Achyut Kanvinde – Indian Architecture, The Brutalist Way

Source: http://architectuul.com/architect/achyut-kanvinde (Left) and https://archiconsofindia.weebly.com/ap-kanvinde.html (Right)

Achyut Purushottam Kanvinde (1916-2000) is popularly the Pioneer of the Modern Movement in India. He was also an Indian Architect who worked predominantly with the elements of Brutalist and Regionalism Architecture. Mostly working as per the functionalist ideals, his approach championed the use of vernacular architecture as well.

He graduated in Architecture from Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai in 1942. Because of his excellence in academics right from the beginning, the Government of India sent him to study at Harvard Graduate School of Design where he worked under the famous architect Walter Gropius.

Inspiration and Foundation

During his days abroad, the European Master Architects of Bauhaus – Albert Bayer, László Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer, and the Swiss-American architectural historian Siegfried Giedion were the start for his inspiration for his works because they had a great impact on him. He also shared classes with famous architects such as Paul Rudolph, I. M. Pei, and John Perkins. Walter Gropius simultaneously influenced him by his thinking and teaching.

When he returned to India, he became a member of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Finally, along with his partner Shaukat Rai, he opened his firm Kanvinde, Rai, and Chowdhary in New Delhi.

Source: https://thearchinsider.com/achyut-kanvinde-the-first-indian-architect/

Firstly, Vikram Sarabhai was also an important person in Nehru’s group of ‘nation builders’. Secondly, he was the Director of the new research facility in Ahmedabad, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL). At last, during the construction of PRL, he met Kanvinde and both of them became close friends. Between 1947 to 1971, Dr. Sarabhai created more than 25 institutions and Achyut Kanvinde built most of these buildings’ construction.

Design Concepts and Philosophy

Kanvinde started using space as a tool for expressing human values from his influence on Walter Gropius. Similarly, the institutional buildings that he designed in the first 5 years were clean-cut and conservative, namely,

  • Similar facades
  • Horizontal volumes
  • Aesthetically proportioned fenestration
  • Ribbon Windows
  • A grid-frame structure with unexposed and plastered exterior finish.

Also read the related article – Pioneer of Modern Architecture: Corbusier

Brutalism Style and Regionalism

By the end of the 1960s, there was a significant rise in the Brutalist style of architecture. Similarly, Achyut Kanvinde reflected his own style in correspondence with Brutalism with the combined use of concrete and brick as dynamic determinants of form and order. But there was a stark difference in the way the style was seen in the various parts of the world. In the West, Brutalism was seen as a form of dynamism and an aesthetic of rigor. In contrast to that with the Neo-Gandhian Era of India in 1970, it was a realistic and expensive product.

“Our architectural expression is in a most confused state as there is neither clear thinking nor definite ideology…the architects who are confronted with the problems peculiar to modern functional design have to, at the same time, create an architectural expression that would reflect the present day culture of India.”

Achyut Kanvinde
Source: The Hindu

Therefore, he relied on a more pragmatic approach towards his design concepts and construction techniques. He also made use of local availability of material like high-quality brick as infills and reinforced concrete for structural frames. Because this created an aesthetic use of two different materials. Also, he played with space and form. His designs can be defined as slender, balanced, proportionate, and well-crafted. The reason behind the use of local materials was because Achyut Kanvinde believed in Vernacular Architecture. He also valued historic influences in conjunction with good architecture.

Bauhaus Characteristics in Kanvinde’s Works

  • Asymmetry
  • Blocky
  • Cubic Shapes
  • Smooth, flat plain, undecorated surfaces
  • Flat roofs
  • Adoption of steel framed reinforced concrete post and slab.

Harivallabhdas House, Ahmedabad (1964)

Source: https://housingideas.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/balkrishna-harivallabhdas-hous-by-hanvinde-and-rai/

Distinctive living modules are arranged beneath a sweeping parasol and thoughtfully sited in a garden setting. The internal functions of this building also appear as separate masses. There is a visual appeal with a divided massing and with their horizontality.

Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (1966)

Source: Wikipedia

His architectural firm was also commissioned for the master planning of the campus spread over an 800-acre site and for the architectural design of academic buildings. IIT, Kanpur became the milestone of his career with the use of cubic forms along with smooth surfaces combining into function as well as aesthetics.

Source: https://www.iitk.ac.in/fmfp14/iitk.html

Functionalism – Conceived with utmost priority given to the function of the building as well as the social values of the designed space. There is also symmetry in this project with his famous use of bricks and reinforced concrete. In retrospect, its style also bears striking resemblance to the raw form of vernacular architecture found in areas of India.

