Feel the Ground
Underpinning my work is the philosophical belief in the synthetic
nature of architecture. Architecture is a total experience whereby
the variables of context, spatiality, construction, material capacity,
and humanity are inextricably linked. ” AK
What we have ‘in common’ is much more than our ‘differences’ despite the
apparent discordances in the way diverse societies express themselves through
their built environments. There are indeed common aspirations, and a rich
culture of shared material and spatial traditions across the world and also
through time. Each innovation in one place has helped technologies to evolve
worldwide, and we continue to further ancient building traditions that continue
to survive in the collective memory.
Wall House One to One transplants a contemporary architectural
project from rural India to within the walls of the historic Corderie building
of the Arsenale in Venice. Through this act, the project seeks to demonstrate—
in the most direct way—that we have more in common than we may imagine.
It dwells on the similarities between two apparently divergent architectural
The ancient brick pillars of the Corderie set in lime mortar are interwoven
with traditional south Indian brickwork also set in lime mortar. However,
the traditional hand-made Indian achikal brick continues to be produced
while Italian brick making has become industrialized. The plan of the Wall
House is interwoven into the plan of the Corderie, merging the new and the
old, the temporary and the permanent. The exhibit and the space of exhibition
flow into one another without confrontation, each attempting to flatter the
other in the dialogue that occurs between them. Integration instead of confrontation
is the essential approach. Spatially there is much in common: the
long plan, the linear arrangements and circulation, the double height central
space with mezzanines on either side. Structurally too one notices the catenary
curves, arches and vaults, metal tie rods instead of buttresses, jack arch slabs,
fired clay roof tiles … Architecture’s richness is enhanced by the shared understanding
across continents and time, about materials and of making buildings.
Architecture as a total experience
The rebuilding of the Wall House in 1:1 scale enables these ideas to
be experienced first-hand. The installation of a full-scale model challenges the
exhibition of architecture as artifact; a practice that can overemphasize the
visual component of architecture while foregoing the significance of all other
sensory perceptions and variables. The idea of Wall House One to One is to
exhibit architecture as a total experience.
The dialogue that occurs in the original Wall House between the
materiality of the architecture and the non-materiality of the voids for human
use, is augmented with overlays of the new site; the Corderie. The complement
of scale and spatial composition between the Wall House and its new context
Wall House One to One 1: 20 explorative model
displayed in the foyer of the School of Architecture,
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
is imagined to create a harmonious balance and sense of quietude within the
exhibition space. Instead of imposing an autonomous object within the Corderie,
it is intended that the insertion will melt into its context and reveal to the senses
the genius loci of the space.
Brick, the unit of common ground in architecture
Materially speaking, brick could be considered the unit of common
ground in architecture. Brick is the first manufactured material and continues
to be developed to sophistication. Made of the earth itself brick has survived
all transitions in building technologies. It is the bridge between the past and
the future, between the developing countries and the developed countries,
between the high-tech and low-tech manufacturing processes. Yet the brick is
not to be taken for granted. There is much to be discovered and learnt from it.
The building showcases a range of technologies using fired clay, in walls and
In bewildering array. Textured and tactile.
Inviting touch, intimacy. Red orange.
The colour of Auroville earth, complement of
the forest. As a potter and maker of brick and
tile, this is a material to which I readily respond.
In Anupama’s new house, still under construction
we see the village pots as filler in a concrete
slab. Again, guna tiles for vaulted roofs and jack
arches in extruded hollow clay segments. Bricks,
not the standard European size, but achakul,
18 × 10 × 2.5 cm used in vaults, sprung low, and
in walls where Anupama plays with scale, at
once emphasising and subordinating the brick
size in a massive façade rendered delicate by the
rhythm of broad, deeply raked joints, off-white,
the colour of the lime mortar. Making a bold and
quite literal statement by coming to a point in
an acute angle at the north-east corner, the ‘wall’
is introduced as the pivotal conceptual element
of the structure.
