JOBS/ INTERNSHIPS

We are always interested to receive applications from dynamic, innovative and talented individuals. We are keen to welcome enthusiastic candidates who demonstrate their hard work, attention to details, and strong technical and graphic communication skills, in their portfolio. We give preference to applicants who can work with us for at least a year. Applications without portfolios will not be considered, since we use the same as a major criteria for selection. The last date for application is 31.10.2015 for those interns who want to begin their internship in December/January. The vacancies are limited and those who apply for a job can apply at any time of the year. Please send us your CV and portfolio (preferably under 5 MB) with a selection of your best work, to info@bennykuriakose.com



LESSONS FOR A LIFETIME, AUGUST 2, 2015

I amongst  four other interns from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, did our summer internship at Vedika.In a short time span of six weeks we were engaged in three projects, the restoration of a Methodist church in Chennai, photographic documentation and condition assessment of temples in Thanjavur and an urban level study of Alappuzha (Alleppey). My friends have written in detail about all these three projects. This is a shortnote on some of the most valuable lessons I learned and memorable moments I had.

We spent the initial days on research about the upcoming sites for our study. The good collection of books in the office library was the starting point.  We then visited the Anna library and started collecting data from valid internet sources too. Tremendous importance was given for background research, the benefit of which we understood during the site work.We were able to relate ourselves with the site and the people better.

During a two day long informal session with the office staff, Mr. Benny shared with us, his personal and professional experiences. He spoke to us about various projects and the process in which each one of them evolved. The memories about the people who inspired him were the best learning days for me. 

At Thanjavur after the first day’s site visit we sat for a discussion. While going through the photographs,sir asked, “Did you see the banyan tree growing in the  Garbhagriha in the west side?” I wondered, “Banyan tree? In the garbhagriha! No way, it can’t be”. He asked us to zoom in to the specific photograph which shows that area. There  was a tiny sapling of a banyan tree growing in one corner. We all looked at each other wondering how and why he noticed this! I understood the importance of this small observation when he explained how in the near future the tree growth will affect the stability of the structure and the easy job of removing it now will become a tedious task later. By the end of a twelve day long study there, we ourselves could feel the difference in the way we saw things. We were able to identify issues as well as the possible reasons for them. We started photographing things only after a conscious thought. Instead of just listening to the stories the people had to tell, we started asking specific questions which can feed in to our study.   Yes! We started observing and not looking. 

 

In Alappuzha, the lesson learned was on the importance of prior planning and time management. Initially, I wondered how on earth a small group of people can study the whole town in such a short span! Very clear objectives were set. We were focused on identifying the key issues and potentials related to the built heritage. Splitting in to groups, each group having at least one person who can speak Malayalam made the task of collecting oral information from the local people easier. Instead of preparing a series of maps on site, we adopted a townscape analysis method where, on a single map we added on our observations. This enabled us to easily identify the possible proposals. On the last day in Alappuzhathere was a press meet where the study and the initial proposals were explained to the media. In the question and answer session, one media person asked “Isn’t it a dream? Will all these ever happen in reality?” The answer for this question, we got at Muziris the very next day. A quick visit through the different sites where conservation works have been carried out in the Muziris region was an excellent way to wind up our internship. We saw in front of us all the theories and principles of conservation which we learned in the first year, in its practical form.We got the confidence to dream big for Alappuzha. 

 

I have just started my journey in the field of architectural conservation. In this six weeks I understood the vastness and potentials of the field; responsibilities and risks I will have to take. Setting aside the sad part of getting tanned by the sun a bit, I thoroughly enjoyed the site work. I am carrying back with me a lot of memories, a bunch of new friends and lessons for a life time.  I am heading back to my college with complete satisfaction, well determined to become a responsible conservation architect.


- Gopika Jayasree 



SHORT FILM ON MUZIRIS HERITAGE PROJECT, AUGUST 1, 2015

A short video presentation by Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) for Kerala Tourism Department, talks about the marvels of the Muziris Heritage Project, of which Benny Kuriakose is the Conservation Consultant. The video was presented during the 2011 UNESCO meeting in Delhi, where representatives from 17 different nationalities were present. The first phase of the Muziris Heritage Project is ready and will be inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi.

Video Link



MESSAGES IN WATER, JULY 31, 2015

We started as a group for a spa design. Water was one of the main elements used in designing a spa. The significance of water while designing a spa had to be researched on. When I started out, I wondered what was there to research about water. It’s all about just  two hydrogen and one  oxygen  atom and nothing more, but my thoughts changed as I came across this article about Dr. Emoto and his experiments on water.

His experiments began from one of the articles he read about the snowflakes having different crystalline forms. He disagreed with that statement. Hence his experiments began. He set up his own laboratory, and discovered later that his presumptions about water in its crystalline form were infact wrong. Each of the two samples of water from two different rivers, lakes and sea were different. His presumptions further contradicted him and made him more confused.

His Muslim friend decided to help him out and suggested him to experiment with water from ZAM – ZAM well in Mecca. He experimented with the water and was shocked to see that this water which is said to be the purest form, never crystallized. His friend suggested that they  play prayer songs while the water was getting crystallised. They found two tiny beautiful crystals of water. The explanation as to why two crystals is that the word ZAM-ZAM has two parts which lead to the two different types of crystal formation.

The different human emotions reflects the way water gets crystalized. For example  a person with good thoughts in mind , water crystalizes in beautiful patterns and a person with bad thoughts and intentions (ex. I will kill you) water would never crystalize. In homes, the element of water is believed to dissolve negative vibrations.  Also, in religious spaces, it is said that water bodies absorb positive vibrations from the cosmos and dissipate it to the surroundings.

 

The inference drawn made me think as to why people those days used water extensively in their built forms; like in temple sacred tanks that could absorb positive vibrations, water in copper vessels in the courtyards of native residences, Baptism ponds in ancient churches, water as a part of every positive rituals etc. Now it’s time for us to think how we incorporate this in our design more than it’s aesthetic values, is indeed a challenging one and we are working towards it.

- Sumedha Ashok



ALAPPUZHA: SITE EXPERIENCE, JULY 30, 2015

The immense beauty of the landscape of Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, can mesmerize anybody; of course I was awestruck too.  But for me the strength of Alappuzha lies not only in the landscape but also its built heritage which complements it beautifully. It took me almost ten days to correctly pronounce ‘Alappuzha’ which I can never forget and hence I got the logic behind ‘Alappuzha’ renamed as ‘Alleppey’ by the British.

 

After a tiring night travel, the sight of the sea shore excited me greatly as we don't have them where I live. Soon we reached our rest house, freshened up and decided to have a walkthrough around the canals which gave us our very first insight about the city. The town seemed much bigger and had more potential than what we had expected . The long walk was tiring at first, but the heritage beauty of that place caught hold of our interest. Listening to Benny Sir’s views on various site issues really made us question about our approach to any site and especially to a site of this big scale. This interactive walk was very helpful in our later site work and analysis. 

 

Next day early morning, we divided into smaller groups of three and started with the site survey; mapping down all the potential areas. Looking at us mapping, clicking pictures and inquiring made the residents curious and interested, which was in a way helpful in collecting the information. Talking about the town, it presently contains copious layers of history but the decline of trade took away its former glory when  Alappuzha used to be a buzzing town filled with traders, merchants and coir workers. The hustle and bustle of the town while it was serving as a seaport is now only heard in the form of stories  told by the locals, who proudly start the narration and end up with a deep pain in their hopeless voices. They feel the loss and believe that Alappuzha can never get back those glorious days. 

 

The initial plan for the city was carefully done to make it function as a port town, with numerous trading activities introduced and traders were invited from various states to settle down. But now since the port is abandoned, the whole purpose of the city as well as the canals has changed. Now the canals are only an element of landscape. This has entirely changed the occupational system of Alappuzha due to which the city has lost  its original character  which has become difficult to revive. Most of the traders who were brought to  Alappuzha back then have now left as the trade declined.

 

The architecture of the town is not as complex as Thanjavur as it was initially designed as an industrial city. The details like wooden brackets, windows and doors have their own unique quality. 

 

Alappuzha survey was a result of productive group work. It was a unique opportunity which gave us a city level  perspective and also  taught us to respect the user’s point of view which is the base of conservation. Being unfamiliar with the place was never a hurdle. Locals had a positive attitude which helped us cover a huge area within a short period of time.  I look forward to this project  becoming an example for many such similar declining industrial towns.

I would love to visit the city again as it initiated a deep thought process in me and gave me  immense exposure. After this experience I feel a lot more responsible for my actions, which may cause a great impact on lots of lives. 

-Neelima Yadav 


PRESENTS FROM THE PAST, JULY 29, 2015

At the firm, we were graced with the presence of Mrs. Yamuna who is an old friend of Mr. Benny Kuriakose. The meeting was relating to one of our future projects, a spa.

We first started with a round of introductions so that Mrs. Yamuna would know who’s who at the table. Next, Mr. Benny briefed us about the project and the challenge in hand.

As the more popular trend goes, spas are designed with a more modern outlook. Simple walls that are very lightly ornamented, spaces that are etched with ‘serenity’ are what we find in most places. The ideas that spilled over our conference table were far different from these. Our intention, agreed upon mutually by all, was to dig deep into the very beginning of various health practices worldwide; to understand the roots of healing and also the symbolism in various styles. Many Indian concepts date back more than a thousand years and are still very relevant in today’s world. Practices such as Yoga, Pranic healing, Ayurveda etc. have strong ideologies.

Ayurveda, which literally means the science of life (Ayur = Life, Veda = Science), is an ancient medical science which was developed in India, thousands of years ago. Similarly, Siddha Medicine is a system of traditional medicine originating in Tamil Nadu, that says , ‘one who possesses the Ashta Siddhis, or eight supernatural powers becomes a Siddhar, a spiritual adept’. These forms of ancient medicine, like many other around the world, revolve around nature and the elements. Before the outburst of religions and holy men, early civilisations worshiped nature. The five elements namely, Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Ether were considered the fundamental sources of energy. Our ancestors practiced these forms of medicine under specific guidelines. Many scriptures consisting of old medical recipes still exist to date!

Although our ancestors meant for the traditions to be practiced a certain way, over centuries, mankind has lost the true value of these old teachings. Many five-star hotels around the world have lavish ‘Ayurvedic spas’ that are simply a corruption of the original methods. For example, Ayurveda is not only about hot oil massages and herbal concoctions, but a far greater science involving the entirety of the universe. The first Ayurvedic physicians taught that in order to avoid illness and pain, the patient must control the destructive (and self-destructive) nature. Likewise in Yoga, breathing techniques are as important as the postures. The West is not new to these old practices. In many places we can find new versions and forms of these health concepts, some of which were never intended to be practiced the way they are. This is why the research proves crucial. Understanding the past will help us reciprocate it in a more suitable method for the future. Our intention would be to incorporate various methods and create an identity that stands unique; to create an emblem that holds strong with its roots set deep in the past.

A very important ancient form of knowledge is about understanding your Chakra. Learning about your Chakra can go hand in hand with many forms of medicine. Chakras are the energy centers in our body. The word ‘Chakra’ means ‘wheel’. We have seven main Chakras and each one is located on a plexus (center of a network of nerves). These energy centres are responsible for keeping our spiritual, physical and mental aspects in balance. These Chakras are like a reflection of the entire Solar System. In one sense, humans are the microcosms of the macrocosm. Therefore, universal energies symbolized with those of the Solar System, exist within us.

  

The brain storming session lasted for a good two and half hours, by the end of which everyone in the room was certain about our intended approach. Jotting down in our notepads, the outputs during the meeting, we all set out, inspired and excited to travel back in time, relive the past and present it to the future!

