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Published by:
Centre for Vernacular Architecture
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Photo of R L Kumar

Posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award

M. R. Jaishankar, CMD Brigade Group, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to the wife and professional associates of the late
R. L. Kumar, Centre for Vernacular Architecture, at the Durian Society Interiors Awards 2013, held at Lalit Bangalore on 23 February.

Our iconic mentor is no more

With the sudden passing away of R L Kumar on 23 June 2012, vernacular architecture has lost its most ardent advocate. R L Kumar lived and breathed the vernacular way. His words have inspired the many students, architects, artists, teachers and clients who crossed his path.

R L Kumar was an Architect. Although his initial education and training was in Chartered Accountancy, his true calling was Vernacular Architecture. With extremely small projects and shoestring or non-existent budgets, he forged his way step-by-step into the world of Vernacular Architecture.

He studied and learnt on-site from masons. He respected the labour force and never let them forget that their skill was most important. Kumar encouraged and searched for skilled labour be it in Masonry, Carpentry, Stoneworkers and Artists. He believed that one was not a complete architect if you didn't get on site and build a house.

His unorthodox training in architecture bode well for the number of non-architects who joined him later and were trained in Vernacular Architecture. Kumar didn't insist on portfolios and fancy degrees, only one's passion for the job and how well they would fit into CVA's working rhythm.
For the past 25 or more years, he did it his way and thus Centre for Vernacular Architecture now stands on a strong footing of hands-on wisdom - an innate sense of being a team - with a skilled workforce and transparent dealings.

Kumar would often say that he couldn't think of a single good thing that has come of living the 'modern' way of life. He was old-school and old-world and thought 'in the vernacular'. He scorned the modern world and its vagaries and continued to live life on his terms. His solution for most evils brought on by modernisation was 'Ö go back to your roots, live in a vernacular home and try to live and eat like your forefathers'. His tenacity in living the way he did gained him true friends and some detractors.

With profound gratitude...

Kumar’s passing has brought in heartfelt condolences from people all across the world. It has been more than three months since and we at the Centre for Vernacular Architecture (CVA) have been overwhelmed by the tributes and messages of support that continue to pour in. The responses on the Tributes page and to the commemorative volume we are in the process of putting together are glowing testimonies to this special connect Kumar shared with each of us in his own inimitable way.

We still miss Kumar. And will continue to do so. Legends may pass on but their indelible impact on the landscape of life will live on forever. His ideas and thoughts are forever embedded in all the architectural gems he inspired. The impact of his work is felt not just in his treatment of brick and stone but permeated the whole system of people and processes. He worked on and through people — be they colleagues, craftspeople, his clients or family and friends.

His work carries on through the skilled team of craftspersons, architects and colleagues he leaves behind in the Centre for Vernacular Trust. “I am CVA and CVA is me” he said with vintage Kumar insouciance! True but not true. For while he can never be replaced what he has left behind, in total trust, is this incredible legacy of an honest, authentic and vibrant ethic embodied in his vernacular way of life, building and being. A legacy that we are committed to and confident that we can build on.

Thank you once again. And we invite you to join us in this journey to keep his passion and genius amidst us by continuing to share your memories of Kumar and also your thoughts of how we could take his ideas and CVA forward.

With gratitude,

The Team at
Centre for Vernacular Architecture

Taking forward the legacy.....

Apart from continuing to take up building projects, other initiatives to compile an archive of Kumarís contributions and deepen his own initiatives include:

commemorative volume, now available on request A commemorative volume put together by Kumarís guru and comrade, Chalam, containing nuggets of memories and impressions shared by his wide range of friends and family to remember him just the way he was: wild and vulnerable; creative and crazy!

A film by Shashikant, cinematographer and old friend of Kumarís on the work of CVA and Kumarís thinking that informed it.

A publication weaving together in a reflective and analytical manner the politics, praxis and pedagogy of the vernacular in architecture and the eclectic way in which Kumar conceived of and practiced it.

Workshops for craftspersons related to architecture including architects and civil engineers to deepen and update the culture and skills that informs vernacular architecture.

Contact us for more information.

Please visit the Tributes Page to leave a message. Guestbook

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