From Ray Meeker: The Interior of Being, Inside
Outside, January 2000
Cross section Wall House One to One
in the Corderie
My approach to architecture is derived from a basic respect and
appreciation of the hand and its capacity to generate, make and experience
buildings. My aim in exhibiting a representation of my own
house at one to one is to celebrate the many hands that shape and
drive my practice and to reveal their imprint on my architecture.
Hands signify the sensual, the tactile, the human, the individual
and the personal engagement involved in the crafting space. Hands
are not just for making but also for thinking and solving like when
we draw and make models.
Celebrating the Hands
The rich culture of the ‘handmade’ in buildings is endangered in contemporary
architecture. Absorbing crafts into buildings as structural and textural
solutions rather than as ‘objects’ added as finishes and superficial decoration
re-establishes the fine culture that we had until recently. Handcrafted elements
are an integral part of the architectural expression, crafts are incorporated in a
tectonic sense neither decorative, nor incidental to the main. They shape the
form and the structural system and the spatial experience significantly. When
something goes through the hand, it’s not just the skill that is represented, but
also the care and involvement, the wisdom contained in it.
Wooden model 1:20 Wall House One to One
in the Corderie
Bricks produced within the ‘Baked-in situ earth
construction’ project, Homes for Homeless Children,
Volontariat in collaboration with Ray Meeker.
5% of coal dust was infused into the brick clay
so that they self burn till the fuel is spent.
The original Wall House in Auroville, Tamil Nadu
The building is situated outside the planned city limits in the Auromodele area
which is designated for research and experimentation a testing ground for
The Wall House was planned as the architect’s own place of residence,
compactly accommodating everyday needs while effortlessly expanding to absorb
visitors. Ultimately, the house can be seen as an attempt not only to redefine
the building program for a private-residence in rural India, but also to test
various spatial and technological innovations to inform other projects.
Spatially, the innovation lies in the redefinition of borders and transitional
spaces in which a keen responsiveness to the conditions of local climate
and culture are demonstrated. Technologically, one of the fundamental concepts
behind the project involves the use of traditional and local materials in
new and inventive ways given the global resource crunch as well as rapid urbanisation.
The technological innovations are based on redefining the use of
age-old benign materials and thus result in a visual landscape that is modern
with confronting or rejecting tradition and culture.
Landscape design is an integral and inseparable part of the overall
architecture. Existing trees are incorporated in the design as extensions to
the spatial compositions created, enabling a smooth transition between the
building and its surrounding natural setting.
Anupama Kundoo, Michael Dickson
Associate architect India
Associate architect Venice
Head Craftsman:, Sekar Sokkalingam
Gautam Chatterjee, Frederick Schulze-Buxloh,
Marina Kiriakova, Yashoda Joshi
Katie Hawgood, Jessica Spresser, Yohei Omura,
Brianna Towers, Sari Bianca Basini, Alexandra
Sekar Sokkalingam, Ponnuvel Samikkannu,
Manimaran Govindasamy , Janakiraman
Krishnamurthy, Kumar Saminathan, Gopi
Relevance of the original Wall House
The Wall House was the culmination of ongoing extensive research and experimentation.
This involved the search for a balance between high-tech and lowtech
which incorporated everyday materials through techniques that include
the contribution of those with lower level skills and education. Such hybrid
forms of construction focus on new ways of using age-old local materials.
They combine hand skills and local craft traditions with knowledge-based
scientific systems. Situated in rural India, surrounded by rapid urbanization
and its associated constraints of unskilled labour and lack of resources, the
house serves as a laboratory to arrive at suitable and relevant technology models
for the future development of the city, as well as the local area beyond.
