Eco-friendly should be the mantra

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It is time to change construction practices and be in tune with nature.

If we agree with the philosophy that we are what we think, then we realise that we are not eco-friendly because we do not think eco-friendly. Our attitudes are not tuned to live with nature.

However many seminars we attend, articles we read or data we collect, most of it will be futile unless we change. So, we console ourselves saying paradigm changes are impossible and continue with our resource consuming lifestyle!

If we intend to change, it will not be so difficult to bring about at least few nature friendly-homes, habits and construction practices. There are a few listed below.

Every design decision should be validated for its ecological sensitivity: In our modern urban living, we all use set of criteria to take individual and collective decisions. Today cost, comfort, image and ego appear to dictate most of our decisions. For Mahatma Gandhi, the litmus test was about truthfulness, which he would apply to most decisions he would take. If we have to create a sustainable future, we also need a litmus test. We should check if every one of our ideas and actions are eco-friendly or not. If not, it is certain that we are harming nature.

Repairable construct i on, replaceable materials and replicable designs: The famous RRR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) as a solution towards eco-friendly living has had reasonable publicity, with some success too. However, the construction sector has generally ignored this dictum, continuing with its practice of building big, producing more products, introducing new materials and rarely repeating an idea, however appropriate it is. Architecture being an expression of owner aspirations as well, it may be difficult to force RRRs, but we can attempt repairable construction, replaceable materials and replicable designs, which can go a long way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to the construction sector.

Lower the embodied energy, greater the sustainability: Many sets of criteria have been introduced to assess and measure green buildings with varied types of certifications. Surely, they have resulted in marginal reduction in the carbon footprint of buildings, but these rating systems cannot change the future. Given this, one overarching criteria could be to assess the sum total energy a construction project consumes, right from the raw material supply to disposal of debris when it gets demolished someday. This figure is termed as embodied energy and lowering it is the key to a sustainable future.

Culturally appropriate plan and climatically appropriate construction:Architecture is an expression of both aspirations and construction, and as such needs to balance between the two.

Let the design be suited to the lifestyle such that there is a personal acceptance; material to fit aesthetic choices such that it has a societal meaning; construction be eco-friendly such that resources are saved and the overall design be of architectural appropriateness. Such an approach may lead to a sustainable future.

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Practical designs

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Property owners must test every idea that consultants extend to check for functional and ecological aspects.

Elaborate description and brief checklist pointers have respective roles to play in knowledge transfer. Extensive data can be found in the media, but many of them are so descriptive, readers are unable to apply them. So, this essay lists a few simple facts towards achieving green sense.

Performance of the building is more important than the perceived design:Architecture of the early history evolved from pragmatic approaches and practical designs.

There would have been considerations of visual appeal, but to lesser degree than today where we are obsessed with how the design would be perceived by people, professionals and the media.

Architecture of attraction is the rule of the day, with performance relegated to the back burners. It is time the project owners test every idea that consultants extend to check for their functional perfection and ecological performance, instead of simply going by the advertised hype.

Eco-sensitive ideas do not get accepted only on eco-criteria: People passionate about sustainable architecture are increasing in numbers today, but contrastingly, so too are consultants frustrated by negligible implementation of such design ideas.

To understand this paradox, we need to realise that an idea however great it is ecologically, will not get built unless it is visually attractive, socially acceptable, financially affordable and professionally doable. So, the challenge lies in fusing multiple criteria into the ecological platform.

Not all these can be achieved by the consultants alone, so forming a team of likeminded people has to be the first step, followed by the feasibility of the ideas generated. Much can be achieved if we are willing.

Let the buildings breathe: Imperviousness is not a common phenomenon in nature, with all fruits, vegetables, trees, materials and animals living by breathing through nostrils, skin, bark or surface. Traditional architecture built with mud, wood, lime, tiles, stone and thatch breathed and lasted long.

