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Raw, and close to nature

He is a man who cannot be bound by conventional modes; be restrained by things mundane. His architecture reflects similar sentiments in language and its versatile strokes. A language of unbounded creativity, a manifestation of the free will, that is unhindered, speaking clearly his mind and inclinations. Architect Gerard da Cunha of Architecture Autonomous is a man who lives completely by his philosophy of being green, taking this green ideology in totality in his structures, be it in their response to nature or in the use of materials in construction.

Influenced strongly by architect Laurie Baker, having left his architecture course briefly in between to work with Baker during which time his perspective of architecture altered on how to build and how to look at a site, da Cunha’s leaning from the beginning was towards use of natural materials, salvaged or recycled items. Equally strong was his penchant for ensuring that his spaces maintained that strong connect between interiors and exteriors where the interiors enjoyed abundant natural light and ventilation while the structure ensured the temperature within was naturally cool.

His structures reveal sheer raw beauty, with the internal spaces revealing a strong connectivity along with an intense streak of the undefined, whether it is in the angles and geometry of the structure or the exterior façade. His roofs are totally unconventional, manifesting in a varied combination of slopes, curves and domes. The materials used are left in their raw natural state, the bricks, stones, wood exposed in their true form.

The famous dance village Nrityagram on the outskirts of Bengaluru was designed by da Cunha. Being one of his early projects as well as a “dream project” that incidentally was done on a budget, the structure reveals copious use of the locally available Chappadi stone. “The design is centred around functionality, the sunlight filtering in through jaalis while a mix of domes and stone work lend a complex albeit playful building”, says da Cunha.

The design of the Houses of Goa Museum stands ample testimony to his unconventional approach to design. Set on a triangular site, the museum adopted a unique geometrical shape where the final evolution defies a defined format, the angles of the structure appearing totally different depending on which side of the building is viewed. The organically sloped roof, the protruding balconies, the slanted grills combined with the smooth curves “gives the impression of a bird taking flight when viewed from above.”

Pure geometry

Da Cunha’s residence nestling amidst thick greens portrays abundantly the geometric fluid interconnected spaces, the intense connection of the internal spaces with the outdoors, the varied multiple combinations of roof structure, all of which mark strongly his design inclinations. The interiors of this exposed random rubble wall building is marked with shutter-free grill windows, another strong design leaning of da Cunha, while the Goan vaulted roof, the stained glass vents, the salvaged clay tile floors blend enchantingly with the old world furnishings.

His primary school project reveals a nature-oriented growing experience in the manner of its design. The multi-levelled interiors marked by curved, slanted walls and arches, incorporate an intermingling of internal and external courtyards.

Large grilled openings bring in abundant natural light and ventilation while the green internal courtyards with trees bring in the sense of nature into the classrooms while keeping temperatures down. Large overhangs further shield the shutter-free windows from rain as well as harsh sunlight.

The classrooms open on to little nooks that serve as play areas where children can give vent to their urge to experiment, indulge in role play and slip into their fantasy world. Given da Cunha’s penchant for using salvaged or recycled items, the school has plenty of the same, be it the grills, the Shahbad and Jaisalmar stone, the China mosaic used on the floors as well as the roofs. The protective wall of the open amphitheatre in the school is in fact made of salvaged empty bottles. “The amphitheatre is on a cantilevered roof and so we built the wall using the 25,000 bottles collected by the students”, says da Cunha.


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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 1:42:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/raw-and-close-to-nature/article8536996.ece

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