Tue, 13 Apr 2021

Do you want to be an eco-literate architect

Posted on Monday, June 4, 2018

Ecological architect Revathi Kamath, on why the architects should be sensitive to environmental needs, in a conversation with Rajlakshmi Ghosh

Architecture aimed at suiting the ecological needs of India’s rising population makes it imperative for architects to do their bit for sustainable development. However, the undergraduate courses must have more emphasis on environmental challenges.


“We need more schools of architecture and civil engineering programmes to teach students about environmental impact, energy consumption, waste management, water recycling and air-water-indoor pollution,” says architect Revathi Kamath who works with mud, bamboo and wood along with the judicious use of cement and steel.

Credited with the designing of The Desert Resort, in Mandawa, Rajasthan; the Tribal Museum in Bhopal, the Gnostic Centre near Palam Airport, and the Tower House in Hauz Khas, New Delhi, Kamath’s own mud home rises up against a mining-ravaged landscape in Haryana.


Use and misuse

Eschewing the use of the words ‘green architecture’ which she says suffers from misuse and controversy, Kamath feels there is a need to nurture a breed of architects who can minimise the adverse environmental impact of buildings through a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation.

However, a candid Kamath reveals, architects cannot sustain themselves solely on ecological practices. Citing her own experience of designing buildings, Kamath says, “I might introduce earth blocks, bamboo roofs/canopies/shades, mud plastered walls with traditional folk art paintings while designing a building with steel columns. Even the furniture could be made out of mud bricks to complete the job.”

Kamath emphasises on the need to involve crafts people, painters, sculptors, bamboo workers, carpenters and carvers into the architectural vocabulary. “Architecture in such a form expresses the collective creativity of people. There is no point in being a lone ranger in your creative journey,” she adds.     


How can students make a career in the field?

Students who have specialised in sustainable architecture can work in architecture firms and consulting services with roles that define them as sustainable architects/project designers/project architects/architectural service managers, says Kamath. They could start out with Rs 20000/month before earning Rs 60,000/per month after about six years of practice.   


Courses and institutes

Some of the better known institutes in India offering Master’s in sustainable/environmental architecture/specialisation include Faculty of Engineering, University of Pune; Savitribai Phule Pune University; School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi; School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada; National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur; Centre for Environment Planning & Technology University (CEPT University), Ahmedabad, among others. Overseas, major universities offering sustainable architecture courses include Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Texas, etc.


Regular architect versus ecological architect

Distinguishing between the two, Kamath says a regular architect may be unmindful of the adverse ecological impact of the buildings and their embodied energies (where the use of aluminium, cement, plastic, steel and glass in excess might be economically viable but ecologically harmful); but an ecological architect ’s mind is sensitive to the impact of human habitat on natural systems.

Kamath says the abundance of resources for ecologically appropriate buildings in India apart from the wide availability of people as a resource along with its climate and economy makes it favourable for architects to pursue sustainable architecture as their calling.


Why women are more inclined towards ecological architecture:

Greater sensitivity towards environmental needs

Ability to engage with people at the grass roots

More committed socially

Attuned to saving resources, a value ingrained in their psyche since childhood

Traditionally more involved in crafts skills, making it easier to integrate the work of skilled artisans in their design ethic


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