Remembering a Master Builder

In memory of Achyut Kanvinde, architects and academicians come together to discuss India and its urban context.

Written by Shiny Varghese | Updated: February 6, 2016 5:22 am
Achyut Kanvinde, architecture, architect Achyut Kanvinde, ATIRA, IIT, talk A building at IIT Kanpur designed by (left) Achyut Kanvinde

Architect Achyut Kanvinde was a pioneer of modern architecture and mentored many architects who have established themselves on the national and international scene. Under German architect Walter Gropius, Kanvinde’s study at Harvard led him to design many public institutions in Gujarat and Delhi, which have taken on an iconic status, for their power of technology and the empathy of spatial dimensions. The Ahmedabad Textile Industries Research Association (ATIRA), one of his first buildings, appears suspended with its plastered surfaces and exposed brick bands, almost waffle-like. This building put a stamp on the architectural envelope in the 1950s. Later, Kanvinde would build the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, which challenged traditional campus design.

On February 9, a seminar and book release in Delhi will celebrate “Kanvinde@100”, at Azad Bhavan, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (a building designed by him). A recipient of the Padma Shri, Kanvinde was also honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and member of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission. Some of his famous buildings include Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai; National Science Centre and ISKCON temple, Delhi; Legislative Assembly and High Court, Srinagar; besides National Dairy Development Board Campus in Anand, Darpana Academy, and residences in Ahmedabad.

“Personally and his office too, Kanvinde, Rai and Chowdhury (KRC), shaped and launched many a career in architecture, and provided many young architects an opportunity and foundation. He was one of the few architects who worked a great deal on public projects. Through his courteous personality, ability to talk and persuade, without ever being domineering, and truly compassionate nature, he was able to give a stature to the possibility of good architecture in government projects. With his partner Shaukat Rai, who was an infrastructural bedrock, they made a great pair, in the early days. In some of the buildings in Anand, Gujarat, and at IIT Kanpur, one sees his direction and signature. He explored modularity in spatial and structural grids, and had a way of modulating space and form through roofs, almost like he was poking the sky,” says architect Ashok B Lall.

Lall is one of the speakers at the seminar, besides architects and academicians such as Ranjit Sabikhi, who will discuss the “Challenges of Urbanisation”. Narendra Dengle will talk on “A Critique of Practice”, A Srivathsan on “Quest for Quality Education” and Miki Desai on “Yesterday’s Modern Today”. Each of these topics were dear to Kanvinde, who emphasised on design education, India’s cities and its
social needs.

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