Ar Anupama Kundoo born in Pune and currently practicing in Australia is an internationally renowned architect, author, and researcher who started her architecture practice in 1990 with a strong focus on material research with the view of reducing the environmental impact of building technologies. She truly believes that current methods of construction are causing more problems than they can solve. Her innovative approach to architecture is supported by intensive research and experimentation from the development of building technologies and the integration of energy and water-efficient infrastructure solutions to building prototypes that are environmentally sound and socio-economically beneficial.

Anupama Kundoo’s architectural journey started at Sir J. J. College of Architecture, University of Bombay and received her degree in 1989. She was awarded the Vastu Shilpa Foundation Fellowship in 1996 for her thesis on “Urban Eco-Community: Design and Analysis for Sustainability”. She got her doctoral degree from the Technical University of Berlin in 2008. She established herself as an architect in Auroville in 1990 where she designed and built many buildings with “energy and water-efficient infrastructure” adaptations. She worked here from the middle of 1990 till 2002.

Anupama Kundoo taught at the Technical University, Berlin, and Darmstadt in Hesse during 2005. She worked as an Assistant Professor at Parsons the New School for Design, New York until 2011 then moving to Australia as a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland. In 2014, she shifted to Europe and began working at the European School of Architecture and Technology at the Universidad Camilo José Cela in Madrid. Here are her 15 remarkable projects that everyone should know.

1. The Wall House, Auroville by Anupama Kundoo

The architect’s residence is situated outside the planned city limits of Auroville, in Auromodele and a replica was reconstructed inside the Arsenale at the Venice Architecture Biennale. This building serves as an example of contemporary architecture that solves the international socio-economic need whilst maintaining a low impact on the environment. The ongoing development of technologies that can be produced by unskilled workers acts as a prototype to understand how resources and spaces can be optimized.

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2. Residence For Pierre Tran, Auroville

Designed for climatic comfort based on South-east orientation, vaulted roofs, cavity walls, and Ferro cement fins regulate the glare and yet allow natural ventilation. The roof is composed of hollow terracotta roofing tubes, specially made for the purpose, assembled into catenary vaults. This eliminates the use of structural steel or concrete while providing insulation.

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3. Main Residence Spirit Sense

The house is located at the edge of a canyon that is a very sensitive area. The house, an organic form, has at its center, a catenary dome that accommodates the dining area, the heart of the house. Around it, all the other functions are located in a spirally expanding movement, like a shell. It encloses several courtyards of different characters, to allow the landscape to penetrate the structure. The walls are leaning and resemble the forms of eroded earth of the canyon, and blends into the beautiful landscape so as to have a very low impact even seen from the other side.

The dome was built in the fired house technology and all the product bricks fired in that space are used to build the rest of the house. Ray Meeker was the technical consultant for this project and introduced a further new aspect. To avoid the use of valuable wood to fire the structure as in the previous cases, coal dust was introduced into the clay mixture itself, with which the bricks were made. One had to only light the fire and then the mass: structure and products, burnt from within with their own fuel till all the coal dust in it was spent.

4. The Samskara, Made In India, Delhi by Anupama Kundoo

Made in India’ is a new brand that presented its products in an exhibition in Delhi with an international luxury store look starting from a reference to Indian culture but developed into a contemporary international concept. A key material used is large white granite slabs with grey speckles, finished with traditional hand leveling techniques to reveal a more interesting texture and enhancing the natural material rather than its common current application as shiny machine polished reflecting surfaces most commonly seen in hotel lobbies and such. The skills of a Tamil Nadu stonecutter’s community lend themselves to produce a landscape of undulating floors shelves and benches in solid granite that will make the flat and otherwise heavy material look fluid and elegant.

 

5. High-Speed Housing, Roca London Gallery

For her exhibition at Roca London Gallery, Kundoo showed the design process that she and her team have followed to construct lightweight, resilient solutions to housing and sanitation issues worldwide. Elements of her Full Fill Home prototype, Light Matters Housing, and Easy WC, alongside photographs and films that show construction in progress. The skills required to build the homes can be acquired by anyone: simple enough to pass on to local craftspeople yet sophisticated enough to withstand seismic shocks. Rather than proposing local materials for mass housing, such as mud and bamboo, simply because they are most widely available, Kundoo’s solution for high density, urban areas is to empower local communities to make Ferrocement. Having experimented with the material for over a decade, her research proves Ferrocement to be: highly resilient, simple to prefabricate and easy to tint with a range of pigments. Most importantly, it can yield a set of versatile, lightweight parts that can be assembled to produce homes that are practical, stackable, durable and beautiful. Full Fill Home and Easy WC prototypes have been tested in student workshops in collaboration with University Camilo Jose Cela in Madrid. Samples were displayed in the gallery.

