Why weaving the future of Khonoma?

Khonoma is known as Asia's first green village, situated near the Indo-Myanmar border, in the Indian state of Nagaland. The rich architecture and culture of the place are still seen through the community that is still living there. Throughout the period of my internship, I visited the village and met the people around the place, many times. Generations of youth are leaving villages to earn a living or work, leaving their elders behind.

Each visit to Khonoma brought a new story, and with every story, the concern to conserve the culture, material, and architecture of the space became much stronger.

Bamboo - To conserve and create

Nagaland and especially Khonoma is blessed with natural assets like Bamboo. It sits comfortable and cosy around the green backdrop of a rich bamboo plantation. While documenting the community, for new structures coming up, bamboo is only used for aesthetic purposes, while concrete and bricks are used for structural purposes. The knowledge of using bamboo in structures is fading away with time. Adapting to new technology, the community is neglecting bamboo's natural response to its microclimate, while bricks and concrete create damp conditions. Present-day, flat roof constructions are creating leakage problems, which is not an ideal response to the amount of rainfall the area witnesses.

The concerns I had regarding Khonoma's return to bamboo increased after seeing this scenario, which is the reason I proposed the insert bamboo workshops.

The aim of the insert is to encourage locals to identify the potential of bamboo and practise their weaving skills. It will stand testimony to the traditional building technology and form.

Climate, Analysis, and Implementation.

Form follows function, but here, form follows climate.

The (Morungs) - a place to stay for boy soldiers - and their traditional houses were a great example of how space syntax responded to the planning and construction of the structure. Considering the building material they used to build modular houses with the common measurement that was finalised by anthropometry.

Space was usually divided into the entrance porch that held a weaving area and fireplace, followed by a central living space that culminates into a kitchen and storage. A simple linear flow of spaces was enclosed by timber rooms and bamboo beams and columns.

Taking cues from their traditional building techniques and planning and designed a module that replaced timber roofing with bamboo.

Khonoma is an earthquake-prone zone, taking this into consideration, I designed the body of the house with wattle and dob construction with bamboo as reinforcement. It ensured the home's stability and sustainability.

As the village sits on a hilltop, the irony of heavy rainfall and scarcity of water is emphasised. Using a solid stone and waterproofing the footing underneath the structure, will act as a water tank, which could be a wise solution to the problem. The water tanks will hold water throughout the entire seven-month rainy season and be useful to them for the remaining three months. Standing on the solid stone footing structure goes ground plus one storey high. The vertical division of spaces is such that the entire ground floor is given to workshops that have natural spillover space from the surrounding plinth. And the upper floor is dedicated to the research and learning areas, with a separate entry and narrow passages which are internally linked. Structures stand-alone since connecting pathways could be detrimental during an earthquake.

Overall planning and Placement of the design 

The village has planned pathways from every house that culminates in the farmland. To follow that rhythm every designed structure also has a staircase that opens up on the ground and leads to the farmlands without disturbing the previous planning of the community. Planning follows the contour line and hence the clusters simply sit together the way the site allows. The left side of the site holds all the living spaces and dormitories while the right side of the site holds all the workshop areas. The centrally placed school acts as a nucleus of the insert, where every child learns about their culture and community just by being present in that structure.

The insert ultimately merges with the surroundings and becomes one entity for the community, in its true sense. It captures the spirit of the place. Materials like stone, bamboo, and mud teach everyone to be humble with the design yet creative with the approach. The building techniques connect one back to the roots, from where they evolved specifically to space and people. The insert is something which is of the people, for the people, and by the people!

Abhudaya centre (Socio-cultural Hub in Abhaneri - Heritage Village) 

As the digital era flourishes, taking over all domains of our lives, people continue to migrate to metropolitan areas and the ever-accelerating phenomenon of urbanisation continues to grow, we are progressively losing track of our history and tradition.

Abhaneri is a village near Jaipur. It was originally called Abhanagri which means the city of brightness – Abha meaning light and nagri translating to city. As time progressed the name lost its meaning and the city lost its unique character.

It is losing its great array of craftsmanship and cultural identity at an unprecedented pace. The need to go back to our roots has never been more imperative lest we lose our identity.

The village also houses the largest stepwell in India, Chand Baori, ruins of the Harshad Mata temple, along with being home to an array of local crafts such as lac bangles, pottery and stone work. Despite its rich cultural heritage, the village attracts little to no tourism and is at the risk of becoming a forgotten relic as there is no economy being generated around it.

The objective of this project is to provide the people a platform to showcase their skills, impart their knowledge and subsequently preserve the unique culture and artistry of the place. The proposal is to establish a sociocultural hub which would offer the local artisans new job opportunities.

The hope is to create a desire to reset our lifestyle, remember our history and respect our tradition. This ode to the past aims to remind us that our heritage is an innate part of ourselves and that it is important to return to it every now and then.

A museum formed of the remnants of the Harshad Mata temple is a part of the project. The remains of the temple, which are currently being housed inside the Chand Baori, will be preserved along with other relics that represent the residents and their culture. The socio- cultural hub references and draws inspiration from the exquisite craftsmanship found in poetry, bangle making, stone artefacts and the inherent beauty in the simplicity and straightforward elegance of village life. In this way, the project aims to take us back to our foundation, to the base of the simplistic nature of lives and for a moment to take us away from the chaos created by the onset of the digital age.

“Hope of Brightness in a Heaven of Stone”

Abhaneri is situated in the Dausa district, whose name comes from the Sanskrit words Dhau and Sa. ‘Dhau’ means “heaven” and ‘Sa’ means “alike” so Dausa means “alike heaven”. The district is also known for the stone and stone artefacts found in the region and is thus likened to be a “heaven of stone”. For the museum, locally accessible materials have been used like the Dholapur red stone and the Dholapur beige stone. Along with reducing the carbon footprint, the use of local materials reinforces the aim of preserving the local heritage of the place and is an attempt in staying true and rooted to the identity of the place.

Clean lines and a calming colour scheme reflect the purity in the simplicity of a life in the village and highlights a villager’s philosophy of life. The interior exhibit rooms have a sense of tranquillity surrounding them as the curvilinear window outside overlooks the scenic views of the site and embraces the historical cultural relics. This can be compared to the historical experiences of Chand Baori and Harshad Mata Temple, two sites of significant heritage importance.

Originally, the Harshad Mata temple was a Vaishnava shrine reflecting Hindu iconography and architecture. However, during the time of the Mughal Empire, under the rule of Aurangzeb, the temple was demolished to a certain extent to show features of Islamic architecture. The museum references these old features and reimagines them into a modern look with the use of glass, clerestory windows etc., while simultaneously nodding back to history by combining the features.

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The AYDA Awards is part of Nippon Paint’s vision to nurture the next generation of Architectural and Interior Design talents. It serves as a platform to inspire students of these disciplines to develop their skills through cross-learning.

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