The moment we apply cement mortar, chemical paints, aluminium cladding and such others, we are blocking the breathing, in terms of air, light and humidity. No wonder, they demand more energy for servicing them, reducing the lifespan of the building and increasing life cycle costs due to greater maintenance.

In the name of architecture, we are not enclosing spaces, but sealing spaces. We are creating boxes of artificial indoors, which need to be opened to nature.

Minimise manufactured materials: If we can classify building materials as natural, processed and manufactured ones, it is the last category of manufactured materials which consume most of Earth resources. As such, they have high embodied energy, effecting irreversible ecological damages during their production, besides producing high quantity of waste. Until a few decades ago, most construction happened with natural materials and very few processed ones like burnt brick.

It’s too late now to refuse manufactured materials, but we surely can minimise their usage. A few centuries ago, produced materials replaced the natural ones, and now the time has come to replace the produced ones with natural materials.

Basics of eco construction

Measures that any builder can follow.

02bgpCourtrooftoletraininjpg (1)We see larger number of people today opting to live with organic food, less waste, zero preservatives, low carbon footprint and in architecture, with designs closer to nature. Unfortunately, there is no single source at present where one can learn about the basic applicable eco principles applicable to a project. This essay continues from the last, listing some simple applicable measures that anyone can follow.

Common sense can solve what creativity cannot: If we look for the common thought among sustainable buildings of the past, we notice they all had some common sense. Simple observations of what works and what does not, how to put diverse materials together and how to build easy contributed to design decisions. This is not to ridicule contemporary designs emerging from computer software, but to stress on the need to be sensible to a context.

The major impediment towards applying common sense is embedded in increasing professionalism. Young aspirants get academically trained to be part of the industry, with no accumulated knowledge. The construction field itself is being controlled by systems, standards, procedures and formalities, keeping common sense out. If we can bring it in, many more buildings can become eco-friendly.

Build with local materials, not locally available materials: Among the major principles of sustainable buildings, emphasis on local materials is universally agreed upon. Every region inhabited by humans has the required construction materials to provide shelter and security, without which settling down would have been impossible. Invariably, they are economical, suited to the local climate and easy to work with no long distance transport.

In a large metropolitan city, the original local material might have disappeared, yet the regional options would be around. However, today the local materials are being replaced by locally available materials, thanks to the global marketing networks, which does more harm to ecology.

Minimise manufactured materials: With no major exception, most locally available materials are produced somewhere, transported to anywhere and belong to nowhere. They are rooted only to their factory, not to any climate, culture or history, unlike the local materials which have a context. Once built with, the character they give to the buildings also are not rooted in the context, but only in the perceived creativity, publicity and anonymity.

The greater reason to minimize manufactured materials lies in their very high embodied energy, a direct quantitative measure of the consumed Earth resources. Unfortunately, we are increasingly manufacturing and constructing with artificial factory made materials today than ever in our construction history.

Heritage buildings are by default eco-friendly buildings: The past did not permit us to build anyway we wished, but created constraints of wall stability, limited roof options, indoor comfort, maintenance matters, local appropriateness and such others. Most of these resulted in historic structures being climate and construction specific, hence by default energy efficient and sustainable.

We tend to mainly observe beauty and monumentality in traditional buildings, sometimes the vernacular values, not realising how much is there to learn towards an eco-friendly future.

The approach is crucial in construction

GREENBUILDING

Every region in India can evolve a local, contextual and hence ecological architecture, while being contemporary as well.

In aspiring for ecological architecture, too often, we are lost attempting a paradigm shift in our actions, which cannot be achieved unless we adopt the right methods. Methods themselves are determined by the approach, which needless to say, have not changed much during the last 40 years of ecological awareness. It will be worthwhile to re-focus on a few approaches, without which we cannot make headway in green sense.

