Living Being…

Window frames and panels, sanded smooth, have soaked up their share of oil. With glass panes fixed in, they are ready to become the eyes and nose of a living building….

Timber windows, sturdy and carefully proportioned… can withstand extreme weather and continue to look timeless…

Fine joined polygonal stone masonry upto the window sill…Adobe with smooth earthen plaster, on the sides and topped with a lintel band finished in beautifully textured lime plaster….

These windows are encased in all the materials and methods that make sense together.Even a single material or finish replaced, their delicate balance of strength, beauty and economy will collapse.

In the times when urban construction is moving towards putting elements from various brochures together with multiple choices for materials and finishes, this building, coming together as a hand crafted, wholesome, living and strong willed organism seems irrelevant, does it not?!

For some of us…. These buildings are living beings… standing for what they are made of, opinionated and unpretentious!

Trust it… Oil it….


Just before the monsoon, our hard working team is busy buffing and polishing the “hat” of our building! The roof!

Timber and bamboo underside of the roof overhang has a beautiful shine now, from several coat applications of oil.

MYTH: Bamboo and timber have a short life span. They rot in heavy rainfall areas.

Most of the modern methods of tackling moisture and rain are based on ‘cutting off the contact’.
From waterproofing chemicals to oil paints and enamels everything depends on an assumption that we can coat the surfaces in these magic products and completely cut their contact with the external elements like water that cause degeneration.
It is equal to asking a human being to stop breathing to avoid catching infection!
It is not going to work.
The sustainable way to deal with external elements (and infections!) to have a long, healthy, strong life, is not to cut them off but to “breath easy” and gain strength from the inside!
Speaking specifically about the natural tensile materials such as….timber and bamboo…
When harvested responsibly and treated right, they will outlast any other industrial alternative. It will only gain strength as it grows old.

Right treatment:
bitter oils get deeply impregnated into the fibers of these materials, making them highly resilient to rainwater and atmospheric moisture.

Wrong treatment:
By covering them in oil paints, we stop them from breathing the moisture out and choke them to death.
And then they get replaced by fabricated mild steel. In high rainfall areas, MS needs periodically repeated application of an oxide primer and heavy coats of oil paint to keep it from rusting…. and yet with years of exposure,it will rust and weaken…. Right next to a weathered looking timber roof that is standing peacefully for decades at the minimum!

So know that weathered looking wood has lived through many seasons and grown strong.

Trust it. Oil it!

Living in Wilderness…

Almost everyone dreams of a home in the woods somewhere…. Serene and peaceful.
But living with the wilderness implies more than trees, birds and butterflies…. img_20200609_012606_413Starting from familiar insects like mosquitoes and ants…
Rodents such as mice, bandicoots and rats…
Following them in the food chain…
Reptiles like lizards, geckos, venomous and non venomous snakes…
And Arachnids like spiders and scorpions…
All of these share their wild habitat with humans. But avoiding human wildlife conflict is important for the safety of our human families and for our wild family as well.

One certain way to do that is to establish clear boundaries for indoor and outdoor spaces.
A common misconception about natural building is that unlike cement buildings it is impossible to make natural buildings critter free.
It has been observed again and again that merely using cement does not keep the critters out.
But with the help of simple, local repellent techniques and careful attention to each and every detail of the skin of the building, it is definitely possible (and very much important) to design critter free spaces with local, natural materials.
#buildingwithnature #biodiversity #buildingwithlove #beforethemonsoon #coastalarchitecture #cob #construction #naturalconstruction #development #earthenbuilding #eartharchitecture #ecologicallyresponsible #earthenarchitecture #handmade #inclusivebuilding #lifestyle #lifeinforest #mudbuilding #naturallight #redlaterite #sustainable #travelingarchitect #throwback #vernacular #withnature #wilderness #coexist #wildlife

Locally unlocked…

Homestay cottage under construction in Amboli, Sindhudurg, Maharashtra

Working in a high rainfall region means getting a roof on your head before the pre-monsoon thunderstorms start riling up the skies….
With the lockdown and restrictions on the materials transport, a perfectly timed construction schedule got delayed. But the beauty of working with local materials and skills is that your neighborhood carpenter can just step out of his house and finish up the roof with whatever materials you can lay your hands on!
#amboli #artisan #adobe #architecture #buildingwithnature #bamboo #beforethemonsoon #bamboomat #carpentry #coastalarchitecture #construction #earthenbuilding #earthenplaster #ecologicallyresponsible #earthenarchitecture #earthbuildings #eartharchitecture #homestay #inclusivebuilding #india #jambha #konkan #lifeinforest #laterite #mamachyagavala #monsoon #mudbuilding #mud #westernghats

Rational Aesthetic….