Student assistance in construction
The University of Queensland,
The University of Sydney, and
Università Iuav di Venezia:
Dr Anupama Kundoo Born in Pune, graduated
from the Sir J. J. College of Architecture, University
of Bombay, and began her independent practice
in 1990. Closely associated with Roger Anger in
the planning of Auroville, she was responsible
for the detail development of the Administrative
Zone, its Habitat Areas, and Auroville’s City
Centre. In 2008 she was awarded her doctorate
at the TU Berlin. Anupama Kundoo has had the
experience of living, working, researching and
teaching in a variety of cultural contexts: Mumbai,
Auroville, Barcelona, Berlin, London and New
York. She is currently teaching at the School of
Architecture, University of Queensland, Brisbane,
The University of Queensland
School of Architecture
Room 318 · Zelman Cowen Building,
Brisbane QLD 4072 · Australia
P +61 420 678436
F +61 7 3365 3999
Andreas Deffner lives and works as a photographer
in Berlin and India. His art projects
have made him explore more remote areas
of both the Indian society as well as the subcontinent.
White too White, the exhibition on
Indians suffering from albinism has won him
a Lead Award. His perspectives: Wall House.
Making and Remaking 1996 to 2012.
Harun Farocki lives and works in Berlin. He is
the author of more than 100 productions, for
cinema, television, and in the last 15 years also
for art spaces. He was a visiting professor at
the UC Berkeley and Harvard and tought film
at the Academy of Art in Vienna. In Comparison,
diverse social realities across the world through
the making of brick.
Ray Meeker studied architecture and ceramics
at the University of Southern California. With
his wife Deborah Smith, he founded the Golden
Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry, South India in 1971.
Through his experiments in fired buildings he
has gained recognition from the architectural
community in India. Agnijata, the making of a
baked insitu mud building.
Finding common ground between imported techniques and local
traditions, the project seeks to enhance the capacity of the developing world
to grow sustainably and equitably while nurturing livelihoods and tradition
for the rich culture of the ‘handmade’ in buildings is becoming increasingly
Many hands have been involved in the making of this work. Diverse groups
such as staff and students of the University of Queensland, Australia and
students of Università Iuav di Venezia, Venice, have worked alongside craftsmen
from Tamil Nadu, India, assisted by professionals from different countries
and cultures. The project also sought to reveal the common ground in
architectural practice and building construction through the direct collaboration
of diverse people who may not even share a common language. The combined
efforts of all these participants confront the common ground of building
practice between industrial, handcrafted, unskilled and semi-skilled labour.
The issues raised here are further expanded through showcasing the
independent work of artists whose paths have crossed mine. Their work will
widen the discussion while contextualizing my own research, and approaching
the subject through their different perspectives:
Andreas Deffner, Harun Farocki, and Ray Meeker.
Natarajan Bala Baskar
We are all quite fascinated by your proposal. This could be quite spectacular
and beautiful. We have identified possible locations within the sequence of
the Corderie. The scale of your proposal means that it will be a very significant
part of the exhibition and to some degree we must plan around it. We are
quite confident that you are dealing with the logistic issues and the administration
of the biennale seems happy that your proposal can be realised from
a practical point of view.
The following pages were added after
the exhibition. Photos: La Biennale
di Venezia (1), Andreas Deffner (16),
Anupama Kundoo architects (3)
Right: Title panel in the exhibition,
Italian/English (English see next page)
We very much look forward to realising your project with you.
Excerpt from an email to Anupama Kundoo
from Sir David Chipperfield, Curator of Common Ground,
the 13 th Architectural Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2012,
3 April, 2012
Feel the Ground. Wall House: One to One
Kundoo, architetto indiano che vive in Australia, ha costruito un ambiziosa
copia 1 :1 della Wall House, un edificio che ha progettato ad Auroville, in
India, nel 2000: Il terreno comune è nella sua realizzazione: una squadra
di artigiani indiani, alcuni dei quali non avevano mai lasciato il loro paese
prima, sono stati portati a Venezia per realizzare il progetto, in collaborazione
con i docenti e gli studenti de l’Università del Queensland e con gli
studenti dello IUAV, Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, creando
uno scambio di competenze tra tre differenti continenti. L’opera finale rappresenta
il dialogo tra le diverse culture della costruzione architettonica ed
è anche una vetrina per l’opera di Kundoo, un modernismo lirico che si adatta
bene alle esigenze del suo territorio.