Image of the building is less important than its impact on the environment:Visual images have occupied centre stage nowadays, be it in websites, fashion shows, TV news channels or in shopping malls. Architecture cannot singularly escape the trend of the time, so most designs are sold with perspective views, rendered images and unbelievably ‘true to life’ computer-generated walk-throughs. Apartments are launched and institutions are inaugurated with media attention. Amidst all this, how often do we hear about the overall environmental impact of the new construction? Very rarely, may be. Stakeholders of every project need to think of ecology before the elevation.

Contextual designs can also be contemporary expressions: The buzz word sweeping across urban India today is ‘contemporary architecture’, a design approach that originated abroad, especially Europe.

Theoretically, ‘contemporary’ should have meant a design belonging to the present time and place, though majority of these structures in India are disconnected from both, primarily following a pre-established western style.

This is not to demean the imagination and creativity behind the contemporary architecture, but to suggest that a contextual design can also belong to our time and place. If designers can take up such a challenge, every region in India can evolve a local, contextual and hence an ecological architecture, while being contemporary as well.

Difficulty of execution should not be the reason to reject an eco-idea: In a fast-paced lifestyle where time has come to mean money, owners and promoters tend to choose designs which are easy to build.

Accordingly, technology-based approaches using manufactured materials get a priority over labour-intensive methods with natural materials. The fine finish with clean lines and shining surfaces appear more enticing than the rustic and handmade. In this process, we not only neglect the carbon footprint of the building, but also the possible construction variety and design range. The ease and speed of doing is becoming both uniform and universal, diluting climate as a determinant of design.

Designing by intuition is as important as designing by calculations:Construction right from early civilisation up to medieval times was deeply rooted in common sense and contextual possibilities. Industrial revolution followed by varied technological and manufacturing capabilities opened up new avenues, formalising the activity into a profession. Naturally procedures, codes of practice, rules, regulations and all the rest followed. The ecological concerns which led to the new direction of sustainable architecture and the green building movement have gone a step ahead with innumerable standards, ratings and calculations. It is ironic that mind is no more the maker of buildings, but systems are. Ecological architecture demands passion as much as profession, intuition as much as calculation

This essay is the 350th in the Green Sense and Eco-Build series, a weekly column that began in May, 2010. With 8 years completed, stepping onto the 9th year, the present and next few essays would try capturing some simple theories that could convert any building into an essentially ecological project.

Truly green, and stylish too

Cob walls can take any shape, including curves, sculptural forms and furniture profiles.

05bgp-greensensGQL3TR0TT3Anyone who explored how our past generations built is bound to have discovered mud walls, be it of Didi Contractor up north at Dharamshala or Laurie Baker in deep-south Kerala. We owe much to such pioneers who re-created our confidence in eco-friendly approaches. However, the introduction of newer ideas has eroded societal belief in traditional systems, including the cob wall, which is among the greenest material with not even cement as an additive.

Soil mix with approximately 20% clay, 20% silt and rest sand, a proportion that can vary slightly, is ideal for cob. Chopped straw, rice husk or such non-decomposing fibrous binders are added to control cracking, and lime is added to make it termite proof. Once this smooth mix with no lumps is added with water, it shapes well as a ball or elongated egg. Testing it is important, checking for consistency by how it cracks while dropping, breaks while being pulled or feeling its stickiness to hand.

These handmade lumps are placed side by side, gaps filled with soil, pebbles, or burnt brick pieces. The surface can be leveled by hand and compacted by hammering. Each layer is checked for consistency in width, say 2’ or at least 1’ 6”, and allowed to dry before next layer is placed. The side of the wall needs to be smoothened before it dries too much using wooden leveling bar with the sharpened edge or even hacksaw blade.

Protection

Exposed cob is not advisable anywhere, especially the lower part of wall vulnerable to erosion by rain, where we may use stone. Since the soil mix is unstabilised, walls facing lashing rain would also need protection. Besides, the wall surface tends to crack, more initially and slowly later on through one full cycle of all seasons, i.e. up to a year.

