In 1976, soon after the emergency, Shambhu Das, a third-year civil engineering student at REC, Calicut, dropped out of college in search of something novel and fulfilling. His quest took him to the Himalayas and numerous by-lanes in North India. Here he made a discovery that would become the core to all his works.
He observed that all the mud houses built here were round in shape, not rectangular with corners. “A square-type house is a builder’s comfort. Natural objects in the universe are not square or rectangular. So I construct buildings round,” said Shambhu Das, the architect.
“When humans started to live together millions of years back, the first house was built around a tree, with the gaps filled with leaves. I often seek something fresh other than the usual academic knowledge. This unending thirst for innovative ideas landed me with Laurie Baker,” said the architect.
He later had a fall off with Baker, as the latter was a strict opponent of laterites as building materials. “I found that Baker’s methods did not suit the housing methods employed in malabar. He believed in bricks. I was a diehard fan of laterite materials,” he winks.
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Shambhu has already created more than 1,000 houses, all unique in their designs. “I am currently working on a house in which the flooring is being laid out with bamboo tiles. The bamboo pieces are cut in thin sizes. After arranging them on the floor, they will be polished.”
His building methods are eco-friendly too. Waste materials such as glass bottles and coconut shells are valuable fillings for the concreting of his houses.
“My aim is to minimize the amount of sand and metal. Once you use these materials as filling, the volume of concrete required will be considerably reduced,” he added.
The architect has also built many houses using mud. “Mud houses are as strong as any house built using cement. This is a culture which we should promote. Ancient houses were built using mud. They are cost effective and comfortable to live in,” opined the self learned architect.