Building future for a billion voices: the best of Indian architecture in 2022

Best of 2022: STIR celebrates recent Indian architecture which illuminated the multiplicity and sensitivity of the country’s practitioners across varied contexts and typologies.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Dec 30, 2022

Diversity—a word that can scarcely be discounted when describing India, the nation at the heart of a subcontinent, whose history and heritage have been moulded by changes over a millennia. Home to an innumerable number of cultural groups, languages, and last but not least, building traditions, the current built environment of the country has been shaped by a mélange of styles, materials, philosophies, and most importantly, people. The world’s second most populous nation, India is undergoing drastic changes in urban development, infrastructure, and socio-cultural attitudes, with the advent of globalist outlooks within the country. At a time when questions of sustainability in the face of climate change have become integral to contemporary architecture the world over, India itself is becoming a hub for experimentation in contextual design and sustainable architecture that adopts a back-to-basics viewpoint, relying on ancient wisdom in tandem with modern material technologies and design principles to shape buildings that truly feel at home within the myriad climatic zones and topographical regions in the country. In honour of these developments, STIR offers a selection of game changing architectural ventures of differing sizes, scopes, and styles, which collectively attest to the incredible stream of ideas and perspectives seen in the work of Indian architects.

1. Gadi House by PMA Madhushala

Gadi House by PMA Madhushala in Talegaon Dabhade, Maharashtra | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
Gadi House by PMA Madhushala in Talegaon Dabhade, Maharashtra Image: Hemant Patil

With the Gadi House in Talegaon Dabhade, Maharashtra, PMA Madhushala showcases how vernacular architectural history can be succinctly applied to a modern structure, without blatant imitation or overshadowing, forming a symbiotic, nourishing planning of shared spaces. The residential architecture plays unhesitantly with the strength of stone and the lightness of brick, witnessed at the onset, by its prominent, lyrical masonry skin. The façade design is articulated in choreographed perforations in brick, arranged to create wavy patterns at the top, a solid grey stone base, and Corbusier windows jutting out for relief. Stone masonry for the entrance is given a hint of colour by means of soft pink grouting, removing certain blocks in between to create the desired perforated pattern.

2. Cloud House by NO Architects Designers and Social Artists

Cloud House by NO Architects Designers and Social Artists in Kollam, Kerala | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
Cloud House by NO Architects Designers and Social Artists in Kollam, Kerala Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

Nestled into one of the terraces of a hill on Ashtamudi Lake in the city of Kollam, Kerala, the Cloud House by NO Architects Designers and Social Artists, repurposes parts of a dilapidated structure that had previously occupied the site, channelling extremes in spatial vocabulary to explore liminal states. In this vein, the designers aimed to avoid conforming to any of the binary perspectives that could apply to an architectural design problem of this nature, blending a naturalistic vocabulary and palette with drastic transitions between geometric and organic spatial volumes. Revealing little to the outside world, the introverted exterior of the building is dressed in roof tiles that were recovered from the older structure. The tiles themselves have been angled to create rhythmic protrusions, flanked by columns made up of crushed concrete chips that were recycled from the floor slabs of the site’s previous occupant.

3. Sunyata Eco Hotel by Design Kacheri

  • Sunyata Eco Hotel by Design Kacheri in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
    Sunyata Eco Hotel by Design Kacheri in Chikmagalur, Karnataka Image: Shamanth Patil
  • The courtyard is both the focal point of the plan as well as the building's rainwater harvesting system | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
    The courtyard is both the focal point of the plan as well as the building's rainwater harvesting system Image: Shamanth Patil

Bangalore-based practice Design Kacheri has realised a peri-urban architectural intervention in the form of a boutique hotel whose structure harnesses traditional building practices and alternative materials to minimise its carbon footprint. At a time when indigenous building traditions are gaining greater precedence throughout global architectural practice, the Sunyata Eco Hotel in Chikmagalur, Karnataka, India, is a prime example of local ingenuity being channelled in conjunction with contemporary design principles to yield a product that resembles an experience centre for eco-friendly living. The building was designed largely as a load-bearing structure to reduce its reliance on concrete architecture while also making use of planning guidelines from local vernacular architecture. Rising above its site along a series of receding terraces, the building adopts earth-based construction in various forms—ranging from rammed earth and mud blocks to poured earth and mud concrete.