Given these reasons, cob walls need crack filling with the same mix, later plastering with mud stabilised with cement and quarry dust. The final coat can be with lime or left as mud wash with oxides for colour effect.

To locate openings, we need to fix temporary shuttering, to be removed once the wall is shaped. Stone or wooden lintels suit the cob most, though thin precast RCC lintels can be inserted above very wide openings, to be finished with mud later. Electrical conduits can be fixed externally on the wall, though they can be embedded by making grooves like in normal construction.

Being a loamy material, cob walls can take any shape, including curves, sculptural forms, and furniture profiles. Feasibility of cob depends much upon space available for wall thickness, local climate, availability of the ideal soil mix, local precedence, the speed of construction expected and of course owner’s acceptance.

In India, we do not document our works adequately and provide knowledge to others. Given this, the documentation at Sacred Groves is really remarkable, besides which workshops by Thannal and website postings by many consulting architects today provide basic information if one desires to revive cob walls.

THE ANYWHERE COB WALL

What was the original material of Bangalore fort? Not all can respond to this quizzical question, but the answer is mud.

Cob Walls by Thannal, ThiruvannamalaiThe local chieftain Kempegowda moved his capital from Yelahanka to Bangalore in 1537, with a fort surrounding the market area called Pete. As was normal in those days, it was built with mud, possibly a thick solid wall. Increased threats by enemies made Chikkadeva Raya Wodeyar enlarge and strength it around 1700, still power moved to the hands of Maratha ruler Shahaji. When Hyder Ali claimed the territories around Bangalore, he got the mud fort replaced by stones in 1761, considering the changing technology of warfare.

This fascinating piece of history is also a part of history of mud. Mud walls have much to tell about how we lived in the past, for they sheltered the history of human civilizations. Incidentally, mud walls have a future too, in these days of climate change and ecological challenges.

Most of traditional mud walls were not built with sized bricks, but lumps of clay mixed with straw and lime, what we have today termed as cob construction – simply piling up lumps of local clay. Thick walls were the first human impulses towards shelter making to gain strength by thickness, stability by wider base, durability by multiple surface layers and passive cooling by thermal mass.

Though the walls are thick, they breathe being porous, hence can control indoor environment. The thickness also helps as moisture barrier, hence average indoor humidity can be maintained. Of course, we need to protect the base of the wall where rain water can splash back and protect the top of the wall with good overhangs, otherwise they tend to erode as can be seen in many village homes built carelessly. Lack of proper cleaning of clay may also lead to plant growth on wall from the roots left in the mud mix or if raw fertile soil is used, it may result sprouting of seeds settled on the wall during rains. Either of them is not a technology problem, but an operational one.

The wider and more compact the wall is, the greater load it can take. This system is called load bearing by compression, a cheaper and long lasting method.  Contrastingly, the RCC framed construction transfers load by tension members, which is costlier and has lesser life span.

The roof weight normally go vertically down, called axial loads, which can be well handled by cob. In case of sloping roofs and other lateral loads, proper wall plate beams are required. Many rural structures were not aware of this, where we can notice cracking of wall tops due to lateral loads. Of course, many of them were made thicker at the lower levels, to partially counter the lateral forces and also be able to transfer larger loads. People have also tried stone wall at the base, which actually works very well, often finished with mud plastering to blend with the wall.

In many ways, a cob house is like an anthill. Termites dig out small balls of earth and build atop, with porosity. It may appear primitive, but the way it is being done now scientifically with studied inputs makes it the most green.

The original mud wall

Re-discovering the virtues of cob construction, a mud wall so thick that it can take all load without getting eroded by rains for a long time.

14bgp-greensensGLH3Q0D813jpgjpgAll of us have heard of mud walls, possibly the wall material for the majority of standing structures in India today including all rural buildings. Of course, the increasing presence of burnt bricks and cement blocks are a threat to the popularity of mud, yet traditional mud walls are around us. But how many of us have heard of the term ‘cob walls’?