-Krishna Adka 



THE HISTORICAL HUB, JULY 28, 2015

Thanjavur which is the temple city, very well known for the incomparable heritage and marvelous temples. This city was and is considered to be one of the most important heritage cities in the country. Many temples in Thanjavur has more than 1000 years of history and chronology to talk about. Most of the Great Living Chola Temples, of which three are UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, are located in and around Thanjavur.

It is definitely a privilege to feel the art and architecture of Thanjavur mixed with the divinity of heritage and culture. As an initiative we had a basic literary study on Thanjavur, its evolution, chronology, present scenario, basic requirements for conservation etc.

Out of our eagerness soon, six of us from Chennai departed to Thanjavur on June 16. It was a wonderful 10 days conservation trip. There were 88 temples taken care of by the Palace Devasthanam along with HR&CE (Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments) Department under the Government of Tamil Nadu, which has to be properly documented and conserved. One of these 88 temples is Brihadeshwara Temple.

  

On the first day we started with Punnainallur Mariamman koil and eventually continued with other temples every day. Mr. Natarajan of HR&CE took us to all the temples and was very helpful in explaining us the details of the temples. We had a wonderful learning on temples. We learnt the chronology of each building, materials used, period and method of construction etc.

Moreover, stay in the Thanjavur palace which is also a heritage place to visit added motivation to our journey. We looked into the defects and new additions of each temple and gained knowledge of DO’s and DONT’s of a temple.

 

We visited Brihadeeshwara temple. Study on Brihadeeshwara is not a small task to do. To feel the architecture of this temple itself will take few days. So we were not able to feel the temple completely, but we visited this temple for two days. The marvelous and intricate sculpture amazed us. It’s really such a beautiful temple to visit.

We were even given permission to go to the gopuram of the temple. As known, it is a hollow gopuram having 7’ walkway inside. The outer part is the raja gopuram which is built at 60 degree slopes, but there are no traces of the method of construction. Only the possibilities of how it could have been done can be assumed. The calculative architecture of the hollow gopuram is unbelievable.

  

I consider Architecture in Thanjavur temples as one of the inspiring element to learn due to their intricate detailing, carvings, scale, proportion, form, spirituality and massiveness.

Our enthusiasm and interest may even take us to the next level. I am looking forward to learn more such opportunities in the future.


- Monika Lakshmanan



CHITRALEKHA FILM SOCIETY, JULY 26, 2015

In today’s Malayala Manorama newspaper, there is a write up on the first film studio and film society in Kerala which have completed fifty years in July 2015. Later on this studio in Akkulam on the outskirts of the then Thiruvananthapuram Corporation was taken over by the Air Force Academy.

I used to be a member of the Chitralekha Film Society, which was the first of its kind in Kerala. It used to have most of its screenings (16mm prints) in the museum theatre within the city. The society had much fewer members when compared with Chalachitra Film Society which had its screenings in Tagore Theatre. Sri Adoor Gopalakrishnan (film director who started the studio along with Kulathoor Bhaskaran Nair), Sri KP Kumaran, Sri Vijayakrishnan, Sri MF Thomas and many others connected with the film industry used to be among the members. Dr. Thomas Issac used to come along with his friends in Centre for Development Studies. I had visited the film studio few times since the film society used to have some screenings in the preview theatre. On some holidays, as much as five movies were screened on the same day.

  

Later on I got a chance to work with Sri Laurie Baker, who had designed the film studio. Baker's creativity and his architectural vocabulary can be very well understood from this building complex. The use of brick jallis to make it look like a Kathakali mask was quite rare among Baker's buildings. When I joined him in 1984, there were no construction works being carried out in the film studio and it was already having its downfall. Once the air force academy took over the film studio, many would not have seen these buildings. I am posting some old photos which I have taken in the early 1980s.

- Benny Kuriakose



EVERYONE SHOULD DO RESEARCH AT SOME POINT IN THEIR CAREER

Yesterday was the convocation day in IIT Madras. I received my doctor of philosophy degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras based on the thesis titled “Housing the Rural Poor in Kerala: A Revisit to Understand Success”. I thank everybody who helped me in writing the thesis.

Many people used to ask me why I was doing the doctorate and what is the need for a Ph.D for you. I used to tell them that if I knew that it was so difficult to do one, I would not have joined. 

In fact when I got the Inside Outside Designer of the Year 2001, there were many enquiries for projects from all over India. Those were the days when there were only two or three awards at the national level. But nowadays, every architectural magazine and TV channels are giving awards under many categories.

After getting the award, I could have taken more projects and made my office bigger. I realised that I am reading much less and it was after meeting Dr. Prema Rajagopal, who was working in IIT, which led me to think about doing the doctorate. I joined IIT Madras in March 2003. Dr. Prema was my guide along with Dr. Dilip Veeraraghavan, who passed away due to cancer. I dedicated the thesis to Dr. Dilip, who went beyond his responsibilities to guide me.

It took more than 10 years for me to complete since I was doing the architectural practice also. There were many times, when I wondered why I did this especially when it took lot of my time. But when looking back, I think I took the right decision although my architectural career would have advanced much during this period. 

Although I had no plans to teach, doing the Ph.D really helped in my architectural practice. I would not have been able to do Muziris Heritage Project or the Tsunami Rehabilitation Projects the way it was done, unless I had done the research. I started looking at the projects in a different way and realised the importance of the academic and research contents in my projects. This is going to influence many of the projects, which our office is doing at present such as the design of the retirement communities, churches, resorts, spa etc. In fact, I will say that the relevance of research in our projects has increased. 

In fact, I would recommend that all the architects should do a Ph.D at some point in their career. 

- Benny Kuriakose


REMEMBERING THE PORT TOWN OF ALAPPUZHA, JULY 23, 2015

Alappuzha -The land between the sea and the lake woven together with man-made canals, the master piece of Raja Kesavadas, and the proud port town of Travancore designed to compete with the Dutch and Portuguese ports in Kerala, which took shape in 1700s, is now a plaintive town.

  

Occupations and functions of the town evolved out of international trade and port dealings. Gujaratis, Rajasthanis, Tamilians, etc. were brought here to do trade. Spices, coir, copra and timber were brought to the port to be exported. Vestiges of the past glory can still be seen in the form of canals, sea pier, railway tracks, warehouses, etc.

Later, when the Cochin port emerged, Alappuzha port lost its importance. Port buildings, sea pier, railway tracks were left abandoned. Many of the warehouses and godowns got converted into coir and copra factories. Much later labour problems led to the collapse of factories as well.

This unique town which originated as a port town, evolved into an industrial centre, has now culminated to be a standstill, almost dying, museum of international maritime trade and coir industry. Very few coir factories remain. Whatever remains is at the verge of being closed down. Port buildings and sea pier lie abandoned with no human habitation.

The remaining few elderly people from the glorious times of Alappuzha has faded memories of the buzzing town. Soon, within a nick of time, all the remnants of this glorious town will ebb away into a distant past if not for the preservation and rejuvenation of whatever is remaining. 

  

As an architectural conservation trainee I got the opportunity to study the heritage of Alappuzha under Dr. Benny Kuriakose who is a reputed conservation consultant. We spent ten days in the historic core of Alappuzha doing a brief survey and heritage mapping. 

  

As we traced the remnants of the past we could still hear the faded heartbeats of the historic town. At every turn of the street, along the canals, along the seashore or along the railway tracks we found heritage structures awaiting to be remembered. Bungalows, scattered everywhere are little remembered. Factories lie along the canals, some closed, some on the verge of being closed, some taken over by new entrepreneurs and some reused as restaurants. Most of the heritage is threatened by dangers from neglect and demolition. Each building and each person we met had a story to tell about the town. Some spoke out of agony, at the way heritage has been treated, many spoke with dreams of how the glorious town can be revived with new functions and few spoke with lost hopes about how the town has been damaged beyond repair. Men remember the busy port and women remember the goods that were unloaded along the canals at their doorsteps from country boats. The same canals have now turned into mere drains and the port, a tribute to the past. Many migrated to other parts of Kerala and more than half of the present population is alien to the hidden heritage of the town.

 

Before going to the site we did a study on the history and culture of Alappuzha since this is important in understanding the context. On site, we did a townscape appraisal method which looks at the potentials, negatives and positives of every part of the study area. Key focus was on understanding the local distinctiveness. An extensive assessment was made over selected areas. Mapping of character areas were done. The elements of the town which have to be conserved were identified. The character and identity of the place was studied and documented. Detailed photo documentation was also carried out. Different communities and their settlements could be traced. Underutilized heritage buildings were identified. All this gave us tremendous information about the potentials of the area.

By the end of our study a base material for the heritage of Alappuzha was created which can be used for further development. Intensive documentations are yet to be done for specific interventions. This ‘Mini India’ as academician Kalleli Raghavan Pillai Sir calls Alappuzha, has to be protected. Future generations should be able to experience and discover their connections to this place.

Architectural and building styles change, evolve and survive in a most charming way, to give each town its own vernacular character. In modern times the historic vernacular landmarks are taken for granted or overlooked to give way for the so called modern concrete hideousness. Conservation never hinders development; rather it gives an approach on how to develop without destroying the town’s heritage. Waysides are changing and charms of the old market squares are being lost. It is now the people of Alappuzha who should decide how Alappuzha has to change. Conservation personnel can only guide the people. It is for the people of Alappuzha to be proud of their own unique heritage and take ardent efforts in protecting it. It is for them to decide what their children should experience and see. 


- Rakhi Mariam Johnson



THE ROAD NOT TAKEN! JULY 21, 2015

The Road Not Taken!

(As I would like to call this summer internship)

I wondered many a times why should we (Department of Architectural Conservation) alone have an internship programme during our summer vacation while others are having fun. Now I came to know what it was really meant for. The right choice also played a major role in that. This is not to praise Dr.Benny Kuriakose, the team leader of Vedika (based in Chennai), instead to thank him for the opportunities he had given us during a short span of six weeks. We, myself and three of my classmates who joined his office, had a couple of meetings In Delhi before we started the internship. He always used to tell us about his approach to the projects and their nature, which is entirely different from the other Conservation Architects. I was very keen to know what his approach was.

A systematic schedule for the internship was neither made by him nor by us in the beginning. Although, an order was there throughout this period, as if it was a planned one. He gave us choices and options and we finalized upon a work plan to follow, though most of the things were clueless. We could not find any conservation projects running in the office at that time. The major conservation related projects that were about to start, include a Methodist Church which was to be modified for the Centenary celebrations next year, a detailed condition assessment and manual preparation for 88 temples in Thanjavur and Urban Conservation in Alappuzha, the scale of which are in ascending order.

Methodist Church

The first site visit and the condition assessment of the church were assessed in a discussion. We missed out many relevant defects and could not observe properly. Here we identified the huge gap between theory and practice. Another visit to the church, assisted by him, after the Thanjavur study, helped us observe and analyse the defects in the church in a better way and gave clues of their reasons and relations between them. The main problems there were the rising dampness, additions done in cement and the construction of an auditorium abutting the church. (The presentation given by a B.Arch. intern on Churches, gave a first-hand information about the design of various churches)

Thanjavur

Extensive research and presentation was done prior to the 10 days long site study. The objectives of the study were a detailed condition assessment and a manual for dos and don’ts for the 88 temples which are under the Palace Devasthanam. The building level analysis done for the church helped this study. Six of us were split into two groups. Two of each group had cameras and one was to fill in the inventories. The areas which we saw till noon in the first temple, on the very first day, were again covered with him in the evening. (He did a flying visit to the temple which we were studying after visiting one of his projects in a nearby site). At the end of the day, we made a presentation of the photographs we had taken that day. He also projected the photographs that he had taken. Huge difference! Good that he came! The flaws that we made were pointed out by him. The aspects which we missed out, considering them as trifles, were found to be of great value. I became very cautious in our study once he gave us the feedback. The next day onwards, I saw a change in my own observation. (No wonder why Monika, one of the trainees who assisted us, asked me how I could find out the original extent of a temple complex before enquiring anyone there. She was informed the same by the temple priest). The discussions with the Prince in the Palace, the District Collector and other resource persons of Thanjavur and the talks with the local people for information gathering were a new experience. People in Thanjavur were very receptive and co-operative. There was a presentation in the office on temple architecture by a retired professor of IIT Delhi, Sri. Swaminathan, who taught us information is for sharing.