Beauty of a space comes not just from the form, textures and finishes of materials that we use, but also from the “limitations” of those…
Understanding a materials, embracing it’s vulnerability… It’s weaknesses gives us a better idea of revealing it’s beauty.
Most often we have a certain aesthetic idea on our mind… An idea often planted by the commercial visuals constantly bombarded on us.
And then we seek the materials to realize that idea…. Without thinking about its direct or indirect impacts.

It is time, we learn to reflect on what we find beautiful and why we find it beautiful…. Is it our idea of beauty? Or did someone else train us to think this is beautiful?
Our definition of beauty is being guided by airbrushed images of unrealistic women…. And our definition of a beautiful space, by glossy magazines… Aesthetics is not irrational…. It comes from something deep within us… What is your idea of beautiful?

PIC: Abhijeet Gandhi

#adobe #architecturephotography #architecture #art #aesthetic #beauty #earthenbuilding #earthenplaster #naturalbuilding #earthenarchitecture #beautiful #sustainable #withnature #

First coat of mud plaster…

When it comes to working with natural materials, there are no standard proportions to follow universally. But there is a logical sequence to follow. Every type of soil will require different approach. But one has to learn to observe the behavior of the soil, find it’s quirks and make it beautiful….

And that my friends is “design”!



#amboli #artisan #adobe #architecture #architecturephotography #buildingwithnature #backtotheroots #mamachyagavala #homestay #konkan #coastalarchitecture #sindhudurg #earthenbuilding #earthenplaster #mudplaster #mudbuilding #earthenarchitecture #naturalbuilding #naturallight #underconstruction #onsite #travelingarchitect

To love, with no reservations….

img_20200306_065457_256Most of us earthen builders have to answer a lot of technical questions about our strange choice of building material…. Yes, at times even at dinner tables! There is always a doubt… no, a mythical belief that mud is simply going to dissolve in the next drizzle.
If you are curious, get to know earth as a building material…. And the only way to do that is to jump right in… Get muddy… ‘touch’ it with no reservations!
Every time my friends get muddy, once again I feel the exhilaration of the first mud war! Bright smiles and laughter!!
The wonder and play of it never dies, no matter how young or old we may be!

Trust me, playing in mud, even as a grown up, restructures our mind in a new way… It teaches us what you and I cannot share verbally. It teaches us to trust… To understand the quirks and embrace them… To turn weakness into an intelligent, resilient design… To not shy away from the natural rawness and beauty….Find harmony and balance… to love, with no reservations….

People in the picture: Team of Gabha architects based in Pune
#earthenbuilding #naturalbuilding #adobe #earthenplaster #mudbuilding #mudplaster #architect #colearning #handsonlearning #mudwar #playtime #love #wonder #design #buildingwithnature #onsite #underconstruction #architecture

Standards and Ratings….

FAQ: are there any standards that we follow for earthen buildings… And what about the environmental impact rating such as LEED or GRIHA?

First, we need to understand where the need for standardization comes from.
It started with the introduction of industrial materials in building trade. Materials like cement and steel are made with the controlled parameters of factories and used in a diversity of conditions. To make sure they are easy for an educated architect/ engineer to design with, came standards. If one uses cement of certain type in a specific kind of concrete mixture, they are ensured to get a certain strength. Works perfectly!

With a natural material harvested from the surroundings, (not MADE by humans) there are too many factors influencing the structural behaviour. And we have control over almost none… So you can attempt to roughly standardise a natural material such as soil.. But applying those standards on site will be a big hassle, not to mention, it will still be ‘rough’, not precise.

To avoid that, in some countries, people came up with companies that sell soil, standardized and refined by machines, packed in plastic bags. An earthen building constructed only with the purchased soil form an authorised company has the permits to be erected.

Still don’t see any problem?!!
It is an earthen building, sure, but is no more natural… And definitely no good for the environment or people either.
And guess what, it still is the big corporation making money out of it…
The psychology of fear, used on masses works perfectly to make people believe that if you buy soil from ‘ABC soil manufacturers’ to build your dream home, you will be doing a favor to the environment and getting a ‘standardized and safe’ house for a bargain price!
Standards is mankind’s way of seeking safety in things we have made too complicated for a common man (yes with all his social privileges) to understand and make an informed decision on. So he asks, have you followed the standards?! Yes?! Then I’m safe!

