Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is mainly known as Mahatma, Father of the nation, and Bapu. He is mainly known for his non-violence, and freedom fight, but from his early age, he had a special interest in the materials. As we all know he started making Khadi cloth himself by inventing charkha.
But along with that he was also closely associated with leather, carpentry, cooking, and many other materials. His interest lied in understanding the physical, chemical, and mechanical properties that indulged him in production and manufacturing. One can see this understanding and interest in his innovation of the spinning wheel mainly known as charkha.
Gandhi being associated with modernism, but at the same time, his interest lied in vernacular architecture. His buildings were constructed mainly of wood, mud, stone, etc materials that are available locally. This also showed his disinterest in the industrial production of materials like steel and concrete.
These materials were not at all environmentally sustainable, and also reduced the productivity of the soil. In his buildings, a blend of vernacular along with Euro-American architectural style was observed, which made the traditional and also modern at the same time. He believed a lot in integrity and self-awareness, which helped him question his ideology and understanding of modernity.
He analyzed every experience whether it was pain or pleasure, and helped him understand the openness of one’s shelf. While he was in South Africa, he made friends with architect Hermann Kallenbach. He introduced Gandhi to the simplicity of vernacular architecture. From this, an ideology of ascetic over aesthetic was developed, where the simplicity of a design is given more importance.
After coming to Ahmedabad, his journey in architecture began. He started studying the local architecture, local materials, availability of materials, to construct his ashram. This ashram is known as Sabarmati Ashram, where his house is known as Hriday Kunj. The local terminology for this house is pucca.
In the construction of his house materials like wet mud mixed with cow dung, hay, and wheat husk were used, which acted as binding elements. This material also provided insulation. The columns and roof were constructed from wood, mainly known as sagwan wood. He very well understood the importance of health.
By health, he meant not only human health but environmental health. By the repetitive manufacture and use of concrete, steel, etc materials, we were deteriorating the health of the environment. By using environmentally friendly materials like mud, wood, he wasn’t destroying the environment.
As mentioned earlier, his understanding of spatial quality derived from his life experiences. While designing his residence in Ahmedabad, he went back to his memories of his childhood house in Porbandar, where his house didn’t receive enough light and ventilation. This experience of his childhood led him to design a courtyard, which acted as a light well.
He followed the sequence of open-semi open-closed, known as courtyard-osri-ordo. Here the ordo is considered as a private part of the house, mainly used for sleeping, cooking, dining purposes, whereas osri is a semi-private space, mainly used for all the communal and gathering activities.
While in Gandhi Ashram, these ordos and osri were placed perpendicular, connected to a verandah opening the room to both the public spaces. This strategy allowed him to have a more open-ventilated spatial quality.
He believed in the relationship between the openness of the project, and the articulation of that openness. In Sabarmati Ashram, he has applied this ideology where the organization of spaces is such that one is always connected to the open outside. These spaces were organized at an individual level, their association with him.
For him, activities like reading, and writing are quite personal, their spatial qualities should be such that it caters to the individuals’ needs. According to this principle, in Sabarmati Ashram, his ordo, mainly the sleeping space, is connected to the study which is then connected to the verandah. This provided him privacy at night times, and also the connection with his visitors during the day.
According to him the phrase form follows function, has a lot more to add to the designing and construction process. If form follows function, activity, the behavior of the user, level of design resolution, and discipline are followed behind it. This entire process sums up the idea of self-awareness and self-control.
This makes the user aware of his needs and the qualities that he is required to cater to those needs. This made him believe that the idea of home is familiar to the very idea of the temple also known as Havelis. These Havelis follow the same spatial quality where the ordo becomes the garbhagriha and osri becomes the mandapa, making it extremely similar to a house layout. This spatial connection of closed-semi-open-open can be seen in jail also where the cell acts as the garbhagriha and the corridor acts as a mandapa.
Thus, he believes that architecture is a culmination of personal associations leading to self-awareness, which later results in the contemplation of the program and spatial quality of the space. With this principle, he designed most of his ashrams.