4. Flintstone6 House by Mitti

  • Flintstone6 by Mitti in Shoolagiri. Tamil Nadu | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
    Flintstone6 by Mitti in Shoolagiri. Tamil Nadu Image: Syam Sreesylam, Roshan Paliath
  • Soil and granite waste from a nearby quarry were combined into a building technique called Debris Wall Construction | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
    Soil and granite waste from a nearby quarry were combined into a building technique called Debris Wall Construction Image: Shamanth Patil

Flintstone6 by Indian architect Fawaz Thengilan in the Shoolagiri village of Tamil Nadu, is a humble abode nestled within a mango grove, designed with a seemingly invisible footprint. Deriving inspiration from camouflaging techniques of animals escaping predators, Kerala-based Thengilan of studio Mitti conceived this residential design in a materiality and form that seamlessly blends into its landscape, with the aid of a technique known as debris wall construction, inspired by the work of Vinu Daniel of Kochi-based Wallmakers. The cottage sits before a large patio that features a landscape marked by rocky boulders, cactus plants and mango trees. The path leading up to the house is paved with rough granite stones brought in from a nearby quarry. At the structure's heart is a light-filled multi-purpose hall, a permeable nest hosting the family’s open kitchen, living area and an inverted stair-room.

5. Earth and Glass House by Studio Lotus

  • Earth and Glass House by Studio Lotus in Delhi | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Earth and Glass House by Studio Lotus in Delhi Image: Niveditaa Gupta
  • The house’s entryway is injected with a sculptural presence, owing to the spiral steel staircase, and the curved door installation | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
    The house’s entryway is injected with a sculptural presence, owing to the spiral steel staircase, and the curved door installation Image: Niveditaa Gupta

Nicknamed the 'Earth and Glass House', a peculiar yet strongly divergent combination of materials, this weekend retreat by Delhi-based Studio Lotus anchors itself in the southern half of a two acre rectangular site. Typical of the currently emergent farmhouse typology in the city, the plot’s other half is reserved for hosting events. Entrance to the house is marked by a 10 metre cantilevered volume protruding from the upper floor while doubling up as a shaded porch on the ground. Enveloped in timber louvres, the volume rests upon a load bearing rammed earth wall and a pair of V-shaped columns. The entryway is impressively marked with a quiet energy; its double height skylit court activated by the spiral staircase and a curious sculpture at its feet.

6. Smriti Van by Vastu Shilpa Consultants

  • Smriti Van by Vastu Shilpa Consultants in Bhuj, Gujarat | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup  | STIRworld
    Smriti Van by Vastu Shilpa Consultants in Bhuj, Gujarat Image: Vinay Panjwani
  • Each of the reservoirs is designed differently in form and dimensions, responding to the contour at the specific point on Bhujiyo dungar | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Each of the reservoirs is designed differently in form and dimensions, responding to the contour at the specific point on Bhujiyo dungar Image: Vinay Panjwani

How do you build a memorial for a terrible tragedy, while also looking to a hopeful future? Smriti Van, designed by architect Rajeev Kathpalia, partner at Vastu Shilpa Consultants, as a memorial to the devastating Bhuj earthquake of 2001 in Gujarat, finds curious, sensitive inspiration in the grit of the land, and the regenerative qualities of the liquid that is the source of all life. For Ahmedabad-based Vastu Shilpa Consultants, founded by Pritzker Prize winner and RIBA Gold Medal awardee, Balkrishna Doshi, the memorial's architecture wasn’t to be a monolith or a structured garden, but a place of contemplation and becoming one with the formations of the land; a place symbolising rebirth, regeneration, renewal, and above all, hope. A total of 81 reservoirs have been envisaged along the site’s variable terrain to collect the runoff of the Bhujiyo Dungar where water is intercepted on its way and stored, and the names of the victims of the tragedy are enshrined. The path of the reservoirs is the pilgrimage, and the spine along which a forest would develop, snaking along the slopes of the dungar, with the reservoirs themselves forming spaces for rest, vantage, and meditation, symbolising a rebirth.

7. House of Concrete Experiments by Samira Rathod Design Atelier

House of Concrete Experiments by Samira Rathod Design Atelier in Alibaug, Maharashtra | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
House of Concrete Experiments by Samira Rathod Design Atelier in Alibaug, Maharashtra Image: Niveditaa Gupta

The House of Concrete Experiments by Samira Rathod Design Atelier, set in the foothills of Deotalai in Zirad, Maharashtra, manifests as an edifice that is representative of freedom, solitude, solidity, tectonics, and above all, experimentation. The intent behind the design of the house emerges as an interpretation of the imperative tenets of sustainable design. Its most direct implication is the rather peculiar looking form, a result of a meandering footprint that carefully moves around existing trees on the site. This renders the home as a fragmented sanctuary sensitively ensconced within a mango orchard and the proverbial lap of nature. Function is found even in this fragmentation, as the final spatial program of the house comprises a large, unitary studio space with just one bedroom for the couple. While being in essence, a series of experiments with concrete materialised, the house also stands as testament to the same experiments, now concretised in a piece of architecture, lending a finality to the trials and tribulations of sculpting architecture.