6. Unbound, The Library Of Lost Books

‘The Library of Lost Books’ is a bookless library designed by Kundoo with a live program of reading. The focus is on the content of the book and the act of reading. ‘Unbound’, a term that relates to the description of books, also expresses liberty and the idea of plenty, of limitlessness.

The theme ‘liberty’ is expressed through creating a place that celebrates ‘reading’, a place that symbolizes an expression of freedom, as a place where knowledge is free. Knowledge is empowerment, and knowledge will lead to progress and freedom. This is appropriately expressed as an ‘outdoor’ place under the ‘shade of trees’ where everybody has a good memory of having read a good book in the sense of freedom, free from the confines of walls of buildings. Obsolete’ books will be recycled as a construction material, to build a canopy which will give shade to those who engage in ‘reading’ and ‘listening to stories told aloud’ or those engaged in ‘freely exchanging’ books without exchanging money. After dismantling, the books used to construct the canopy will be available to the public as a souvenir commemorating the event.

Three canopy structures of different sizes and of varying heights, called ‘trees’, shade the existing square of Salvador Seguí through central supports like trunks. The technical design is a reflection of the symbolic intention of using knowledge to ‘liberate’ the structure from its weight and express lightness and effortlessness.

7. Volontariat Home For Homeless Children by Anupama Kundoo

These homes are designed by Anupama Kundoo and planned to accommodate 15 children and 5 foster parents. This project was built using a rare technology pioneered by Ray Meeker of Golden Bridge Pottery, which consists of baking a mud house in-situ, after constructing it. A fired house or a fire-established mud house is in principle a mud house built with mud bricks and mud mortar that is cooked after building as a whole to achieve the strength of brick. The interior space of the structure is stuffed with further mud bricks or other ceramic products such as tiles and fired as if it were a kiln. Typically kiln walls absorb about 40% of the heat generated. In this technology, the house is the kiln, and the ‘heat loss’ is directed towards firing the house and stabilizing it from water damage. The fuel cost is largely accountable for the products inside. The strength of brick in principle would be achieved for the piece of mud. Further, the cement in the mortar mix would become unnecessary. This technology involves almost only labor, with very little spent of ‘purchased’ materials. Thus the money spent remains in the local economy and it enriches it. The house becomes a producer of sustainable building materials instead of being a consumer. The house takes 3 – 4 days to burn.

8. Berdah House, Auroville by Anupama Kundoo

The living area is raised and is surrounded by three alcoves with rough granite cills.
There is direct contact with the open kitchen and the living area with the entrance and dining areas between them. Warm earth colors define the mood of the house, the walls being built with cement-stabilized rammed earth from the site, and a similar shade of pigment used as the IPS floor finish.

A staircase without handrails, in the same finish, takes one to the upper floor. The bedroom is on a raised platform and tucked partly into the bed alcove. Storage space is claimed below the platform. The bed overlooks a little open-to-sky terrace with a really tiny pool, a little bigger than a bathtub, primarily for chilling in the hot weather. The garden is watered out of this pool daily. Rough granite that is used as coping slabs, contributes to the outdoor feeling.

9. Mitra Youth Hostel

Mitra is a youth hostel, located in the city center area, designed by Anupama Kundoo which offers accommodation to young students and volunteers. Usually, these young people stay for at least a few weeks, and although they all have commitments to different Aurovilian Units, many of them are interested to learn a bit how to manage their own garden, as they see this is a valued habit in Auroville.