  

Alappuzha

The previous projects were all at building level. The case of Alappuzha was different. It was at an urban scale. Google map was used to get a sense of the place at a zoomed out level, a bird’s eye view! The failure of the past studies done by many architects and students were analysed and new ways were sought for the study. The methodology followed was townscape appraisal which was found to be a success in the case of Muziris. Seven of us and ten days and a big town! We were little worried and confused on how to finish it! We walked along the streets in the town, on the first day with Sir to see what is on ground. Good that he came!!!! We would have missed out many valuables! Next day we split into two. Our second days’ study was praised by him. We felt happy and proud of ourselves! The pace of the work was found to be increasing than we expected and so we split into three groups, the criteria being experience in field work and language! Various theories that I learnt in conservation were of great help and I saw the implementation of many of them, especially the need for an integrated approach. People of Alappuzha are aware of their heritage, but they are losing it due to lack of guidance. The meetings and discussions with the MLA, Dr. Thomas Isaac, the historian, Kalleli Raghavan Pillai, Mr. Rubin and many good-hearted people, gave tremendous input and support for the study. The newspaper reports and posts in facebook by the MLA, about this study, made the people co-operative. This is where media was found to be useful. The scope of the project was introduced to the public in a press meet.

  

Muziris, the dream of many

On the day before we completed the internship, he took all of us to Muziris as a bonus for our work.  He was narrating each and every step and the milestones in its implementation which was wholeheartedly received by the people. Conservation is for the people! His approach to the people in the disguise of a common man and not as the sculptor of the project brought out their positive responses towards the project and their aspirations and prospects.

As a conclusive note

I learnt how the approach and assessment of the projects with the backing of research and presentations help one proceed with and bring in others’ ideas as well. One thing I noted in these days was that, each day was progressive than the one before. Every site had something to tell us, which will remain unexplored unless we go in search of it. Now while walking along the streets of my own hometown that boasts of its development, I could see the variety and vastness of its heritage being hidden in the concrete jungle! I realize, yes, I have been trained to use the lens of conservation. I realize, I have been learning!!!


- Jessin Kabir 



ENRAPTURING ARCHITECTURE, JULY 17, 2015

Designing a Church is never an easy task. One has to not only think about the religious sentiments involved, but must also be able to add his personal touch as an architect to make the project unique.

I was given the opportunity to work on an upcoming Methodist Church project. Since we were at the very beginning stage, I was given the task of research on Methodism and Church Architecture.During my research, I learnt a lot about Methodism, Christianity and Church Architecture that left me fascinated.

Methodism started in the early 18th Century as a movement, by John Wesley. The key features that set it apart were that it was preached in open air and stated that the final authority in all matters of doctrine was the bible. In 1784, during the American Revolutionary War, due to shortage of priests in American colonies, Wesley ordained preachers for America with power to administer the sacraments. This was a major reason for Methodism’s final split from Church of England.

  

Churches are always known to be magnificent structures. The quality and level of detailing that goes into creating a specific environment and space within, is immense. I’ve read about and seen in pictures, great churches such as St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, etc. Looking at photographs, I found one thing to be common amongst many churches; the shear grandiose structure and its scale and proportion. They were initially very humble house like structures, called Meeting Houses, and evolved alongside the crystallization of the definition of Christianity. The structure is usually designed having the altar on the East, although, in the past many theories have played a role in other orientations. St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s originally had the apse placed in the western extremity. One of the reasons for this was to illuminate the altar with the light of the rising sun, by placing a large window at the opposite end. Churches were sometimes oriented towards Jerusalem as well. It is believed that the Jewish custom of fixing the direction of prayer and orienting synagogues, influenced Christianity.

The design of a church is meant to make a person who enters, feel a certain way.  Regarded as the place of God, you are expected to maintain silence. Now, in most churches, this requires no effort. One is immediately noiseless when he/she steps into the aisle and faces the altar. I learnt that many aspects of design of a church are directly related to the church goer’s experience when inside the structure. For example, it is not very difficult to notice that the altar is usually the part of the church that is most brightly lit, while the pews are usually dimly lit. This is to lay emphasis on the altar which is the focal point in a church. In some churches, a heavenly glow is created around the altar to elevate the feel of closeness to god. Tadao Ando’s famous Church of Light is a great example of a contemporary church. He simply created a cross-shaped opening behind the altar, to let in light. This being a source of light for the interiors, also has an intended radiance that makes it the numinous focal point.

Churches were traditionally designed and built strongly supported by symbolism. Every detail on an architectural feature would hold a greater meaning. Pavements were laid to represent the Sea; early baptisteries had marble inlays that depicted water and rivers, symbolically. Ceilings represented the Sky; high ceilings, either domed or flat, would have a blue painted background and stars set in gold paint and mosaic. Many examples have images of angels and heaven as well. The rose and the wheel, and their architectural expression in the rose window, are homologues of the Sun. Towers that frame the façade, are symbols of the gateway to eternity. A formal ‘essence’ is generated by geometry which is timeless, immutable and possessed of the divine nature. This is often referred to as the ‘Sacred Geometry’. The principal elements of this Sacred Geometry include, circle, equilateral triangle, pentagon, hexagon, the Vesica Piscis, the Tree of Life, etc., with each carrying a unique and deeper meaning. A Circle represents completion and wholeness (portrayed as heaven in the form of domes), and the square represents stability (portrayed with four walls in cardinal directions as the World). 

 

While a church could either be designed contemporarily or in great intricate detail (like the Cathedrals in Rome, for example) the most important thing to keep in mind is the impact it must create on the visitor. That aspect is common in most churches irrespective of the style of architecture.

During this research, I came across some unique Indian Churches. The Salvacao Church in Mumbai, designed by Ar. Charles Correa has a very intriguing character. The design is very contrasting to regular churches, consisting of courtyards and rose windows in the ceilings. Correa avoided certain traditional aspects such as maintaining a cruciform plan and having identity markers such as spires. But he retained many others such as, the use of stained glass to naturally dim the light in order to create the required dramatic ambience; the use of a square, centralized plan for each space; the use of high ceilings to create majestic interiors.  Laurie Baker’s St. John’s Cathedral in Tiruvalla (unfortunately demolished later) was centrally planned and designed in a vernacular style. He used his signature brickwork for the walls and kept granite jallis as a substitute for stained glass. Baker achieved the dramatic effect by placing the altar in front of a jalli, creating a glow around it. In this structure, skylights take the place of a rose window. Many of the Churches found in India have a character of their own which is both unique and ‘Indianized’. The structures are usually not monumental and heavily ornamented like the Roman Basilicas, but are certainly architectural wonders!

  

This research has taught me a lot about ‘designing to inspire’ and the methods of creating brilliant proportions with an overpowering scale. I’m keen on doing more research on various topics as the thirst for knowledge in an individual has no end...

-Krishna Adka



FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF APPUKUTTAN NAIR, JULY 16, 2015

Now our office is doing the renovation of the Kalakshetra Theatre. So happy to get involved in this project about which I was hearing from its architect Shri Appukuttan Nair during my early career days. Many things which I learnt about traditional architecture of Kerala was from him. The initial design phase is over and I felt that he is standing behind my back and giving approvals to the design changes that we are making to the great building of Kalakshetra’s Koothamabalam that he has designed more than 30 years ago.

When I used to work with Laurie Baker, I used to meet him. He was a bit doubtful in the beginning, later on he shared quite a bit of his knowledge with me, saying that you are the only person who had come to me to learn about the traditional architecture of Kerala not as part of writing a thesis, or an assignment or a dissertation. I was thrilled when he asked me to design the residence of his elder son, Mr. Jayasankar. 

  

Shri Appukuttan Nair was the president of the Margi Club, which was actively involved with the Kathakali and Kootiyattom teaching in Thiruvananthapuram. Both of us were involved in the design of the interiors of the class rooms which was carried out by a master mason Anil Kumar. One of the architects who visited Margi Club two or three years ago told me that the brick murals which were created at that time are still there. Although Shri Laurie Baker and Shri Appukuttan Nair had not met each other, both of them had great respect on each other’s works. Shri Appukuttan Nair had a deep knowledge about traditional performing arts and he has written many articles on these subjects.

   

When the exhibition on the Contemporary Architecture of India was held in 1985 as part of the Festival of India in Paris, from Kerala, only the works of Shri Appukuttan Nair and Laurie Baker were selected.  Although only few buildings of his design such as the Koothambalams at  Kalakshetra at Kerala Kalamandalam and Chennai Kalakshetra survive now, he has designed many structures and he used to say that when I have done the design, my part is over. When so many architects were talking about Critical Regionalism etc., he showed by designing Kerala Kalamandalam in the 1970s. Shri Appukuttan Nair never wanted to get fame or publicity and I used to tell him that if you do not pass on your knowledge to the next generation, then our relevance will not be there. Finally, he agreed to write about his experiences and knowledge about traditional architecture. He wrote a few pages on Kerala’s traditional architecture and gave the hand-written script to me. But as the author he put my name in his hand-writing and told me to get it published. I said that I will never do this and the article he has written might be there in one of my old files. He told me that I have to write it down and he will talk about the experiences, but unfortunately I got a little busier with my work. He passed away in 1994 and the fact that I did not spend more time with him, learning about his experiences and writing about them, remains as one of the great things I missed in my life.

- Benny Kuriakose



IMMORTAL ARCHITECTURE, JULY 14, 2015

Temples have beautified India for centuries. By virtue of both its antiquity and fluidity it has undergone many transformations. The architects and sculptors were allowed a great deal of freedom in the embellishment and decoration of the prescribed underlying principles and formulae. The result was an overwhelming wealth of architectural elements, sculptural forms and decorative exuberance that is so characteristic of Indian temple architecture and which has few parallels in the artistic expression of the entire world.Almost all Indian Art has been religious, and almost all forms of artistic tradition have been deeply conservative.

But present generation lacks understanding of our heritage, and consequently it lacks a sense of its own identity. To bring this out to us, we had a session with Mr. Swaminathan, retired Professor of Mechanical Engineering from IIT Delhi for whom the study of Indian Indian heritage is a great passion

He had done his Ph.D. (1978) and M.Tech (1972) from IIT Kanpur, while he took his Bachelor’s Degree in 1969 from  Annamalai University

He gave us a drop of his knowledge regarding chronology of Indian temples, development ofscripts, combination of architecture and engineeringin temples etc. It was a very exuberant talk regarding the marvels of temple architecture especially on Brihadeeshwara temple in Thanjavur, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) shore temple and the Kailasanath temple in Kancheepuram. His intellectual and humorous sharing motivated us to learn a lot regarding the heritage of temple architecture.

 

We learnt regarding the evolution of the temples from its cave form to the structural form and stages of the changes in the constructional techniques used to build the temples.

