Little River Architects is an architectural firm which was founded by Ceejo Cyriac, and has its roots in a mountain village called Karimannoor in Kerala. Apart from his family, the mountains of the area, the small river and the people in his village constituted the early influence on Ceejo.
After his architectural studies were completed at the MCE Hassan, he came to Bangalore for a further continuation of learning and practice.
Following the pursuit of his dreams, he established the studio ‘Little River Architects’ based out of Bangalore. Over the last ten years the firm has successfully completed projects of diverse natures across India. His journey, often full of trials and tribulations has strengthened the design capabilities and commitment of the firm and has set a solid base for its growth, guided by a profound consideration for originality in generating and processing ideas.
An ongoing attempt at understanding the larger picture and ‘making a connect’ with that which brings in an ambient quality to the firms’ work is kept at top priority, whilst a balance is sought between an empirical and intuitive approach at all levels.
Ceejo is a part of the visiting faculty at RVCA Bangalore since 2009; here he is forever nurturing fresh seeds that will have the capability of influencing overall architectural thinking and conceptualisation, both in academics and practice.
In spite of his heavy schedule he finds time to play football, chess and the bamboo flute. We took some time out with Ceejo Cyriac to chat about architecture, his ideology, the Indian context and a touch of sustainability..
How would you describe the architecture you practise?
We like to look at architecture as a backdrop for various human activities. At Little River Architects we always attempt to make our works, contextual, ambient and subtle. We endeavour to make our buildings connect with the metaphysical, apart from keeping in mind the functional needs they are supposed to perform.
How does your firm manage to achieve business goals whilst adhering to your innate sustainable outlook?
Architecture with ambient qualities can promote a holistic way of living. We see it as sustainable. Our goal is to try and do spaces with these qualities. It requires a good amount of visualising, detailing and refining to achieve this. The time we spend on each project may be more than really required but it is part of the game and has satisfying results. We do not have a business goal separate from this!
What recent technology trends are important to your firm?
Our choice of techniques for putting together materials depends on what’s appropriate for the design of a project. It could range from conventional technology to several innovations. In one of our recently completed projects we put together a Laterite stone masonry wall with MS posts. No specific trend is important to our firm as such.
Walk us through your plans for the future. Any dream assignment?
I am looking forward to a variety of projects. Apart from practicing, at present I am also involved in teaching. I am striving to enable students to approach design at a deeper level.
Right now I have just begun work on a school project; it should shape well knowing the kind of people that are involved setting up the school. It is very unassuming and has a holistic approach to life and teaching.
What has been your most complex project? What challenges did you face?
Challenges have often been about communicating the design to the people who actually build, and getting them to build specifically as per our design plan. In one of our projects on the outskirts of a small town we wanted a good welder for the job of fabricating a special roof; the best welder in that town happened to be a steel furniture maker. We had to get him to understand our requirement and construct the roof as per our design. It was fun.
Which structures of India impress you?
The traditional settlements of villages of the various regions of India never fail to impress me. They have played a key role in shaping my sensibilities. The architecture there is a true response to various conditions like the climate, the materials, the available technology, the economy, the culture and the way of living etc. It has an innate quality of being unpretentiousness.
The vibrant aspect of space and integrity of character it possesses is very commendable. These villages are beautiful and there is plenty to learn from them. I recently took a bunch of students to Aihole, a village in north Karnataka. It’s just timeless!
Where do you think architecture in India is headed?
In India, where there is such a rich and diverse cultural and natural heritage, there is a huge seed bank for potential novel architectural thoughts to emerge and evolve. We have to create our own methods and processes of looking into it and bringing something out of it. This is essential for bringing in a rooted freshness to the field. By and large at present it’s headed on an individualistic path.
What works better for you, moulding your clients to your sensibilities or catering to the wishes of your clients?
Fortunately most of my clients in recent years have been those with deeper or similar sensibilities. It’s been a great pleasure and a learning experience working with them. But there is always room for more. We often get clients who have already seen our works closely, it brings in an automatic match from the beginning itself. Initially, when we started our practise, we had to put in a great deal of effort to mould some of our clients, but thankfully they were very receptive.
Interviewed By Mala Bajaj