Dudhsagar Dairy, Mehsana (1973)

Source: https://www.sosbrutalism.org/cms/17156381

Dudhsagar Dairy (Dudhsagar literally meaning sea of milk), a milk factory located in Mehsana, Gujarat, is an early manifestation of the ambitious, nationwide dairy development program by the Indian Government in the last quarter of the 20th century (1970–1996).

Source: https://www.sosbrutalism.org/cms/17156381

Modern Architecture and Brutalism – Characterized by minimal construction elements that showcase raw building materials as well as structured elements. Kanvinde also believed in visual appreciation and expression of the building and opposed hiding it.

National Insurance Academy (NIA), Pune (1988)

Source: http://architectuul.com/architecture/national-insurance-academy

The Finance Department of the Indian government established the company in 1980 with capital support from the LIC and the public sector general insurance market. Kanvinde’s art has influenced the perception of modern heritage in India.

Source: https://www.targetadmission.com/colleges/9760-national-insurance-academy-pune

Rationalist Approach – Internal function of the building in separate masses and are functional from the inside and elegant from the outside. There is also this innate humanness about the size and proportions with respect to space. The building also shows the complete focus on the material used.

National Science Centre, New Delhi (1991)

Source: https://www.delhicapital.com/museums-in-delhi/national-science-center.html

After designing the Nehru Science Centre in Mumbai, Kanvinde was commissioned to design the National Science Centre in Delhi next. He inculcated the design ideas from a previously unreleased project, the Tantra Museum (a project for an art collector), where one accessed the exhibition spaces directly from the top floor via an escalator, before descending gradually to the lower floors. This idea was also implemented in both the Centres in Mumbai and Delhi.

Source: https://www.makemytrip.com/travel-guide/delhi/national-science-centre-museum.html

Brutalism – Natural light has been given extreme importance. Form of the building solves ventilation and also excessive heat through covered verandahs, walkways, and staircases. Most importantly, the porch and the staircase are always given emphasis in buildings.

Also read from the same author – Frank Lloyd Wright – The Gifted Architect and Fantasist

ISKCON Temple, Delhi (1998)

Source:  https://www.trawell.in/delhi/delhi-city/iskon-temple

The ISKCON Temple, designed and built by Achyut Kanvinde, who volunteered to accept a pro-bono commission to create this temple complex for Srila Prabhupada’s devotees in 1993, is one of India’s largest temple complexes.

Source:  https://bestdelhi.in/iskcon-temple-delhi/

Regionalism – Influenced by the local materials, climate, and social conditions. In addition, also adhered to climatological principles.

Achievements and Awards

With his career perfectly spanning for over 55 years, Achyut Kanvinde won a number of awards, accolades, and lifetime achievements not only in his academic days but also in his architectural career.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/ACHYUT-KANVINDE-AKAR-Paperback-Conceived-Kanvinde/dp/9385285602
  • Padma Shree in 1976.
  • President of Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) in 1974-75.
  • Co-authored book “Campus Design in India”.
  • IIA’s Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 1985.
  • Great Master’s Award from J.K. Industries Ltd. In 1993.
  • Was also a part of the jury on the competition for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, along B.V. Doshi.

Also, read another article – Zaha Hadid & her Architecture philosophies

Conclusion

In one of his writings, Kanvinde said, “It was Gropius who really exposed me to the power of technology on the one hand and the psychological dimensions of spatial concerns and realizations on the other.”

Achyut Kanvinde

He also generated spatial organization that was climate responsive. However, the majority of his architecture was horizontal and had crisp volumes. His collaboration with Shaukat Rai will also be remembered by all. And their efforts helped to bring Brutalism and Sustainability to the forefront of a newly rising nation.

References

Achyut Kanvinde – Architects and their Works. (n.d.). Retrieved from Archinomy: https://www.archinomy.com/case-studies/achyut-kanvinde/

Achyut Kanvinde. (2020, December 11). Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achyut_Kanvinde#mw-head

Kiri. (n.d.). ACHYUT KANVINDE. Retrieved from Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/presentation/357621770/ACHYUT-KANVINDE

Satish, S. (2021, January 29). Achyut Kanvinde | A Splash of Brutalism | The Functionalist | Archgyan. Retrieved from AechGyan: https://archgyan.com/blog/achyut-kanvinde-a-splash-of-brutalism-the-functionalist/

Zahara. (2020, August 12). Achyut Kanvinde. Retrieved from Architectural: http://architectuul.com/architect/achyut-kanvinde

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