The early temple structures to come up in India were Rock-Cut Architecture. The oldest known Cave temples are Barabar Caves in Bihar. These caves date back to 3rd Century BC, i.e. during the period of Ashoka. Few other significant cave temples in India are, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Varaha Cave Temples, Amarnath Cave Temple, etc.Over the period of time, the techniques evolved and instead of carving out a temple within the rock, the stone was carved out of the rock and temples were made near water bodies. These temples followed various styles of architecture, which has kept on evolving with the passage of time.

 

These ancient and medieval structures represent significant achievements of structural engineering and craftsmanship. He also presented on the spiritual meaning of the temples and the typical layout of Vaishnava and Saivai temples.

 

He not only talked about the evolution of the temple form, but also the evolution of the idol (sculpture) from its relief form to 3-Dimensional monolithic sculptures. Carving out sculptures is not an easy thing to do. But carving out these beautiful structures of devotion seen in every temple makes us feel astonished. We understood the intricacy of these sculptures. That too he showed us few examples of sculptures of Airavadeshwarar Temple, Dharasuram carved in 1” X 1.5” frame all around the temple.

 

He then specified architectural wonder of Kanchipuram Kailasanath temple, which increased the urge on us to visit the temple. We had a wonderful learning experience this day.

- Monika Lakshmanan

(Pictures shown here were given by Mr. Swaminathan)



A SITE TO REMEMBER, JUNE 30, 2015

A five-hour drive from Chennai got us to the green lush area of Asikadu. I was excited to go on a site visit from office to this residence there, which was nearing completion. Having only seen the residence in photographs and renders in the office, I have to say that the photographs do not do justice to the real thing. One glance at the building, I got a glimpse into the depths of the effort put into make it all possible. 

A cobblestoned driveway led us to the main cottage. The complex housed the main cottage, four smaller cottages and service block. Landscaping and lighting has been planned for the whole complex; bamboo plants were already part of the complex. 

  

The driveway terminated at the porch, and we started our exploration from the porch with high tiled roof. The verandah adorned with athangudi tiles, high tiled ceiling and timber louvers, welcomed us through the corridor flanked by lily ponds on either sides. Similar to a Chettinad setting, the house has been designed with courtyards and thinnai. The natural light let in from the courtyard added more life to the space. The entrance led to this courtyard, around which the rooms are planned. Towards the back, there is a secondary courtyard and the kitchen block.

   

The scale of the space and the elements were perfect, making it comfortable and at the same time maintaining its grandeur. I also got a chance to have a look at the remarkable craftsmanship and the ingenious detailing done in the building. Building materials have been used in their almost true form.

  

Interior has been detailed tastefully to go with the décor. Traditional sloping roof with Mangalore tiles has been done throughout. Beautifully crafted timber columns decorated the verandahs and the courtyard. Large timber windows have been treated with a beautiful athangudi tile border and protected by a traditional tiled sunshade. Spacious rooms with a distinctive palette of colours have been done.

  

Traditional light fixtures, ceiling fixtures and antique furniture added to the décor. The furniture were put together on site and located accordingly in the house. Niches decorated some of the walls. 

  

It is a pity that we do not see much of such authentic beautiful buildings nowadays. I was truly inspired when I went for this site visit, knowing that this building is going to stand majestically amidst the landscaped surroundings once it is completed. 

- R. Manjil masha.



GO GREEN! JUNE 23, 2015

In the current scenario everyone tries to follow and talk about the latest trend sustainability, but the irony is even the most learned men end up only speaking about it. Yesterday I got an opportunity to meet Mr. Gautham Sarang a very inspirational personality, who without going through a complex system of certificate education successfully managed to practice a few sustainable structures. Experimenting with the local materials available for a basic rural school ‘SARANG’ initially started by his parents. 

After experiencing the various phases of life from being a farmer, taxi driver, web designer etc…, he now dreams to take this project to the next level. He is now determined to take it forward.

 

It was decided to use local materials such as earth and bamboo which are the materials used by the local tribal population. To use burnt bricks and concrete was not only expensive and difficult to transport these materials to this remote area up in Attappadi in Western Ghats. 

An office cabin designed using local bamboo as a major building material. The reason for using bamboo as a major construction material was as it is found in abundance in the region. And use of bamboo in buildings can be replenished by growing them again. It takes much shorter period to grow again. The rafters are made up of bamboo while some recycled iron rods were used to get a uniform level for the tiles. It is a bit difficult to make the rafters level for laying the tiles. On the top, Mangalore tiles are used which is commonly used in Kerala. Thus the thatch was replaced by the tiles. 

  

Plinth of the building is raised using concrete columns in the consideration of protecting from the termites, a trial experiment is being done by coating the underside of the metal sheet with cashew oil  so that termite may not climb up to attack bamboo walls and roof.

Continuing with the wall construction technique, woven bamboo was used which were later covered with earth. The earth has completely cracked which were subsequently filled with earth itself. Cow dung was mixed with mud which was the traditional practice among the tribals.

  

For flooring, the bamboo base is first leveled by filling the gaps with the broken roof tiles collected from the dismantling of an old building and then leveling it with the earth fill.  It is planned to do the floor finish with the terracotta tiles. Wide glazed openings are provided for natural light and ventilation. 

 

The next building which was constructed was the kitchen block. This was built with mud blocks. There was no mud block making machine, but an attempt was made to apply pressure manually. The corners and the doors frames are done with concrete columns. The roof is made of bamboo and tiles. Here glass was used for the top two feet of glass for the entire length of the wall on the assumption that the termites will not be able to climb the glass walls. Simple, easy build and yet looks beautiful amalgamating with the natural surroundings. Being an architectural student myself I have never experienced such an aesthetic experiment.  

The most interesting thing was that these buildings were done without the use of skilled labourers and no architects or engineers. They were done with very little cost. Now Gautham is expecting that the whole school can be built using the local materials such as earth, bamboo and timber.

 - Jagriti Bhandari


TIMES PROPERTY - TIMES OF INDIA, JUNE 06, 2015


'Time to see the light', an article in Times of India, by Sangeeta Nambiar, features the importance of natural light in a building. 

Link


 

CITY EXPRESS, JUNE 15, 2015


V D Satheesan MLA and Benny Kuriakose, in the City Express, Kochi, talk about the Muziris Heritage Project and the promise of learning about our history and the trade roots through the Spice Route and helping the local community with more opportunities.

Link
 

INNOVISION - SHORT VIDEO


A short video clip narrating the various innovative projects done by Dr. Benny Kuriakose. He is well-known for his ability to build with context to the local community, culture and environment. He has explored the architectural vocabulary through cost-efficient techniques, and has shared his thoughts on vernacular and sustainable architecture in this video. The video is made by Aditya Gopalakrishnan (Jamia Milia University) and Reji Benoy (Hindustan University), during their internship at his office.


 

Jobs / Internship


We are always interested to receive applications from dynamic, innovative and talented individuals. We are keen to welcome enthusiastic applicants who demonstrate their hard work, attention to detail, and strong technical and graphic communication skills in their portfolio. We give preference to applicants who can work with us for at least a year. It is difficult to respond to each and every applicant and we will only respond to successful candidates. Please send us your CV and a short portfolio (preferably under 5 MB) with a selection of your best work to info@bennykuriakose.com.

  

MUZIRIS HERITAGE PROJECT, JUNE 20, 2015


A talk on ‘Muziris Heritage Project’ will be delivered by Dr. Benny Kuriakose on June 20 at 10:30 am in C.P. Ramaswami Aiyer Foundation. The Muziris Heritage Project intends to conserve the cultural and architectural history of the famous ancient port at Muziris.


 

AJIT KOUJALGI MEMORIAL LECTURE, MARCH 14, 2015


The Ajit Koujalgi Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Benny Kuriakose on March 14 at 2 pm in DakshinaChitra, as part of the Auroville festival in Chennai. Mr. Koujalgi was the INTACH chapter convenor and passed away on 12th October 2014.He spearheaded the conservation movement in Pondicherry, which caught wide attention. He was an architect, who graduated in 1970 from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. Since 1971, he had been working and making his contributions at Auroville and Pondicherry.

 

GREEN TRENDS IN ARCHITECTURE, MARCH 04, 2015


School of Architecture, CIET presents a seminar on “Green trends in Architecture” by Karan Grover and Benny Kuriakose. This regional level seminar is to be held on March 04, 2015 in Coimbatore, for students and professionals. Karan Grover and Benny Kuriakose have inspired many with their energy conscious designs. There is an absolute need for sustainable and equitable designs in today's world, and green practices in architecture needs to be encouraged. “A good design is sustainable. A great design is responsible.”

 

ARCHITECTURE…. FROZEN MUSIC OR NOT?, SEPTEMBER 04, 2014

Dakshina Chitra, this was the 3rd time I had been there. But what I see and what I feel as I move through the spaces has never been the same. Amidst the long verandas, green courtyards, complex sloped roof and building materials in their almost true form, we a group of students, professors and working architects attended the workshop taken by BK where sustainability and vernacular architecture were the main agenda of the lectures.


The workshop spanned over 3 days. The 1st day the classes were more of the interactive type. We started form the basics of architecture. What is architecture? Many architects and non-architects had put forth definitions for the same. All had the similar ideas with different perspective. ‘Commodity, Firmness and delight’ said Sir Henry Wootem and Le Corbusier had said ‘The masterly correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light’. But in all this nobody talks about the user and that’s where most of the architects fail in the design.


Then we went back in history, wondering how the 1st man made shelter would have looked like and how it evolved to what we see today. This brings me to one of the major topic of discussion, vernacular architecture. “Architecture without Architects” is what B. Rudofsky called it. There is no better way to put it. Building with local material or using the local building techniques or getting it done by the locals are only some of the features in vernacular architecture, but the major factor is that no trained architect or designer is involved in the planning or making process.


 

The architectural style of a country, a city, a town varies from each other as well as changes time to time. The root cause of these diverse features could be social economical, technological, climate related or cultural reasons. Theses were the next issues we discussed. Moving on we talked about the failures in architecture. For example, the usage of asbestos, which was once considered as a boon to construction industry, later had to be completely banned due to the health problems it caused. This was an example of how a technological advancement failed us. Also, we looked at some of the planning and rehabilitation project which affected the social and cultural life of people. Like developing housing for fishermen family away from the cost. 


Later half of the day we spent doing a very interesting activity. All of us split into groups and sent to different functional building of Dakshina Chitra. We were asked to observe, infer and study the walling, roofing and other elements of the building. It was remarkable to see how the interplay of different materials and construction techniques were used throughout the campus. At the end of the day when each of us presented the information we collected and the inference we made, one thing we learned that is, “Sustainable architecture” is not a feature which came into picture in today world. It had always existed but nobody pointed it out. Sustainability of a build form depends on; what it is build with…how it is build.. how flexible in planning it is…how long can it last….etc. It is not just about having a rain water harvester or solar panels or being a platinum rated building. 


The next couple of days we journeyed through the life of Laurie Baker and how he influenced BK’s. He also told us how he got into this field and how he reached where he is right now. BK had a long chat about his major project like the rehabilitation of the tsunami affected villages of Tharagumbadi and Chinakudi, the revitalization of Muziris, the introduction of way finding system in Muziris, Palliative care centre (a hospital which can be called home) etc. As he explained about each of his project we could see the passion and the dedication spent on each of them through every word he spoke.


Those 3 days spent in Dakshina Chitra got me thinking about how architecture affects people in different ways at different points of time. Whether you are the user who’s uses it, the designer who’s designed it, the labour who’s made it or a layman seeing it as he passes by, the impact it makes is never the same. Architecture is always changing, through the built and the unbuilt. It can never be frozen. 


