The esteemed Indian architect, Anupama Kundoo was announced as the 16th winner of the RIBA Charles Jencks Awards, 2021. She is the second Indian architect to receive this award after Charles Correa in 2009. The tribute was given to her in recognition of her significant contribution to the theory and practice of material research and sustainable building development. Her winning the award is a pioneer reflection of the architectural work she has executed in South Asia. 

“I am grateful to the Jencks Foundation, RIBA, and the Charles Jencks Award Jury for recognizing that the resulting body of work is no less a theory than a theory expressed in words.” Anupama Kundoo

The 2021 RIBA Charles Jencks Award won by Architect Anupama Kundoo Sheet1
2021 Recipient of the RIBA Charles Jencks Award_©Andreas Deffner

RIBA Charles Jencks Award

RIBA Charles Jencks Award was established in1992 by Charles Jencks who donated the prize money he won at Nara Gold Medal to RIBA to set up an endowment fund. Initially, it was used for exchange programs between British and Japanese architects, but later in 2003, it was changed to create an annual award to reward an individual or firm that has made a leading contribution to the theory and practice of architecture. The winner receives prize money and delivers a lecture at RIBA.

Some of the past winners of this award are Zaha Hadid, Charles Correa, Stephen Holl, and many others.

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Níall McLaughlin and Charles Jencks at the 2016 award presentation and lecture_©Tina Shaburishvili

About Anupama Kundoo

Anupama Kundoo studied architecture from Mumbai University and received her degree in 1989. She did her doctoral degree program at the Technical University of Berlin in 2008. She established herself as an architect at Auroville, India in 1990 and worked under the principle of “energy and water-efficient structures”. She strives to incorporate sustainable strategies in her design by utilizing locally available materials, unskilled labor, and local community workers. She has based most of her design projects on material research to minimize the adverse effect on the environment. 

Other than RIBA Charles Jencks Award, she has also won the Prestigious Auguste Perret for Technology Award by the Union of Architects.

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Town Hall in Auroville, India (2005)_©Javier Callejas

Design Principles 

Anupama Kundoo had trained herself as an architect in India and thus, had the practice of designing for low-impact building technologies and sustainable approaches. She researched profoundly on the availability of materials locally that would not implicate any adverse effects on the environment socially and economically and at the same time strategies to reuse the materials in the construction process.

Anupama’s practice follows a holistic approach, combining research, structures, and theories to build architecture outside the mainstream commercial-driven world.

She took her research to design units and workshops in universities like the Parsons The New School for Design, University of Queensland, Yale University, and FH Potsdam. 

“Our built environment is the physical stage on which all human stories are lived out. This physical stage is the historical and ongoing manifestation of human imagination operating within real (or, imaginary!) constraints.” Anupama Kundoo

Leading Work

She has worked on different categories of projects such as residential, public buildings, installations, and urban planning. Some notable works by Anupama Kundoo include The Wall House in 2000 at Auroville, Mitra Youth Hospital in 2005 at Auroville, and Urban Eco-Community in 2003 at Auroville. In 2012, she exhibited a 1:1 scale replica of the Wall House at the Venice Biennale. Her design work and design process were presented at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark with a monograph called Anupama Kundoo: Taking Time: The Architects Studio.

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Wall House by Anupama Kundoo_©Javier Callejas
The 2021 RIBA Charles Jencks Award won by Architect Anupama Kundoo Sheet5
Mitra Youth Hospital_©
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Creativity- An Urban Eco Community_©

The 2021 Charles Jencks Award Jury

The 2021 RIBA Charles Jencks Award jury was composed of: the President of RIBA Elect Simon Allford; architect and critic Edwin Heathcote; architect and Dean of the Royal College of Art, Dr. Adrian Lahoud; founder of Jencks Foundation Lily Jencks, and previous winner of Jencks Award, architect Benedetta Tagliabue.

One of the jury members said that Anupama is a rare example of an architect who managed to achieve a lot in some difficult areas like housing for the poor in India as well as established a substantial body of research into material and craft and how locally-made construction members can be reimagined to become fundamentals of architecture.

Dr. Adrian Lahoud said that many aspects of architecture are still dominated by Europeans and English-speaking words. In his opinion, expansion on this narrow frame is needed to render inclusive designs, and he states that Arabic, Urdu, Igbo concepts are important in the future. He praises Anupama for her exemplary work by engaging communities she works with and the richness of spatial and material research that she incorporates in her designs.  


Anupama Kundoo’s work is ecological, sustainable, and elegant. She has built bridges between academia in Europe and South Asia through her extraordinary work. She has refined a strong political and conceptual theory for her practice that is based on ad-hoc material experimentation and the optimum use of resources. She has shown the architecture ecosystem ways to community engagement and sustainability strategies.

Kundoo will receive the award on November 2nd and will deliver a lecture after the ceremony. An interview session held by a critic in collaboration with the New Architecture Writers program will also be conducted.

Architect Anupama Kundoo Sheet7
Why slow architecture matters: Anupama Kundoo writes on the power of time_©
The 2021 RIBA Charles Jencks Award won by Architect Anupama Kundoo Sheet8
Kundoo upholds the mantra that we cannot make time, but we can take time_©Javier Callejas

Smriti considers Architecture to be an expression of art and is on the road of building many such expressions for the world to experience. She is passionate and motivated to explore the countless angles of architecture design and media. She stays positive and loves to travel.