Anupama Kundoo | Building Modern Designs Traditionally

In this era of fast, mechanized and profit oriented designs, very few take the time to create buildings by hand, with passion. Anupama Kundoo is one such advocate of traditional construction. 

She is an Indian born architect who studied in the University of Mumbai. Post graduation, she took the road less traveled to find inspiration and experiment in Auroville. Here, she was heavily influenced by the place, the people and the philosophies of the chief architect, Roger Anger. She built her first experimental project here, titled the Hut in Petite Ferme in 1990 and has not looked back since.

Characteristics of Anupama Kundoo’s buildings

  1. Modern designs constructed traditionally 
  2. Experimental
  3. Made with eco friendly materials
  4. Sustainable and use passive strategies
  5. Promote equality 
  6. Constructed in situ

Design Principles of Anupama Kundoo

  1. Venturing Into the Unknown
  2. Empowering Local Artisans
  3. Designs for All
  4. Building For the People, By the People
  5. Taking Time
  6. Signature Style
  7. Sustainable Materials

1. Venturing into the unknown 

Anupama Kundoo advocates for learning by experimenting and innovating, rather than just focusing on theory.

  • The clients are on board with her experiments when it saves cost by saving material.
  • With money and time to spare, she creates and tests how known materials can be used to create something unknown. 

Hut in Petite Ferme, Auroville

External view of the house
External view of the house

The architect’s very first project was an experimental dwelling made of traditional materials and techniques. These included:

  • Thatch roof
  • Granite stilts
  • Pillars with a pakamaram floor

2. Empowering local artisans

As seen in most of her buildings, Anupama Kundoo ensures that the buildings are sustainable, climatic and economical. All these are  achieved by employing the skills of local artisans. 

  • Her projects bring together students, architects, engineers and skilled artisans to create down to earth buildings.
  • Potters, ceramists and locals with experience in mud building techniques are some people that she has collaborated with. 

Volontariat homes for homeless children, Tuttipaakam

Volontariat homes for homeless children, Tuttipaakam
Volontariat homes for homeless children, Tuttipaakam

These houses were made using mud bricks,  mud mortar and ceramic. They were set on fire and baked onsite, each house acting as a kiln to produce a baked mud unit.

Majority of the construction costs went towards labor. Local artisans contributed towards the project by providing building elements and handcrafts for sale to be fired during the baking. This new innovation brings down costs while empowering skilled people. 

3. Designs for all

Economic inequality is a prevalent problem and Anupama Kundo tries to solve it by creating quality spaces even for the most disadvantaged client. She aims to produce buildings with dignity, bringing pride to the occupants irrespective of their status.

Sharana day care center, Pondicherry

Sharana Day Care Center, Pondicherry by Anupama Kundoo
Sharana Day Care Center, Pondicherry by Anupama Kundoo

The building was constructed to provide the socio-economically disadvantaged children with good education.

A combination of RCC slabs and porous terracotta screens are used. The jali screens provide a daylight, ventilation and visual connection with the green exteriors. Most importantly, they convey transparency and inclusiveness. 

4. Building for the people, by the people

More than the exhaustion of time and natural resources, there is one thing Kundoo is concerned about- The expenditure of human resources.

  • Employing machines might make the work cheap and quick, but it lacks the human touch and interaction with the materials and limits the potential for skill acquisition. 
  • Participatory construction combined with local materials can help the economy and give one more autonomy over construction.

Creativity Co Housing, Auroville

Creativity Co Housing, Auroville by Anupama Kundoo
Creativity Co Housing, Auroville by Anupama Kundoo

It is an eco community built on the foundation of shared resources and reduced costs. By simplifying the construction details and process, both skilled and unskilled future inhabitants  contributed to making their home. 

5. Taking time

Anupama Kundoo considers time a resource that should be spent and not as an expense that must be saved. She chooses to invest it in experimenting and creating with human hands so that we are not restricted by the limitations of machines.

Instead of rushing to get quick yet uninteresting buildings, she takes it one idea at a time to arrive at a comfortable and human design.

Wall house, Auroville

Wall House, Auroville by Anupama Kundoo
Wall House, Auroville by Anupama Kundoo

It is a living laboratory holding a decade worth of spatial and material experiments like vaulted bricks, terracotta roof and filler slabs. Gaining experience from this project, many craftsmen have since spread the art in various other places. 

6. Signature style

Every architect has a signature style. But for Anupama Kundoo, it is the absence of any personal touches that makes her buildings different. Often, she takes a backseat to allow the local artisans and the hands that shaped the building shine. 

To quote her, As passionate as I am about my work, my work is not about me. My buildings have too much to do already – providing purpose, refuge, and engagement for all stakeholders — without also having to accommodate an Anupama Kundoo signature style.”

From theory to practice  

Here are some of the ideas that the architect has experimented with:

1. Baked buildings

Baked Buildings by Anupama Kundoo
Baked Buildings by Anupama Kundoo

Baking the entire house made of mud blocks, mud paste and ceramic. 

2. Terracotta fillers

Terracotta Filler Slab Ceiling by Anupama Kundoo
Terracotta Filler Slab Ceiling by Anupama Kundoo

These slabs are apt for large span spaces and reduce the cement required. 

3. Rammed Earth

Rammed Earth Walls by Anupama Kundoo
Rammed Earth Walls by Anupama Kundoo

Low cost earth construction which is a great method of conserving materials and involving unskilled workers. 

4. Glass recycling

Glass Recycling by Anupama Kundoo
Glass Recycling by Anupama Kundoo

Glass bottles used as masonry units 

5. Terracotta cones

Terracotta Cones Arched Roof by Anupama Kundoo
Terracotta Cones Arched Roof by Anupama Kundoo

Arched roof made of interlocking cones

6. Ferrocement

Ferrocement Construction by Anupama Kundoo
Ferrocement Construction by Anupama Kundoo

Mesh reinforced thin concrete structures that are earthquake resistant

Recognizing her contributions to material research and achievements in sustainable construction, she was awarded the Auguste Perret Prize and RIBA Charles Jencks award in 2021. 

All Rights Reserved. WhereIsTheNorth