A chat with conservation architect Dr. Benny Kuriakose
A name synonymous with architectural conservation and cost-effective architecture, Dr. Benny Kuriakose’s adherence to the universal principles of architecture is noticeable in his work, be it individual houses, resorts or institutional projects
How did you get into architecture?
It was an accidental meeting with Laurie Baker that brought me into architecture. Once I started as an apprentice with him, I was learning about different aspects of architectural design. I would say that I learned the basic lessons of architecture from him. When I designed buildings during the initial phase of my career, I would show the designs to him, and he would suggest some changes. During the first few years of my practice, I strictly used to follow the Baker style, but, later on I decided to break away from
it. I started thinking about innovating on my own, and today, the world is witness to my varied works.
What kind of projects are your forte?
I am known more for projects like Dakshinachitra or Muziris Heritage Project, which are once in a lifetime projects. About 50 per cent of the projects that I do are conservation based ones, although I also specialise in residences, resorts and institutions. I think my forte is in doing projects, which are out of the box. All the projects that I undertake look very different. There was a time when as an architect, I never used to do interiors, apartments, commercial complexes, etc. However, now I do mainstream projects that ultimately have the power to change the face of the city.
Your favourite project?
All the projects that I have done till date are very close to my heart. There have been projects where I have taken a lot of time to finish them, and even today, I am emotionally attached to them. Institute of Palliative Medicine, Muziris Heritage Project are my favourites.
The success of any project is a combination of the client, the architect, the contractor and the craftsmen.”
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
The client’s brief is important for me. I want each project to be different, and I want each one of them to be my best project. I do a lot of research before starting a new project. Some of my architect friends ask me how I am getting these different types of projects. My answer is simple - it is you as an architect, and your ideas, which make the project different. The success of any project is a combination of the client, the architect, the contractor and the craftsmen.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I designed the Institute of Palliative Medicine in Calicut. There are in-patients, so it is designed like a hospital. Although the building was opened for public, there was still some work to be completed. During one of my routine visits, I asked one of the resident patient - Do you like the hospital? The cancer patient’s answer was that half his illness vanished when he reached the place. If your design is good, then the users will think about you. Tarangamabdi housing scheme for the fishermen and Muziris Heritage Project, are two projects that I am proud of.
What is your ultimate goal, and what do you want to be remembered for?
Design is very powerful. I want to be remembered for what I do. If my design is relevant in the future, then people will remember me.
Dr. Benny Kuriakose