India built

I have recently made a trip to India to work with EMI, a non-profit engineering and design organization.  I assisted with the conceptual design of Blue Haven Children’s Home & School, a program and continued vision of TellAsia.  (The design can be seen on the Open Architecture Network here.)

It was a great experience for one’s first time in India, to get involved so directly with a non-profit for whom you believe in their cause.  The design is for outside of Lucknow, in Northern India, then we continued design work in New Delhi, at EMI’s main office, for the remainder of my internship.  My first-hand account can be found on my other blog, Meghazine.

A friend of mine, upon planning her travels to Vietnam, brought up a good point I have remembered since then.  Though it’s beneficial to soak in one’s surroundings, it is also important to have a keen eye for specifics.  Sort of a prolonged, one-man game of “I Spy.” While she planned on observing women’s societal roles, as a former women’s studies major, I wanted to focus on traditional and vernacular building, mainly in terms of using localized materials.

And that’s what I did.  I stayed in Northern India, traveling, as I said, to Lucknow and Delhi, but also even more northern after my internship to Manali, Jispa, and Leh, very distant places from the more metropolitan Delhi.  I have an album on Flickr of photos I feel fit into this category of local building practices, and have chosen some key shots to display for you here.  Please feel free to comment or add links to your own collections of traditional building.


Day after monsoon in Delhi: this little alleyway was a shortcut to the main road from our flat. The street drainage needs work, but the locals would make do.

In Lucknow, it seemed there were brick producers all over the place, with piles and piles of bricks around. I hope it made for a steady income to otherwise unsteady farms.

What product is used everywhere, regardless of climate, environment, vernacular, or safe building practice?
You got it…

To be better aware of good, local design, we visited a K-12 (I believe) school in Lucknow, for 3,000 students. It was very nice, clean, and beneficial to see a completed ‘newer’ building.

An ancient palace in Jaipur, this photo shows two prevalent building elements – jali walls and open wires

In Old Delhi one hot hot afternoon, observing some Indians observing this door. There is so much detailing in these ancient buildings, it’s incredible.

I feel this Museum is too overlooked as a tourist spot, but it is a well designed oasis within the bustling city. This was a lovely detail within the little ‘campus’ of the museum.

These stacked stones are acting as a column for this structure in Old Manali.

Amongst the twisting and winding little streets, we got a bit lost and found these old, rugged barns.

Stones + metal roof… simple enough. But is it warm enough?

Almost the middle of nowhere, except that the road to Leh goes through this town. And yet, this beautiful detailed purple shown amongst the brilliant landscape that is Jispa.

Beautiful, clean low-tech building