Dictionary definitions apart, cob walls are the original approach humans used to construct walls with, even before learning how to make mud bricks to specific sizes to sun dry or kiln-burn them. For many thousands of years, cob walls dominated the early human settlements, including those in Babylonian or Gangetic plains.

Have they lost their relevance today? Partly yes, but not entirely. In many rural areas, people continue to build with cob, but in cities, it has almost vanished. Curiously, now there are increasing attempts to revive this technology by groups such as Thannal and Marudam in Thiruvannamalai, Sacred Grove at Auroville, Made in Earth, Mudhands and Biome in Bengaluru and few others in different parts of India.

We are rediscovering the virtues of cob construction. Simply stated, it is a mud wall built so thick that it can take all load without getting eroded by rains for a long time. Some surface moisture, peeling and erosion may occur, which can be repaired periodically. The volume of the wall acts as thermal mass, keeping the building cool in summer and warm in winter. With high compressive strength due to the thickness, cob walls are also earthquake resistant.

Having said this, haven’t we heard, seen or been to such structures like shrines, choultries, monuments, heritage homes or even palaces? Of course, many of us have been there to wonder about the thick walls, not realising their possible potential today. Often these walls were thicker at base, tapering as they reach the top at least in one side, often on both sides.

Cob walls do not need much structural calculations, great construction skills or big budgets. A lump of clay is called cob, so building with them must have been an easy discovery during early civilizations. The fact that even after construction became regular and formalised, cob continued widely, seen even now from lower Himalayas to coastal south India, proves its time-tested qualities.

Minimal demands

Cob walls make minimal demands of clean sub-soil with less clay and more silt, space to accommodate thick walls, some local additives to reduce cracking and material options for final finish. Typically, cob walls are plastered with mud mixed with straw, though in poorer homes they were left un-plastered, with mud slurry and lime wash as crack fillers. If we walk into an old house with plastering peeled off, we can see the original clay lumps revealing the origins of wall construction.

While cob uses local soil to build, it is not the same as the other mud architecture techniques. Building with double hand size mud balls dipped into additively mixed mud slurry as the joint binder is seen some rural areas, which is very close to cob practices. Rammed earth walls could be mistaken as a cob. But they are much thinner at 9 inches only, while cob could be 18 to 24 inches thick. The other differences being the smoother surface of rammed earth, very few surface cracks, no need for plastering and such others.

The Adobe system depends upon mud bricks made to size, sun-dried at the site itself and used to build with. Stabilised mud blocks are also sized blocks, with cement and quarry dust added to gain different properties like strength, thinner walls, durability and better surface density. Cob walls are much simpler than all these.

The re-discovered cob walls are not merely repeating the rural practices, but have attempted technical improvements. There also has been deeper studies about the causes behind surface cracking with solutions; possibility of avoiding thicker base where the whole wall width could be same; different options for additives for the mud; scientific modes of quantifying the components of mud into clay, silt, sand and such others to accordingly decide the right kind of proportion ideal for the cob wall.

These methods of improvisation re-validate the use of cob walls again to claim a position in sustainable architecture. It is time we look into it.

‘Pancha sutras’ of architecture

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The concrete jungles we are creating may endanger the future of our living itself. It is time to adhere to some sets of basic principles. 

Words like green sense and eco-build are often mistaken. The converted naturalists tend to overemphasise air, light, heat, rain and humidity as the only or main criticalities in a good building. If these “pancha sutras” are followed, everything will go great.

The critiques would question how other essentials of architecture can be ignored and how mere adherence to few criteria can fulfil the larger role of design. Of course, every word of their critique is right. The real challenge lies not merely in conforming to nature but balancing nature-architecture equilibrium in their respective roles.

There are many other pancha sutras to be followed. We may list construction, maintenance, demolition, disposal and recycling as the second set. While the first two are somewhat discussed at least to consider the options, the rest is completely ignored as if our buildings will last forever. Everything we build today will have to be demolished one day, but we live as if such a day never comes. The concrete jungles we are creating may endanger the future of our urban living itself.

