Manasaram Architects is headed by Neelam Manjunath, who apart from being a proficient architect and planner is a self proclaimed activist and theoretician.
After having worked with several well known architects from the world over, she started her own private practice in January 1991 in New Delhi. Now based in Bangalore since 1994, Neelam Manjunath provides simple and direct architectural solutions based on the function of the building, its economics, its aesthetical value and the climate in which its stands.
“I try to be sympathetic to the immediate environment in terms of climate, statement of the building forms, local and green building materials etc. I believe that a building is a living entity with a spirit and it should be perceived so by its occupants too; for ever changing with the seasons, from spring to summer, to rainy season and so on,” she avers.
The firm also believes that an architect is a catalyst who provides social and cultural stage sets for all human activities. Since the magnitude of responsibility on an architect’s shoulders is of staggering proportions a mix of responsible creativity and creative responsibility should determine the architectural character of any building.
We at Home Review got a chance to present principle architect Neelam Manjunath a few questions. This is her take on architecture in India, sustainability trends and the hallmarks of her approach.
What was the genesis of Manasaram Architects?
Manasara is the name of the rishi who wrote one of the earliest books on Vastusastra, which is in eight volumes and named ‘Manasara’. It is a great piece of work on Architecture. I happened to read some of the volumes in Sanskrit and some in translations by other authors during my college days. I found them really fascinating and comprehensive, containing many aspects of architecture which I thought were lacking in the architectural education that I was receiving. It was then that I decided that the name of my office would be “Manasaram” and I would incorporate all these aspects of architecture in my professional practice.
How much of your work is based on sustainable architecture?
For me sustainability is ingrained in the definition of architecture itself and it has been so, right from my student days. It was climate conscious or solar passive architecture at that time in the 1980’s and then it was called sustainable architecture, then green architecture and now it’s bioclimatic. But all these terms basically define what the true intent of the profession of architecture really should be. So, all my works could be counted in that category.
What are some of the hallmarks of your approach to architecture?
The role of climate in the design of a building has always fascinated me since my student days. I have always felt that the sun in the interiors of your home in winters, cool breezes in summers and the sound of rain are priceless attributes one should always have in a building. A building should sit lightly on the ground (resources), work like a well oiled machine (infrastructure) and soothe you like a temple (ambience).
What is a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?
One sustainability trend that I wish would go away is the use of lawns on terraces to call it a picture perfect ‘green building’. Drawings of buildings with every roof painted green is becoming very trendy these days. The water hungry lawns are the most unsustainable way of greening this earth.
Where do you think architecture in India is headed?
The architecture fraternity by and large is still infatuated by the western trends in architecture, which is very unfortunate. But there are a bunch of architects, who are driving the sustainability movement through their sheer tenacity of purpose. And there is lot of interest in colleges and universities to take this movement forward.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges your office faces today?
The biggest challenge is the problem of not enough projects and small size projects that are there in the market for the type of architecture that I do. Hence I have a tough time maintaining the economic sustainability of my practice.
Clients try to give the main part of a project to trendy and gullible architects and ask me to make the security shed etc. in mud and bamboo!
On the opportunity side, I have carved a niche for my practice through a handful of international awards and presentations. I am one of the probably 30 odd architects and designers who work with bamboo globally and less than 5 architects nationally.
I am running structured courses on Bamboo and provide information on the care of execution of buildings made with bamboo and promote its usage. I am also trying to get it introduced into the curriculum of architecture and civil engineering colleges as a major construction material.
Complied By Mala Bajaj