"India is going through a rapid transformation right now. Market economy driven development models are engaged in destroying systems, both cultural and natural.

Cities are being used as the engines driving this process and the raw materials and waste is assigned to the villages and forests.

My role is to intervene at the critical points in the matrix of these processes, and generate relevant alternatives. Amongst the basic needs of man; food, clothing and shelter, shelter is my area of work. Over the years, I have learnt that sustain-ability is an attitude; a state of mind, which touches all aspects of man’s life – be it food, clothing or shelter.

The profession of architecture is meant to serve in the common pursuit of sustainability, but the culture of consumption – based lifestyle and growing levels of insecurity have made architects mere agents of the market economy driven models of development.

The training that I received in the architecture institutions was of the same nature.

Inspired by the work of Padmashri Architect Shri Laurie Baker, I went to Kerala to work in his organization COSTFORD. I worked at various levels; as a designer, an engineer, but most importantly, as a mason.

I decided to learn from the crafts persons and from buildings made in villages. I feel that those skills and technologies are older than the monuments, and are still being used as effectively. These technologies have an encyclopedia of various knowledge systems which can help in sustainable building and designing practices.

Bakerji was inspired by Gandhiji, and Gandhiji gave the following specification for his house to be built in Sevagram, Wardha.

a) It should be built in a minimal cost.

b) All material should be from within 1km. around the site of construction.

c) It should be built by the local artisans.

d) It should have an image which merges with the landscape rather than stand out.

Here, we can see that both these great personalities were humble enough to learn from the teachers, even if the teachers are in the villages.

This formed my approach to practice.

I studied village, tribal and classical architecture, which had been tested through centuries of usage. I have applied the knowledge in my designs. This enabled me to involve local crafts-persons in all my projects. I use local techniques in an adapted way for the particular use of the client.

This ensured the conservation of skills. Rather than only conserving traditional old buildings, I think it is more important to conserve the skills, by employing them in new buildings.

On one hand, this ensures good local economics. It also ensures conservation of natural local materials. Since people are going to need the material catchment for future building purposes, they will conserve the resources like forests, lakes, the top soil and eventually weather patterns.

This way, a continuous supply of natural materials is ensured.This will also reduce the pollution of soil water and air through the modern technology of building and waste disposed of the same.

Like I mentioned earlier, the responsible architectural practices will both need and stimulate responsible practices in other spheres of human development – food and clothing.

While this will have an inspirational effect on people, overall, this will contribute to generate a more balanced and peace loving society.

Being based in the city, Mumbai, I have identified a multi – dimensional work program.

The first dimension is to provide professional architectural services to urban people who which to bring change in their life by incorporating sustainable houses for them in villages and close to nature. Through the process and product, I bring these urban users closer to the rural and natural ways of life; facilitate a progressive conservation between both.

The second dimension is to create awareness through teaching.

In the cities, I teach architectural college students by taking them out of the classroom, into villages, at actual ongoing sites.

I teach them by making them work with their hands.

This achieves a few objectives:

  1. The students move from architecture being just a graphic art (drawing on paper or computer).
  2. They interact with wonderful people, materials and climate of the villages to open new perspectives.

The third dimension is that I identify students who are interested in working on similar lines as me. I offer them a position in my team, and nurture them so that they can finally work for their own community in the city or villages. I have received a very positive response from students in Mumbai.

These are ways of spreading the work which I believe can bring a constructive difference in the society through architecture.

Today, many of my students are teachers, practicing in villages, and winners of awards at many levels.

I see great hope in them."