- Ariya Antony



GROWING GREENER CULTURALLY!, SEPTEMBER 01, 2014

Some works can only take place if inspired by love- Hassan Fathy


Academically a mechanical engineer, passionately a philanthropist of knowledge of art, Prof. S. Swaminathan is a much respected faculty who retired from IIT, Madras.


On invitation from his dear friend Benny, he agreed to meet and mingle with a meek group of people at Vedika, one evening. We started off by discussing what art is. Art is any creative expression, he stated, which may be justified sufficiently. With questions from the listeners that added links to his line of thought, the very excited and generous enthusiast of art and history informs us of historic facts about Tamil Nadu and the very rich language of this state.


After extensively studying the Ajanta and Ellora caves of Maharashtra and many other places of historic importance, the serious concern of losing the heritage link to the present day arises to him. In conversation with Prof. Swaminathan we rambled on many things, facts, issues and concerns. The most intriguing part about this conversation is learning to ask the “Significant WHY” and derive answers.


Why can’t design approach and details help to culturally activate the landscape of any city?


On Heritaging and Culturescaping… 


A possible treatment to the vacant minds and blank pauses in the day-to-day activity pattern that could be used as chance learning about our heritage. Bus stops, elevator lobbies, building facades, footpaths, avenue plantations, road dividers etc. could all by carefully designed to integrate heritage related information to enrich the vacant minds of the public. It is indeed fascinating to me to learn about the extent of detail to which Prof Swaminathan has studied and understood how well this knowledge could be applied. One of the many examples is the Avenues, for which seasonal flowering trees could be selected and also be named accordingly to associate with mythological characters!


  Golden showers path (Cassia fistula),
  Pride of India avenue (Lagerstroemia),
  Krishna’s Dilemma Road (Parijatam)


For instance, the story of the Parijatam tree goes back to the time when Lord Krishna was in a dilemma due to the situation he was trapped into by the cunning Narada Muni over the flower of this tree. Narada Muni gifted one flower to Lord Krishna to present it to one of his beloved wives. Narada coaxed him to present the flower of the parijatam tree to Rukhmini and this relatively dismayed Sathyabhama, his other beloved wife. Krishna decides to meet Indra and settles to bring the tree to earth and presents it to Sathyabhama and strategically plants it so that the roots of the tree grow in her garden whereas it branches out to Rukhmin’s garden and she can enjoy the flowers too!  


If each tree avenue and the name it carries could narrative many such stories, turning idle minutes into enchanting moments! Totally gratifies. This interaction ignited varied thoughts in each of our minds. As designers we developed a sort of new found respect for the rich heritage we own. How carefully and tactically this can be applied to the present scenario is a challenge for each of us!


With many more interactive sessions coming up in the near future, Prof. Swaminathan winds up by saying…


Possibilities are endless,
The limit is our own imagination!


- Arpita Pai



245 DEGREES OF ACCESS POINTS, AUGUST 22, 2014

Recently, I had an amazing opportunity to experience the present-day Indian architectural education system. It was an urban planning course and the students were presenting an analysis of the historic part of Chennai. This was the first stage of an exercise what would last the rest of the semester.


The day began with introductions and handshakes. I saw young eager faces, hoping to impress and gigantic quantities of information to convey.


The first group to present studied the physical characteristics of the site. When I initially heard the key intent of the presentation I expected at least some part to be about the land. However, to my surprise, they never made a connection between topography and physical characteristics.


When I prompted the students to tell me about the landscape, to show me a contour map, they seemed to be reluctant. “The site is flat,” was the answer that I got. The 70 acres of the site encompassed one large river bend and two smaller canals. I pointed this information out. I explained that the best evidence to prove the site was flat would be a contour map. Their response was silent. Besides this, when asked to identify three physical characteristics that were unique to the site no one could come up with any. I pointed to the nearest site plan to show how there were exactly three water bodies present on site, and how all three of them were completely unique to that site.


Now, may be, I am being unfair. May be, in terms of urban scale the site was relatively flat. But, it wasn’t the assumption that the site was flat that surprised me, it was the lack of understanding that the physical terrain might have anything to do with the urban planning. I had to explain how early settlers would have chosen to settle at that site specifically because of the river bend that would have provided 245 degrees of access points to fresh water and fish.


More than that, where were the amazing drawings? Sections of streets, overlaid to show average street widths? These would have been much more convincing than the numericals that were presented repeatedly. And they would have taken less time to understand.


The rest of the day, I listened patiently to the same information presented under a different title, hoping that someone would say something that stood out. I realized, at this time, that the freshly graduated students that went looking for employment after university, had been failed by the educational system.  If you don’t need to make creative drawings, why learn basic software like Photoshop, SketchUp and Illustrator that have become a necessary skill in contemporary architectural practices?


I have been asked, many times, to look at applications that recently graduated architectural students submit to firms. One thing that I always look at is the presence of drawings. In an architectural portfolio, beautiful drawing is more than a beautiful drawing. It is a tool that can be used to flaunt software skills, graphic communication skills and design capabilities that potential employers look for. It is more convincing, when an applicant talks about proficient Photoshop skills, to see a well Photoshoped image in a portfolio.


It seems to me that there is a major flaw in the contemporary Indian architectural education system. They are trying to preserve architectural customs, but by holding on to every last one, they are making the system outdated and irrelevant. Major changes have to be made to allow students to express their ideas creatively and to learn how to approach design problems without forgetting traditions. May be then the potential of all those students will be realized? 


- Daria Vidisheva


THE QUIET, AUGUST 14, 2014

Lush green, clear green mirage water and the slightly contoured green patch of land housing the beautiful ‘Quiet’. The idea was not a stereotyped get away luxury resort but a place where sustainability is practised, serenity celebrated, homeliness enjoyed and a day well spent with Nature. The location does have its uniqueness from the conventional counterparts. Kerala being enriched in natural heritage is hence well equipped with resorts along its coastal lines, lakes, rivers and hills though none would come close to this location. Located near Cochin in the beautiful Malayattoor forest range, in close proximity to the Bhoothathankettu dam and Salim Ali bird sanctuary with the poetic Periyar flowing next to it.


Being an easy destination from major cities around makes ‘the quiet’ attractive. Coming by any vehicle doesn’t matter as it will take you only till the river? From there starts the real ‘quiet’ experience. Moving through the river and the lush green of Malayattoor in the boat, one reaches the large welcoming timber gazebo reached by few flights of stone steps.


 

The resort has an amazing ambience of a holiday cottage built entirely in stone and timber amidst the rubber plantations. There structures were all simple yet conveying the uniqueness that BK designs offer. The restaurant which is entirely built out of stone with large timber windows offering views to the surrounding splendour.


 

The swimming pool being next to the river gives it the feel of an infinity pool. Cottages explains how simple is beautiful with its stone walls and traditional timber roof. Timber panelled seating all around, large french windows , in short at all the points of the resort splendid views are offered towards the Periyar which make everyone love ‘the quiet’ even more.


 


It was planned as a family resort and having its own signature in construction. The idea of sustainable tourism was incorporated here where the major portion of the construction and materials satisfied the idea of sustainability. Two of the cottages were built out of stone and another two built out of timber which was obtained from timber salvaged from an old traditional house in Kochi. In similar terms is the timber used in the resort which are all recycled ones.


Moving away from the planned architecture, the resort was built keeping in mind the space and privacy in mind where people are unbound of rules, connect with the nature and to heal themselves for few days from their busy polluted city life.


- Janki 



GRANDEUR PERSONIFIED, JULY 17, 2014

Being new to the office and its atmosphere, never having been for a site visit and having heard about this project a couple of times from almost everyone in the office, it was quite an exciting affair to visit Akkarai residence.


Deviating a little away from the heart of the city and moving on towards a calmer and greener site in close proximity to the sea along the east coast road, our thoughts were filled with the much anticipated project which had underwent tremendous makeover for the past five years.


As the car turned towards the road and moved further the tiled sloping roof structure which was under construction was visible between the skyline and the few trees which surrounded. Opening the white timber gate, one could see the most classic facades ever created. A quick view of the elevation would absolutely make any person fall in love with it, with the chancellor arched windows, giving boldness to it. Open mouthed at the typical but marvellous Benny Kuriakose style of design looking up to us as a piece of perfectionist wonder, we moved inside to explore the interior surprises. 


  


From the large welcoming swimming pool, we moved on to the sit out through which we reached the living room. Timber eave boards were running all around the ceiling of the room. Large timber windows adorning the room, opening out to the lush green with the blue patch of sky and a punch of sea breeze. I made a mental note on how creation of beautiful views were important which was a cakewalk concerning Benny Kuriakose designs.


 

Everywhere marvellous timber pieces were adorning the white walls. The foyer connected to the sit out gave me an instant thought of how the inhabitants will enjoy their evenings with a cup of tea underneath the traditional timber eaves overlooking the patches of surroundings through them. To the right side of foyer is the dining area which opens out to a courtyard as well as an open area. The large timber shelf is the centre point of attraction of the space. Foyer also hosts the timber staircase leads to the upper floors. The staircase, another marvel in artistic creation is a major contribution in giving the residence the traditional grandeur.


  


Kitchen is yet another space which gives the residence the feeling of a luxurious holiday cottage. Large centre table clubbed with the modular accessories makes it the picture perfect kitchen that one can see in high profile architecture magazines. The scale of the bedrooms matches the overall size of the building making it cozy yet retaining the grandness . At all points of the house large French windows opens out to the beautiful views along with providing ample natural light and ventilation, another important style which Benny Kuriakose designs are credible of.


 

Timber work being the major attraction of the residence is seen all around the house starting from doors and windows to the roof where intricate carvings are done on the eaves, slope silhouette and almost everywhere. I thought the time the carpenters took to carve out these master pieces which gives the house its identity that anybody would yearn to own the house.


  


While the visit proved to be enlightening in terms of detailing in construction aspects, it also threw light on something which we have never thought about. The strenuous task of completing a project without compromising on quality and perfection. From the point of view of client as well as the architect, the difficulties faced are uncountable. Coordinating the works, getting it done on time, checking upon minute details with utmost perfection are things which require Patience and commendable memory power which is something that comes natural with Benny Kuriakose. Although there is an air of tension within the crew of clients, contractors and the architect, everybody is sure that the project would surely be a grand success once completed.


- Janki & Ariya



MUZIRIS WAYFINDING 2 - SYMBOLS, JULY 19, 2014

One major issue that we considered was communication in a language that is universally understood, and thus we decided that we should convey most vital information graphically. We discussed about the various utilities we will have to indicate. After detailed scrutinizing we short-listed certain very essential utilities. The general methodology adopted for all signage design is to use the international symbols. But most often these symbols do not satisfy the regional needs. And hence after identifying the utilities and warnings to be made into symbols, Jerome and a few others worked out a regionalized graphic design for the same.


 


Technical aspects like, viewing distance, viewing height, viewer reaction time, legibility and negative space was considered. Various codes relating to these aspects was referred to. After developing a schematic idea for all the options, we had a brain storming session with Mr. Mahesh and Mr. Rubin, for around three days where we critically analyzed the issues and  finalized upon the colors, the symbols, height and layout of the signage after considering their opinions too.


   


Unlike a usual sleepy technical session, this one was fun doing. We looked into the issue in an alternative fun perspective, this helped us liberally discuss the various possibilities and different problems in the symbols. We tried to interpret the symbols in the silliest manner possible, making sure that our symbols are not misleading to even the most dim-witted individual. Like it was often quoted “You never know!” 


 

MUZIRIS WAYFINDING 1 - SIGNAGE, JULY 19, 2014

“To become completely lost is rather a very rare experience for most people. But let the mishap of orientation once occur, and the sense of anxiety and even terror that accompanies it reveals to us how closely it is linked with our sense of balance and well-being. The very word lost in our language means much more than simple geographical uncertainty; it carries overtones of utter disaster.” – Kevin Lynch, Image of the City.


