Monday, 23 October 2017

Shankar’s ‘Siddhartha’, an architectural response to mindless building ways

It would be inconceivable to know that a person who has built thousands of houses and buildings never had an house of his own, but the truth is, ace Malayali architect G Shankar never owned a house until a weeks back and when he did , an architectural magnum opus has been materialised. 
“I never felt the need for an own house, one of the reason for such a decision rooted from the disturbing fact that there are around 4 lakh homeless people in Kerala and there are around that many number of unoccupied houses built in our state, a sad irony,” says Shankar.
“After finishing college, I worked in the field of architecture relentlessly till this point of time, and at some point I knew I needed a space to withdraw in peace, thus occurred ‘Siddhartha’ in 30 years,” says the architect who took forth Laurie Becker’s idea of modest, sustainable and eco friendly building ways.
The land near Mudavanmugal where Siddhartha is built, was once an unwanted area , remembers Shankar who noticed this low –lying, uneven land during one of  his morning walks 30 years back. “I got an immediate connection with this space then,” says Shankar. “It was a painstaking effort to transform this land to what it looks like now,” recollects Shankar. The problem of water lodging during rainy season was tackled by creating four small ponds inside the property.  “We grew cattle and used their bio waste as organic fertilizers to grow the variety of flaura,” says Shankar.
“My idea of home is a forest inside city,” he said, so looks Siddhartha which stands amidst indigenous variety of trees and a spectacular butterfly garden planted with diverse flower bearing plants. “There are around 140 varieties of trees in this landscape now,” says Shankar. “I wanted those varieties that are not commercial or in high demand but chose for the non commercial, local varieties like ‘Charakonna’, ‘poomarantha’, ‘poovadari’ , different types of mango trees and lot more” says Shankar .
On the first view of Siddhartha itself one might awe at the imagination and creativity of architect owing to the house’s unconventional design and fluidity. “I first had the concept of an ant castle for my design, but then the measurement and rules of architecture couldn’t comprehend that concept completely, so I imagined an ant castle without it’s dome roof and  ended up with a wave like structure  where the roof is more or less arched, one which starts from the earth and goes like a wave,” says Shankar.
Breaking away from the rigid rules of architecture, Shankar adopted an evolving architectural method which is evident from Sidhartha’s flowing artistry that eases out anyone who enters this haven of Shankar. It is wind, air and light that form the void walls of Siddhartha. “I don’t like rigid walls that divide, instead  want spaces of free flowing air, more light and openness,” he said.  “I want my home to blend with nature with ample spaces welcoming natural light and wind. This inside out concept can be experienced once you enter the breezy and welcoming interiors of Siddhartha. “With the kind of design used, one cannot feel a distinct separation between outside environment and the interior,” he added.
The design of Shankar has left spaces to sit along windows corners that he thought would be spaces of solitude where one could read, work or just simply sit in peace. “I have this love for  spaces of solitude that opens up to nature,” said Shankar who is a nature lover by soul.

 Shankar, staying true to his political stance of modesty and environment sustainability, built Siddhartha in accordance with his ideologies. The house which hasn’t used concrete or metal structures has mud as primary building material. “I always had fascination for mud as a building material with its colour, odor and delicacy, so I decided to use it as the primary material for my home. 95% of this house is bio degradable; I don’t want any eco hazardous material in my house. I believe that everything has an end, so in far future when this house is floored by any reason, nothing of it remains to hurt mother nature, and everything will  dissolve in her,” says this high priest of architecture. By using mud as the primary material, Shankar has his ideas of cost effectiveness, energy efficiency and sustainability intact, which makes Siddhartha a politically correct model of architecture, in contemporary times of luxury and vanity.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Building eco-friendly habitats

The vertical growth of the city points towards how costly the land has become. The urban landscape is now dotted with many skyscrapers. But can this be considered an organic development of the city?
Not many agree with it and celebrated architect G Shankar is one of them. He says the cityscape has been mutilated with the emergence of such residential towers.
G Shankar, architect and founder
of Habitat Technology Group.
“People with deep pockets have amassed land banks. Scarcity of land has been artificially created to suit the requirement of real estate developers,” says Shankar. He does not spare those who splurge on huge houses.
“The government should discourage houses above 3,000 square feet with super tax. Similarly excessive use of steel and glass should be avoided,” he says. His organisation Habitat Technology Group has been promoting low cost, eco-friendly and sustainable construction for the last 30 years across the globe. It showcases two prototypes of affordable houses at Habitat Centre at Poojappura.
Affordable Housing
How much does it costs to construct a two BHK house in the city? If such a question is put forward most people would arrive at a figure above Rs 25 lakh. Habitat has constructed a 400 square feet house for Rs 4 lakh. One type of house has two bedrooms, a multi-purpose hall, kitchenette and a toilet while the other has a single bedroom but a more spacious living or dining area with a verandah.
With minimal use of cement and steel, the house looks like a typical Habitat building where the walls remain unplastered. Walls are made of interlocking earth blocks and pillar slab concrete is used for roofing. “When people are tempted by large houses there are many who miss the chance to own a house. My attempt is to provide them with courage to construct low cost houses,” says Shankar.
Bamboo School
A huge bamboo house greets visitors at Habitat’s green campus located at Mudavanmugal. The ‘Design and Build Bamboo School’ will be promoting eco-friendly building materials.  The technology for construction using bamboo will be developed on the campus. Workshops for construction using bamboo and its treatment are part of the campus.
The school aims at sustainable development and utilisation of bamboo resources in the state through scientific management and stakeholders’ participation, promotion of bamboo-based building technologies and development of a workforce of architects, engineers, artisans and masons for such technologies.