Yatin Pandya, the founder of FOOTPRINTS E.A.R.T.H. (Environment Architecture Research Technology Housing), is an author, activist, academician, researcher, and practicing architect. He has written over 200 articles published in national and international journals. He has written several books on architecture, the most notable of which are “Concepts of space in traditional Indian architecture” and “Elements of space creation,” both of which have been published globally. He has also been involved in the creation of over 30 architectural film documentaries. He has worked as a visiting faculty member at NID and CEPT University, as well as a guest lecturer at various Indian and international universities, presenting over 100 lectures in over 15 countries. He also assisted around 200 graduate, master’s, and doctoral students with their thesis papers. Pandya has received more than 25 national and international awards for architecture, research, and dissemination. His work is guided by key principles such as environmental sustainability, socio-cultural appropriateness, timeless elegance, and economic affordability.
Early Days and Education
Yatin Pandya was born on 6th July 1960. Pandya’s upbringing in a shared household with 11 siblings meant little finances, which fueled his inner creativity to create something from nothing. This was his first foray into creation. At the same time, his family home was being planned by professionals, which made young Pandya aware of the existence and role of an architect.
Pandya earned his Master of Architecture from McGill University in Montreal after graduating from CEPT, Ahmedabad. Formal education in one of the country’s progressive schools offered the foundation and skills required for critical thinking. His first abroad tour as an exchange student to Switzerland, followed by a stay in Canada, provided him with a global perspective, broadened his exposure, and assisted him in reflecting on and questioning beliefs and attitudes from familiar cultural traditions. Learning, on the other hand, was never limited to a single medium. Several people and processes have left indelible marks on him: his parents for setting a good example; his family for freedom as well as limits; and his teachers and institutions for providing information and encouragement.
Pandya feels that India has a store of ancient wisdom that has grown over time. If we turn to our historic built environment and learn from it, we will find solutions to energy-free environment management, resource optimization, socio-cultural appropriateness, and timeless aesthetics. This is not the romanticism of the past, but rather the value of the past as demonstrated by their performance, adaptation, and endurance across time. Vernacular architecture has evolved and improved itself through time to optimally resolve the dynamics of the place. If we can learn from these ideas, we won’t have to rebuild alphabets, but we will be able to blend traditional knowledge with modern information. Humility is a synonym for sustainability; it is the antonym forego, eccentricities, and apathy.
He believes that “Holistic architecture is immersive, environmentally sustainable, socio-culturally sensitive, and, most importantly, contextually appropriate – the context in terms of culture, climate, and building. In the context of India, history is alive and well via ingrained customs. We are fortunate to have discovered a store of traditional wisdom over such a lengthy period. We want to produce contextually appropriate modern responses that draw inspiration from India’s rich heritage while also aspiring to its future goals.”
Mission of Pandya
Yatin Pandya is an advocate for inclusive development who thinks that good architecture can positively influence the lives of the poorest people and that the richness of our cultural and architectural legacy must be leveraged to discover sustainable solutions for the future. Sustainability is a state of being rather than a formula. When a ready-made solution is simply thrown over several different settings, it becomes questionable. Rather than relying on external norms, we must look within our context to develop solutions that are appropriate for our resource base, situational conditions, and socio-cultural ethic. Pandya explains, “By layering the artificial over the natural, one affects the natural environment and causes imbalances.” Moreover, because buildings outlive us, our mistakes may be repeated in eternity. The building sector consumes around 41% of all energy, 11% of all land, and a quarter of all water, while also significantly contributing to pollution. As both people and architects, we must act responsibly to protect the balance.
“In India, about 27.4 million tons of landfill are created every day, resulting in gigantic garbage mountains. We wanted to work with it and put it to good use,” says Pandya, a sustainable architect. Using municipal trash for building not only helped to reduce pollution but also supplied additional economic activity to trash collectors and providers. We manufactured the construction material in-house so that we could create high-quality material at a lower cost than conventional possibilities, giving economical and superior quality building alternatives for the urban poor, he explained. It successfully showed the use of over twenty different forms of recycled waste for various components such as flooring, walls, roofing, and ventilation.
Pandya’s Effort Towards the Environment
Pandya wanted to emerge and re-establish his presence in the changed environment after 25 years in the field of architectural design, research, and teaching in the environment, thus he built his establishment. Footprints E.A.R.T.H. is a professional service organization involved in environmental studies, architectural design, indigenous research, alternative technology, and affordable housing that was founded in 2008. It combines Pandya’s three passions: practice, research, and writing. Their primary concerns are contextual relevance, socio-cultural appropriateness, affordability, sustainability, and humaneness.
The firm works on projects of various scales, including eco-townships, institutional campuses, mass housing schemes, slum rehabilitation programs, residences, exhibitions, interior design, and graphic and product design. The research-based approach focuses on building indigenous development norms and standards based on socio-cultural realities in the Indian setting. Academic endeavors are also pursued by the organization. It operates short-term design studios as part of training programs for both domestic and international students. The organization has also made steps to raise awareness of the city’s cultural and architectural legacy, provide instructional materials in print and audiovisual formats, and promote barrier-free/universal design.
