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Shailesh Devi’s Coolest Buildings

Shailesh Devi has created incredibly inventive and visually interesting buildings, in every type from residential to temple. Most 0f his projects have remained in India, staying adapted to, and interacting with the environment and culture of his home land to create structures that are so much more than that. 


Who is Shailesh Devi? 

Shailesh Devi is an Architect with 22 years of experience. A practicing Architect in Nashik with a keen passion for academics , shailesh has worked with Padmashree Balkrishna Doshi at Sangath , Ahmadabad and has been in both professional practice and teaching for last 18 years. He has been instrumental in initiating many innovative studios to create passion in students for their work and has been co-developer of informal focussed studios at SPANDAN for interested group of 20-25 students.

Shailesh is Founder Member of “Saturday forum- Nashik”,(2008) an informal platform for likeminded individuals from various design disciplines to explore the realm of art, architecture and everything in between. Saturday Forum is engaged in various Arts & Architectural Books Readings, Debates, Discussion & Presentations, Workshops, Architectural Competitions and Architectural Study Tours. He is associated to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage –INTACH- as a Convener at INTACH Nashik Chapter. He has attended several studios, with BV Doshi Master Class Studio at Sangath , Ahemdabad (2007)on ‘Human Habitat’ and Glen Marcutt Master Class Studio in Australia (2013) being important ones.

A participant of many national and international competitions, he has handled varied typologies experimenting and responding to the uniqueness of the place and people. The vast spectrum of typologies include various residential and commercial projects, cultural complexes like Kalagram and ashram for Shri Shri Ravi Shankarji, religious buildings –temples and mosque where a philosophical approach to spaces is main focus, institutional buildings like schools, Studios, clinics etc., with many of his projects been published in architectural magazines. 

“Architecture evolves; becomes experience. Experience evokes emotions. Emotions become memory.” His work revolves around understanding core human values, creating ‘Experiential and Contextual Architecture’, creating timeless spaces for the people residing in it. An approach which is philosophical in its interpretation of past in today’s times.


Within n Without Studio 

Studio ‘Within N Without’, formed in 2011 is an architectural firm based in Nashik, founded by Ar. Shailesh Devi. The studio is a creative space who believes in its ideas and emphasizes to evolve innovative architectural processes. Studio holds an extensive experience in varied scale projects from private to public sector. Which includes interesting typologies like temples, masjid and gurudwara, Artist studio, Office buildings, residential, farmhouses, etc. Along with the practise, Shailesh Devi believes in sharing his knowledge and experience as a professor in MET College of Architecture, Nashik. With artistic students aspiring for architecture and design. He believes to expand knowledge and art in varied perspectives. Also, he is an asset involved in INTACT chapter which works for preserving heritage. Simultaneously, the studio likes and keeps participating in architectural competitions which are recognised at national and international level. From which the studio have won about 27 competitions so far, which also includes live scale projects which are been built recently. We aim in dedication and passionately working in architecture and socially contribute towards society through architecture.


The History of Architecture in India 

India and Pakistan became independent from Great Britain in 1947, a time that produced enormous change in the two countries, including in their architecture. What arose? a movement of South Asian Architecture led by the people of India and Pakistan, informed by local craftsmanship and resources. The result was incredible innovation and beautiful design. 

