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
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
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
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:
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
Workshops for craftspersons
related to architecture including architects and civil engineers
to deepen and update the culture and skills that informs vernacular
Contact us for more information.
Please visit the Tributes
Page to leave a message.