Given that he has always loved everything traditional about Kerala, from its cuisine and culture to its climate, language and literature, working to make an impact with vernacular architecture seemed an obvious choice for Babu Cherian. His practice, founded in 1995, had humble beginnings — he converted the living room of his home into a makeshift office space. Countless projects later, it has grown into a 45-man strong team of professionals who are committed to creating dynamic solutions with versatile, adaptive and creative designs.
“Initially, I played it safe, since the vernacular architecture of Kerala was a tried and tested way of building,” he explains. While this type of design hasn’t evolved much in the period of 20-odd years, the firm’s way of approaching it has. Architecturally, their style is now always contextually responsive, responding favourably to climate, culture, social psyche and local resources. The evolution truly shows in the change in material palette. Where vernacular architecture sticks to a few basic elements, Cherian began experimenting with varied types of materials and finishes. “I have always believed that architecture is just a physical manifestation of culture,” he articulates.
The maestro’s design philosophy is an interpretation of ‘form follows function’. From the beginning, the importance of climatology was driven into him quite strongly, and he asserts that traditional architecture has solved all the basic architectural tenets. From creating spectacular living spaces to protection from the elements, vernacular architecture, to him, is truly an organic development of the needs of architecture that also incorporates the nuances of tradition, art and culture. “Most of my traditional projects are more a celebration of the craftsmen than of the architect,” he explains.
Cherian has tried to cultivate a work culture centred on learning in his studio; one which focusses on realisation of a truth—that creating good design is always an agonising process. He urges all young architects and designers to devote their formative years to working with knowledgeable architects. The experienced creator muses, “Many countless hours spent in developing a detail or concept might be completely discarded for a better solution, which is a painful experience that young designers should go through. But the point to be noted is that those countless hours spent on an abandoned plan is what ultimately leads us to a better design.”

Looking Back

A project called Camelot (a residence built in Thrissur, Kerala) had a major impact on the practice. Designing a home with modern design and glass roofs marked a definite break in Cherian’s mindset, which has, in the long run, helped him throughout his career.

Looking forward

Cherian is excited to work on the RIT Hospital in Calicut. The site’s sharp ridges and valleys creates challenge of bringing in the type of function, order and control that a hospital needs while also presenting a lesson in campus planning. Moreover, emphasis is being placed on making the design as sustainable as possible.

 

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