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India: EARTH CRUSADER

DIDI CONTRACTOR, An architect’s journey / Video

Tuesday 20 July 2021, by siawi3

Source: https://vimeo.com/320466001

EARTH CRUSADER

Il y a 2 ans

Shabnam Sukhdev

Video here 55minutes

Tucked away in the foothills of Dharamsala lives a very special woman, by the name of DIDI CONTRACTOR.
She has lived life on her own terms, mostly against the tide. Born in Germany and raised in the USA, she adopted India as her home over 60 years ago.
For the past 25 years she has been tirelessly working and experimenting with sustainability in building homes driven by a strong Gandhian ideology. A student at heart, she draws from traditional aesthetics and vernacular traditions and designs buildings using mud and other natural materials.
This self styled architect’s crusade is no ordinary sermon, but a practical demonstration of what one person can do to effect change in society.
With an urgent demeanour, without mincing words, Didi articulates her message to students across disciplines. She believes that the future rests in the hands of the youth and they are the ones who need to take her crusade forward.

°°°

Source: https://worldarchitecture.org/article-links/ehegh/didi_contractor_a_selftaught_architect_who_builds_in_mud_bamboo_stone.html

Submitted by Sarbjit Bahga

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

India Architecture News - May 11, 2018 - 02:23

All photos can be seen here

Profession of architecture does not necessarily need any formal education or degree. This may seem strange to many present-day architects but it is a reality. There are many architects in the world who are/were self-taught and did not have any formal education in architecture. Prominent among these are Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Buchminister Fuller, Luis Barragan, and Tadao Ando. These are the names of just a few stalwarts who dominated the profession of architecture but there are many more who are comparatively lesser known or even not known.

One such name is Didi Contractor who is down-to-earth, self-taught architect based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, India. Unlike the millions of formally trained architects, Didi Contractor has specialised in mud, bamboo and stone architecture. Now in her late eighties, she has been actively involved in the so called ’sustainable architecture’ in its true sense for the last about three decades.

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photos courtesy of filmfreeway.com

Didi Contractor whose real name is Delia Kinzinger, was born in 1929 in USA. Her father, Edmund Kinzinger was a German national and mother, Alice Fish Kinzinger was an American. Both of them were renowned painters belonging to the Bauhaus group in early 1920s. Delia Kinzinger had grown-up in Texas, USA, and spent some time in Europe also.

At the age of 11, she started to listen to Frank Lloyd Wright and saw an exhibition of his works along with her parents. This made a lasting impression on her mind and developed her inclination for the profession of architecture. But her parents never encouraged her to pursue architecture and resultantly she completed her graduation in art at the University of Colorado.

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of filmfreeway.com

During her university days in 1951, she fell in love with Ramji Narayan, an Indian-Gujarati student of civil engineering. They got married, returned to India, and raised a family with three children. In the early years of their marriage, the couple stayed at Nashik in a joint family for a decade and thereafter shifted to Mumbai in 1960s and lived in a house on the famous Zuhu beach. But soon the circumstances changed and she had to part ways with her husband and decided to settle in a small village Sidhbari near Dharamshala.

Sidhbari is situated in the foothills of Dhauladhar mountains in Kangra district of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Since then she made Sidhbari her home and concentrated on pursuing her first love - architecture. With her artistic background she swiftly switched to architecture and interior design. For her, there was only a change of medium to clay, bamboo, slate and river stone. Once she learnt the properties of these materials, and the art of handling them, there was no going back.

During the last about three decades, she has designed and built more than 15 houses in and around Dharamshala and some institutions like Nishtha Rural Health, Education and Environment Centre at Dharamshala, Dharmalaya Centre for Compassionate Living at Bir, and Sambhaavnaa Institute of Public Policy and Politics at Kandwari.

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Joginder Singh

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of dharmalaya.in

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Joginder Singh

A deep perusal of Didi’s architecture reveals that her buildings seem to grow from earth and are in perfect harmony with nature. This is quite contrary to the present day modern buildings which look to be in conflict with nature. A perfect yang-and-yin relationship between her buildings and landscape around is thus an important salient feature of her architecture.

Didi herself explains, "I am very interested in using landscape as a visual and emotional bridge between the built and the natural. Look at the old buildings, they are beautiful in the landscape, and the new ones are at war with it ­­- they say something. So, we are in conflict with nature, and nature will be in conflict with us. I imagine a building as growing, like a plant, within a landscape. Landscaping is really a key to this thing of marrying the earth to the building.”