The British raj was aperiod of direct British rule over the Indian subcontinent from 1858 until the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. The raj succeeded management of the subcontinent by the British East India Company, after general distrust and dissatisfaction with company leadership resulted in a widespread mutiny of sepoy troops in 1857, causing the British to reconsider the structure of governance in India. The British government took possession of the company’s assets and imposed direct rule. The raj was intended to increase Indian participation in governance, but the powerlessness of Indians to determine their own future without the consent of the British led to an increasingly adamant national independence movement. It’s important to understand the history of the place in order to understand the emerging architecture in the postcolonial period. The daughter of a reformist politician and suffragette, and a close friend of the architectural giant Le Corbusier, Minnette de Silva was Sri Lanka’s first modernist architect and the first Asian woman to become an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Within no time, she became a 1940s “It girl”, while studying in London. Back in the 1950s, the architect Minnette de Silva pioneered a new version of the modern house in Ceylon. She floated living quarters above gardens on slender concrete pilotis. She conjured up airy interiors of fluid space for family gatherings and Buddhist ceremonies, the rooms circulating around a sweeping staircase, the building made with homegrown timbers like jak and halmilla. At the time following independence, India did not have access to a wealth of resources, especially not those being shipped in from around the world. Working with the materials and skills of the land produced excellent results, employed people locally in skills they had highly developed, and was cost effective because there was plentiful clay to make the bricks. The influence of Brutalism on the South Asian architects in the Postcolonial period is undeniable. The hall of nations is a prime example. Concrete, used primarily in the project, was a material that was also accessible and affordable to use, unlike materials like steel. India saw the first face of brutalism when French architect Le Corbusier designed some of the world’s seminal brutalist buildings in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad in the early 1950s. 


The Indian Coffee House in Thiruvananthapuram, which was designed by Laurie Baker. Indian Coffee House is a restaurant chain in India, run by a series of worker co-operative societies. This one is completely rounded on the outside, forming a kind of cylinder, with cutouts to let air through and light in, but enough protection to stop the sun from blazing in. “The Hamlet” Laurie Baker’s home(shown below) in Thiruvananthapuram is a statement of his insights into architecture in its own right.  He built it on a steeply sloping and rocky hillside that hardly had any vegetation when Baker started constructing it , is now a visual delight. The circular room is a common feature in many designs at the time, but also only within this niche of South Asian architects with a bent for the natural and local. 

The period of postcolonial change in India and Pakistan brought forth an outpouring of interesting and innovative design and architecture, which has often been cast to the waysides of history. So much important design has fallen to ruin because of it, and many names have been swept under the larger looming figures like Le Corbusier. It’s time we recognize the contributions of these architects, the societal conditions they were responding to, and the resulting unique innovation that came out of it. 


Shailesh Devi’s 10 Coolest Buildings

1.Gumpha House

Situated in nashik, india, ‘gumpha house’ by architect shailesh devi seeks to bridge the ever-growing gap between city life and nature. With its organic forms and poetic play of light and shadow, the project offers a much needed psychological refuge. ‘As the urban dweller tired from the stresses of everyday life, seeking rejuvenation, turns towards nature, his quest is to seek inner joy, unbound his energies to become one with the forces of nature’, expresses shailesh devi. According to shailesh devi, who leads architecture firm within N without, ‘gumpha house’ takes the visitor on an unexpected journey between heaven and earth, between light and darkness. 

Indeed, with its undulating lines and pathways the house resembles a living organism that playfully leads you on a continuous journey of discovery. To elaborate, upon arriving at the site, one is immediately exposed to an unusual form of primitive architecture — with stone walls and minimal design lines. However, as the architect explains, this elementary feature aims at helping the individual reconnect with their essence as human beings, and with their inner peace. ‘[…]the interiors are introvert and contemplative, [while] the exteriors offer you vistas of the surroundings, engaging both joyous and peaceful essence of man, initiating an intense experience, in turn making you richer by the time you leave for the city’, elaborates devi. 


Gumpha bridges the chasm between the darkness in the depths of lands and the light which comes calling from the heavens; celebrating the communion of the two. The user is drawn into this play of light and darkness; discovering his part in the drama as he becomes part of the bigger script, making a journey, discovering the meaning of the larger picture, each having his own definition. As you move along the path the land opens up to you, taking you along its winding ways slowly revealing the surrounding, drawing you into an atmosphere. You are introduced to gumpha when you least expect it and it comes to meet you, inviting you to delve into it, seek its spaces, travel its depths. It wants you to discover, to explore, to find something new each time you walk along. The form it takes is mostly organic, where the earth itself seems to breathe in tandem with light to create what can be called as an almost living and sensuous organism, arousing the curiosity with its silent light and playful inquisitive spaces. It almost humors you by appealing the child in you in playing with itself, making you wonder, drawing you in the insides, taking you along on the roof.