Con iI supporto aggiuntivo di:
University of Queensland, Think Brick, Sharad Hegde,
Viabizzuno progettiamo la luce
It has been a pleasure to walk through the exhibition after the stress and
chaos of the opening days, and to calmly enjoy the installations. You were
a real star of the biennale, not only for your idea but for your spirit and
enthusiasm, you taught us all a lesson, and it was an honour to work with
you. I am happy that your efforts have been well understood by visitors.
I have heard many compliments. I know how much effort went into your
project and I thank you for your commitment and patience.
Sir David Chipperfield in an email
to Anupama Kundoo, 1 September 2012
Feel the Ground. Wall House: One to One
Kundoo, an Indian architect now based in Australia, has built an ambitious,
1:1 facsimile of the Wall House, a building she designed in Auroville, India
in 2000. The common ground is in its making. A team of Indian craftsmen,
some of whom had never before left their home country; were brought to
Venice to construct the project in collaboration with staff and students from
the University of Queensland, and students from IUAV in Venice, creating
a skills exchange across three continents. The final piece embodies the
dialogue between construct on cultures, and also is a showcase for Kundoo’s
architecture, a lyrical modernism at ease with the demands of its climate.
With the additional support of:
University of Queensland, Think Brick, Sharad Hegde,
Viabizzuno progettiamo la luce
The Hindu, Sunday, December 16,2012
Uncommon Courage. Anupama Kundoo at the Biennale
We entered Anupama Kundoo’s generously allotted exhibition space in the
cavernous Corderie of the Arsenale as the corks popped. Champagne. 8 pm,
fourteen hours before Vernissage, the three-day preview of Common Ground.
Deborah and I had just flown in from Chennai. Work was still winding down.
Gathered there in the midst of Wall House 1:1 was an extraordinarily diverse
group. Anupama was hosting—toasting—in her own home, masons from
Tamil Nadu, students and engineers from The University of Queensland in
Australia, photographers from Germany and a variety of Italian professionals
from the official Biennale team, a group that made a fitting image of the
“This is the first time that anyone has attempted a full scale installation in
the history of the Architectural Biennale.” Italian engineer Enzo Margis with 13
years of experience at the Biennale said.
I got a call from Australia in late April. From Anupama. “I have just been
accepted as an exhibiter at the Architecture Biennale in Venice. Need help.”
Back in the mid-90’s I made terracotta tubes and jack-arch elements for the
original Wall House in Auroville and was so taken by the concept that I wrote
about the house in Inside/Outside even before the house was finished.
Anupama: “I am going to rebuild my house—full scale—in the Corderie
of the Arsenale. Can you organize: Achakal, 70,000. Guna tiles, 5,000. Jack-arch
bricks, 500. Filler slab pots, 120 ... etc, etc? Need it by July 1. Exhibition opens
August 27.“ None of this stuff is off-the-shelf. Everything had to be made. I
identified the makers. Sekar, who would lead the team of masons in Venice, took
over collecting, packing and shipping. All was ready to go by end May. I think the
container actually docked in Venice on July 27th, one month before the opening.
Undaunted. Anupama has always been fearless. I mean she manages fear.
No one could take on a project of this scale, in this time frame, without serious
doubt. But she takes aim and lets go. After 18 years as an architect in Auroville
she went to Germany and earned a PhD at the University of Technology Berlin
(TU). She held the Chair for Environmental Technology and Material Sciences at
Parsons, the New School for Design in New York. Today she is Senior Lecturer
at the University of Queensland School of Architecture in Australia, and has
now come on a dizzying flight to the Biennale in Venice, widely considered the
world’s most important architectural exhibition.
