Ecological Architecture in IndiaSeptember 7, 2008
|July 31, 2008||
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.”
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.