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Duo Builds Eco-Friendly Homes With Ancient ‘Panch Bootha’ Wisdom

Want to build an ecofriendly home? Srinath Gautam and Vinoth Kumar run Bhutha Architecture, a sustainable architecture studio in Coimbatore that use the five ‘Panch Bootha’ elements.

In 2018, two Coimbatore-born batchmates and colleagues launched Bhutha Architects, an ‘earthen architectural studio’. Founders Srinath Gowtam and Vinoth Kumar had studied together at SVS School of Architecture, and began working together in Auroville in 2015.

They say they were drawn to the lifestyle in Auroville, and that they eventually shifted to organic eating and clothing. This paved the way for Bhutha, which promotes sustainable architecture.

“Both of us were interested in traditional architecture right from college. It was one of our faculty who suggested we visit Auroville, a place replete with sustainable architecture and culture. That one visit turned into a sojourn for three years, which changed us for good and shaped Bhutha,” says Vinoth.

The duo first worked for Sacred Groves, a community that takes up ecological housing projects in Auroville. They were actively involved in volunteering events, which later aided the works of Bhutha.

He explains that the word Bhutha is derived from the theory of ‘Panch Bhootha’, which says that our body is made up of five elements – sky, air, fire, water and soil. The aim of Bhutha is to create eco-friendly as well as society-friendly structures using these elements.

What is Earth Architecture?

“Earth architecture is an in-depth study of many disciplines like soil, water, seismography, sustainability, chemistry, social science, and archaeology. It was adopted in Indian society thousands of years back for building houses. But due to excessive usage of industrial materials such as cement, plastics, and other chemicals in the last few decades, our heritage and nature are in danger. It is our responsibility to save it and Bhutha is a humble attempt to do the same,” explains Vinoth.

He notes that Bhutha uses natural resources like clay, stone, limestone and wood to build houses. They have worked on more than eight projects so far in various parts of Tamil Nadu.

Here are some of the main projects that Bhutha Architects is working on:

Sunder and Kokila Residence, Coimbatore

Vinoth shares, “The project started seven months back. The client approached us to build an eco-friendly house that includes traditional models like a veranda, wooden kitchen and earthen fridge. The project is half done.”

This 2600 sq ft house is being built amidst an agroforest spread over two acres. The residence consists of three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. The walls are made of brick, lime, clay and stones. In addition, terracotta and natural stone have been used in the construction of the floor.

Along with Mangalore tiles, Madras terrace roof technology has been employed to make the roof of the house. This is a traditional technique where wooden beams are placed and the gaps between them are filled using bricks and lime plaster.

Ayya ​​Book Centre, Theni City

“Hari Pradhan, a resident of Theni town of Tamil Nadu, approached us about a year ago for the repair of his building, Ayya Books Centre, which is more than a hundred years old. He runs a book and stationery shop in it,” says Vinoth.

He adds, “The shop is situated in the front area and therefore it should look attractive. We made it out of brick, wood and glass, so it feels like a mud house. We put the best selling stationery on the right and the unique books on the left so that the shopkeeper can handle them in order. By standing in the centre of the shop, one can easily see the book display and journal section. There is also a display of pen and pencil here. Everything is arranged in a way that customers don’t face much trouble in finding things.”

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Duo Builds Eco-Friendly Homes With Ancient 'Panch Bootha' Wisdom
Ayya book store in Theni.

In order to make the shelves, kalimaruthu (Arjuna wood) and deodar wood have been mainly used. Meanwhile, the stairs are made from second-hand wood.

Hari Pradhan says, “I feel fortunate to be associated with Bhutha Architects. They have good knowledge about traditional-style buildings. The whole area was refurbished using lime plaster and wood. I am satisfied and very happy with their work.”

‘Sustainability is the future’

“If we look at the total waste produced in the world, a good percentage of it is toxic industrial leftovers. This causes serious health issues for all forms of living beings. Even the paint we use at home is mostly made of toxic substances. Sustainable alternatives are the only way to solve this crisis. Through Bhutha, we work for this cause,” says the responsible architect Vinoth.

Duo Builds Eco-Friendly Homes With Ancient 'Panch Bootha' Wisdom
Vinoth Kumar and Srinath Gowtam.

Apart from architecture, Vinoth and Gautam love travelling. A few years ago, on their journey to Rajasthan, the duo learned the art of preparing natural dyes. Gowtam says that today he makes natural colors by himself using ingredients like turmeric, indigo, pomegranate peel, yellow marigold and red rose.

“These are boiled, filtered and the cloth is soaked in it for at least half an hour. After drying, it is treated again in boiling water by adding rock salt, which makes the colors last longer,” he explains. The waste out of these extracts easily decomposes in the soil.

Bhutha Architects’ founders also give training in this art by conducting workshops organised at NR School of Architecture, Coimbatore. They hold workshops in architecture at several institutions in Coimbatore as well, the founders say.

Duo Builds Eco-Friendly Homes With Ancient 'Panch Bootha' Wisdom
Workshop time.

When asked about their opinion on Indian architecture, Vinoth says, “The greatness of Indian architecture can be easily understood from the age-old structures. Each place’s distinct culture is visible from their buildings. Our aim is to bridge the gap between traditional and modern structures using the latest technology.”

The architect friends also dream of setting up a learning and research centre for school and college students, where they can learn new things as well as share what they know.

Contact Bhutha Architects here or call 9965595556.

Read this story in Hindi here.

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

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