The Sixteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2014
Berkeley Prize 2014

Revathi Veriah - Proposal

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Like every other architecture student I aspired to be Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead -the creator who defies convention. Coming from India, a 3rd world country, I too aspired for skyscrapers in my home town Chennai. These glass and steel towers was to me a sign of modernism and development. My dream was to create a masterpiece the world has never seen before.

In my rural studio during my fourth semester my group documented three tribal villages with in the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary. These hamlets were nestled amidst the Western Ghats (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It was a beautiful experience unlike anything I've ever seen before. The architecture of settlement reflected the intrinsic connection of man in nature. The act of building itself was layered with social customs and tradition. Sustainability, what was a theoretical concept to me that can be dined by numbers and simulations, was instead presented to me as a lifestyle. As the Nigerian saying goes “I conceive that land belongs for use to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living and countless members are still unborn”

On my return back to the city, the world became a different place. The buildings I had once admired told me a different story. All of a sudden the protests by the local tribal population over illegal bauxite mines in forests or illegal sand mining in the Palar River basin did not seem unrelated to my profession. Every line in my drawing has a repercussion- materials and people borrowed from elsewhere. I began to notice the children playing on cement heaps in construction sites. The families of laborers driven by poverty from their villages to the city actually help my profession flourish as it reduces project cost.

The Berkley prize essay’s topic on healthful environment presented me with an opportunity to explore possible answers to my questions. Worldwide there is a unanimous agreement that the built environment is becoming increasingly threatening to human or ecological well-being. If the built environment is a reflection of the flawed capitalism driven system we live in, it is obvious that there is a dire need for a systemic reformation. The essay offered me an opportunity to explore alternate lifestyle and practices and the role of architects in being mediators of social change.

Being a final year student, at the verge of becoming a licensed architect I am searching for ways in which I can contribute to society .What is architecture? Who is an architect? What is an architect’s responsibility? I wish to embark on two journeys to understand and explore situations where architects have unconventional roles and aid in social change and system reformation.

Architrek 2014 camp- Located in Sabah, Malaysia, Architrek is a social enterprise whose objective is “to conserve nature through design”. Founded by Ian Hall, a UK registered architect in 2008, it has a holistic approach to building design that brings long term benefits to both people and nature. They practice participatory design methodologies and engage with volunteers, students and communities in several of their projects. They undertake projects that minimize environmental impact, create awareness and provides education at every level. The Arkitrek 2014 camp is a design/build camp in the village of Kg. Meligan, in Western Sabah, a community of people who are invested in protecting their heritage and environment. The design brief has been drawn up through interaction between the village and the Avantha Foundation, Malaysia, who have been supporting the village for a number of years.

‘Tagal’ is a traditional fresh-water fish conservation method used by indigenous communities in Sabah. An ecofriendly method, It divides the river into zones for fishing and zones for conservation and regulates the amount of fish caught. The village of Meligan and neighboring 3 villages, in South West Sabah, introduced this practice in 2010 and now want to combine the maintenance of the river with recreational and enterprising pursuits for the village. For this purpose a hut, is required for Tagal management meetings, fish food preparation, tourism and sales of fish and other community products.

The 9 weeks camp will give me a glimpse into the working of an architectural practice with a strong social agenda. It presents an opportunity to explore people participatory methodologies as a tool to design, and most importantly a hand on construction experience in which I will be able to interact and learn from local masons.

Website: http://arkitrek.com/http:/arkitrek.com/arkitrek2014-design-brief/ Contact person: Sophia Rowena Marcus- sophia@arkitrek.com

The second journey I wish to make is to the Green School at Bali, Indonesia “It’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp.” — Ken Robinson Throughout history individuals such as Maria Montessori and Rudolph Steiner have recognized the potential education has in shaping future societies. Several alternate systems and approaches to education are being explored. One such experiment is the Green School. Founded in 2006, their vision is attempts to mold the younger generation for the environmental crisis in the foreseeable future. It integrates sustainability practices within the campus. The curriculum combines arts, humanities and sciences with equal importance. They believe that through hands on learning and the insights gained through the experience of living in such an environment will prepare students to be sensitive, critical and creative thinkers.

Modeled after a farm, the campus is located on an undeveloped and natural area of gentle jungle, bisected by the Ayung River making it an ideal place for students to connect with nature. Designed by the local Balinese firm PT Bamboo, all the structures are built out of locally available and sustainable natural resources such as bamboo stone and thatch. I believe this experience will broaden my understanding of not only alternate construction practices but also will present me an opportunity to understand the workings of an alternate education system. Website: http://www.greenschool.org/

The Asia Pacific region hot and humid climate is similar to my city-Chennai. My travels in this area will give me new insights into a different style of architecture, building technologies and materials. But more than this I look forward to meeting passionate people who have challenged the conventional practices in their respective fields and have pioneered new debates and ideologies towards a better future. I hope to document my travels through photos, sketches, interviews and journal entries of my dialogues, observations and discussions. I would like to thank the jury for giving me the opportunity to apply for this Travel Fellowship.

ITINERARY- 22nd June - flight from Chennai to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah 23rd to 30th June- Introduction week (tours, architectural studies and training sessions in locally relevant construction techniques and environmental and social considerations for working in Sabah) 1st to 14th July- Brief writing, client consultations, surveying, design workshops culminating with construction sequencing and logistical planning for the build. 15th July to 1st August- Onsite construction 2nd to 9th August - Travel to Green school Bali 10th August to 1st September- Onsite construction and completion 5th September - flight from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to Chennai

BUDGET- The complete cost of the work shop is GBP 1,950 (USD 3,253) inclusive of stay and food. Round trip from Kota Kinabalu to Bali is USD 200 Entry donation to visit Bali Green School USD 10 Total expenses: USD 3,463 I will bear the flight expenses from Chennai and the local expenses in Bali and Kota Kinabalu


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