A Chat with Architect Vinu Daniel of Wallmakers

Young Turks Dated:  April 20, 2016
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Architect Vinu Daniel

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the very affable, Vinu Daniel, the award winning architect and founder of the Kerela based design practice, the Wallmakers. This year has already started on a great note for him, with the prestigious IIA award as well as the NDTV DA Award being conferred for St. George Orthodox Church designed by Vinu and his team at Mattancherry.

Whats with the Wallmakers name, you ask? Well, when he started his journey, Vinu did several creative walls for a powerhouse which led to his brother calling him and the team Wallmakers. Sure the team has moved on to do more varied, diverse and bigger projects but the name stuck.

St. George orthodox koonan kurishu churchSt. George orthodox koonan kurishu church, Mattanchery

Vinu loves experimenting with scrap and mud and practically anything that is sustainable. When he first started using mud for his projects in Kerala, a tropical state with heavy rainfall, people were sceptic. However, his experiments continued more from necessity since he wanted to construct houses for the poor.

And when he met the popular playback singer and Padmabhushan awardee K J Yesudas, who wanted to construct eco-friendly home for a poor family along the banks of Periyar, for Rs. 2,00,000 that he had won as award money, Vinu promptly agreed to do the project. But as circumstances would have it, the money ran out within months of starting construction.

Vinu though was reluctant to ask for more money but as they say necessity is the mother of invention. For the arch in the drawing room where he wanted to use glass, he asked his workers to go and collect empty beer bottles, available aplenty at local bars for peanuts. They used 700 bottles which cost them Rs. 700, to cover up the gap and that is how his journey into using scrap in construction started.

He has the distinction of designing a pavilion at the Aspinwall House, the primary venue of the 2nd edition of the prestigious Kochi Muziris Biennale.

St. George Orthodox ChurchSt. George Orthodox Syrian Koonan Kurishu Church

About this project Vinu reminisces, “During that time I realised that how something created out of necessity can become the highlight of the project. We had used a mix of chicken meshes, concrete and jute sacks to create the walls and sloping roof of the umbrella shaped pavilion. And from then onwards my clients were asking me for the middle-range products. One has to keep material and expenses low. If you are reusing scrap, it is fantastic there is nothing more sustainable than reusing that. There are more ways to give back to the mother earth.”

To my question on what's his vision for Wallmakers, Vinu says “I would like to focus and build upon what we are doing currently. Right now we are focusing on using waste material. Wallmakers has never been about an individual effort it’s about all the people involved. I am very proud of each and every individual of my team that works dedicatedly towards our projects and our mission."

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