Shirish Beri is the founder of Shirish Beri and Associates, Kolhapur. His works are intensely responsive to the site and socio-cultural behaviour & values, while deeply inspired by the life and his experiences in life.
Ar. Beri is a poet, painter, philosopher, and has interests in extensive travelling. Sharing his most memorable travel experiences with Surfaces Reporter, he said, “The most intense experiences happened during my travels before my marriage, when I would sleep on the beaches, park benches, in temples or mosques and when I would travel by foot, cycle, carts, unreserved trains and buses.”
Among various wonderful projects for his clients, he has also built a home for himself amidst nature, away from the city. Join us in taking a peep into the house, as well as to listen to the pleasures of living in a homemade using minimal embodied energy. leaving the minimal carbon footprint.
Q We love the way you have designed your home, please share some precious moments while designing your Home.
There was some resistance from the family to move out of the spacious ancestral home in an elite area to a new smaller, simpler house in the outskirts of the city. I was keen on moving away from the noise and traffic, into a more eco-friendly, sustainable house. Further, I wished to enhance my ‘humane equity and dignity fund’ for the needy and the underprivileged from the sale of the ancestral house.
Q) Living in this house is a joyous experience for us for multiple reasons…
Because of the satisfaction that comes from the knowledge that no new floor tiles, roof tiles, bricks and hardly any new steel were made for our house; no living tree was cut for making our doors, windows, floor and ceiling; no stones, stone slabs were quarried for this house… that our house was made with minimal embodied energy and minimal carbon footprint...because the multiple uses of spaces also ensure maximum utilization of space with minimum resources...as we can enjoy the daily sunrise and the occasional moonrise from the house...as we can eat our homegrown vegetables and fruits...because we could make friends with the plants in and around this house, with the birds, peacocks, fish, cattle, mongoose and others here...because here we use minimal electricity and water from the public utilities grid and that we do not need air conditioning...as the compact, single volume house allows us to closely and easily connect with each other, our animals and plants...because we can happily use the many open and semi-open transitional spaces like the terraces, balconies, verandah, porch and sit outs which are a boon to an Indian house… and finally because moving into this house has helped in enhancing our fund for the have-nots and the needy in our society.
Q Where is Architecture & Design heading? What kind of changes do you foresee in the future?
Though there are some young architects who are doing pretty good contextual work, the overall design trend seems to encourage glossy wrappings and saleability instead of working on the inner content and life’s sanctity. Architecture generally becomes an expression of that period … its socio-cultural values, politics, economy and so on. So, as long as our society is greedy, consumerist with gross vulgar tastes, our architecture would also be insensitive and commoditized. Unless we improve our attitudes – our inner space, we cannot expect improvement in our architecture – our outer space
Q How do you manage to do things like poetry, photography, painting, sketching, etc., along with work?
When one lives a full, intense, rich and holistic life, the various happenings in life try to find expressions through different mediums. It happens spontaneously. It is difficult for me to separate my work from these multiple expressions. And then, some time management is very much necessary to do all these things simultaneously.
Q) As an alumnus of CEPT and an academician yourself, in which areas do you think Architectural Education in India needs to change or work on?
Architectural education in India has deteriorated considerably because of the so many new colleges of architecture that have sprouted everywhere with insensitive, iill-equipped faculty... of the intake of 80 and 120 students per batch. We had 30 students when I studied and that improved our rapport with the faculty and fellow students. This improved our learning possibilities.
The appropriate environment for learning architecture does not exist. Colleges should have more humanities subjects in order to relate our deigns to life as a whole.
Q) We are seeing a lot of innovations & research happening towards the use of organic materials. Comment.
I hope to see a positive impact. This can happen when these innovations happen from our inner compulsions and concerns rather than with an ulterior commercial motive.
I also hope that recycling becomes more mainstream so that the pressure on our natural resources is reduced.
Q) You are living amidst nature. If you were living in a metro, what would you do?
If I was living in a metro city, what would I do?
I shall try and establish a connection with the sky. Then, I would bring in as much green into my house, balconies, terraces. I shall try and grow my vegetables on green walls. I shall live with minimal possessions and not fall for branded items.
I shall try and use public transport as much as possible. I shall devise natural methods of ventilation and cooling and not use AC. I shall climb up the stairs (upto 7-8 stories) rather than use the lift. I do all this even in a midsized city like Kolhapur.
Q) As an avid traveller, please share a travelogue with us.
Every year since my 3rd year at CEPT, I would come home during my vacations, earn some money by making perspective views and then take off on my solitary wanderings and ponderings. I travelled on shoestring budgets of 10–15 rupees per day to places where I did not know anybody. These pauses have played a very important role in my personal development.
This was the time when the silence would take me on an inward journey to check my direction, criticize myself, understand more about life and architecture. So in every travel, there was something happening that had an impact on my physical and psychological being. The most intense experiences happened during my travels before my marriage, when I would sleep on the beaches, park benches, in temples or mosques and when I would travel by foot, cycle, carts, unreserved trains and buses.
Q) What is Shirish Beri’s earnest desire in life?
If someone asks me, what is it that I want in life or what is my earnest desire or wish that I would like to be fulfilled, I would fumble and not have an answer. I seem to feel happy and contented while living in this present moment. If I have to ask for a wish, it would be the well being and happiness of all.
Q) As a material-centric magazine, we wish to know- your choice of material.
I love working with natural materials and more so with renewable natural materials like wood. If planted in large regions, wood is the most eco friendly material of the future.
Q) An upcoming project that you are working on?
There are quite a few, but an interesting one is an art and culture complex near a lake outside Pune. There would be museums to house the collector’s art works, a transient exhibition space, spaces for art workshops, plays, music and a virtual museum.
Q) Your Opinion about Surfaces Reporter.
I think surfaces is responding well to its USP of being a product-centric, informative magazine. Maybe it could even discuss the intangible, immeasurable qualities/values of different materials rather than only their tangible attributes.
About Shirish Beri
Ar. Shirish Beri has several awards and recognition to his credit with the most recent one being the J.K. Great Master’s Award 2017 for his contribution to contemporary Indian architecture during the past four decades. He is the 13th recipient of this highly coveted and important award that was instituted in 1990.
Only one architect from 11 countries is selected for this award in every two years and is often considered the highest architectural award in India.
It is also conferred on him for his sincere efforts at addressing his life and environmental concerns through his designs. He has always thought of his architecture as a catalyst for a better quality of life and as an agent of social change. His work has most definitely helped in bringing people closer to nature, to other people and to their own selves. Another recent award, Ar. Shirish Beri won is the ARCASIA gold medal 2017 for the best designed single family residence in Asia. SURFACES REPORTER lauds Ar Beri’s decision to put in his own Rs. 12 lakhs to the award amount of Rs. 3 lakhs to create an endowment fund of Rs. 15 lakhs. The interest from this corpus will be given every year to a truly deserving graduate student from CEPT, his alma mater.