A growing number of people becoming interested in natural building with a desire to build their own homes from natural materials with their own hands. However, no one was offering opportunities to learn directly from master artisans. This is where an organisation like Indi Architecture comes in.
It is a social enterprise located in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh which strives to protect, conserve and teach the methods of vernacular architecture - a path to sustainable living. wherever one still finds traditional architecture dominant, you will also find traditional culture thriving. That's because, as founder Kimberley Moyle explains, "architecture is such an obvious expression of culture and travelling to regions where vernacular architecture is alive and well is inspiring."
Moyle says that traditional vernacular homes are being torn down and replaced with homogenous concrete boxes in many places. Along with the loss of these beautiful, climatically appropriate buildings made from locally available resources, there is an even greater silent loss taking place - that is, intergenerational knowledge of how to build these unique structures, knowledge that has been experimented with and honed over hundreds of years. "Knowledge that is a reflection of human creativity and ingenuity, knowledge that allowed people to live in the heat of the Rajasthani deserts, the humidity of the Keralan backwaters and the freezing temperatures of the Himalayas, all without the need for electric powered heating or cooling," she explains.
Indi Architecture offers two different models for tours. The first is that of workshops, wherein they seek out artisans, learn from them their unique vernacular tradition, and then collaborate with them to devise a workshop showcasing them and their skills. During these workshops, Indi Architecture will expose you to the traditional wisdom held by artisans supported by the scientific understanding of their techniques. "We also try to find interesting locations to host the workshops, such as Nandpur Fort in Himachal Pradesh - a 200-year-old haveli overlooking the Pong Dam but nestled in a quaint village," sys Moyle. "Or Hodka village in Kutch where we stay with Bharmabehns extended family while she teaches us Lippan Kaam and Chitra Kaam - sculptural mud relief work. Our guests become immersed in the experience of life in these regions."
The second style of tour is their Culture and Architecture tours. In these, they specifically focus on regions with strong architectural traditions that are still alive - like Spiti Valley and Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. If you go on one of the tours, you will be able to better appreciate the design and functionality that goes into India's vernacular architecture - something clearly visible in the gallery on their website comprising entrances and doorways. The doors for Moyle are just one example of how something completely utilitarian can make a beautiful artistic statement. "I see it in so many aspects of vernacular architecture. Niches in walls, fencing a boundary, handmade household items such as the floor mats of Chattisgarh woven from grasses or the woolen carpets of Spiti spun from the wool of their own animals. In vernacular traditions, everyday items are pieces of art."
On these tours, Indi Architecture takes guests off the beaten path to meet interesting locals, explore hidden villages, experience diverse ways of living, meet inspiring people and enjoy home-cooked local cuisine. The workshops and tours enable people to travel and learn something new. That could be learning about Rajasthani plasters or Mohrakashi lime frescoes, or it could be learning about the culture of the Spiti Valley. However, alongside all of this, an experiential traveller is also learning about themselves. "When we learn something about a new culture, we are encouraged to reflect on our own world views what we take for granted or see as normal is quickly revealed as inherently culturally determined," says Moyle.