Interview with Architect Anupama Kundoo, Pune
How has the journey been so far?
The journey has certainly been a very adventurous and exciting one, but not without its share of struggles and challenges. It has been about ‘Building Knowledge’ in both its meanings, one being the focus on knowledge about buildings and context-appropriateness; and the other, where ‘building’ is meant as a verb, and each architectural project was seen as the opportunity to advance knowledge among those of us involved, but also among the other experts from related fields, craftsmen who produce buildings as well as the others who are affected by them directly or indirectly. I have had one foot in practice and another in academia, and each area of my engagement has enriched the other. I have had a research-oriented practice, and a practice-oriented teaching approach. I have taught architecture at a number of reputed institutions across various continents: TU Berlin, AA School of Architecture London, TU Darmstadt, Parsons New School in New York, UQ Brisbane, Cornell University, and am currently Professor at UCJC Madrid. So I have had a very exciting 25 years, involving extensive research and experimentation, in various cultural contexts, and yet it has been quite rewarding since I have been contributing to mainstream projects rather than remaining under the ‘alternative practice’ label that I was initially given. I have crossed paths with many architects and ingenious practitioners and architecture theorists and critics whom I have admired, and these personal exchanges on the way, have been probably the highlight of my architectural journey.
Sustainability is suddenly the flavor of the season. You have however been practicing it long before it became fashionable. Can sustainability and globalised architectural style go hand in hand?
There is no reason why deeper values of healthy building practice would result in anything less good looking. Flashy designs could be seductive and surprising when they just appear, but fashions and styles are always a temporary phase that pass by quickly and have a very momentarily gratifying wow factor. Then there is the timeless beauty that is eternal. I see no contradiction between benign materials and technologies being used for achieving good and contemporary architecture. It is a myth to think that architecture that is informed by the unsustainable trends is necessarily a nostalgic return to the past. It is rather one, which continues to be envisioning a better future that is aware of follies of the past and present, with long-term gains in mind rather than short-term impulsive reactions.
Affordable housing is your forte. When are we likely to see fired mud houses mushrooming around us?
The fired mud houses were the result of my fascination with Californian ceramist Ray Meeker and his relentless engagement with such radical experimentation. I believe that given the growing concerns of affordability issues around housing for all, any technology that has any chance of contributing to the cause is worth pursuing. I do not imagine a scenario of fired mud houses sprouting across the country, no. In any case all technologies are appropriate to certain contexts and apart from other challenges in this technology, the minimum condition to consider it would be the onsite (or very nearby) earth would be clayey and conducive for brick making. I continue to work with various affordable technologies for different contexts depending on the climatic, urban, geographic and other local conditions. I am now developing a prefab ferrocement housing system called Full Fill homes that can be assembled on site in less than a week.
Source: Zingy Homes