10. Fulfill Homes, Auroville

In response to the growing homelessness and concerns about affordability, not only in economic but also in environmental terms, FulFill Homes designed by Anupama Kundoo are envisioned as speedy and affordable housing units that have a low environmental impact, using a combination of sophisticated and low-tech. Built using specially designed modules of prefabricated Ferro cement hollow block units, full fill homes can be assembled on the site in 6 days including foundation. The voids created inside the blocks are designed to efficiently accommodate all storage needs of the resident, from clothes to books to kitchen utensils, even the kitchen sink itself, and other personal belongings so that all furniture becomes redundant. The void of the house can remain empty of furniture, and therefore achieve more space while saving the additional cost and time involved in furnishing homes.

11. Auroville Village Action Group Centre, Auroville

The center was designed to feel open and offer natural ventilation even in a large congregation of people. The central courtyard is soil bed and the rainwater harvested from the rooftop is allowed to flow into the central space in order to recharge the groundwater table.

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12. Urban Eco-Community

A prototype for collective living promoting community and sharing, the project was planned by Anupama Kundoo as one of 5 housing clusters for around 360 deliberately diverse residents. Realized as an example for an independently managed cluster accommodating 50-60 persons, residents shared common facilities at cluster-level and have some facilities for use by the larger community. A variety of social and economic backgrounds were integrated to make it a relevant prototype for sustainable community housing in an urban low-density context. Streets created on the upper levels facilitate communication. Voids between the house and the street promote privacy while enhancing natural ventilation through the venturi effect. The excavated onsite soil was used to build rammed earth walls in a contemporary technique using a special large formwork, adding 5% cement for water resistance, lending a contemporary character to a material associated with the vernacular. Specially designed insulating terracotta roofing units on part-prefab beams were assembled as an easy modular construction of high insulation properties. A root-zone treatment plant recycles sewage water for irrigation.

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13. Sangamam Cost-Effective Houses

Sangamam is situated on the outskirts of Auroville, Tamil Nadu, in an area affected by environmental and social problems, including water scarcity, saline water intrusion, soil erosion, and declining soil fertility, unemployment and inadequate housing, educational and medical facilities. The age-old rammed earth building technique is introduced by Anupama Kundoo in a more sophisticated form with cement stabilization to achieve a better standard of finish, more strength, and water-resistance, and enabling a quicker modular method of building. Five percent of cement is added in the sieved earth to make the mass water-resistant, thereby significantly adding to the wet compressive strength of the material. A team of four laborers can produce a 23 cm monolithic wall of 2.2m length per day. Roofs are constructed using terracotta filler slabs, bricks as jack arches, and conical hollow vault elements designed specifically to achieve an affordable solution with the low environmental impact that is beneficial to generate local employment.

14. Auroville Town Hall Complex by Anupama Kundoo

The challenge for was to create an urban feeling with only three buildings that would attract the further development of this area, contributing to the character of the city to come. The attempt was to demonstrate the language of the interconnecting elements between the buildings in such a way that the urban character would be compact built spaces interspersed with service areas and public circulation. Public space is created between The Center for Urban Research and The Multi-Media overlooking the cafeteria that further enlivens it. Walkways, bridges, and ramps provide the links as well as define the building language so that further buildings are easy to add. Projected as a Sustainable Building Infrastructure, rainwater is harvested from the roof and treated to drinking standards and supplied in the cafeteria. 100% of the wastewater from toilets is treated and reused for irrigation. Principally planned as a daylight building, all computers are designed to run on solar photovoltaics to be realized in the next phase.

15. Swachu, Auroville

Efficient structural design can lead to substantial savings in steel and cement, the two most commonly used high energy materials. A circular open pavilion of 16 meters diameter is supported by some additional service rooms. After several iterations, the concept chosen for execution was the one that used 75 cubic meters of RCC instead of 125 cubic meters amounting to substantial savings. The structural system has a major influence on architectural form and space. Inspired by the work of Pier Luigi Nervi this project has involved the further development and use of Ferro cement technology to reduce the use of structural steel to chicken mesh compared to conventional higher diameter steel bars. In this case, though Ferro cement was used as economical molds, as lost shuttering to enable that radial beams with an efficient curved profile could be cast in situ. Sloping exposed reinforced concrete columns reduce the span of the roof.

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Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future

Renuka Shinde, an architect turned environmental strategist loves voicing her opinions regarding her perception of architecture which, considering where you are reading this is, makes perfect sense. She is an IGBC AP and currently works as a green building consultant in Mumbai. Having worked as a set designing intern, a design architect and now a writer she believes life should be lived in experiences.

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