Considering buildings have evolved from the primary need of shelter making, the third list may have space, activity, storage, protection and privacy. These are being increasingly focused upon, at least in structures being put up by professionals like architects.

Possibly, these were not critically considered in the past, since the lifestyle of those days were not so demanding. Designs revolved around simple, multifunctional and large halls, which were open for many adjustments. Today, we indulge in micro-designing, locating every activity in a specific place.

Buildings need to provide a place for body and peace of mind. So comes the fourth list with security, strength, durability, functionality and flexibility. While the first three everyone talks about and also provide for, the last two only some people talk about and very few are able to provide for. It needs critical thinking, wide experience and an understanding of how people live. When we decide how to live, we can design the true architecture.

The last and fifth set of sutras derives from services, facilities and comforts we seek from buildings. They are water, sanitation, power, lift and air conditioning. Evidently, they refer more to modern and urban contexts, than the architecture of the past which would have had none of them. Incidentally, it is this list which ignores the role of nature most, trying to rule it instead. Considering they all have come to stay, we cannot negate them but can be sensitive to do the least harm to nature. Going a step further, we may attempt living with some discomfort and inconveniences, like all our previous generations have done, at least to let future generations have access to resources they too would need.

The five sets of pancha tantras each totalling 25 principles, is not an exhaustive list towards an ideal arch

Aligning with Nature

Five basic principles must guide all construction activities but we are violating them.

24bgpgreensenseGID3LTDG93jpgjpgAir, light, rain, heat and humidity are the simple pancha sutras which can ensure that our architecture is in alignment with nature. It sounds so simple that everyone can follow them. However, what is easier to say is often difficult to do.

This truth is more apparent in the construction sector. During historic times, people did not consciously follow these principles, but designs evolved with these five sutras as the pre-condition. In many ways, architecture evolved around these five conditions. Following the technological advances we achieved, we could alter the state of nature in our building interiors, both mechanically and artificially. Architecture lost its alignment with nature.

Air moves everywhere maintaining oxygen for breathing by animals, except in the interiors of luxury hotels built by us. Nature has daylight everywhere supporting bio-diversity, except inside iconic auditoriums designed by architects. Rain ensured the Earth gets washed every year, except in our structures that bar rain. Heat and cold go cyclical balancing themselves, except in building indoors where we switch on energy-guzzling air conditioners. All plant produces depend upon right humidity, except humans who ignore it to let their skins dry up.

It is saddening to see how natural principles continue to be neglected in the majority of buildings. We are trying to ape the west, trying to prove we are as good as they are. We have proven that we are good at copying, not realising what we are copying is not good, but very bad.

Of course, increasingly people are discussing and even trying to apply these principles nowadays. Ecological designs are surely on the rise, though limited to groups of converted people today. Over the decades, there would be more people and projects joining the new movement of designing ecologically sensitive habitats, now dubbed as an elitist action by some conventional practitioners.

An early pioneer, Ken Yeang, popularised eco architecture; a thought leader, Janine Benyus, wrote about biomimicry; building biology is catching up now; bio-philia groups are getting enlarged; parametric looks into forms in nature and learning from nature is getting more attention. These all are recent western trends, but India has its achievements too.

Even a simple spatial sequencing from open to semi-open to semi-enclosed to fully enclosed with indoor courts can connect architecture to nature. Little shift from manufactured materialist style to natural minimalist can have major impacts on architecture. Keeping the windows open for air, learning to live with the available light, designing to let rain into corridors or courts, letting the body adjust to bearable temperatures and enduring humidity at least for health reasons can go a long way in aligning architecture with nature.

Let the natural air flow through our spaces; design for daylight lit up our activities; rain be an enjoyable interior asset; heat contrasting with cold boost our body health and comfort conditions get created by humidity. Let air, light, rain, heat and humidity rule our architecture again.

