Interview with Architect Benny Kariakose, Chennai
When did you start your practice? How did the idea come about?
I worked with Laurie Baker for about nine months and then decided to travel to see the other kind of architecture. Meanwhile I started to get enquiries regarding houses to be built in the ‘Baker Style’. I did a few projects and then joined the firm COSTFORD in Thrissur where I was involved with the first few houses which COSTFORD constructed.
What is your vision as an architect?
Thirty years ago, when I started the career, I never expected that I will reach a stage a like this. I realised the relevance of my works only as time passed by, when there was more demand for the kind of buildings that I do. In the years to come, I expect that I will be able to do some projects which will be of some relevance to the future. Also I am hoping that I will be able to take architecture to another level, on the lines of what has been started by Laurie Baker.
You have worked on a number of rehabilitation projects at disaster sites. Could you share your learning from there?
The first project that I was involved was in Banegaon village in Lattur District sponsored by the readers of Malayala Manorama newspaper. In this project, we did two model houses in which the villagers chose one. We tried to follow the traditional pattern of their houses but did not follow a grid iron layout. Instead formed a cluster layout for the village. The house was placed in one corner of the plot so that the villagers can expand the house in their traditional way. A compound wall of five feet height, with proper foundation so that it can be converted into a load bearing wall, was given to facilitate easy expansion of their houses. The next village project which I designed was the reconstruction of the houses in Chapredi village destroyed in Bhuj earthquake. We designed four houses and made the physical models. We had one to one interaction with the villagers and the people chose different models. But later on, the Sarpanch and some others decided on a single model and the village was constructed as such. Later on, when I had to design the houses and the settlement of Tarangambadi and Chinnankudi affected by the Tsunami, it was decided to make sure that the participation of the community and the house owners was there. We offered different models and actually constructed the model houses so that the people could understand what they are actually going to get. We said 1500 houses, 1500 designs. The sites were allocated to the individuals before starting the construction itself. The houses were highly customised and the house owners had control over the construction process.
Source: Zingy Homes