Everybody knew Vasant Kamath to be the gentleman architect, soft spoken and calm, and his designs embodied that care he gave to detailing his buildings. With nearly half a century of architectural practice and over three decades of teaching architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, Vasant gave the profession the quiet confidence that those who dared, could stick it out and make a difference. He passed away in Delhi on September 3, after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.
“Vasant taught generations of students,” says architect-urban designer KT Ravindran, “He had such a depth and breadth of knowledge that he could guide students in their various fields of interest. He was also public minded, and was at the forefront of different projects, even if it didn’t benefit him.”
His practice with architect-wife Revathi — Kamath Design Studio in Delhi — grew world renowned for their use of locally available materials and sensitivity to crafts and local skills. Be it their own mud house in Faridabad, where they turned a dis-used quarry site into an ecosystem for grasslands and seasonal plants, or an early ’80s project in Seemapuri for the NGO Mobile Creches, where they explored the properties of brick to create arches and domes.
“He found what was traditional and inserted it into his modern buildings, mainstreamed the vernacular and gave mud buildings a brand value. For his six-foot-tall personality, he had a way of designing small spaces, like he did in Mobile Creches, where every detail is thought through, be it the way the light falls or a nook takes shape. He left the expansive outside and consumed as much of it, making use of every corner in an 8ft x 8ft room,” says architect Manoj Mathur, former head, Architecture Department, SPA, Delhi.
A memorial meeting for Vasant will be held at the India Islamic Centre, Delhi, on September 15 at 3 pm.