Signage is often considered as the negligible entities of urban design. Put up a few blue boards and yellow posts, and signage is assumed done. But what many do not understand is that, signage defines the purpose of the project – Navigation. The need to make a space legible should be considered as a very major principle for any urban design project. A project without signage is like making it dumb. It does not communicate.


Wayfinding is not signage. Wayfinding involves architectural, technical and logical reasoning. And Signage is only one of the quantitative end product. Signage is graphic communication that involves the necessity for a sensitive and individualistic approach. Any signage system encompasses architecture, landscape architecture, lighting, and landmarks and orientation points. The design of spaces should assist users with spatial problem-solving by providing consistent clues.


Working out wayfinding for Muziris involved various scales of work. Since it is a huge scale, it is important to look at subject at different levels. Macro level planning and micro level problem solving was done. The signage and maps had to be worked out for the entire area and individual project areas. Building signage was also a part of it. The navigation process for any project or destination begins even before the user enters the site. It commences the moment a person becomes aware about its existence. An assumption or visualization of the place always begins even before the user visits the place. This assumption could be precise or vague depending on the information and data inputs received by the user. So, solutions had to be derived commencing from this point.




Similar to any other entity of urban design, signage is also user oriented and user dependent. Probable users had to be zeroed on to for better performance, but also has to be universally designed.Some of the major categories were, foreign or native, if native, literate or illiterate, kids or adults, vehicular or pedestrian. This criteria differed from project to project and location to location. So we had to arrive at a method of categorizing. So a hierarchy of categorization was adopted, based on the macro and micro levels of planning.


 


User comfort was also considered. Areas of predicted high visitor activity were identified and walkable distances from various points were considered. Walkable radius was finalized and probable directions was discussed. We decided that we should not restrict the flow of the user. Visitor should be allowed to traverse any part of the project area but we should make sure that they don’t get lost and they should be informed about the shortest distance to reach any place from there. This was the challenge. We had to look into various permutations and combinations. Identify various routes possible. And at the same time make sure that the short-cuts do not make the signage confusing. It should help the user orient himself.


  


After finalizing on the position of the signage and the contents of it, based on the category and location, the type and material of the signage was decided upon. This again had a variety of options. Looking into the numerous types done all over the world, we considered factors like climate, vandalism etc and narrowed down to a certain number of types.


Materials used was also multiple. Stone, ACP panels, metal, glowing are a few to mention. Since conservation is the fundamental rationale for the project, signage also had to be sensitive to the setting. Hence, materials that camouflage with the buildings has been used.


  


Micro level planning, like building signage was done keeping two criterions in mind. One, intended visitors circulation and two emergency exit planning. In a very elusive manner, the signage dictates user circulation, where one is expected to enter and where one is prohibited to do it. Emergency exits needed to be worked out for each room and position. It was to be done in a very ego-centric manner, keeping in mind the short time available for evacuation and the panic in the visitor’s mind in time of an emergency. 


PARINAM TO PYRAMID... Reflecting a Journey, JULY 18, 2014

Everybody has something to say! True to what that literally translates to, anyone who had ever visited any of BK’s creations always had something in awe to say. So I decided to pick one called “The Pyramid”. There was something about the name, and that lamp! 


So one fine Sunday I decided to take my mother and Ariya on a road trip all the way to the East coast road. At about half past 11 in the morning we find ourselves in front of this yellow gate as Mrs.Yamuna had described. Two names on this gate, in two directions. One reading “Good The Pyramid” and the other “Once upon a Hut”. As we kept progressing farther we found ourselves approaching a structure so simple, set amidst hibiscus gardens and over grown lawns with a very hard to miss pinnacle roof soaring right up into the bright blue.


   


We were welcomed by Sula (Mrs.Yamuna’s pet mongrel) and the gardener who directed us inside where on first look one would be easily stupefied by the radiant oxide blue athangudi flooring running throughout the home reflecting off the bright yellow light from this magnificent wrought iron wonder hanging over a beautifully crafted dining table. 


  

Here we met Mrs.Yamuna and after brief introductions we wasted no time moving on to what the concept behind the pyramid was and how it materialized into being. Parinam was what she called the project which was started as a centre for self-management to help people falling prey to stress and other ailments in the age of computerization. As she brought out this big black album which took us through a journey of the various transitions from a piece of land with a thatched hut to a place of the arts fueled by soulful performances of music and dance by some of the greatest performers of the age. As the activities grew so did the need for an accommodative space. Some artisans from Pondicherry were brought in to construct a structure to house these growing necessities which, resulted in a 40’X 40’ area protected by a souring 40’ high thatched bamboo roof supported by unplastered red brick columns and laid out three levels of kadapa stone seating all around. But just like how every beginning has an end, the journey which started in 1975 had to meet its end in 2000 due to unfortunate reasons. However, destiny had other plans for Parinam when BK and Mrs.Yamuna put their minds together to create a home that would reminisce the memories of its yonder years.


The hut had been futuristically planned with foundation laid in the very beginning which could support raised walls. The single brick walls were raised and the thatch removed and replaced with a roof made of stronger support structure to bear Mangalore tiles. To bear the weight of the roof it was required to have a supporting structure at the center. Here BK designed a central courtyard with columns going all the way till the roof. The floor was raised to a little less than a foot everywhere else leaving the quadrangle central area to be a sunken space. This kept the water from entering the main building during monsoon months. A mezzanine floor was introduced above the sunken space to avoid wastage of excess space. This now serves as a very efficient study and library. Flooring laid using concrete and red oxide for the mezzanine and athangudi tiles for the rest of the areas which are again cement and oxide hand-made tiles which gives a feeling of comfort as the floors constantly remain cool. A very elegant spiral timber staircase replacing the conventional bulky one stands beside the sunken area leading up to the mezzanine. From there a timber ladder like stairs leads further up through a trap door to the top most floor surrounded by huge timber and glass windows on all sides. A place to be during the monsoon months! Currently used as a space to carry out leisure activities, may be some yoga or simply to read a book. The ground floor consists of an open plan with where the living dining and kitchen spaces merge into one another with two bedrooms to the West.


    

Another fascinating detail is the placement of open toilets kept to the periphery of the main 40’X 40’ structure that maintains the sanctity of the place and to an extent follow the traditional Chettinadu and Kerala houses where the toilets were constructed separate from the main residence.


We then got back to the massive marble topped dining table to treat ourselves to some guava juice. The furniture of this home was a splendorous visual treat that takes you back to a period where life was all about ergonomics and simplicity. This had been very well displayed in the kind of kitchen that functioned there. As Mrs.Yamuna went on to explain how she had got the entire kitchen units done in bamboo cane and on wheels which made things very easy to clean and maintain. She went on to very excitingly explain how by turning one of the cabinets horizontally and placing a detachable timber plank on it, it would serve as an extra counter. Another very simple space was the store room with a flat RCC roof that ended abruptly at the lintel level. Apart from being a place to lock away stuff it also served as an effective display of the various utensil collection that she had.


All the windows and doors were reused from old torn down buildings. Another interesting design aspect here was that the windows were initially solid timber at the top and bottom parts where the top part was replaced with translucent glass to let light in and the torn timber was used in making the doors. All the kadapa stone from the previous structure went into making, store room shelves, counter tops and decorative flooring on the outside with diamond cut waste marble pieces in between them that added to the detail. The pillars that once stood still remain today left unplastered as were the outside walls of the building. One could notice how the stability to the walls were further enhanced by the arches provided instead of a straight lintel. You can still notice one level of kadapa seating of the previous structure that today serves as a sill to the huge traditional windows all around. Another customary of the BK statement.


 As we finally concluded our visit where I think none of us were yet ready to part with the lovely abode, being Indians it just is a custom to come to the front door to continue some very interesting conversation before saying good bye and it is for such reasons exactly why the front verandah functions. Another very simple yet elegantly designed exterior space with kadapa stone seating for one to sit and chat away with the breeze from the sea lulling you into slumber. On this note and a friendly see you soon we left this lovely place only to have not something but a million things to say!


-Sneha Murali



CASA ROJO, JULY 17, 2014

Lush green compound covered with foliage that getting a view of the house from the outside is close to nil. But the little bits and pieces which are visible gives a hint of the awaiting surprise. As we parked along the wooden rustic looking gate, I could feel that I was in for an out of the world experience. Walking through the stone path way ending at the porch, Sneha and I were greeted by Mr. Ranjeet Jacob and Waffle (his Labrador).  We could feel the change in ambience as we moved into the building, in temperature and aesthetics. Exposed earth blocks work, intricately knitted sloped tile roofs, large fenestrations and the harmony between the built form and nature; a classic BK touch. 


A long corridor leading to the main door and then to the foyer. I expected to walk into the living room but we went right to the rear part of the house, the large back porch veranda which overlooks the lily pond and the large, green, back garden, giving a feeling of being at the backwaters.Due to such a large, semi open space the transition from the outdoors to the indoor is gradual. We sat there for quite some time while Mr. and Mrs. Jacob explained the experience and efforts which had gone into the making of the house. From brick laying techniques to digging of a swimming pool and turning it into a pond.  You could see the pride in their eyes. 


   


Soon we toured around the house. Sipping our iced lime drinks we started our exploration from the kitchen, in English style décor. It is pure white in colour with warm yellow lightings along with separate work spaces and wet areas. Moving into the dinning space, which is the junction point from most parts of the house. It opens out to the veranda on one side and the front foyer, and the staircase landing on the other.At this point one realizes the importance the occupants have given to the details to their interior decoration. Each piece of furniture, antique piece and art,has a story behind it. Next we went into the living room. It is not a very large space but once the connecting door to the veranda opens,the whole dimension changes. They say the living room is only used during the harsh summer as they need to use the AC and during the visiting hours of mosquitoes. Last stop at the ground floor level was the guest bedroom attached with a toilet. On the way out we stopped to listen to music played on an antique gramophone which gave a different mood to the whole house tour. One of the striking features of the staircase is the Spanish tiles,with unique patterns and design, which are clad on the risers.


   

A small passage way links three bedrooms and an audio visual room. Moving on, the Master Bedroom is a very simple space, with minimal furnishing,while the walk in wardrobe is a contrast with bright colours and bold patterns. Both the children’s bedroom interiors have been personalized according to their tastes. The toilets in this house have a peculiar feature –large windows are used instead of small vents on top. That not onlybrings in alot of light and ventilation, but is also easy to clean. 


       


The whole structure is made of stabilized mud blocks with inter locking techniques due to which a large amount of cement was saved. The timber work done for the rafters, doors and windows are made from Malaysian Sal and Pyinkado. None of the timber used was kiln dried; instead the natural process of sun drying was used which brings out the strength of the material to the fullest. 


All though I was unhappy that I had to return from this beautiful place, I had a smile on my face from start to finish. It was a day well spent. 


- Ariya Antony


GREEN LIVING DISCUSSION, JULY 15, 2014

Green Living, It was made clear in today’s discussion, that to achieve Green Living, individual initiatives need to be taken.We should find our own ways which suit our locality to achieve greener living and not follow the western culture. One should start to make their own homes greener, but in the present scenario what we see is, one blaming his/her neighbour for whatever is happening around one’s home.