Local designer with international appeal

A tribute to Balkrishna Doshi, who has won the 2018 Pritzker Prize, the Nobel equivalent in architecture.

17bgp-doshi-arcGR83K4RV23jpgjpgdefine architecture as a living organism. It is a place where you live and celebrate life. … ‘I hope my work is received in the spirit it is offered. My name is Balkrishna Doshi.

The first sentence is what Doshi says in the video released by the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize announcement and the second is the concluding line at the end. These two lines virtually represent the human qualities of his designs and the humility with which he accepted the equivalent of Nobel prize in architecture. At the age of 90, he can put every other youngster to shame, be it being approachable by a fresher or in being able to cite fresh learnings every time one meets him, who rightfully claims he is still learning.

Most Indians might not have heard of Balkrishna Doshi, since architecture is still taking baby steps in our nation with million other priorities. However, considering how difficult it is to create meaningful buildings in our country, it is commendable that Doshi could rise above our socio-political limitations, to make India proud by being the first Indian to get this highest honour. Yet, the international calling has come rather delayed, with Euro-American architects winning majority of the last 44 Pritzker awards, where creating great architecture is easier.

Of course, the western contexts are familiar to Doshi. After studying at JJ School of Architecture, Bombay he boards a ship to the U.K. in 1947, from there to Paris to work with the master architect Corbusier. When Corbusier was commissioned to design Chandigarh, Doshi returns in 1954 to be his local architect. He also assisted Louis Kahn of the U.S., besides teaching there during the late 1950s. This western exposure made him look for deeper eastern meanings in the way we live.

Doshi has been cited for his low cost social housing in the prize, with many foreign media highlighting it. However, he deserves the award for the diverse roles he played just when India was in post-independence growth years – academics through School of Architecture, Ahmedabad; architecture through his firm Vastu-Shilpa; documentation and designs through Vastu Shilpa Foundation; and lecturing across the nations reaching out ideas to people.

What is special about this award is Doshi has been quintessentially an Indian architect, having never designed any major buildings abroad. Also, he does not follow the modernist approaches learnt from Corbusier and Kahn, instead synthesising the modern with the Indian contexts. In choosing such an architect, the Pritzker awards has made a slight departure from the modernist international architects whom they typically select.

Notable projects

Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad by Louis Kahn is an international design with an Indian appeal, but IIM Bangalore by Doshi is an Indian design with an international appeal. It virtually defines how institutes of national significance should be built. His design studio Sangath has been listed among the 125 best works of architecture designed since 1891. Notable among his projects are Aranya low cost housing; Institute of Indology; CEPT University; Premabai Hall; Tagore Memorial Hall; Vidhyadhar Nagar new town plan; Bima Nagar housing; and Hussain Doshi Gufa.

Words of the critique Alexandra Lange are worth quoting here: “As architecture has taken a social turn, the Pritzker jury has worked to find laureates that fit both their aesthetic sensibilities and an awakened sense of political responsibility. Doshi fulfils that brief to the letter, while (in a welcome gesture) increasing the prize’s geographic inclusiveness.”

Pritzker jury citation sums him up meaningfully: “Doshi has created an equilibrium and peace among all the components — material and immaterial — which result in a whole that is much more than the sum of the parts.” Still looking for the immaterial and the intangible, Doshi continues to work even now.

Few architects can imagine building new visions, educate generations of students, inspire architects across the nation, investigate into Indian contexts and advice multitudes of initiatives. Doshi appears to have achieved them all with ease.

Of course, we may also acknowledge all those who teamed up with Doshi in this journey of multi-tasking, which again tells much about Doshi as a leader and not a lone traveller, a category many creative architects get trapped into. And everyone knows, he is not going to stop, bound to travel far from here.

Doshi has created an equilibrium and peace among all the components — material and immaterial — which result in a whole that is much more than the sum of the parts.”