Published: 02nd August 2018
Why Benny Kuriakose wants young architects to sustainably re-purpose old buildings
Eminent Indian architects Dr Benny Kuriakose and Chitra Vishwanath speak about the incorporation of ecology as a major factor in architecture
When our food, clothes and lifestyle are veering towards being sustainable, it stands to reason that the homes we live in and the office we work in should also be sustainable. That was the driving theme of the Sustainability Sensitizing workshop conducted by MARG Institute of Design and Architecture Swarnabhoomi (MIDAS). The speakers at the workshop were eminent architects Dr Benny Kuriakose and Chitra Vishwanath.
Both the architects spoke about the kind of the architecture that is environment-friendly and sustainable. We caught up with Benny and Chitra and requested them to share their knowledge and experience in the incorporation of ecology as a major factor in architecture.
Architecture workshop: Architects speak about the kind of the architecture that is environment-friendly and sustainable
Dr Benny Kuriakose, who was also one of the speakers at the workshop, has established himself as an architect who believes in the functionality and sustainability of a design rather than just erecting buildings. He is known for his vernacular designs inspired by his roots in South India and loves using natural materials like timber, stone and brick for construction. He believes conservation can lead to development. "Converting an existing building into something new is actually very sustainable in terms of materials and cost. If you are recycling an entire building, you are conserving our heritage and in an economical manner," explains Benny. He has no formal education in architecture but has always been inspired by Laurie Baker's work.
He has been part of major rehabilitation projects post the 1993 Latur earthquake and the Bhuj earthquake in 2002. He has received several accolades for his contribution in the field of architecture — namely the Inside Outside Designer of the Year 2001 for the weekend retreat in Chennai and the Estrade Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. He has also been mentioned in the list of top 10 Indian architects who harness traditional wisdom to build homes of the future.
One of his popular projects called 'Vishram on the Sea' is a farmhouse that he rebuilt with Attagudi tiles."I got the doors and windows of another old house in T Nagar in order to recycle them. The house also has several verandahs and is a form of vernacular architecture. 'Vishram' means leisure or relaxation, that is the feeling you will get after entering the place," says Benny. A few of his other projects include the Wayanad House and Casa Rojo.
He is also the author of the books such as Conserving of Timber Structures in India and Post Tsunami Reconstruction: Manual for Supervisors and Project Staff. He is one of the editors of the book Guidelines for the Preparation of a Heritage Management Plan. He has been associated with UNDP, UNESCO, various State Governments and other organization as a consultant.
Sustainable architecture: Chitra built herself a mud house in Bengaluru
Bengaluru-based architect Chitra Vishwanath is known for her various real estate developments guided by ecological principles, integrating sound water, energy and land-use thinking into a design. She is the Principal Architect and Managing Director of Biome Environmental Solutions and has been a part of more than 500 projects that have used water harvesting and sanitation structures with specific relevance to the ecology of the sites. Her speciality is that she prefers using mud as a basic material for her design structures. In order to showcase the practicality of mud-based structures, she built herself a mud house in Bengaluru over an area of around 1,500 sq ft. The house is a perfect example of eco-friendly living in the modern age.
"During the 1990's there was quite a change in the social and political history of our country. Markets opened up rapidly. I was growing up in Bengaluru and judiciously followed Laurie Baker's philosophy of frugality. Since then I have tried to incorporate sustainability into my work of architecture," says Chitra.