2. Maruti Mandir

Nashik is one of the ancient holy cities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra and here in the small village of Kalvan, stands an all-black-stoned temple popularly known as Maruti Mandir. This temple space is an important part of the village since the olden times. It was situated at the heart of a small village and provided the local people with an affordable and accessible place of worship. However, the old temple structure had fallen into disrepute, leading to its being dismantled entirely so that they could reconstruct it. And thus arrived the need to build the new one.

The architecture firm ‘Within N Without’ was given charge of the project to replace the ram shackled Maruti mandir temple with a new sacred structure. This newly constructed Maruti mandir temple plays an important role in the socio-cultural and spiritual life of the community. Not only it still serves as an affordable and accessible asset for local people but also remains an integral part of the neighborhood. It also integrates with the surroundings as well as the lives of the people as the many other places of worship in the region. ‘WithinNWithout’ began work on the new design after the previous temple was demolished. The new design by the firm has given the Maruti Mandir temple a new life while still keeping the people connected to it as if it was never new. The serene new all-black revamp structure is perched on the old structure’s existing plinth. 

The Maruti Mandir remains geographically and visually separate from the rest of the settlement. Thus, even though the complex is separated from the rest of the settlement, the temple is not easily seen from outside its surroundings and the approach road, except for some particularly high vantage points. This Temple plays a significant role in the socio-cultural and religious life of the people living here. The temple works as an affordable and accessible strength for simple local people who are among the low-rise housing community in Nashik. It is an essential part of the local life system.

The within n without a team has strengthened the design of the Maruti Mandir out of several concerns in the surroundings. they have addressed the diverse user groups effectively and considering the social relations, interactions and movements of people as a vital aspect of the design and layout of the complex. They have successfully created the design composition with a judicious selection of elements in their appropriate form, scale, and proportions.


The temple is not easily seen from outside its surroundings and the approach road, notwithstanding the projection of this complex at the first glimpse, except some particularly high vantage points. It is because they design the temple elevation with stepped progression to scale down the monumentality of the temple structure in the complex, which may be felt dominating the setting. The firm justifies its decision for choosing the eye-catching all-black exterior with the reason that they aimed to reduce the appearance of its mass.

The architects have used an intricate play of light for the interior design of the Maruti Mandir. they have created a space that changes as worshipers move from the entrance towards the core of the building. Other considerations that played an important role in the temple’s configuration and layout were the interactions and movement of people within the space. As one moves from the entrance to the core of the building, the interior of the space changes.

The firm’s design approach is Exploratory and accommodative which moves beyond form and function. It establishes the interrelationship of built to open and physical to metaphysical that plays a paramount role. With the help of the play of lights in the interior of the building, they have created a space that changes as worshippers move around the venue. This Careful handling of light and changes in sense of enclosure has created a visually striking experience while one moves from the entrance towards the core.The ‘ Within N Without ‘ team has set the structure of the new Maruti Mandir on the same existing plinth of the old dilapidated temple. They have maintained its rustic charm through the use of local stone. The same stone is holding the whole structure together.

As the buildings are constructed from the local black stone, it relates to its context in both scale and form. The stepped progression of the temple’s all-black façade reduces the appearance of the building’s mass. This prevents the temple structure from dominating everything in its surroundings.


3.  Spandan

Spandan, architect Shailesh Devi’s studio at Nashik is based on the philosophy of “Journey of one’s life”. Spaces in the studio reflect one’s journey through various experiences in life. “Stand anywhere in my office, you will be able to see the sky” – Shailesh Devi. He further adds, “Connecting spaces, merging interiors and exteriors, is the essence of this architecture.”

