Three Women Pioneering Eco-Friendly Architecture in India

The rising standards of living and building requirements in India call for innovative architecture to suit the environmental needs of a populous country. While some practitioners are experimenting with using local material like mud and bamboo, still others are repurposing plastic and industrial waste to imagine new structures that are sustainable, stable and stylish. Here are a few proponents of a conscious approach to architecture, who ought to be recognised more widely for their efforts.

Neelam Manjunath

women architects india neelam manjunath

The principal at Bangalore-based Manasaram Architects, Neelam Manjunath believes that “a building is a living entity”. For over 30 years, she has been committed to fighting climate change, and strongly advocates the use of naturally abundant, renewable, low-energy, local materials. Her pioneering work with bamboo as a material has earned her many accolades.

Manjunath who uses this bamboo to construct walls, beams, columns, doors, windows, boundary walls and even furniture, believes that the use of this hardy grass helps bring down the cost of a project by more than 40%. While she has created a prototype of a bamboo house for tsunami victims, farmhouses and the like, one of her most well-known works is a zero-energy home, House of Five Elements, in Bangalore. With three skylights, an open courtyard, water bodies, terraces, balconies and verandahs that invite nature inside, the home is a testament to the fact that a sustainable low-cost building can also look as stylish as any other.

Trupti Doshi

women architects trupti doshi

Trupti Doshi was an idealistic 20-year-old student in college when she was moved to consider a more ecologically sensitive approach to architecture. In an interview to YourStory she said, “I believed that the future could be beautiful. But the question was – is the future going to be beautiful because of me or in spite of me?”

99.9% of buildings in India are made using fired bricks that deplete fertile soil and release toxic pollutants. Today, Doshi is challenging the status quo by building using Compressed Stabilised Earth Blocks (CSEBs). Unlike conventional bricks that require firing and baking, CSEBs are made out of compressed earth and need to be sun-dried for three months before use. Alongside Jateen Lad, Doshi built Sharanam, a rural development centre, on five acres of land outside Pondicherry using these unfired earth bricks.

The entire building – from the pillars to the roof – has been built using the very earth the structure stands on, with a minimal use of steel and cement. This ensured that the material travelled zero kilometres to the site of construction. The building is cooled naturally, and has composting and rainwater harvesting mechanisms in place. Doshi employed and trained 350 people from 40 local villages in traditional, vernacular construction techniques to execute the project. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognised Sharanam as a model for sustainable development in India. And Doshi has gone on to start her own firm, which focuses on building ecologically sensitive buildings in India.

Revathi Kamath

Revathi Kamath women architects india

Revathi Kamath has reinvented indigenous building techniques and works with mud – a humble, local material to create stunningly elegant structures. Her projects include The Desert Resort, in Mandawa, Rajasthan, and the Aga Khan Award-winning Tower House in Hauz Khas. Her own mud home rises up against a mining-ravaged landscape in Haryana. Kamath believes that mud provides better insulation than concrete and does away with the need for a contractor because the material is plentiful and available locally. She seeks to reduce her dependence on resources like plastic, metal, cement, and stone, by making sustainability central to her approach to building.

Keep visiting our blog for more inspiring stories about architects and businesses who are reimagining the skyscape of India. And do consider Palmex, an eco-friendly artificial thatch for your next project.

Preeti Prakash | Journalist

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