Two decades ago Ar. Anil Laul started a private
entrepreneur Building Centre at Anangpur village in Haryana in 1991. The
Anangpur Building was started to cater to the needs of the common man as well
as promote the use of cost-effective technology in the higher income sector.
This was based on the realization that the pace of development is set by the
rich and that the aspirations of the poor match the standards laid down by the
Having designed and built several demonstration projects in
the slum areas of Delhi under the Nizamuddin Building Center this outfit is all
set to take Appropriate and cost effective Technologies into the high profiled
and high income sector, because this is where the acid test will lie. With
several completed projects and few more in the pipeline there is optimism that
these technologies may find increasing application which will help deliver
humane architecture, at an affordable price. Application of these technologies
in the High Income group will help classify these in designer category of
homes. Hopefully a re-rationalisation of building practices will take place. At
this center there is on going development in planning methodologies that
provide for sustainable development. Cluster planning as advocated, has today found
acceptance in the Urbanisation Commission recommendations, and their successful
implementation can be seen in several slum clearance projects as also in the
high income groups.
Structural systems such as Geodesics, Octageodules, Space frames and A Frames that were the prerogative of the advanced countries are being designed and fabricated at this center. The geodesic domes which were originally invented by Buckminister Fuller had extremely complex jointing systems. The simplification of the jointing system to accommodate the varying angles, has made it possible to build these at a minimal cost using a variety of cladding options. Fact has it that this center has built more domes than the man who invented the system. A wide variety of cladding options for these structures are used for their demonstration value and correctness of application so that any one opting to use these has a fairly accurate idea of the end product. An interesting variation of Geodesics for Grain Storage Silos that are more cost effective than the conventional Silos can be seen here. It is all very well to advocate minimal use of timber but then one must provide for a solution too. This is where the center has filled the gap by designing and fabricating designer steel furniture. There is no quarrel with others copying these designs as the range being continuously designed is enough to see them through the next few years with new inputs on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
At the Anangpur Building Centre, we believe that the issue of Human Settlements can not be looked at in isolation, from either an architectural or planning point of view. We seek our solutions bearing in mind that the built form is the single largest factor that influences the occupant's psyche. We also believe that the largest contributors to Environmental Degradation are the materials used for building construction. We are further convinced that use of land as a tradable commodity is the root cause of all problems and the existing planning strategies only aggravate the situation. Traditionally, land was not a resource and therefore could not be used for speculative purposes. Today's planning policies instead of curtailing this tendency, force use of land as a tradable commodity.
How can raw land be of a greater value than what is built upon it?
How can man change the inherent behavioral character of natural materials and expect them to perform in the manner he chooses, without resulting in environmental abuse?
We attempt to use materials for their inherent qualities, rather than those one would like to bestow upon them. Most materials behave best in compression and must be used so. By using them in tension we end up with more problems than we can resolve. Similarly, some materials, like sedimentary stone, are best used in tension and compression owing to their laminated formation. This is precisely how large span structures of yesteryear were built without R.C.C.
We are constantly standardising the use of materials instead of rationalising them. For instance brick, the universal building element should not be standardised since its size must be in response to the nature of the locally available clay. Clay of separate regions is different and therefore the brick size must perforce be different. Brick must be examined from the point of view of non-erodability rather than strength. The strength of any walling material must, in turn, be based on the soil bearing capacity of the local region. Similar analyses have led us to work in the direction of Surface Engineering for our walling elements.
Once the aforementioned issues are addressed in all our decisions, other results follow. Good Governance or Bad Governance, be it Political or Bureaucratic is a direct result of the issues that are addressed while designing Human Settlements. We, at the Anangpur Building Centre, do not critique any system, be it the materials used or the issues addressed, unless we can provide a workable alternative. Even though this doctrine may sound ideal and complex, the solutions are surprisingly simple. It is in fact the simplest solutions that are often the best. There is a constant endeavor to rationalise the past practices, evaluate them and dovetail the merits with the solutions we attempt to provide. We consider it taboo to thoughtlessly adhere to any practice because it is the accepted norm.
Our approach to all problems is based on fundamental beliefs which are:
"The integration of the Architect, the Engineer, the Artist and the Artisan".
Every action is BEST performed at the lowest level that it can be BEST performed.
We have tried and tested our beliefs, proven the merits of our convictions and now feel that this thought process must gain momentum. We have faced a considerable amount of resistance from the system at large but still continue to work in the direction we have chosen for ourselves. Resistance has been encountered not only from within the political and bureaucratic circles but also from within the professional circle of architects and planners including the faculty of technical schools. We attribute this resistance to the fact, that the faculty has been working within the system and contradicting it is a difficult task.
The Habitat Technology Network (a video documentation unit) was set up as a forum for documenting and perpetuating the endeavors of Anangpur Building Centre and other like minded individuals. The films have made an indelible mark in the system as a result of which we have had several students come to us for information to include in their thesis and dissertations. Unfortunately most of them have an extremely rough ride since their faculty is not familiar with these rationalised systems of working. This, however, has not deterred the students and some of them have gone beyond what they learnt here and adapted these systems to suit the specific needs of their immediate context.
Our endeavor for the future is to set up an Institution within the next year or two that would take in students from various Schools of Architecture, for a short period of one year. During this period, we would involve the students in documentation and application of these principles in live projects. To start with we plan to take in only five students which would increase to about twenty students after two years. Students would be selected after intense interaction "with the schools of Architecture" and would be informed that no additional degree or recognition from any Governmental Agency would accompany this course. We would neither be applying for recognition nor for grants or assistance of any kind. Self-sufficiency is the base of all our work. We hope that the students, on returning to their institutes would be in a position to make their faculty and colleagues look beyond the book and rationalise all systems as a cohesive whole. It is our view that this would be the surest way to reach out and propagate thought process.