Creating the space that nourishes the concept of ‘experience’ with essential elements for living timeless architecture bearing Indian roots. “Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this.” Says Devi. Freed from the conventional limitations of architecture, focusing instead on fascination and beauty; something other than fending off the wind and the rain, the space designed to enliven the conventional experiences of people in the living environment. All design decisions are made on the basis of one’s experience and participation in one’s environment, rather than the stereotypical simplicity of production and craft. The living environment is thus more than receptacles for its occupants; it goes beyond providing spaces to live, and forms ‘architecture’ – one that reflects the needs and aspirations of the user and one that is truly in harmony with its site and is expressive of its unique existence. The essential concept of the approach reflects the way in which the designers look forward to the architectural practice. Rustic yet urban and oddly authentic, all at the same time, the uniqueness makes ‘native’ the approach of vernacular soul. Thus, the concept is completely in synch with a user-orientated approach towards perception of space, in which the experience of everyday space by the user is the central consideration. Experimenting with spatial illusions create a dynamic space that draws attention and allow users to choreograph their experiences. Thus architecture here is cultural expression of materialistic essence and attempts to inculcate a fuller understanding and appreciation of the beliefs, values and ambiance that shaped it.

The significance which is in unity is an eternal wonder. We try to realise the essential unity of the world with the conscious soul of man; we learn to perceive the unity held together by the one Eternal Spirit, whose power creates the earth, the sky, and the stars, and at the same time irradiates our minds with the light of a consciousness that moves and exits in unbroken continuity with the outer world. – Said Tagore.


4. The Stone House

Association of human with hills is legendary. Though there has always been a challenge for human habitation the wealth of mountains is celebrated by human footprint. Adapting to the topography and climatic conditions hill sites offers the potential for isolation from communities and settlements. Despite all this higher elevations serves a platform is to explore and savor great views of nature. Located in the tranquil setting within easy reach from the city the site offers beautiful views of countryside thus making an ideal location for second home. Initial stage of concept exploration was based on a functional layout that physically adapted to the terrain while the design evolved through the stages of fragmentation of volumes and forms to involve variety and interest in spatial experience. The spatial quality was further upgraded to meet contemporary lifestyle and aspirations while it remains grounded to the traditional series of spaces.

The semi-enclosed living space on the ground offers a platform to enjoy the scenic views from the surrounding landscape and thus truly becomes the center of this residence where the landscape directly flows in. The deep shaded place serves as a retreat during summer day or, any evening or early morning. It is a quiet place for reading and relaxing, a pause point to look over which also turn out to be an interactive place to sit and talk with family and a congregation space for social gathering. Access to the house is through a journey of unfolding views that resonates the experience from the landscape thus giving the native flavor to this architecture that belongs to this place.


What is Organic Architecture? 

While Shailesh Devi’s work spans many different architectural styles including modernism, post-modernism ad organic architecture, his most famous and recognized buildings fit squarely in the organic architecture category. The term “organic architecture” was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), though never well-articulated by his cryptic style of writing. Organic architecture is also translated into the all-inclusive nature of Wright’s design process. Materials, motifs, and basic ordering principles continue to repeat themselves throughout the building as a whole. The idea of organic architecture refers not only to the buildings’ literal relationship to the natural surroundings, but how the buildings’ design is carefully thought about as if it were a unified organism. Geometries throughout Wright’s buildings build a central mood and theme.


Essentially organic architecture is also the literal design of every element of a building: From the windows to the floors, to the individual chairs intended to fill the space. Everything relates to one another, reflecting the symbiotic ordering systems of nature. Today, many views exist on the nature and qualities of organic architecture. For some, it is an architecture rooted in nature’s forms and principles; for others, the focus is on the connection from interior to exterior and the use of abstracted plant geometries. Some see it in the use of natural materials such as unadorned wood and stone, juxtaposed with modern materials like concrete. Others see it in Wright’s use of interpenetrating volumes and contrasts—light and dark, compressing and releasing—to take the occupant of a building on a journey as if through nature. All of these interpretations have a basis in Wright’s words, and of course in his works, and so organic architecture is at once all of these things.