Each individual value their social status more than anything and about 20% of world’s population use about 80% of world’s resources. They think, having an apartment in the heart of the city is considered to be a symbol of higher status. The lives in such flats are miserable. I got to experience similar life during my college days. All I used to see when I open the main door was the blank wall and narrow corridor connecting other flats. I could see doors to individual flats and duct doors on the corridor walls. There was nothing unique about the design and it wasn’t satisfying either. In rooms and toilets all I could smell were my neighbors cigarettes butts, whereas in my village I could smell the flowers during autumn and wet soil during rainy seasons. I hardly used to go out of my apartment during those days. Well my case, I think I was better compared to families living in such flats, because I was a student and I could hang out with my friends. I had seen kids in the flats going to schools; they were taken in vans and auto rickshaws. It was a painful sight, because it looked like cattle being taken to slaughter houses. I remembered my schooldays, walking back home 4 kms everyday with friends, stopping at small shops for buying candies and other stuffs.


We would not be able to go back or reverse the time. All the good moments of thepast,only remains as memories. The greener life we used to have in villages and towns in the past is no more existent, but what remains or what our older generation left for us is the ‘knowledge’ which had been passed through generations and that could still be passed to our future generation. To achieve a greener living we could use these knowledge or techniques.

Eg: The traditional/vernacular architecture, agriculture, cooking, etc…..


It was clear in the discussion that the lifestyle of the present generation has to be changed drastically. The attitude of each individual has to be changed or by the time of our next generation there will be huge energy depletion and each individual will have to fight for their survival and the fittest will survive. We should learn from the past. In case of architecture we could study the traditional design aspects, building materials, architectural elements (why they are used?) etc.


In our research we got to look into all these aspects and compare with the other techniques and see which one is more energy efficient, economical and sustainable. In certain cases the modern materials/techniques might be better than the traditional methods, so I think one should study all the aspects of both the materials/techniques. The study has to be done in such a way that it justifies one’s statement. The research has to be done in all aspects of life, from the life style of an individual to other diverse factors affecting Green living in a wider scale from individual dwellings to an urban conglomeration.

 

What I will do?


I chose to do a study on housing project in Stockholm called Hammarby Sjostad. I will study and understand why it is different or unique from other similar projects. It would be helpful if I make strategy of the key design aspects used in this project and that would make this topic more interesting to pursue by knowing the challenges the architects faced while doing this project. I have also planned to do a study on various other projects on Green living and various measures to achieve it.


- Reji Benoy



LIVE & LET LIVE, JULY 15, 2014

We started the discussion on the depletion of resources and how it will become obsolete one day. I did understand what they were talking about but like they said none of us knew the seriousness of this issue. This is very true to most of the people as they are not aware of the reality.


We then discussed as to how buildings influence the depletion of resources and how the role of an architect is important when we talk about sustainability.


Some of the traditional building techniques that was used, like the wide sunshades, verandas around the house, etc. were passive ways of sustainability as the thermal comfort of the house was increased. But now due to the increase in the cost of construction and also the increase in land value, even if we want to follow the traditional techniques, it is not affordable and hence not followed.


We should think of alternative methods in design which is more apt for the present day scenario, keeping sustainability in mind. This leads to reduction in use of resources and increase the use of renewable energy.


If this is in small scale, when we look at the bigger picture or at the urban level, the increase in the number of private transport, increases the pollution and also in the consumption of non-renewable resources. This shows the importance of us starting to use more of public transport. It not only decongests the road but also saves energy.


For example, if one needs to reach a destination which is 2km away, then he/she can walk or use the cycle as it is a good exercise and also very safe to the environment. This is just one such idea but there could be more done which might seem to be very insignificant but it will surely have a huge impact if followed by larger numbers.


This discussion continued as to how can one make a place sustainable at the urban scale, but later we also did realise that it’s not just us talking about it that will make the difference but also involves other factors like the higher officials who actually take decisions related to this, etc. One other important factor is individual inputs and the change in lifestyle which leads towards the betterment of the world as only that will change the whole scenario.


In college one of my teachers spoke to me about a syndrome called NIMBY – Not in My Backyard Syndrome, which is true and what most of us follow.


The seriousness of the issue should be understood and sustainability should start from each of us individuals which will make the world a better place.


Now getting back to sustainability through architecture – minimising the use of materials and the energy is the key factor. Also the waste produced during construction, and later the sewage, sullage, kitchen waste, etc. should be recycled and reused.


We could think of experiments and alternative ideas for construction methods, waste management, etc. and see if it is useful in our scenario to make it a green living.


One way of thinking for green living is to calculate the carbon foot print which will give us definite numbers to actually understand sustainability better and where we are standing right now. Later after the ideas have been incorporated in a building, the carbon foot print can be calculated again and the compared to see what is the difference that is been made.


Even while designing one should see how flexible a building can be in the planning level so that it can cater to the future, which will reduce the number of buildings from being broken down and constructed again.


Few general ideas for any project:
·  10 m green belt around the plot
·  Connecting spaces at a higher level
·  Interaction spaces
·  Extensive use of solar energy
·  Geothermal energy& other renewable resources
·  Activities for the retired community, etc.


Few activities that could be done:
·  Carbon footprint in the making of an Athangudi tile and a normal tile, etc.

Topic for research

The active and passive ways to make a building and the space around sustainable.


How it could be useful to us

One should have enthusiasm and excitement while doing anything, to get the best results. This is one of the most important qualities one should possess. We should all not just take from Mother Nature but also give something in return so there is a future available.


The topic, active and passive ways to make a building or a space sustainable can be useful to us as we not only do new constructions but also restoration of buildings which cannot be broken down as they carry historical value and also very close to our heart.


Hence the ideas can be used in the design according to the demand.


- Harini Ramisetty



ARE WE BEATING AROUND THE BUSH?, JULY 15, 2014

Are we beating around the bush?


Sustainability has always been one of the topic that goes to heated levels of discussions in the college canteens. This is majorly because the word is not something that can be defined but a perspective. A perspective with various dimensions. Sustainability in building materials, urban design, lifestyle and transportation are separate entities capable of fuelling discussions that can go on for hours. But at the same time it is almost impossible to deal with these topics distinctly. It is more of an interdependency web. One decision affects the other and one change modifies the rest. But sustainability is an issue that we should not foresee. Because the end is near and the only solution we have is either expanding the circle or reversing the same.


Our human mind has two defence mechanisms, one, Denial, two, Blame. All of us know – The end is near. But that thought, if processed can lead to catastrophic levels of stress, which can breakdown our trust in living. And so, our brain automatically runs its first defence mechanism – Denial. Most of us often convince ourselves saying, “Nothing will happen, everything will be good.” Often God becomes the catalyst for this process. Those who breakdown the mechanism of denial progress to the next – Blame, and there stops the quest for the solution.


The blame game is quite evident in debates of sustainability too. The common man, who can make a change by altering his lifestyle a bit, blames the organisation for its lack of planning and focus. Organisations that can actually make a major change with its authority, lacks the potential to make decisions but preaches the common man to change his lifestyle, when the rules does not permit it. Are we beating around the bush?


There was a discussion today about how the society and social status is steering the lifestyle of the individual. This dependency of man on his society is the most dominating factor of this issue. Man is becoming a fanatic of the society. Blindly following what it dictates. And the dictators are the pioneers. So the only solution to this problem is creating correct type of pioneers. And this is where, I feel architects have a major role to play.


We build homes, we develop housing and we visualize societies. So I think it is we who should decide to make a change. Small or Big – a change. We can affect lifestyle. We can make people think the way we want them to and live how we want them to. And thus create pioneers for appropriate living. A change in what people assume status quo is. Living appropriate should replace living ample. Living is a well-ventilated home should become status higher than living in air-conditioned rooms. We can educated clients about this. If not we, who? If not now, when.


We are not speaking utopian here. All this has already started settling as ideas everywhere. These philosophies have already penetrated the elite fraction of the society. But a real upheaval can happen only when all this becomes affordable to the masses. Sustainability is more or less like designer wear now. Within means only to the rich. Reaching out sustainability to the majority will be a major breakthrough. We can find answers. But they must be economical and easy too. That is the real challenge. Solutions are plenty, questions and infinite. If we are looking to develop on Athangudi, it should become easily available to all that is a solution. A solution that Gandhi, Karl Marx and many others dreamt off.


These 800 words was not the answer to the questions posed. It is just an analysis of the question itself. Reading between the lines and connecting question marks. Solutions, I hope will evolve in the next few months.


What I will do?


I remember reading somewhere that most of the civilizations in the world came to an end or a slowdown because of either of these three reasons- Natural Calamities, War or Disease. Calamities naturally occurring is in most cases inevitable. War – a physical embodiment of man’s greed arises from his lifestyle. And diseases, majorly because of the way of living. Sanitation has always been a major issue for sustainability in history. Pre-renaissance is evident history about this. Is our present globalized village also reaching a similar scenario where waste disposal is the most pressing issue of all? In a way, yes. This is one thing we all need to look into, but we deny.


The best solution is the “ice-cream cone story”. When ice cream became a sensation, the problem arose regarding disposal of the cups. When the company decided to give out free ice creams to those who suggested an idea about the cup disposal, one man randomly dropped a card stating “eat the cups”. But that was the answer. And thus came the cones, and we've been eating the cups since then.
This is the answer to our problem of waste disposal. We should eat it. Our own systems should be able to consume the waste too. This will be a definite solution to our problems of sustainability. It will help the masses too. And thus I find it a necessity that we research on this topic more than anything else. I should be able to contribute something solid to this.


I’m starting off with Dewats system. I should first gain an understanding about the functioning of the system. Then analyse where we can break the rules. Arrive at numbers.


Methodology:
·  Understanding the system
·  Merits and de-merits
·  Modifications and flexibility possible.
·  Unit calculations
·  Economic feasibility
·  Sustainability contributions
·  Maintenance issues and solutions.
·  What next? – Re-use


How should we take it forward?


· Planning. As a group and as an individual. We should plan our day’s work. I remember during my internship, we were asked to give an hour to hour work report. It was very useful. It’s helpful to plan for ourselves. I feel this can be incorporated. This way, we can plan what we can do in a day.
. The facebook page can be used to share information.
. Research has its own intoxicating effect, I feel we should not make plans, but just start doing it an arrive at decisions as and when necessary.

- Anusree Bammanchery



GREEN LIVING WORKSHOP, JULY 15, 2014

Research on Green Living had been on our to-do list for quite some time. And it finally materialized today. We had a brainstorming session headed by three inspirable minds. Dr. M.P. Parameswaran, Dr. Swaminathan and Mr. Badrinath. The trio involved us in a heated discussion. We debated about various topics from urban development to vermicomposting systems. Basically, it was a kick start, to initiate the research. It gave us a perspective and a direction to move forward. We discussed about different aspects we could research about. Sustainability will not be executable through architecture or systems alone. It needs to evolve from lifestyle and architecture can inspire or modify the user’s lifestyle to a great extent. The possibility and approach to do this should be the basis for the research. Its effect on its surrounding environment should be analysed and considered. And we concluded with a chat about what we are actually expecting as the outcome of the research. Totally stimulating, the brain-storming session gave us a lot to ponder upon.



CHURCH HISTORY MUSEUM VIEWS, JULY 14, 2014

Two days time... The views had to be done in such a way, that it creates an impression. Our basic ideology which helped me at that moment - ‘Do not bother about the time you have, work hard, do your best with a determination that you can finish it on time, the result will be good’. Revisions in the massing were plenty, but in the process I got to understand the method of visualization and the reason behind the changes. 


Though tedious, the experience was fruitful. I could feel the difference in my confidence level. With the help of my colleagues, Vishnu, Anusree and Mythili, all in a night’s time, I made the final changes, set the scenes, rendered using kerkythea and made quick post rendering in Photoshop. The views had to be mailed by noon next day. In spite of a few last minute confusions, we managed to deliver on time. The meeting went on well.


