Who is he?
Modern houses with a plethora of amenities and, variegated design & decoration options have become the popular definition of good living. However in this bargain, we may have come far away from simplicity and consequently from nature. The ubiquitous use of concrete in contemporary construction cannot be sustained without adversely affecting our environment. Although not a new-found knowledge, what eludes most of us is that nature has all the solutions for our housing needs within its fold.
“The crux of Put Your Hands Together is that we work with locally available natural materials with an aim towards community-oriented architecture but open to do any architecture that uses local materials” says Areen Attari, a Bio architect and one of the five partners at ‘Put Your Hands Together’ (PYHT). They are a young and passionate team with each member having specialized knowledge of using a particular organic material for construction. Primarily their projects employ materials like Earth, Bamboo, Stone and Timber. According to Areen, “Houses made of organic materials are durable, sustainable and very comfortable to live in if built the right way. For centuries people have been building houses from local mud and other natural materials and were well acquainted with the benefits of such construction before this art was lost to modern practices.” PYHT focuses on blending this local knowledge with their scientific understanding of natural materials to build houses that seamlessly adapt to the local context.
Apart from being a passionate Bio Architect, Areen, 27 is a football aficionado, a nature admirer, and does not miss an opportunity to get his hands dirty in the soil. He believes in designing for people in need so as to have a positive social impact than to cater to the demands of people spoilt for luxury. At PYHT, he specializes in constructing with Bamboo and Mud.
His personal journey
“I joined Rizvi College of Architecture, Bandra in 2005. Then, I was keen to write my final year thesis on designing a football stadium” says Areen. However his journey through the 5 years of college took him on a completely different path. A couple of years in the course he began to incline towards socially impactful design. At the end of his 4th year he applied for a training program at Global Studio in South Africa. Here he had a chance meeting with Derek van Heerden who ran projects in rural areas. This interaction had a profound impact on Areen and convinced him to follow socially impactful architecture. After his return, he got an opportunity to work on Kosi river flood rehabilitation project in Bihar through an organization called Hunnarshala, which is a part of Owner Driven Re-construction Collaborative. Here, he learned about constructing with Bamboo on a large scale and finally ended up doing his internship on rural community infrastructure.
Soon after graduating as architects in 2010, few more projects on Bamboo construction followed before Areen, his brother Azeer and three others decided to work as a team. They would hang out at each other’s farmhouses having fun whilst creating different structures out of Bamboo. Once while returning from such a trip in August 2011 they discovered a very unusual name for themselves, ‘Put Your Hands Together’. This name signified a group of people coming together to work with each other, collaborating with other architects & communities, and working with their bare hands to create something positive out of natural materials. “Over the last 4 years, our journey as Put Your Hands Together has been shaped and supported by many people” says Areen recalling interesting anecdotes of personal guidance and help provided by some friends and senior architects. In 2012, Areen attended an International Social Entrepreneurship Training Program in Brazil called ‘Warriors without Weapons’ which he claims to be one of the best experiences of his life. Here the participants play Oasis, a 7-step game which focuses on beauty & abundance around us and uses this insight to transform our dreams into realities. This philosophy has stayed with him ever since and significantly influences his work.
About PYHT’s work
One of the first projects for Areen and his partners was assisting designer Conrad Gonsalves in building a weekend house made of mud for a client in Kamshet, Pune. Soon they designed and built another mud house technically known as Adobe cottage at Saguna Baug, an agro-tourism center based in Neral. Adobes are high-strength sun-dried bricks made without conventional burning technique. This house overlooking a pond is made almost entirely of mud with bare minimum use of cement, primarily in the foundation and on a west-side facing stone wall that receives maximum amount of rain during the monsoon. Around 90% of materials used in construction of the house are either natural or recycled or reused. Currently PYHT is working on a weekend home in Khadavli just outside of Mumbai.
As a part of larger Hunnarshala team, PYHT is involved in some rural housing projects in Gujarat under the Indira Awas Yojna along with BuidAur, People in Centre, and Thumb Impressions Collaborative where they are helping in documenting, designing and prototyping houses. “We are now also getting involved in a rehabilitation project in Nepal in association with our local partners Abari and few others from India” says Areen excitedly while talking about his upcoming trip.
As PYHT, Areen and his partners conduct regular workshops on construction with earth and bamboo for anybody who wishes to learn. So far they have conducted these workshops in Universities, colleges of architecture and some even at open places. They are planning to soon launch a 2 week long advanced course where they will teach participants complete process of building a house.
“My vision is to have a center of learning outside the city where all of us can come together, stay and create some beautiful architecture using locally available natural materials or other alternative materials” says Areen about his dream. He wants this center to be a place where people can gather for workshops, exchange ideas and explore the joy of building with earth. He further says, “The whole idea is to live a life of sustainability, and give back to the community.”
A sustainable future lies in wisely using what Mother Nature offers and Bio Architecture is a design philosophy that will play a big role in enabling this objective.