Indian Architect – Achyut Kanvinde


4. Achyut Kanvinde


Padma Shri Achyut P. Kanvinde is considered as one of forefathers of modern Indian architecture.

Along with his partner S. Rai, he opened a firm Kanvinde and Rai in New Delhi (which is currently run by Mr. Sanjay Kanvinde, Mrs. B.K. Tanuja and Mr. Murad Chaudhury). The firm has been responsible for IIT Kanpur, NII Pune, numerous dairy buildings under NDDB and many other great buildings.

  • Introduction :


Kanvinde was born in 1916 in a small village on the Konkan coast. His mother passed away when he was two, and he was raised by his large extended family in the seclusion of the village, his father being away in Bombay where he was an art teacher in schools. Kanvinde had the calling of a painter and did enroll in an art school but the family decided that architecture would be a better profession for him, a living could be earned more easily. So he entered the Architecture Department at Sir J.J. School of Art in 1935, the first of the three existing architecture programs in the country then. It was then headed by Claude Batley, who was also the premier architect of the country.

Kanvinde graduated with distinction in 1941, but with the tumults of the World War and the rapidly spreading national struggle for independence, didn’t get a steady job till 1943 when he joined the newly formed CSIR as an architect.

Achyut Kanvinde attended Harvard Graduate school of Design in 1945 becoming the first Indian architect to have studied in America. Later he would be often termed as one of the doyens of modern Indian Architecture.

  • Bauhaus’ Influence :

Kanvinde was initially unprepared for the space concepts taught in Gropius’s school. Having studied under Batley, he was not conversant with the progressive imagery and techniques of the International style. But progreassively what he was much affected by was the social order and the optimism implied by the Modernist paradigm. Gropius’s insistence for using space as a tool for expressing universal human values was what left most lasting influence on his mind. He graduated with a thesis on science laboratories, on which he had worked for most of his two years of study and as planned, returned to India in 1947 and was appointed as the Chief Architect of CSIR. Kulwant Rai was appointed the Chief Engineer.


In 1947, the year India became independent from British colonial rule; he came back to be appointed as the Chief Architect of CSIR. After a prolific period of eight years when he built a host of works, mostly new industrial laboratories, he resigned in 1955 to form Kanvinde and Rai, one of the most influential and productive architectural practices of India. His works have been much discussed in India and often emulated and he has himself received much personal recognition and professional accolade. However neither in the international architectural discourse nor in the standard 20th century architectural historiographic literature have they been even mentioned. It is even more intriguing to find that they have rarely been discussed in the publications of last few decades when there was a spurt in the interest in non-Western, regional architecture and built work from the Indian subcontinent were noticed for the first time outside India. Moreover in the actual cases that they were discussed they have been interpreted as per the predilection(s) of the author(s) and categorised to conform to one or the other of the prevalent architectural movements. They have not received the critical attention that they deserve.

It was Kanvinde and not as is widely believed Le Corbusier in his work in Chandigarh, who first introduced Modernism and the aesthetics of Function into the dormant Indian Architectural scene. What Kanvinde introduced was the Modern legacy of rational and ‘pure’ structure. The first buildings to come up were ATIRA at Ahmedabad, completed in 1952, CSIR Headquarters at New Delhi, completed in 1953 , PRL at Ahmedabad, completed in 1953  and CEERIat Pilani, completed in 1955

ATIRA,- Ahmedabad

ATIRA, Ahmedabad

Kanvinde became the president of the Indian Institute of Architects in 1976 and won the Gold Medal of the Indian Istitute of Architects in 1985. Kanvinde is the author of Campus design in India.

There are infinite number of concerns, influences and traditions that have shaped Kanvinde’s works and his assimilation and self-discovery is drawing him closer to his self, an elusive ‘identity’ hidden and revealed by the palimpsest of human existence. A much deep-probing understanding of his life and his work responsive to his larger interests and concerns seems important to clarify the important phase of the political and social process in the creation in the new country which he shaped and guided. Humility and reticence are acclaimed hallmarks of his persona, which is one of the reasons his works have not been as widely known as they could be. While addressing the Indian architectural educators, he suggested,

” The role which the schools have to play is to expose students to various situations and train them to cultivate and appreciate values so that they can experience and sharpen their senses through observation and practice”.

In the autumn of his distinguished life, his humanity and concerns need to be better understood.

  • Philosophy

Kanvinde played with space and forms. A famous example is the ISKCON Temple at New Delhi. He gave great importance to natural light. The form of the building is such that the problem of ventilation as well as excessive heat is beautifully solved. He championed the cause of vernacular architecture. He believed that values and historical influences contributed towards good architecture

  • Architectural Work :
  1. Harivallavhdas House, Ahmedabad
Harivallavhdas-House- Ahmedabad

Harivallavhdas House, Ahmedabad


Harivallavhdas-House- Ahmedabad-1

Harivallavhdas House, Ahmedabad

Harivallavhdas-House- Ahmedabad-2

Harivallavhdas House, Ahmedabad


     2. PK Kelkar Library, IIT  Kanpur

The library has the capacity to hold 100,000 volumes and has seating for 500 students. The library is located at the juncture of two major circulation routes and serves as the major meeting place and focal point of the campus. The library is designed around a central court and has a distinct series of skylights that illuminate the interior of the top floor.

PK- Kelkar- Library,- IIT- Kanpur

PK Kelkar Library, IIT Kanpur

PK- Kelkar- Library,- IIT- Kanpur-2

PK Kelkar Library, IIT Kanpur

PK- Kelkar- Library,- IIT- Kanpur-3

PK Kelkar Library, IIT Kanpur

      3. National Science Centre, New Delhi

A six-storey structure situated on a site that forms part of the Trade Fair complex. The building comprises an auditorium, conference rooms, lecture hall, library, training centre, exhibition areas, and a cafeteria, totaling 14,000 square metres of built up area. An entrance concourse on the first floor leads to the multi-level display; and terraces provide additional outdoor exhibition areas. The building is finished with aggregate plaster using local Delhi blue quartzite stone chips with bands in Dhopur stone chips, and polished Kota stone with Jaisalmer stone (ochre) bands are used for the flooring.

National- Science- Centre,- New- Delhi

National Science Centre, New Delhi

National- Science- Centre,- New- Delhi-2

National Science Centre, New Delhi

National- Science- Centre,- New- Delhi-3

National Science Centre, New Delhi

    4. Swiss Trade Mission, New Delhi


Swiss-Trade -Mission,- New- Delhi

Swiss Trade Mission, New Delhi

Swiss-Trade -Mission,- New- Delhi-2

Swiss Trade Mission, New Delhi


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