That feeling one has while being recognized and appreciated for one’s hard work is enough to keep the fuel burning inside and to set flame to the desire to achieve more. 


- Reji Benoy



INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE, JULY 13, 2014

1st Year Architecture was one hell of a roller-coaster ride. From school to college, new environments, new friends and of course, a totally different academic course. Agreed, the year had its fair share of fun moments, but boy, was it frustrating too. Work, work, work. Almost all the time. Assignments, research work, design problems, models and what-not. Sleepless nights and a few tears were not uncommon throughout the year. So I wasn’t surprised when most people said they didn’t want to have to do ANYTHING with architecture for the two months of holidays post our final exams.


I agreed with them. I was tired. And all I wanted to do for two months was enjoy. Do things I liked to do otherwise – watch good cinema, play and listen to music, play video games. Ah….a perfect two months.
So yes, I did retaliate when my parents expressed their desire to send me to an internship during these vacations. I protested. A lot. But when your parents pull off the ‘we-don’t-usually-force-you-to-do-anything’ card, there is seldom much you can do. ‘Might as well utilize your time these vacations’, ‘You wouldn’t do anything productive otherwise, blah, blah, blah. ‘Oh well, it’s just a few weeks’, I thought.


So there I was, on a solo train trip to Chennai to work under Benny Kuriakose. Honestly, the following three weeks was one unique experience.


In the first year as an Architecture student, a lot of stress is given to ones understanding of a ‘good design’ and a ‘bad design’. Most of our subject pertain to the ‘creative’ aspect of the course- designing, arts and visual communication. Hence, a general line of thought is that the skill of designing is the supreme skill in this field.


I was proven wrong. In my three weeks working in Vedika, I was astonished at the varied amount of skills an Architect is required to master. Management. I noticed how key management was to the successful life of any firm. Managing accounts, filing documents, making sure everyone is focussed and that all work is undergoing good amount of progress. Which is not an easy thing to do, especially when a firm like Vedika is headed by a single architect. A single person to oversee the work of a bunch of employees and young, distracted interns. And it isn’t just overseeing their work. Guiding them, giving them tips, telling them what is wrong and what is right. Different interns might be given work on different projects. I was amazed to see how Benny Sir efficiently switched his thoughts from one project to another within a fraction of a second. He was like an all-knowing entity, whom I regarded with awe. From being able to communicate well with the employees as well as the clients, of course. I was allowed to sit in on a few meetings. With the very limited knowledge I have, most of the talk went over my head, but not to say that I couldn’t grasp bits and pieces of vital information. I could observe how projects and problems were discussed and addressed, how clients and salespersons were to be handled. It was more an insight into how an architectural firm functions, rather than just the process of designing.


Specifically, I was given the duty to work on a short 2-minute video on the architect and his works which was to be submitted for a national-level competition. And trust me when I say this, is wasn’t an easy thing to do, despite having a bunch of interns helping me. Everything, from collecting good photographs, scripting, learning new software, recording audio and music was to be done. It took almost a week to finalise these things. Then another two weeks in the making of the film itself. Every take had some flaw that was to be addressed. Suggestions were made. Compromises were made. Sleepless nights. Scolding after scolding. Yes, it was tough. I’m probably the laziest 18 year old boy in the world. I can compromise on my meals, but not my sleep. So you can imagine how the experience was like hell for me. But it was like compulsion. I did not want to disappoint. So I went out of my comfort zone. I surprised myself sometimes. But in the end, the movie was completed, much to the satisfaction of almost everyone in the office. And I got a few pats on my back, some of them my own.


It was amazing regimented the office was, yet, in a strange way, very free. Everyone was on time, very serious about their work, ever trying to be on time with their work. Yet, there was a fair share of jokes flying around, people sharing music, videos of cats and babies. There was a healthy amount of office gossip, like all offices (some of them of myself, a hilarious but cute little tale my good friends at the firm would recollect). Benny Sir himself would join in on the fun sometimes, which I found very well. I doubt there would be many firms where the head architect has so much direct interaction with each intern. He would be in a playful mood but still have an air of authority about him. While believing that a strict leader and slight restrictions is key to running the office, he doesn’t make it seem like a dictatorship. Yes, everyone was scared of him but he was still one of our own…..someone whom we could turn to for any sort of advice.


Barely a week into the internship, and I was already meeting a number of clients, going to visit building sites and helping around in the office. Again, I consider it a luxury to have so much of exposure in a first year internship. And rightly so, most interns there agree with me in that regard. Benny Sir’s office was truly like none other. The level of exposure one gets working there is unparalleled.


College opens for me soon, and I’m not usually the sort of person who goes about bragging about my experiences. If I’m not eaten alive when I tell people that I went for an internship……I won’t be able to stop myself from feeling a step ahead of all others there. And as Benny Sir rightly pointed out to me, I should take acknowledge of this fact and maintain this advantage over others. Sending me off with a bunch of tips and suggestions, he awaits me next year with a whole lot of expectations. Like I said, I might be a lazy bum. But I don’t like to see disappointment.


Adityan G Bharati
II Year, Jamia Millia Islamia University,
New Delhi



WORKSHOP IN DAKSHINACHITRA, JULY 12, 2014

Event: 3 day residential workshop on “Vernacular & Sustainable Architecture”


Date:  15 – 17 August 2014-07-16


Venue: DakshinaChitra, East Coast Road, Muttukadu.


India is known for vernacular architecture and slowly this culture is replaced by modern buildings. With the intention of creating awareness and understanding of traditional and vernacular architecture, their materials, techniques and conservation, DakshinChitra is organising a 3 day residential workshop for students of Architecture and young architects.


Benny Kuriakose will be the course director.


Total number of participants would be limited to maximum 30. Students have to arrive at DakshinChitra on the 15th morning by around 9:30 am and leave on 17th evening by around 5pm. There would be interactive sessions in the evening along with group activities. Compulsory residential workshop.


   


Students who are interested in participating may send a mail to mcfindia@gmail.com or call 044 45511508 (between 11 am to 1 pm).



THE INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE, JULY 12, 2014

The internship period  was a very fruitful one and doing my internship here showed me a small trailer to what was going to be on the big screen. I was involved in a wide range of projects like hotels, resorts, churches, master plans, residences, showrooms, and  also conservation of buildings in various levels.


The extent of work that an intern gets, totally depends on the enthusiasm to involve in the office and the patience until this enthusiasm is recognized. The office has a working environment with firm ground rules which is outlined only to bring out the right attitude towards learning and also gave us a platform to develop various skills. Whatsoever, our office is always filled of people with fresh ideas.


I was involved in one of the major projects, the Muziris Heritage Project that the office has been working on for around 7 years now. We had workshops, and brain storming discussions to bring out the best output. And in the process we also got to know the extent of problems one has to face in a large scale project. My work was in ‘way finding’ and signage – a field that is slowly gaining importance in the field of architecture and urban design. Local and International standards were considered and finally we achieved a user friendly signage system to be implemented in Muziris to help the local population and the tourists.
Another innovative project was the Sterling resorts at Coorg. Through this project I got a glimpse of how to go about designing buildings in contours. It was a real challenge to design in such a steep site.


Internship period was like a transition phase from the playful college environment to the actual reality. My interest to become a conservation architect has now grown much stronger with more clarity.


- Jerome Benhur



CHURCH HISTORY MUSEUM, JULY 12, 2014

The church history museum is to come up on the edge of the canal. Being a narrow site on the road side, the site has its frontage along the river. Being a church museum, a mural of St. Thomas, at the far end of the site is planned. The museum is divided into two separate blocks - amenities block in front and the museum block at the back. The front block, consists of the reception, ticket counter and toilets in the ground floor and a café in the first floor overlooking the water body. It is a simple building, quite smaller in proportion compared to that of the museum. A trellised pathway connects the front building with the museum block. The museum is at two different levels with greater wall heights. A small water channel branches into the site. This water body is developed into a courtyard overlooked by the central part of the galleries in both the floors. 



BEST GRADUATING STUDENT OF ARCHITECTURE, JUNE 2, 2014


Kevin, who was an intern at our office, has been awarded the Helen A Rose prize for the best graduating student of Architecture programme at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape  Architecture.
We would like to congratulate him for the same.



LALIT KALA AKADEMY, JANUARY 21-24, 2014

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PALIAM MUSEUM OBJECTS LIGHTING, JANUARY 20, 2014

The lighting for the museum had to be worked out in a very economical manner, yet be able to deliver a result of good quality. After a lot of research about the various available options, an on-site study was conducted. Under trial and error scrutiny for about a week, the angle, intensity and position of the lights were finalised. 



HINDUSTAN UNIVERSITY, JANUARY 6, 2014

Benny Kuriakose gave a talk to students in the School of Architecture, Hindustan University.

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PALIAM MUSEUM OBJECTS, DECEMBER 23, 2014

Paliam museum is being set up as part of the muziris heritage project. Various objects have been collected and the display of these objects is being worked out. There are two museums in the complex – Paliam Palace and Paliam Nalukettu. 



CHERAMAN PARAMBU ACTIVITY CENTRE, DECEMBER 23, 2014

Cheraman Parambu activity centre, located in Muziris is a centre for the children to involve in interactive activities. Children can try their hands at various crafts like bell metal, weaving and other crafts



PARAVUR SYNAGOGUE HEICHAL, DECEMBER 14, 2013

When the Jews left for Israel few decades ago, they took along the highly carved heichal that was part of the Paravur synagogue and is now part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Although it is not a practise to reconstruct carved elements, a decision was taken to reconstruct the heichal considering the fact that our heritage was taken out of the country. But it was not easy to draw the heichal by looking at the different photographs from the museum. Clerine Patteri, an architect at our office had worked on the drawing for more than three months looking into the depth and breadth of the details of the carving.  The craftsmen have reconstructed the heichal, which is 18 feet tall and nine and a half feet wide. Our sincere thanks to Tirza Lavi and Marian Sofaer for helping us in this endeavour.



KODUNGALLUR BUS STAND, DECEMBER 12, 2013

The Kodungallur bus stand planned will be one of the major nodes for the Muziris visitors and is meant for the public transport vehicles. It is located near the Kodungallur visitor centre which is a major entry point for the visitors. Unlike the usual cranky spaces that become bus stands, the Kodungallur Bus Stand is well lit and the proportion of the spaces gives it an unusual grandeur. 



MAYAVARAM HOUSE, DECEMBER 5, 2013

Set amidst green fields, the farmhouse at Mayavaram, is conceived to be a retirement home. The house is designed around two courtyards where the main courtyard is surrounded by the living areas and the small courtyard behind has the dining area adjacent to it. Athangudi tiles, stone finishes, timber pillars and windows are some of the materials used. The lily pond at the front of the house, is located on both sides of the entry



BOAT JETTIES, NOVEMBER 12, 2013

Being the central spine of the Muziris for water transport, the Periyar River, along with its tributaries and smaller canals, provides connectivity to a  major part of the project area. The construction of new bridges led to the neglect of the canals and boat jetties. Since the project aims to revive the water transport, more boat jetties need to be reconstructed. A total of 21 boat jetties are required to facilitate the movement of the visitors. They are being done in such a way that it will cater to the differences in water levels due to tides. Hop-on hop-off trips are being planned to take the visitors to different monuments and historic places as most of these are located along the old waterways.



thealternative.in JUNE 20, 2013


Indigenous exposed clay work, an expansive garden, solar panels, grey water recycling, – Bhumija has literally left no stone unturned in building a living, breathing green home.

The owner of the house Mrs. Mahalakshmi, who also happens to be the architect, has formerly worked in our office.

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