If we agree that it is desirable to design architectures rooted in their contexts, then we will be required to start by understanding the local capacities and materials. If we do so, the result may not only be an object that matches the place but a means through which to develop new knowledge in an endless cycle as a renewable resource.
In this sense, the work of Anupama Kundoo is a good example, whose starting point is a profound understanding of two themes: local materials and local culture. Materials have a specific set of rules that are intrinsic to them, and Kundoo’s approach to different materials is rooted in those laws that come from matter itself. She then goes on to understand the ways the culture of the place has dealt with those material laws. Available crafts, skills, and knowledge present in the local workforce are seen as a source of information that is carefully pondered before making any specific decision. Paying attention to each of these worlds, even trying to integrate them into one single operation, does not necessarily guarantee a good piece of architecture. Considering design only as technique to shape or to carve brings us closer to the practice of handicraft rather than architecture. In her case, a third point is brought into design: the importance of the human soul. Her work could be seen as an attempt to design places for the spirit, and a dimension that is so hard to grasp is what may explain that, even though she starts from what is already there in the place, the way she deals with preexistences is always innovative and new. The search for a spiritual dimension in the modern tradition tends to be close to an ethereal, abstract minimalism. In her case it is rather physical, expressive, and present, perhaps because the spiritual seems to be something collective rather than individual. The project aims to be a catalyst so that the community that works in it sees itself reflected in the work. Thus the money spent remains in the local economy and enriches it. When working in contexts of shortage and dearth, it is the most appropriate way to ensure affordability and the success of the project.