Yet, there is an underlying idea, a theory of organic architecture, that knits these expressions of organicity together. It is true that one can no more synthesize Wright’s idea of organic architecture in a short essay than the architect himself could synthesize the idea over the course of a long career. Nonetheless, there is much that we can learn about the underlying concept of organicity in Wright’s work when we view it through the contemporary lens: sustainable design. Sustainability is, in fact, the clear import of Wright’s theory of organic architecture, and precisely the reason why his work has become ever more relevant, urgently so, in our time. “Ecosystem” is the critical term in this formulation; coined in 1935 from two Greek roots (oikos, meaning home, and systema, meaning “combined in a whole”) by British botanist Arthur Tansley to mean “a particular category of physical systems, consisting of organisms and inorganic components in a relatively stable equilibrium, open and of various sizes and kinds.” As the concept of ecosystems became generally accepted, it is not surprising that the term has been applied beyond the universe of interactions among plants, animals, and the surrounding environment, to refer to any complex network of interdependent systems. We now speak of information ecosystems, economic ecosystems, social ecosystems, and other similar concepts; even among the varied public and private Frank Lloyd Wright organizations and owners, we sometimes refer to the “Wright ecosystem” to represent our interdependence.

In fact, it is the notion of interdependence that is central to every ecosystem, because within an ecosystem all components survive and thrive only because every component survives and thrives. The dominance of any single component capable of monopolizing resources needed by others spells the death of any ecosystem. It is for this reason that nature abhors monocultures—the dominance of a single species consuming all available resources to the detriments of any competitor species. This quality of interdependence results in specialization through natural selection, and biodiversity emerging from the most hostile environments with the fewest nurturing resources.

While this all may make it seem that Organic Architecture was just invented in the 20th century, it has in fact been a part of building practices for a long long time. The term indeed originated with Frank Lloyd Wright, but Indigenous peoples have been building Organic structures since the beginning. 

The traditional or vernacular architecture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia varied to meet the lifestyle, social organisation, family size, cultural and climatic needs and resources available to each community. The types of forms varied from dome frameworks made of cane through spinifex-clad arc-shaped structures, to tripod and triangular shelters and elongated, egg-shaped, stone-based structures with a timber frame to pole and platform constructions. Annual base camp structures, whether dome houses in the rainforests of Queensland and Tasmania or stone-based houses in south-eastern Australia, were often designed for use over many years by the same family groups.


The original Indigenous people of Canada developed complex building traditions thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. Canada contained five broad cultural regions, defined by common climatic, geographical and ecological characteristics. Each region gave rise to distinctive building forms which reflected these conditions, as well as the available building materials, means of livelihood, and social and spiritual values of the resident peoples. In the far north, where wood was scarce and solid shelter essential for survival, several unique and innovative architectural styles were developed. One of the most famous is the igloo, a domed structure made of snow, which was quite warm. The curved form made from bricks of ice is adaptive to its environment, energy efficient, and integrated with the natural landscape. It is also beautiful, ingeniously constructed, and of a curved style that has become more and more popular these days. 

Pueblo-style architecture imitates the appearance of traditional Pueblo adobe construction, though other materials such as brick or concrete are often substituted. If adobe is not used, rounded corners, irregular parapets, and thick, battered walls are used to simulate it. Walls are usually stuccoed and painted in earth tones. Multistory buildings usually employ stepped massing similar to that seen at Taos Pueblo.

Shailesh Devi, therefore, is drawing from a long history of vernacular architecture utilizing curving walls and natural materials to create the beautiful look of the Gumpha house, that now reads as a futuristic creation.