When in 1990, Chitra Vishwanath started her practice — at that time called Chitra Vishwanath Architects — her aspirations were rather straightforward and simple. Her main focus was to learn to build structures economically, understand the clients, and deliver an honest product. This exploration began predominantly with independent residential homes where she learned about materials and, most importantly, the inner dynamics of working as a team. As the practice evolved so did its projects — from schools, resorts, to now factories, offices and hospitals. Most of these projects are located across India, but the architect has also executed a project in Nigeria.
Her practice has moved away from a personality driven firm to one that is driven by ideas. Biome Environmental Solutions saw the merger of her architecture practice with her husband S Vishwanath’s NGO Rainwater Club, which specialises in water and sanitation issues. In the midst of this transition, her understanding of ecological design has also evolved. “My practice is a constant learning exercise. The works are evolving in terms of design, complicated briefs, scale and locales. For us, it is increasingly an obsession to tackle these challenges — not something unique to our practice alone. This is common to most evolving offices,” admits the Bengaluru-based architect, an alumnus of CEPT, Ahmedabad.
As you glance through Biome’s work, you can’t help but admire how each project respectfully communicates with the surroundings. It goes to show that a successful practice need not give in to the trend of ‘iconic’ architecture to truly make a mark. Iconic is definitely not on the architect’s radar; she wishes that her practice is known for making ecological architecture a mainstream phenomenon. That’s why, in the coming decade or so, she sees her practice continuing to become a lot more relevant to the changing times.
Having mentored many young architects —including international students, Vishwanath’s advice to the fraternity is rather sympathetic. “Everybody makes mistakes and it is a natural order of things. Mistakes are good and what one needs to do is to learn from them and avoid them in the future.”

Looking Back

The architect’s own home has left an impact on the practice. “We call it a workshop of ideas. It is a very calming place for us,” she says. The house was built using earth construction techniques and has extensive infrastructure to conserve rainwater. It encouraged their neighbours to build sustainably too.

Looking forward

Every project, small or large, brings with it unique challenges, but the architect has her heart set on other opportunities. “I am personally looking forward to a larger interaction with the student community and taking forward the idea of ecological architecture,” says Vishwanath.

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