While each project is a learning and discovery experience, a handful stands out for their contributions to design and personal fulfillment. The Environmental Sanitation Institute in Sughad, Ahmedabad, is a superb example of sustainable design, with a combination of solar passive and solar active tactics, soil management via a cut and fill strategy, and land as a reproductive resource via agriculture, among other things. The components used in the Manav Sadhna Activity Center, on the other hand, are recycled from household and municipal garbage. While Gandhi-nu-gam was created by user input, Shantivan is an experience tribute to Cadila founder, late Shri Indravadan Modi, and a symbolic portrayal of the person and his corporeal and spiritual adventures. Notable works by Yatin Pandya are Gandhi-nu-gam and Manav Sadhna Activity Center.
“Design, like music, requires a delicate balance. Everything comes crashing down if you play one bad chord!” – Yatin Pandya
Gandhi Nu Gam: Ludiya, Kutch
In January 2001, a severe earthquake devastated the Indian state of Gujarat, killing over 20,000 people and displacing millions. Kutch was the hardest affected area. It is essentially a desert, with few natural supplies for basic subsistence. People, on the other hand, are resilient and may maintain themselves via handicrafts and abilities. Bhungas are traditional Gujarati dwellings with circular walls and thatched roofs that are peculiar to the Kutch area. They are well-known for their seismic structural resilience as well as their climatic responsiveness. It is built using materials found locally, such as clay, bamboo, and lumber. The outer walls are covered with colorful murals, while the inside is covered in amazing mud and mirror work.
The post-earthquake redevelopment of the Gandhi Nu Gam hamlet was achieved using a comprehensive, inclusive strategy that preserved the local area’s socio-cultural traditions and building systems while also enhancing economic conditions and opportunities. The project included the development of 455 traditional bhungas, three schools, a grass bank, community structures, production centres, religious shrines, an electricity network, and a water harvesting system. The hamlets are made up of circular adobe structures with conical thatch roofs that are ornately embellished with clay and mirror work relief. As a consequence, it is a comprehensive setting in which art, culture, and architecture are intricately linked and cannot be separated. As a result, it was vital to recognise that any rebuilding endeavor must be complete and not disrupt the existing food chain. The scenario necessitated the maintenance of long-established traditions while simultaneously introducing the element of ‘new’ in order to achieve gradual transition.
Manav Sadhna Activity Centre: Ahmedabad, Gujarat
The activity center on the western banks of the Sabarmati river located in Ahmedabad’s largest squatter community was founded on the idea of the social NGO Manav Sadhna. The Centre operates throughout the day, servicing various populations from the community at various times of the day. In the morning, the Centre serves as a school for small children, and in the afternoon, it provides vocational training to women and young men from the settlement, assisting them in gaining better career possibilities. In the evenings, the Centre doubles as a gymnasium for young men. The freshly installed crèche cares for children from the settlement as their moms look for work. On weekends, the Centre also holds health-related camps. During festivals and holidays, it serves as a main assembly center for the whole squatter colony, reaching out to all classes. This project earned more than 10 national and international design awards.
In response to the question, What do you want the rest of the world to remember you for? Pandya explained that as a ‘YAATRI’– a traveler who traveled the way. A rambler who risked to tread uncharted territory. An adventurer who braved meandering and unexpected meetings. As a person who began on the journey and left some footprints behind as possible hints for future travelers to follow. He also adds that “I am a traveler, and what matters is having traveled the journey rather than reaching the milestone. It would be a satisfying and enriching journey if I could stay associated with academics and professions, research and practice.”
Pandya seeks to be a part of an urban high-density mass housing project that demonstrates human-sustainable and socio-cultural living conditions and dispels the myth that vertical construction is the sole solution to today’s environment. Pandya thinks that anything done with perseverance, perfection, and passion yields the rewards of inner satisfaction. Let every moment of our work be a chance to celebrate!
- RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). YouTube for Architects: Archilogues- Yatin Pandya: An initiative of Spatial Narratives. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-architectural-reviews/a3560-youtube-for-architects-archilogues-yatin-pandya-an-initiative-of-spatial-narratives/
- RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). Book in Focus: Elements of Space Making by Yatin Pandya. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-architectural-reviews/a3739-book-in-focus-elements-of-space-making-by-yatin-pandya/
- RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). Footprints E.A.R.T.H- Pioneering Sustainable Architecture of Regional India. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/sustainable-architecture/a5197-footprints-e-a-r-t-h-pioneering-sustainable-architecture-of-regional-india/
- RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2020). Footprints E.A.R.T.H- 15 Iconic Projects – Rethinking The Future. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/know-your-architects/a809-footprints-e-a-r-t-h-by-ar-yatin-pandya-15-iconic-projects/
- RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2019). Manav Sadhna by Yatin Pandya. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/architecture/housing/manav-sadhna-by-yatin-pandya/
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