Hunnarshala Foundation

Building the Future
A collective of professionals, artisans, and craftsmen working at the grassroots level who invest in vocational training and research into traditional knowledge systems, working with communities for inclusive development, and resilience against climate change


Conventional construction practices lack both ecological and social sensitivity. In addition, the use of concrete, which requires a high amount of energy and resources to produce, often neglects local craft knowledge and materials, resulting in the loss of cultural heritage and identity. When in January 2001, a powerful earthquake hit the western Indian state of Gujarat, thousands of people lost their homes. The earthquake engendered serious criticism of construction and engineering practices that are highly hierarchical and regulated and mainly rely on concrete construction.1High Powered Committee Report on National Disaster Management, ed. by the Ministry of Agriculture (New Delhi, 2001). Local artisans are often too far away from the engineer’s role in the construction chain creating a division between the formal and informal construction sectors. This insight led to the emergence of informal associations who rely on mutual support and reconstruction in the aftermath.


Hunnarshala Foundation emerged from such an informal association, comprising architects, engineers, environmental advocates, artisans, local builders, and citizens. The Foundation developed hybrid construction techniques that harness local knowledge and materials such as stone, earth, thatch, and bamboo. They primarily deal with the development of housing and infrastructure for marginalized communities, but also restore and conserve historic buildings and monuments.

Bhunga, a traditional rounded dwelling made of rammed earth capable of withstanding earthquakes, provided a starting point for Hunnarshala to experiment with powdered clay and reclaimed wood reinforcements for the rammed earth. Such experimentation engages artists, artisans, and architects in collaborative learning and co-design. Addressing the extensive use of energy-intensive industrialised materials like cement and steel in India’s building industry and the decline of traditional artisanal practices, the Foundation established a permanent education and entrepreneurship initiative called Karigarshala in 2011. Karigarshala focuses on training dropouts from the formal educational system, aged 16-18, in carpentry and masonry to help them find work as artisans. Becoming a hub of learning and co-development, Hunnarshala also facilitates a two-year training scheme in entrepreneurship and fosters a wide network of business and artisan alumni in India (Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kashmir, and Bihar) and beyond (Iran, Indonesia, and Afghanistan). All new materials and techniques are extensively tested in its laboratory in Bhuj, while the Foundation collaborates with local governments to establish technical guidelines that are incorporated into regional manuals for new construction.

Hunnarshala Foundation recognises the urgent need to address climate breakdown by advocating for ecological sensitivity in building practices and encourages building less as the primary principle. This design approach that connects disciplines, knowledges, contemporary and traditional methods, recognises that ancient technologies and local materials can ultimately inform modern approaches and co-produce climate-responsive material and social spaces.


  • 1
    High Powered Committee Report on National Disaster Management, ed. by the Ministry of Agriculture (New Delhi, 2001).

External links

SEEDS Indiaa disaster relief and resilience organisation that works to rebuild homes and communities in vulnerable regions of India using sustainable and traditional building techniques 

Barefoot Collegea non-profit organisation that focuses on rural development and empowerment, providing training and education for women in areas such as solar energy, water management, and sustainable livelihoods