Life & Style

Kerala architect wins top national award

S Gopakumar  

‘Eat homegrown vegetables this Onam’, a campaign started by the Better Kochi Response Group(BKRG), is reaping good harvest, says S Gopakumar, architect and founder of the city-based NGO. Last month, the senior architect was awarded the prestigious Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for 2020 by the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) for his outstanding contribution to Indian architecture. He received the award on July 12, joining others such as BV Doshi, Achyuth Kanvinde, Charles Correa, Joseph Allen Stein and Laurie Baker from the fraternity.

One of his key projects involved setting up temporary accommodation for Gujarat earthquake victims.

An accomplished artist, he won the Lalit Kala Akademi Award in 1970.

Edited excerpts from an interview

On winning this award?

This award is the highest an architect can get. The previous winners are all great men, so I am definitely elated and humbled to be mentioned along with them. The award is given for the overall quality in architecture, social involvement and of upholding and propagating architecture as a profession. I am also excited that I am the first Malayali to receive this award.

 

What made you set up Better Kochi Response Group?

I moved to Kochi in 1976 from Thiruvananthapuram. Since then the city has been my domicile and I have been watching it grow. I started BKRG in 2010. It came from a need for a body to coordinate between the needs of citizens and the government. The committee consists of 25 eminent persons from different fields.

BKRG is responsible for projects such as Vyttila Mobility Hub, public toilets in different locations, promotion of home vegetable gardens, among many others.

Hall of fame
  • Some of the landmark buildings and projects he has designed are the HDFC building Kochi, the Kerala History Museum, Kochi, the KSRTC bus station Thiruvananthapuram, the Taj Residency in Kozhikode, and the housing projects for many prominent developers. He has also done a number of socially relevant projects for the government, such as the Gandhi Park in Thiruvananthapuram, the Shanthi Kavadam crematorium in Thiruvananthapuram, and the Durbar Hall Ground in Kochi to name a few.

One of your campaigns has been on creating awareness on the illegality of hartals and the need to end it.

It was a big problem in Kerala. We worked initially quietly on this, talking with political leaders, trade unions and common people. We convinced them that this was not the right way to protest and it was not good for Kerala. In 2019 there was only one hartal in the State. That is a very defining change.

What is the latest initiative of BKRG?

W are now into promoting agriculture. It started with encouraging people to have terrace and roof gardens. Now we are enabling home gardens and cultivating vegetables. It has become very popular.

Will there be a new idea of design post pandemic?

It has opened the eyes of many as to what direction architecture and planning should take. We have to adapt a minimalistic and economic approach in building up our cities. Tourism has been badly hit by the pandemic, but it will bounce back. For Kerala to continue to be one of the safest places to travel to, we must plan and design good roads and clean and open spacious areas. By end of the pandemic, we must have good infrastructure in transportation, sewage system and waste management. The whole concept of luxury has changed. I would pitch for simple and eco-friendly housing and to end the ultra luxury designs as it is used by only 10 % of the people.

You are an artist as well. Tell us something about your engagement with art.

I started painting from a very young age. But later, due to professional pressure, I deviated a bit. But I did make a come back with my solo exhibition of paintings in the Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi in 2014.. I have shifted from oil to acrylic, which is easy to work with the available time.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 9:39:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/architect-s-gopakumar-becomes-the-first-malayali-to-win-the-baburao-mhatre-gold-medal/article32510742.ece

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