Author. Activist. Academician. Anupama Kundoo is a woman of many faces, but it all began with architecture, and an aspiration for “creating and contributing to a humane environment.” Disappointed by the urban scenario of run-of-the-mill architecture, commodification of housing and rapid urbanisation, she landed in Auroville after her graduation from Sir JJ College of Architecture. Here, she discovered that many of her own aspirations were collective aspirations shared by others. In this fecund environment, Anupama Kundoo Architects took root in 1990.
“My early projects, beginning with residences and public buildings, and later housing projects and urban design involved extensive material research,” she reminisces. “This included building technologies but also infrastructure like water and energy systems.” The experience of building and living in a thatch hut revealed the climatic, economic and energy-related shortcomings in most conventional contemporary building technologies, as well as the fact that they alienated local craftsmen. “The key learnings were about the big picture and how it is affected by our smaller day-to-day decisions. I realised the importance of integral thinking and understanding of the interconnectedness, among different aspects.”
Gradually, the practice evolved into a larger office with commissions related to public buildings — including Auroville’s Townhall Complex — as well as housing projects involving environmental sustainability, and later, social sustainability and affordability issues. Simultaneously, her atelier began to take on urban design projects and thinking on a city scale. “The experience and research driven practice brought me into formal academia and rethinking architectural education on one hand; and the international recognition of the practice opened up a whole other sphere of installations and temporary constructions for exhibitions and temporary pavilions in public space,” says the author of the first comprehensive monograph on visionary French architect Roger Anger, Roger Anger: Research on Beauty: Architecture 1953-2008.
The architect, who sees her practice being instrumental in bridging industry, architecture and academia, would like to urge fellow-architect to innovate, and not hold back for the fear of making mistakes. “Mistakes are sometimes necessary steps in the process of innovation and they lead to very deep and effective learning. Current ways of building are creating more problems than they solve, so I would say take the time to rethink! We cannot afford not to.”

Looking Back

Wall House was the culmination of the architect’s research on pre-industrial bricks and other fired clay elements, with a range of terracotta roofing systems alongside ferrocement elements that were also tested there. This site was used to test experimental ideas conceived for other projects and served as a ‘laboratory’ of sorts.

Looking forward

Anupama Kundoo Architects are looking forward to developing prototypes for urban, high-density housing that retains human scale and intimacy in small groups. These housing arrangements would rely on new models of collective sharing, innovative collective financing, management and participation opportunities.

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