Awardee: Architect Gopakumar, Kochi
“An architect has a responsibility toward society. Getting this award motivates me to further work towards putting India on the global map of modern architecture and redesign our future” says architect S Gopakumar who was awarded the prestigious Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for 2020 by IIA, the Indian Institute of Architects. He was selected for his outstanding contribution to Indian architecture and received the award on July 12. He joins some of the most eminent names from the field: BV Doshi, Achyuth Kanvinde, Charles Correa, Joseph Allen Stein and Laurie Baker.
Ar. Gopakumar was the only Malayalee architect from Kerala and second architect from South India to have received this award, a great honour.
Though originally the award was intended to be given every three years , the frequency was reduced but many at times they skipped an year or two for want of suitable candidates. The last award was given in 2014, that is six years ago.
Unfortunately the award was announced through a digital presentation due to Covid restrictions at the national digital conference of Architects from all over India. IIA hopes to do it as a physical award function in a grand scale on a later date if god permits.
The award was given on multiple reasons like creation of good architecture, contribution to the profession and finally involvement with public through architecture. The other side of this award is that it has made me more responsible for whatever I think, talk or do in future, says Gopakumar.
Ar. Gopakumar graduated in architecture from College of Engineering Trivandrum in 1970 and joined the distinguished Charles Correa. He became an associate of Charles Correa after working under him for five years.
He started Kumar Group Total Designers in 1976 in Kochi. The firm handles architecture, interiors and Landscape and has done many prestigious projects in Kerala and Karnataka. They had an office in Bangalore also mainly handling large scale housing projects. His son Anuj joined the firm in 2000 adding young blood to the organisation.
Mr. Gopakumar is involved in social activities where his knowledge as a designer and planner can be better utilised. He started the organisation Better Kochi Response Group ( BKRG) with very carefully selected 25 members from different sectors of expertise.
He initiated the formation of Vyttila Mobility Hub a major transportation centre of the city dealing with road transport, water transport and the metro. He is also involved in erecting world class public toilets in various parts of the city.
SOME IMPORTANT WORKS DONE BY Ar. S GOPAKUMAR
HDFC Corporate Office in Kochi
The building is in the form of a cube from which slices were cut off to accommodate fire shelters and windows. The building is cladded with white reflective ceramic tiles of 30×30 centimetres to reduce heat and save energy for air conditioning. The building and the openings were designed in tile dimensions in all three axes. It was a tough job to draw elevations manually with all those full tiles at a time when designing was not done by computer and AutoCAD software. More than making the drawings, constructing it in millimetre perfection was a greater challenge. I was the happiest when the last full tile was in place. It was a fine example of perfect drawing and perfect construction.
Gandhi Park in Trivandrum
This was a tourism project at the busy junction of East Fort. He went beyond his responsibility of designing the park by re-planning the whole junction with the two parks joined together. It has become an important land mark in Trivandrum and a fine example of urban intervention.
Shanthi Kavadom Crematorium at Trivandrum
He was very happy that the Corporation of Trivandrum invited a so-called reputed architectural firm like Kumar Group to design a crematorium. He was shocked when he visited the existing crematorium. The existing building and surroundings were very dirty with wild bushes all around. It was so scary that nobody would go anywhere near the place after sunset. In addition to installing the electric machines for cremation, he designed the whole landscape with pavilions, courtyards and a place to do the last rites. The landscape was so nice that families started using the place as a park.
Taj Hotel at Calicut
The original site had large godowns, possibly built during the British period, on the property. They had high-span roofs with heavy wooden trusses which looked very interesting. He used the same theme of wooden trusses for his new hotel lobby. In terms of interior design, there wasn’t any need to add much to the ceiling except some lights to focus on the wooden joints. Trusses were interestingly designed with members going in multi-directions with equally interesting joints.
Asset Versatile Kochi
This project also has multiple flats in four levels with receding garden space. The project got a CNBC AWAAZ award for the best real estate project in South India.
Nirvana, a Waterfront House
The house was designed in an extremely bad soil with very low load bearing capacity. He designed the whole house using steel for the structure and lightweight double panels. What is more interesting is that the house has no brick, no plaster and no wood. The whole exterior and interior is done in spectacular white with dashes of strong colours for contrast. The entry from the road is a path made of slabs placed on a water body and this water body continues inside the house too with ramps and stairs over it. The rear of this house faces the lake, with a spectacular view.
This was a fine example of urban intervention where an unused land was converted to a public place. The design is simple and includes an open lawn, paved path and car parking around the lawn. He built a large stage at one end and a band stand in a corner. The car parking and stage rent pays for the maintenance and generates a good profit. The place is used by thousands of families including children.
Interiors for the Ship Museum
Ar. Gopakumar created rectangular pillar like structures with middle portion in glass for the exhibit, with focused lighting from top and bottom, and he painted the rest of it black including the walls. Each model shines like a jewel when lit.
Geojit Corporate House, Kochi
He has designed the Geojit building with a lot blank of walls, using thermal absorbing material, with limited square windows letting in only the amount of light needed for working. The external walls are painted white to reflect radiated heat. The air conditioning cost came down considerably.
The Tall Trees Resorts
It is a hill resort in Munnar which had a steep slope with many old trees. Ar. Gopakumar designed the resort with cottages tucked in amidst the trees without cutting even a branch off a tree. With rooms built at two levels and using stilts for support at the lower ends, the slope was not disturbed at all. Though the site had many rocks, they did not break even a single rock in spite of the fact that they needed a lot of rocks for construction which was eventually brought from elsewhere.
The restaurant has a glass roof through which you can see the surrounding trees which offers a spectacular view from inside. In the night we light the trees from below and put only candles for dining. The view of the trees from the cottages and from the restaurant throughout the day and night justifies the name of the resort – The Tall Trees.
This was a project under Better Kochi Response Group where it was requested to build multiple units of public toilets in the city. Gopakumar worked on a project to convert used containers but with very high finish inside with aluminium cladding. The toilets are completely made in a factory to be shifted to site and connected to city services like plumbing and electricity.
IMA , Kochi
The building which was designed for Indian Medical Association has different sectors for conventions, club facilities, association offices and suite rooms. A fine example of building itself financing the project.
Gopakumar’s own house
The building is single storied with a combination of multiple tile roofs so as not to overpower the neighbouring fishermen village. The building is poised to have view of the lake on the rear side from all rooms. The walls are done with exposed white sand lime bricks.
Kumar Group office, kochi
Natural sunlight is fully used with lot of greenery inside. It has a mezzanine space which is suspended from the roof. A sculpture of two painters at work on a bamboo scaffolding is the focal point when one enters the office.
Being an Ayurvedic hospital traditional Kerala architecture is embedded with modern hospital needs.
Thampanoor bus terminal at Trivandrum
The bus bays are placed in an arc for easy manipulation of buses. The external facade is following the details copied from the nearby railway station built by the Britishers.