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Ecological Architecture in India

September 7, 2008
House calls
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DOWN TO EARTH: CHITRA VISHWANATH

Far from the madding crowd would be an understatement to describe the location of architect Chitra Vishwanath’s home.“At that time, this was the cheapest plot of land we could find,” she says of the 1,500 sq ft plot.

Set amid bamboo trees and greenery, the house in Vidyaranyapura cost the Vishwanaths Rs 4 lakh to build, 13 years ago.

With a 1,000 sq feet garden, the house stands as a testimony to Chitra’s pioneering work in using earthfriendly construction material.

Her husband Vishwanath is a civil engineer and one of the pioneers for the move to create compulsory water-harvesting in Bangalore city.

“We had to realise that bricks and sand and marble cannot be carted around the country. We had to find ways of using local material that conserve and save energy.”

Chitra Vishwanath�s eco-friendly philosophy is intertwined with her home and lifestyle

Chitra Vishwanath�s eco-friendly philosophy is intertwined with her home and lifestyle

Her home, Chitra admits, was a laboratory of sorts. “There are things you can’t try in a client’s house, but did with ours.We still find things to add,” she says.The house has been built with soil bricks that have not been plastered or painted, terracottacoloured floor tiles and numerous skylights.

It has various levels with the mezzanine floor overlooking the main seating area. And there’s a big surprise: there are no ACs or ceiling fans anywhere in the house. “We’ve never used them; the house never gets hotter than 22° C even in summer,” says Chitra.

The couple’s eco-friendly philosophy is intertwined with their home and lifestyle.

There is a compost pit to handle garbage and water recycling on the terrace. “We even have a toilet upstairs that separates solid and liquid matter,” says Chitra.

There are solar cookers on the terrace cooking the afternoon meal of rice and dal, while rice is being grown on the other side of the terrace.

The architect uses her house to present her case to apprehensive clients.

“Most people are scared of eco-friendly material because they think it’s high maintenance. But once I’ve show them my house, they usually succumb,” she says.

“We want to be able to utilise this land for everything we need: water harvesting, light, ventilation and energy. We’ve grown so many trees around the house that even if the neighbour decides to build a high-rise, it won’t affect anything here,” she adds.

For this couple, eco-friendly is not a fashion statement but a way of life.

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2 comments

  1. 7 blade ceiling fans have much better performance compared to those three bladed fans ,:*


  2. Hi,

    My name is Lavinia, I’m a french volunteer in Bangalore. I’m working in a NGO : the “William Joseph Music Foundation”, a music school for underprivileged children.

    Directed by Dr. Ashley Williams, this foundation would like to create an International Cultural Centre near Bangalore (at Hyderabad, the capital of the Adhra Pradesh state). Their aim is to teach music (essentialy), but also dance and theatre to the children of the school, orphanages, slums, but also to initiate the local population to the universe of art. ( It is a poorly developped city). Their last goal is to make artists from all around the world, meet in this center and share their culture and talent, by organising concerts and events.

    The problem is that the foundation doesn’t have a lot of financial ressources and must deal with a limited budget. In order to be able to achieve their goal, the William Joseph Music Foundation absolutely needs a financial support.
    Art is very important in those developping countries, specially for the children who can express how they feel or what they think, through music. It can enable them to understand and learn about our world. And most of all, it can become a signifcant base for their future.

    As they would like this “Art Village” to be ecological, I wondered if you could collaborate with this foundation and take the time to discuss about the price. Obviously we can’t ask you to work for free, but at least be flexible on the financial issue ?
    I’m sorry to present the situation so briefly, please contact me for any more information or question.

    I sincerely hope a collaboration will be possible between your organization and the William Joseph Music Foundation.

    With my best regards,

    Lavinia Lafond



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