Back to Basics!
Ar. Himanshu Patel is passionate about design is driven by ideas rather than personalities. His d6thD Design studio promotes vernacular architecture using locally available materials, and climate-responsive architecture. His primary interests lies in creating spaces that create a harmonious relationship between mankind and nature.
Q: Your prime focus lies in vernacular Architecture, Who or what is your inspiration?
A: The things an Architect builds and his methods reflect his experiences, vision, and archives in his memory. My practice in vernacular architecture is inextricably bound with my childhood in a village. I took a keen interest in observing the daily chores carried out without the use of technology; Most of the techniques used were simple and cheap but genius as well. I still cherish the memories of my grandfather building house himself, keeping his main concern the strength and stability rather than the aesthetics. This simplistic and holistic approach towards life left an inedible impression on me.
While studying architecture, the work of Laurie Baker in India, Hassan Fathy in Egypt and Geoffrey Bawa in Sri Lanka left a significant impact on me. However, I would like to give credit to my guru R.L.Kumar from CVA for teaching me the techniques and principles of vernacular architecture. He wasn’t an architect on paper but in spirit.
Q: In most of your buildings, you work with exposed brick. How did you evolve with bricks?
A: Common red burnt brick is a great invention of man that has taken thousands of years to evolve and be what it is today. It’s colored range from cream, through orange sandy colors to brown and even blue brown. When built into a wall, pleasing and interesting simple patterns appear. Like people who all have one nose, one mouth, two ears, and two eyes but no two look exactly the same, so each brick, although so simple in shape, has its own individuality.
Working with bricks is not only an interesting but it is also very satisfying to me. Even a plain simple brick wall is full of pattern and color.
There are a number of well-known famous world personages who built brick walls as a hobby and as an occupation for relaxation and pleasure when other pressures were too great. Sir Winston Churchill was one of them!
Q: You believe that ‘A village of India has so many things to learn’ Can you describe in brief?
A: Gandhiji said,” The real India lives in the villages.” I consider myself lucky to have experienced that. Village-life is plain and simple. People are one with nature.
The climate dictates the village settlements.
For example, village settlements in Uttaranchal are characterized as houses of with thick stone walls of coursed rubble masonry designed to ward off cold, with a shelter for animals below (the heat given off by mulch animals heats the house above). In Kerala, village houses are slope-roofed with Mangalore tiles and thatch to draw off and channel rain. In Assam, the same houses are often built on stilts, counter the often damp ground. The list goes on. But in each case we see that villages in India’s diverse regions has evolved a unique way of responding to the climate and the environment that is sustainable, shows an intelligent approach to the problems of climate, and is a delicate balance of social and cultural factors through spatial vocabularies such as walls, courtyards, floors and semi-private and private spaces.
Q: In today’s scenario ‘Clients have their own fantasy to get the best design with low cost. How did you manage to design?
A: There is nothing wrong to get the best out of low cost. In fact, it is the best practice we should adopt. A look at the overall picture of the present building industry makes it clear that the cost of the building is extremely high and well beyond the means of the ordinary man.
Much money could be saved merely by using common sense, along with simple, established, tried building practices.
Now if I say regarding fantasy of clients, “I don’t know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do”. When a client and architect come together, a delicate dance between the client’s vision and the architect’s creativity will bring to life great architecture. Without that balance, toes can be squashed, and quite possibly blood can be splashed across the dance floor! For me, Clients bring a beautiful point of difference to each of my projects. The different personalities give me distinct criteria to work with, that pushes me to explore my love of designing in exciting ways.
Q: Can you explain about working with space in vernacular architecture?
Space, basically is a dimension dependent on the viewer or his/her viewpoint. Most people cannot experience the “emptiness” of space but instead, their attention is drawn to the objects or form that defines the outer limits of the space. The way I see it is that the challenge, challenge to make that “spatial nothingness” perceivable to people in context to culture and customs through vernacular architecture.
Q: As an architect how do you visualize a future with vernacular architecture? Does it play important parameters in today’s scenario?
Vernacular Architecture is not new, it is the most widespread and most of us were raised in these homes. However, Vernacular architecture has been losing ground over the last couple of centuries, as modern methods prevail. In being modern, we have lost virtue. We need to review our sense of values. I find that the most cost reduction techniques shown by vernacular architecture give better quality and give our architecture an Indian identity that supersedes the imitation urban stuff with which we are defacing our cities today. Vernacular architecture is not merely a style but it is an attitude which carries holistic lifestyle. To me, vernacular architecture has all answers of our current urban problems if we try to find it consciously. It is only necessary for us to go one step further with the research work which our forefathers have done- that is for us to add on our twentieth-century contribution to improving on what has already been achieved. But it must be a contribution and not a contradiction.
Interview By: Shishma Shekh
Edited By: Rukhsar Rangwala