Anupama Kundoo Wins 2021 RIBA Charles Jencks Award

Anupama Kundoo Wins 2021 RIBA Charles Jencks Award

Esteemed Indian architect and researcher Anupama Kundoo received the prestigious RIBA Charles Jencks Award 2021. This annual award is given to an architect or a practice who has  simultaneously made a major contribution to both the theory and practice of architecture. She is the second Indian architect to be awarded the prize after Charles Correa received it in 2009. The award was presented by Royal Institute of British Architects and The Jencks Foundation, which was instituted on the legacy of architecture historian Charles Jencks' work. SURFACES REPORTER (SR) and WADE Asia congratulate Anupama Kundoo for this achievement. This award aptly reflects her outstanding and influential architectural and academic work. The eminent architect has also been WADE ASIA role model and mentor.


Also Read: "WALL HOUSE" An experiment in low-impact building technologies!

Kundoo Architecture and Design

Wall House was constructed near Auroville with local craftsmen | Photo Credit- Javier Callejas

The RIBA Charles Jencks Award 2021 jury comprising RIBA president Simon Allford, architect and critic Edwin Heathcote, architect and Royal College of Art dean Adrian Lahoud, Jencks Foundation founder Lily Jencks, and 2013 winner Benedetta Tagliabue conferred the prize to Kundoo. The past winners of the award were Eric Owen Moss (2011), Herzog & de Meuron (2015), Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril of Ensamble Studio (2019), to name a few. 

She was selected from a shortlist of nominated architects: Emilio Ambasz, Nigel Coates, MASS Design Group, Peter Salter,  Alexander Brodsky, Beatriz Colomina, Francis Kéré, Marina Tabassum and Eyal Weizman.

Kundoo’s architecture is elegant, ecological and always intriguing

While bestowing the prize to the acclaimed architect, Edwin Heathcote said, “Anupama is a rare example of an architect who has managed to achieve a huge amount in a difficult arena, housing for the poor in India and, specially, in the settlement of Auroville in Tamil Nadu but has also established a significant body of work in research into material and craft and how locally-made products can be reimagined to become elements of architecture. At its best her architecture is elegant, ecological and always intriguing. She has built bridges between academia in Europe and South Asia.”

The award will be presented to her on 2 November, when she will also give a lecture at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on her experimental and holistic architecture practice. Post this, there will be a dialogue exchange with a critic in collaboration with the New Architecture Writers, which is a free programme for emerging black and minority ethnic design writers.

Mud bricks used in the builiding - Kundoo Architecture and Design

Mud bricks used in the builiding l Photo Credit- Javier Callejas

Having trained in Mumbai, Kundoo’s focus on sustainable and low-impact building technologies  has positioned her as a socially responsible architect. She worked in the experimental town of Auroville, in Puducherry from 1990–2005 that focussed on developing a long-term research project into sustainable and building technologies that encompasses an experimental approach to material reuse and sustainable building methods. She has also taken this research into varied design units and workshops in universities around the world.

She is currently a Professor at the FH Potsdam and has been a senior lecturer and workshop leader at various universities over the years, such as The New School of Design in New York and the University of Queensland in Australia. She has been the Davenport Visiting Professor at Yale University.

Also Read: WADe Masterclass with Mentors

Volontariat home for homeless children (2008)Volontariat home for homeless children (2008) |Photo Credit- Deepshikha Jain

Kundoo expressed her gratitude and hoped that her work can inspire others: "Our built environment is the physical stage on which all human stories are lived out. This physical stage is the historical and ongoing manifestation of human imagination operating within real (or, imaginary!) constraints. I have tried to advance the idea that architectural imagination must transcend design and enter the realms of materials science and economics where some of the bigger questions reside."

She continues: ‘The thrust of my inquiries has been to find practical ways to fulfill the universal human aspiration for refuge, purpose, and social engagement… My hope is that this work inspires others to ask yet more questions so that together we can build an environmentally and economically responsible stage on which more uplifting human stories can be told.’

Sharana Daycare Facility is located in Pondicherry, India

Sharana Daycare Facility is located in Pondicherry, India | Photo Credit- Javier Callejas

Lily Jencks, jury member and Jencks Foundation founder accoloaded her, “Anupama has refined a strong political and conceptual theory for her practice. This theory is defined by ad-hoc material experimentation and on-site local construction collaboration. Her work points to urgent methodologies for sustainable practices everywhere. Celebrating Anupama’s work points to our effort to diversify the practitioners being celebrated, continuing Charles Jencks work on amplifying a plurality of voices and meanings in architecture.”

The Library Of Lost Books | Courtesy-Javier-Callejas

The Library Of Lost Books by Anupama Kundoo| Photo Credit- Javier Callejas

“The kinds of things that confer value on architecture, be they publications or prizes, are still heavily dominated by European and English-speaking worlds. We must expand on that narrow frame not only to be inclusive but because Arabic, Urdu, Igbo concepts are important to our future. Anupama’s work is exemplary, for the depth of her engagement with the communities she works with and the richness of spatial and material concepts that flow from this engagement, and the alternative futures this work points to,” added Jury member Adrian Lahoud adds: 

By balancing theory and practice, Kundoo has designed a large number of projects, covering varied scales and areas, from residential and public buildings to installations and urban planning. A few of her notable projects include Wall House, Volontariat Home for Homeless Children, The Library Of Lost Books, Sharana Daycare Center. 

The architect also contributed to the Venice Biennale in 2012 and its "Common Ground" theme with a 1:1 scale imitation of the Wall House. Her design process and work was recently on display in an exhibition at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark.

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