On Taking Time

Anupama Kundoo in conversation with Jane Withers

April, 2021

Taking Time
, the title of the solo exhibition by Anupama Kundoo at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art until 16 May 2021, has turned out to be uncannily prescient. In the last year our sense of time has changed fundamentally and many of us are questioning how we ‘use’ this finite resource. The subject has pre-occupied Anupama from the outset of her career and led her to question aspects of architecture and construction and propose alternative systems that put ‘taking time’ rather than ‘saving time' at the centre of discourse. Unable to visit the exhibition physically during the pandemic, I talked to Anupama about how this preoccupation took shape and how it translates into her buildings.

Photograph by Andreas Deffner

Anupama designed Hut Petite Ferme as a home for herself soon after graduating as an architect. Inspired by the simplicity of rural shelters, trunks of casuarina trees are tied together with coconut rope.

Photograph by Andreas Deffner

Anupama lived at Hut Petite Ferme for 10 years. The experience was a formative influence on her holistic approach to architecture and people, materials and lifecycles, and interest in seeking refinement with minimal means.

Health, happiness and wellbeing

JW: How is this approach that you call ‘Taking Time' reflected in your buildings?

AK: I do believe the purpose of architecture is health, happiness and wellbeing for humans, individually and collectively. Architecture is required by humans because our biology needs it. But sometimes we wind up doing things because we are creatures of habit, even if it doesn't serve us well. We are on autopilot making matchbox houses. And it is this commodified version of architecture that keeps getting perpetuated. So, my first step was to radically question my personal use of time to think before I act. That was the point when I liberated my personal time by taking big risks and seeing what it is like when you reduce things.

One of the issues is that mainstream industrialisation had started influencing the way we think. When we think of paper, we think of an A4. We all have the same WC. And it's the same with homes but the standard home doesn't work for many people. Why don't we say ‘Okay here are the things that we want to offer as a standard product, and here are the areas that you can do on your own, so we can express individuality.’ You go to old cities like Venice, and the whole city has one kind of signature, but within it everything seems a little different. Everybody says that material rethinking is going to be expensive, but in reality it is only more expensive from the point of view of laziness and habits. Somehow, I think Covid has caused us to connect because we all have similar questions and that gives a lot of hope. Now we know that we can behave differently. We can be flexible. We can adapt.

Image courtesy of Anupama Kundoo

Line of Goodwill is a design for high density compact housing for Auroville, the experimental town in Tamil Nadu where Anupama established her career.

Image courtesy of Anupama Kundoo

Envisaged as co-housing clusters with cascading terraces, the project is being developed using co-creation methods to move away from standardised housing formulas.

Photograph by Anshika Varma

Anupama designed the showroom for Samskara, sculpting granite to create a dynamic display system and articulate craftsmanship. The variation of surface and shadow play created by the shelves is very deliberately designed for its tactile quality.

Photograph by Vimal Bhojraj

Samskara was constructed using white granite slabs, crafted by members of a highly skilled Tamil Nadu stonecutter community. The traditional hand-levelling techniques reveal texture that enhances the natural material in a way not possible with mechanical methods.