms and wars, leaving behind eternal symbols like temples, stupas, monasteries, forts and tombs. After Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions came colonial influence and post independence, the legacies of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn prevailed. In the 70s, ethnicity was the call of the hour and the 80s was the era of post modernism. “The contemporary architecture of India is an interaction between a global culture and our rich past,” says Brinda Somaya.
In the last 15 years, Indian architecture has seen a huge change in terms of trends. It has taken great leaps ahead in terms of technology, material and design. Architects have branched out to various realms like Brinda Somaya who restored the St. Thomas Church in Mumbai, Pratima Joshi plans slums in cities and Anupama Kundoo works with low energy building technologies. They are not alone. The ratio of men and women architects has increased to 60 and 40 today. Though still few in number, women architects have tried to be different rather than be typecast as ladies who lunch and occassionally do home interiors.
“India produces quality women architects but very few trend setters,” says Abha Narain Lambha, architect. Iconic architects like Zaha Hadid and Gae Aulenti are hard to find. Being a demanding profession, many women opt out due to family pressure. But these architects have gone against the tide and created a niche for themselves. [...]
Her work is slotted as contemporary vernacular, many of her projects built with low energy technologies such as water harvesting and renewable energy sources. But this aspect of Anupama Kundoo’s work emerges more from an attraction to efficiency. “My designs are not driven by the worry that the world will end, but by finding ways to make the most with what one has,” says the 40-year-old, who has been practising for 17 years.
After graduating from Sir J.J College of Architecture, Mumbai, in 1989, she found the creative options, which were to become interior designers or to produce facades of buildings without working on the interiors, either frivolous or boring. She didn’t surrender to either and headed off to travel, landing in Auroville. Some of her projects include Creativity, an attempt at an urban eco-community in 2003 in Auroville and Keystone Foundation in the Nilgiris in 2005. She describes her work as natural, without any make-up. The other area of her expertise is housing, where she recently researched tropical high-rise housing for the urban area. After working in Berlin during the building boom she got a chance to teach at the Technical University, Berlin, and Darmstadt in Hesse, in 2005.
SEEN HERE AT FRENCHMAN PIERRE TRAN’S HOUSE, AUROVILLE
Concept Exploring alternatives to the regular RCC slab, out of environmental and socio-economic concerns.
Challenges There were design innovations that meant having to teach masons things I myself didn’t know, but was determined to learn along the way. Like learning how to prefabricate high quality ferro-cement panels that we had to produce on the site. These are used as vertical fins on the facades to block the direct sun while enabling cross ventilation.
Cost Rs 25 lakh for 450 sq.m