Anupama: „By transplanting my Wall House, a contemporary project located
in rural India inside the walls of the Corderie in the Arsenale in Venice, I want
people to ‘feel’ the common ground. The ancient brick pillars of the Corderie, set
in lime mortar, sit side-by-side, shadow and embrace the south Indian brickwork,
also set in lime mortar. Two apparently divergent cultures, structures, materials
disappear into each other. It is non-confrontational play, a dialogue with no need
of an interpreter. It is mutual admiration, almost flirting. Instead of imposing
an autonomous object within the Corderie, I intend to reveal to the senses
the genius loci of the original space.“
Nothing to read. No photos. Nothing to look at really. Only the house. We
are standing quietly inside the art, no longer outsiders.
Anupama builds community. She delegates. She trusts. Her positivity propels.
She built a strong, loyal team of craftsmen in Auroville, and again, with
the students in Australia. In Venice she gave Sekar and his team from Tamil
Nadu the best accommodation. They felt perfectly at home, eating sambar
rice and pizza. They never got lost (I did) in the labyrinthine streets of Venice.
Sekar says, “We just moved from one temple (church) to the next.”
Collaborators. Harun Farocki spooled his brilliant film In Comparison,
layering and contrasting community and technology through the production
of bricks, from handmade in Burkina Faso in West Africa to mass produced
in highly sophisticated German super-machines, tracing the path of building
culture as community based, sometimes even as a social event, to an intellectual
construct centered far from the building site. Andreas Deffner’s documentation
of Wall House, as it evolved from the mid-1990’s to the present,
was ingeniously displayed in a compact set of photos the size of an achakal.
And my own film, Agni Jata (fire born) spooled, documenting my first test in
Auroville of a mud house stabilized in situ by fire.
Auroville. 1996. The Wall House. Fired clay. In bewildering array. Textured and
tactile. Inviting intimacy. Red orange, the color of Auroville soil, complement of
the forest green. We see the village pot as filler in a concrete slab, guna tiles for
vaulted roofs and jack-arches in extruded hollow clay segments. Bricks. Handmade.
Not the standard European size, but achakal, 18 × 10 × 2.5 cm used in vaults,
sprung low, and in walls where Anupama plays with scale, at once emphasizing
and subordinating the brick size in a massive fayade rendered delicate by the
rhythm of broad, deeply raked joints, off-white, the color of the lime mortar. Making
a bold and quite literal statement by coming to a point in an acute angle at
the northeast corner, the wall is introduced as the pivotal conceptual element of
Living between the lines. Wall House is a redefinition of borders and transitional
spaces in response to local climate and culture. The first-floor living corridor;
verging on the vaulted atrium, opens into nothing. This is a cliff house, a
sort of shallow cave dwelling on the edge of a cavern of cool interior air. Through
carefully orchestrated overlays of brickwork, punctuated by openings to the
forest and the sky beyond, outside and inside reverberate—unite—transparent
yet texturally rich, a spirited dialogue of density and depth, like a Zen painting,
where a few strokes of the brush offer space between the lines which I can enter
into—become a part of.
David Chipperfield’s brief encouraged architects to move beyond the
“individual, the privileged, the spectacular and the special.” Wall House is a
heady blend—a complex weave where spatial sophistication and material
elegance converge in an innovative, evolving architectural language that
recognizes “continuity, context and memory.”
10 pm. Anupama Kundoo, exhausted, yet still radiant, is ready for the
Ray Meeker studied architecture and ceramics at the University of
Southern California. With his wife, Deborah Smith, he founded the
Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry, South India, in 1971. Through
his experiments in ‘fired building’ he has gained recognition from
the architectural community in India.
Wall House One to One
Participating project to the 13 th International
Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
29 th August –25 th November 2012
Architecture in full scale.
Celebrating the ‘hand’.
Emphasizing material, technology,
With the support of
The University of Queensland
© 2012 Anupama Kundoo, for the images by
Andreas Deffner (10) ,Kaylene Biggs (2)
Floor plan and cross section: Jessica Spresser
Concept, design and production:
Büro Fleischmann · Prof. Gerd Fleischmann,
Printing: druckhaus koethen GmbH ·
Created and presented to accompany the work
of Anupama Kundoo at the 13th International
Architecture Exhibition with the contribution of
la Biennale di Venezia 2012
Printed in Germany 08/2012