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Joginder Singh

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Sangha Seva

Another significant aspect of Didi’s architecture is the creative use of local materials such as mud, bamboo, river stone and slate. Over the years she has perfected the art of handling these materials in such a way that they create a feeling of belonging, cheerfulness and humbleness.

Didi elaborate this aspect as, “I would like to emphasize playfulness, imagination, and celebration. By celebrating materials, by noticing their qualities, and celebrating them as you put them into building, celebrating the quality or the plasticity of the mud, celebrating the inherent, innate and unavoidable qualities of each material. What the slate does to light, how the materials play within nature. I try to create something that is as quiet as possible. What works, should just look natural, as if meant to be.”

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of wonderlustmum.wordpress.com

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Sangha Seva

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of wonderlustmum.wordpress.com

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Joginder Singh

With an aim to create an eco-friendly architecture, Didi has invented a unique approach of following the ’rhythm of universe’ or the ’cycles of nature’. She always tried to synchronise the process of construction with the cycles of nature so that the end product is in harmony with environs. Explaining this approach she says, “One of the many things that’s wrong today is that people are not ready to accommodate their lives to the rhythm of the universe. We don’t see the wisdom of nature. Technology should also be consistent with a humanistic agenda of making people comfortable with themselves, with one another and nature. Eco-sensitive structures need to be built as per the season, whereas cement structures can be built quickly and at any time of the year. One of the problems with contemporary life is losing our contact with the cycles of nature. When I take something out of natural cycle, I think how it affects that cycle, and whether it can be replaced, or reused ... earth from an adobe building can be reused in a vegetable garden.”

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of wonderlustmum.wordpress.com

As a matter of choice, Didi is very fascinated by yet another important element of architectural design - the ’staircase’. In all her buildings one finds a very creative use of this element vis-ŕ-vis its location, direction, and design. She says, "In stairs the architect is in control. I enjoy planning the experience of what you will pass, what you will have on both sides, and of what you are coming down or heading up towards. The staircase is often the key to organising the space in each design. In the staircases, I feel I am guiding the emotional entry of a person.”

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Joginder Singh

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Joginder Singh

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of windowstovernacular.com

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Steffi Giaracuni

Being an artist originally, Didi has matured the art of handling natural light in the interiors very imaginatively and artistically. An overview her buildings reveals the emphasis she gives to this vital element of design. For her, the light is the soul of architecture. It highlights the plastic forms, shapes, geometric lines, colours and textures of materials.

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of Steffi Giaracuni

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of filmfreeway.com

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of filmfreeway.com

Didi’s life and works will always remain a source of inspiration to the present and future generations of architects, artists, environmentalists, and other professionals associated with building construction. Long live the legend.

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

Photo courtesy of mithakamath.blogspot.in

Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone

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Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didi_Contractor

Didi Contractor
Didi aka Delia Narayan Contractor, H2019030865834 (cropped).jpg
Born Delia Kinzinger

1929
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Died July 5, 2021 (aged 91)
Sidhbari, India
Education University of Colorado Boulder & self-taught
Occupation Architect
Known for Sustainable building in India
Spouse(s) Narayan Contractor
Children Kirin Narayan
Parent(s) Edmund & Alice Fish Kinzinger

Born Delia Kinzinger[2] in Minneapolis,[7] she was the daughter of expressionist painters Edmund Kinzinger and Alice Fish Kinzinger, both associated with the Bauhaus movement.[2] Her father was German, from Pforzheim, Grand Duchy of Baden. Her mother was American.[8] Her parents married in Germany in 1927, and moved to Minneapolis where her father worked as an exchange teacher. They returned to Germany, but left it for Paris in 1933. They moved to Waco, Texas in 1935, where her father was first assistant professor, later professor and finally head of the Art Department of Baylor University.[9]

She grew up in New Mexico and Texas, and took a year off from school to work in theatre,[5] She was first trained in art by her father and Hans Hofmann in New York,[2] and then studied art at the University of Colorado Boulder,[3] where she met her husband, Indian building contractor Narayan Contractor. They moved to Nashik in the 1950s, and to Mumbai in the 1960s, raising three children.[3][7] After separating from her husband she moved to the Kangra Valley in India in the 1970s.[3]

Contractor’s daughter is author and academic Kirin Narayan. Narayan has written about the Contractor household in Mumbai, in a beachside compound in Juhu which Contractor ran as a combination youth hostel and literary salon, in her memoir My Family and Other Saints.[10] Her son, Devendra Contractor, also became an architect. The children studied in the U.S.[11]

Contractor died at home in Sidhbari on July 5, 2021, at age 91.[12]