8. Enclosure by Veeram Shah

  • Enclosure by Veeram Shah in Himmatnagar, Gujarat | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Enclosure by Veeram Shah in Himmatnagar, Gujarat Image: Ishita Sitwala, The Fishy Project
  • The Gulmohar Court | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    The Gulmohar Court Image: Ishita Sitwala, The Fishy Project

Emerging from a context of expanded scenography, ‘Enclosure’ by architect Veeram Shah, commands attention—in scale, form, and materiality. Shah, native to the land, was well versed in its scenography and the site of the building, which is nestled within four-acre verdant farmlands punctuated with fruit orchards. The 2,137 sqm residential design was commissioned with a vague brief that outlined a regular home—four bedrooms, a combined living and dining area, a kitchen, and subsidiary spaces. Having grown up in the remote village of Himmatnagar, Gujarat, the client sought a retirement home that would bring him back to his roots. In response, as per Shah’s design—which took a decade to materialise—the site is arranged in a floor plan emulating a grand piano, with two curved and static boundaries, each of which opens up to fleeting entrances, deriving inspiration from Le Corbusier and his paintings with imperfect curves.

9. Villa KD45 by Studio Symbiosis

Villa KD45 by Studio Symbiosis in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
Villa KD45 by Studio Symbiosis in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh Image: Niveditaa Gupta

Britta Knobel Gupta and Amit Gupta of Studio Symbiosis were called to design a home for a family of eight members which would cut the prevailing chaos of its context and make vegetation the hero of its place. Villa KD45 was thus born, as an inward-looking home that emerged from its landscape. Located in Ghaziabad—a suburb of New Delhi, the residence’s concrete architecture is nestled fluidly on its site, its sculptural built mass sitting in stark contradiction to the boxy buildings around it. The project itself comprises a built form located along the east edge of the site, leaving the west side covered with an expansive lawn. An interesting feature of the building is its exploration of spatial possibilities, particularly in the effortless blending of interior and exterior spaces. As one enters the site, a vast lawn and a winding water feature recessed in the ground is carved before an irregular two-storey exposed concrete volume.

10. Secure Sanand Factory by Studio Saar

  • Secure Sanand Factory by Studio Saar in Sanand, Gujarat | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Secure Sanand Factory by Studio Saar in Sanand, Gujarat Image: © Ankit Jain for Studio Saar
  • Aerial view of the development | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Aerial view of the development Image: © Ankit Jain for Studio Saar

Secure Sanand by Studio Saar, a facility for client Secure Meters dedicated to the manufacture of electronics in an industrial town in Gujarat, tiptoes between embodying a revisionist version of an erstwhile brutal structure, and inducing little provisions for its residents along the way, adapting to a relatively harsh Indian context and climatology. In swaying away from a typical industrial identity, even if unconsciously, focusing instead on breaking down scale without compromising on function, Secure Sanand carves its own identity. The site's master plan consists of separate zones for manufacturing, employee recreation, and for visitors. Between these, the facility’s built structures consist of the main manufacturing facility, utility bay, the canteen and recreation centre, and the reception building. While the designs of the manufacturing facility and utility bay are relatively more functionality driven, displaying several nods to a rather strong aesthetic sense of the industrial, the canteen and reception building reserve more space for an architectural expression, both in form and spatiality.

11. Sireniti House by Kanan Modi Associates

  • Sireniti House by Kanan Modi Associates in Hyderabad, Telangana | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Sireniti House by Kanan Modi Associates in Hyderabad, Telangana Image: Ishita Sitwala; Courtesy of Kanan Modi Associates
  • Echoing the flow and sandwiched between the concrete cantilever and water body is a ‘sculptural’ tree that adds a sense of dynamism to the entrance | Contemporary Indian Architecture Roundup | STIRworld
    Echoing the flow and sandwiched between the concrete cantilever and water body is a ‘sculptural’ tree that adds a sense of dynamism to the entrance Image: Ishita Sitwala; Courtesy of Kanan Modi Associates

Multi-disciplinary architecture and interior design practice, Kanan Modi Associates, expertly harnessed the beauty of negative space within the architecture of Sireniti House in Hyderabad. Said to be inspired by post-war modernism, the formed concrete structure of the home was meticulously casted on site “to interact with the ever-changing light patterns caused by deep pergolas above and evoke varied emotions throughout the day,” as per Kanan Modi, principal architect at the firm, which also has a presence in New Delhi and Mumbai. With each composition striking but not harsh, spaces in this private residence seem to flow into the next seamlessly. The predominant materials of concrete and basalt are softened with the warmth of oak strategically used on walls and ceilings in a myriad of ways including slatted panels to conceal storage and doors. At the entrance, a concrete volume sits perpendicularly above a stone block and extends to form a large cantilever. The sharp lines are balanced by the organic forms of the dense vegetation and curated softscape amongst which the house resides.

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