India’s Forgotten Stepwells

Agrasen ki Baoli, Delhi. Image © Victoria S. Lautman

It’s hard to imagine an entire category of architecture slipping off history’s grid, and yet that seems to be the case with ’s incomparable stepwells. Never heard of ‘em? Don’t fret, you’re not alone: millions of tourists – and any number of locals – lured to the subcontinent’s palaces, forts, tombs, and temples are oblivious to these centuries-old water-structures that can even be found hiding-in-plain-sight close to thronged destinations like Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi or Agra’s Taj Mahal.

But now, India’s burgeoning water crisis might lead to redemption for at least some of these subterranean edifices, which are being re-evaluated for their ability to collect and store water. With any luck, tourist itineraries will also start incorporating what are otherwise an “endangered species” of the architecture world.

Learn more about these stepwells’ curious histories, after the break…

Gurgaon 71 Residential Proposal / Maison Edouard François

© Luxigon

The 71 residential project proposal by Maison Edouard François represents French-style luxury living while simultaneously respecting Indian traditions. Located in Gurgaon, India, these luxurious apartments make use of noble materials such as marble and wood and have large interiors, including double height spaces, and offer 360° views onto the surrounding landscape.  More images and architects’ description after the break.

DPS Kindergarden School / Khosla Associates

© Shamanth Patil

Architects: Khosla Associates
Location: , India
Principal Designers: Sandeep Khosla and Amaresh Anand
Design Team: Sandeep Khosla, Amaresh Anand, and Bijeta Bachaspati
Client: Annabelle Manwaring
Area: 35000.0 ft2
Year: 2013
Photographs: Shamanth Patil

KMC Corporate Office / RMA Architects

© Robert Stephens

Architects: RMA Architects
Location: Cyber City, ,
Year: 2012
Photographs: Robert Stephens, Rahul Mehrotra, Courtesy of RMA Architects, Rajesh Vora, Carlos Chen

PA_House / atelier dnD

© Sebastian Zachariah

Architects: atelier dnD
Location: ,
Area: 20000.0 ft2
Year: 2012
Photographs: Sebastian Zachariah

Housing for Mahouts and their Elephants / RMA Architects

© Carlos Chen

Architects: RMA Architects
Location: Amber, Rajasthan, India
Architect In Charge: Rahul Mehrotra
Consultants: Integrated Designs, Vijay K. Patil & Associates
Area: 88 sqm
Year: 2010
Photographs: Carlos Chen, Charles Garcia, Rajesh Vora, Courtesy of

Think Tank Retreat / RMA Architects

© Romil Sheth

Architects: RMA Architects
Location: Valpoi, , India
Architect In Charge: Rahul Mehrotra
Consultants: Sewri Consultants (P)Ltd., Riyaz Rangawala, Sunil Services, Aseem Merchant
Area: 1,685.25 sqm
Year: 2009
Photographs: Romil Sheth, Rajesh Vora, Courtesy of RMA Architects

Aranya House / Modo designs

© Vishal Solanki / Radhika Pandit

Architects: Modo designs
Location: Aranya,
Architect In Charge: Arpan Shah
Area: 5,850 sqft
Year: 2013
Photographs: Vishal Solanki / Radhika Pandit

Magic Bus / RMA Architects

© Ariel Huber

Architects: RMA Architects
Location: , Mumbai,
Architect In Charge: Rahul Mehrotra
Consultants: Vijay K. Patil & Associates, D.R.Bellare, Riyaz Rangwala, Sunil Services, Sewri
Area: 2,415 sqm
Year: 2007
Photographs: Ariel Huber, Rahul Mehrotra, RMA Architects

House in a Tea Garden / RMA Architects

© Rahul Mehrotra

Architects: RMA Architects
Location: , India
Architect In Charge: Rahul Mehrotra
Area: 8,000 sq ft
Year: 2008
Photographs: Rahul Mehrotra, Rajesh Vora,

Designing the Future of Design: An Interview with Kumar Vyas by Victoria Lautman

Sketch of an eight petalled lotus, the inspiration for Vyas’ of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. Image Courtesy of Kumar Vyas.

“What do we mean by education?” “What is design?” “Can design be taught?”

These were some of the questions a small group of innovative pioneers – huddled in the attic of Le Corbusier’s Sanskar Kendra museum – asked themselves when they set about creating what would become the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, ’s first design school. The year was 1962, and not only were there no designers in the country, the profession of design, for Indians, simply did not exist.

One of these pioneers – who would head the industrial design department, help formulate the school’s curriculum, and train its faculty members – was Kumar Vyas. Born in 1929, Vyas remained at NID for three decades, and continues to work from his office on the campus he helped create. His numerous articles and books were essential to establishing India’s current design-rich environment; two years ago, he received the prestigious Sir Misha Black Medal for Excellence in Design Education.

Vyas’ experience designing a design education is not only a fascinating journey, but also a source of inspiration – if architecture education took Vyas’ lessons to heart, and re-examined itself from square one, how would it be different?  Read Victoria Lautman’s interview with Vyas after the break, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

Motisons Tower / Kothari Associates

Courtesy of

Architects: Kothari Associates
Location: , India
Director: Utkarsh Kothari
Chief Architect: Ravindra Verma
Senior Architect: Rajesh Singh
Area: 50,000 sqft
Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of Kothari Associates

Atali Ganga / RLDA

© Asif Khan

Architects: RLDA
Architect In Charge: Rahoul Singh, Lakshmi Chand Singh
Team: Rahoul Singh, Lakshmi Chand Singh, Kushal Lachchwani, Sajal Das, Ajay Saini
Structural: S.D Construction
Area: 2045.0 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Asif Khan

CSMVS – Visitor Centre at the Prince of Wales Museum / RMA Architects

© Rajesh Vora

Architects: RMA Architects
Location: ,
Year: 2011
Photographs: Rajesh Vora, Edmund Sumner

Nirvana Film Office / SJK Architects

© Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri

Architects: SJK Architects
Location: Bangalore,
Design Team: Shimul Javeri Kadri, Sarika Shetty, Roshni Kshirsagar, Poonam Sachdev
Area: 8,000 sqm
Year: 2011
Photographs: Pallon Daruwalla & Shimul Javeri Kadri

The Brick House / Hiren Patel Architects

© Sebastian Zachariah

Architects: Hiren Patel Architects
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat,
Architect In Charge: Hiren Patel
Area: 335 sqm
Year: 2008
Photographs: Sebastian Zachariah

Hotel Avasa / Nandu Associates

© Bharath Ramamrutam

Location: Madhapur, Hyderabad,
Team: B. Nanda Kumar, Ankita Gupta, B.H.Ravi Shankar, B.Naveen Reddy
Area: 8179.0 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Bharath Ramamrutam

Nirma Vidyavihar / Apurva Amin Architects

Courtesy of Apurva Amin Architects

Architects: Apurva Amin Architects
Location: ,
Structural Consultant: Saurachana Strucon
Landscape Consultant: Apurva Amin Architects
Civil Contractor: Tricon, Tejas Shah
Year: 2010
Photographs: Courtesy of Apurva Amin Architects