The arrival of Modern architecture paved the way for revolutionary architects such as Le Corbusier, I.M. Pei, and Walter Gropius. A pioneer arose in India to lead his fellow architects and their prodigies. His name, Achyut Purushottam Kanvinde.
A functionalist architect who adds a touch of Brutalism to his designs, he is noted as one of the many architects who built post-Independence India and influenced the architecture of today.
Achyut Kanvinde’s Philosophy
1) Advocating Asymmetry
- His designs involve a play between form and space.
- He believed the form and space of a building should be a result of the interior space.
- He was against the use of symmetry as a principle.
- An example is the design of the National Science Center, New Delhi, which has vertical masses that rise gradually, adding to its aesthetic appeal.
2) Use of Vernacular Knowledge
- A master of Vernacular architecture, Kanvinde could expertly design according to the local climate and with the local building material.
- He gave utmost importance to natural light and made sure his designs were naturally ventilated and lit.
- Doodhsagar Dairy’s factory in Mehsana is an ideal example of vernacular architecture used along with brutalism. The use of exposed concrete along with the brute form makes for a dynamic design.
3) Blend of Vastushastra and Brutalism
- A strong believer of Vastushastra, he has found innovative ways to incorporate the system into his Brutalist style. This has become his signature.
- There is a strong presence of simplicity in facade treatment, exposed concrete, and the elimination of unnecessary elements.
- An example is the ISKCON Temple, which in all ways is a true Kanvinde design. It is discussed in detail in the following sections.
Salient Features in Achyut Kanvinde’s Designs:
The salient features of Achyut Kanvinde’s designs are a reflection of his time studying under Walter Gropius and the influence Bauhaus architecture had on his thinking.
- Cubic form
- Flat roofs
- Smooth, unadorned surfaces
- Exposed material
As a student of Walter Gropius, Achyut Kanvinde’s design is heavily influenced by the Bauhaus style of architecture. His design process is a series of trials and errors in combining Bauhaus style with Brutalism. This is without compromising on the Vaastu aspects of the design and finding unique ways on using local material.
A famous sketch of Kanvinde’s is of the ISKCON Temple in New Delhi. The sketch has the shikhara and kalasha details, along with the suitable material for them.
Buildings Designed by Achyut Kanvinde
1) IIT Kanpur
- The design of the master plan for the 800-acre campus.
- He used cubic forms, with functionality and aesthetics.
- There is the signature use of bricks and reinforced concrete.
- It resembles the vernacular architecture of many parts of India.
2) National Science Center, New Delhi
- A unique circulation was evolved for this design. It was adapted from a previously unreleased project.
- The visitors can start viewing the exhibits from the top floors, and gradually descend to the lower floors.
- The form of the building is climate responsive, with good ventilation and shelter provided.
- The verandahs, stairways, and staircases are covered to shelter the visitors from the excess heat.
- Natural light is brought in through the strategic placement of openings.
3) ISKON Temple, New Delhi
- This is one of India’s largest temple complexes and was done pro-bono (without charge).
- The building is exemplary of Kanvinde’s skill to incorporate the local material in his design to achieve a climate-responsive building.
- The Hinduistic elements were the decorative motifs and the treatment of the shikhara.
- The openings present in the shikhara, and the surface of the carved red sandstone and white marble are inspired by Brutalism.
- There are prayer halls, dining areas, and accommodation all designed as per Vaastushastra.
Achyut Kanvinde will always be remembered as one of the brilliant minds behind modern India. He has taught while solving a peculiar design problem with modern functional design, it must also at the same time, create a unique style to ourselves that reflects the culture of present-day India.
It is thus, no doubt, that Kanvinde was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976, the IIA’S Babu Rao Mhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 1985, and has served as the President of IIA from 1974-1975.
The book Achyut Kanvinde: Akar, is a must-read for any young architect. The insight into the creative mind of Kanvinde is inspiring and gives us the right nudge, to find and establish ourselves in this vast field.