Same goes for the environmental ratings. These rating systems are made and enforced to ensure that the massive footprint of industrial building trade is – at the least- taken responsibility of. More the recovery of the environmental impact, higher is the rating awarded.

These systems do not take into the consideration, buildings that cause minimal ecological impact, not just while being built but through their life and upkeep.

It becomes irrelevant to grade a handmade earthen building on the basis of an environmental rating system designed for industrially made steel or cement buildings.

Again, our judgment of whether the building is synchronous with nature or is an environmental disaster cannot depend solely on the rating systems.

We could not have killed our instincts any better than with these slow and thorough methods and systems of dependence.

But, we fail to realize is that the scene is not all that bleak. Our instincts are very much functioning and not destroyed but often merely suppressed!

It takes little time for people to reconnect with the earth…. to learn how the material “feels” in our hands. We can learn to allow the smell, touch and colour of the soil tell us about its behaviour, structural and otherwise.

Building with soil is indeed a lot like cooking. Everyone has a specific way of making daal, just the way they remember their grandmother making….

Each kitchen, each hand making daal, has its own flavour to it. Can you standardize the recipe for daal and expect everyone to comply with the “safe daal standards”?!

Sounds ridiculous, does it not? Once upon a time every village, every master mason had their own recipe of earthen building. They made structural decisions by the “feel” of the material… And built homes that were lived in for generations….

They trained young builders, to not just build, but understand the materials and refined their structural and aesthetic judgment…

We lost this independence of building in our strive for standardization. We created a building profession that essentially functions around “not taking responsibility of our decisions”. We, as builders are not to have an independent judgment of any kind. We hold an unknown entity – governments, councils, standard codes and such- responsible for giving us a judgment, a decision.

Most of the urban communities cannot do without these legal protection systems. There is too much money and resource at stake.img_20180527_1214161333461351393840433.jpg

But there is no reason for the rural communities to fall into the trap of a building trade owned by the big corporations and rating systems that are quite literally controlled by them. It is possible to have and protect our independence of building…. By relearning to hold an informed, experienced, and wise judgment.

Just as, those who learn to cook with their grandmothers, do not need to depend solely on cookbooks…. Those who learn to build with village elders, do not need to depend on the standards either…

What we, the earthen builders stand for is not just a material…. We stand for our freedom to build…. We stand for our diversity and individuality….

We stand for those who have continued to build with their judgement… We stand for those who have been called “unskilled” and “vernacular”.

We stand by those who were not respected and have lost faith in their incredible hand-skills…

We stand for ‘ Redefining the vernacular‘ once again….


Doors And Windows….


Bare naked hollows of doors and windows come to life soon as ‘shutters’ come into the picture….
Designing shutters for this project has been a great delight for me and my team of carpenters….
The geometry of door-window shutters gives building a character. It is a rhythm flowing through all the spaces, binding them together…
They frame the views outside… Lead our vision to see the world outside, as if they are pretty pictures strung together!

It leaves just enough for our imagination…

Just like ‘reading’ a story encourages us to create personalized visuals in our minds, as against ‘watching’ the same story, which leaves nothing to imagine, numbing our minds slowly while we are at it.

Most modern homes, with their ready to install, sleek glass windows and flush doors, are like sensory overload… it has made us forget the joy of handcrafted, personalized openings…

And I’m afraid I cannot give you a monetary valuation for that…


It could be just a transition space, a necessary provision to be crammed in a corner and forgotten about….
Or, a staircase can be the life of a house, looking at everything from its own curious (and literally lofty!) perspective, throwing light and breeze all around…
It could invite us to sit around with our coffee mugs and chat with our loved ones…. It’s a place to find a book, forget where you were headed and get lost in the pages…
A place to step up to something wonderful or fly down restfully if you wish!

Here, old (फडताळ) cabinet door planks are reused as treads, raised very gradually on Adobe walls. These steps, wide and low are truly a child’s play to climb up and down. Throughout the day, there is bright, cheery daylight streaming down from a clear storey in the roof…. Treated bamboo poles are embedded in the Adobe supports, as handrails…
Didn’t take any extraordinary materials or technology to build it… 🙂

PC Abhijit Gandhi