Dhruvang Hingmire and Priyanka Gunjikar are best described as unorthodox architects. Unlike conventional architects, they prefer building homes using their own hands. The couple is based in Pune and make use of a form of architecture that relies on natural materials while employing local labor for construction. The couple started ‘Building in Mud’ about three years ago.
Since then, they have been able to complete a total of six homes with three more projects currently underway. A recent project taken by the couple was at a private retreat in Thoran village close to Kamshet, a town located between Mumbai and Pune. The couple did a reconnaissance of the area first to determine the kind of materials that were available.
Dhruvang Hingmire recalls having found a huge amount of black stones that the locals were using to build their homes. But the stone couldn’t be used for more than seven feet of the structure because lifting it gets difficult. Since the soil was good, bricks were being used. They didn’t use the cement for binding the bricks. Rather, they opted for mud mortar. For the ground floor, the dup made use of stone masonry, and after seven feet, the local labourers made use of bricks with mud mortar.
An attic was also built on top. According to Dhruvang Hingmire, ‘When you use teak as a building material, you are promoting a form of monoculture. Today, we see many forest department officials and local agriculturalists setting up teak plantations that harm the local ecosystem. Instead of one, we use different types of timber like ain, haidu, jambul and shiva, sourced locally. On top, we went for clay roofing tiles.’
The client from Pune wanted a low-maintenance house since he wasn’t keen on regular maintenance. The duo used lime plaster for the tiles, thus taking care of the maintenance. Dhruvang further adds, ‘We have to find a balance between ecological viability and the client’s wishes. For an earlier project near Bhor, the client wanted a rustic look to the house. So, we didn’t go for interior plastering. But, in the Kamshet project, we wanted a low-maintenance house. So, we went for lime plasters, unlike cement, which is bad for the environment. Moreover, lime is completely recyclable and possesses a greater thermal insulation value.’
Using lime also helped with regulating the temperature of the building. Lime is capable of trapping heat during summer and releasing it during winter. It can also catch the heat during the day and let it out during the night. Dhruvan has told that the house had a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius when the temperature outside was 38 degrees Celsius.
Dhruvang attended the Rachna Sansad Academy of Architecture in Mumbai, where he met Priyanka. They were influenced by a senior Architect, Malak Singh Gill. Gill is a proponent of eco-friendly, culture-sensitive architecture, and student of the renowned Lawrence Wilfred ‘Lauri’ Baker. The duo worked with the architect for three years after graduation where they were able to obtain most of their experience.
The team conducts a reconnaissance of the location where they land a project and of the surrounding areas. During this, they study the built houses and look for materials that can be procured easily and the technology that has been used for the existing structures’ construction. Dhruvang and his wife also have a project under development on the Konkan coast. For this particular project, the duo is making use of wood because the conventional houses in the locality have been primed with it. According to them, ‘It also helps in resisting lateral loads like earthquakes and high winds. We analyse all these aspects across a 20-30 km radius around the site to determine the building technology and materials to use.’