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Snehal Khatavkar
Design researcher. Design strategist

A craft center in Orissa focusing on upskilling artisans and the practice of craft in the Indian Building Industry. The project allowed for

in- depth knowledge of construction processes  and material research.   


Project type: Architecture thesis 

Role: Individual project 

Year: 2019-2020

India is an invaluable repository of traditional building practices, practiced by skilled artisans that emerge as a response to its diverse climatic, geological and socio-cultural expressions. This vast resource of building practices and skilled artisans is continuously being threatened by the unprecedented growth of the construction industry and the quest for a ‘modern’ and/ or ‘permanent’ habitat. Many indigenous building approaches and artisanal communities are losing their relevance and are being rapidly reduced to being labour as opposed to being craftsmen, ultimately proving unsustainable, both economically as well as ecologically. While substantial research on traditional building materials and techniques exists and is ongoing, its implementation, specifically for contemporary development, is often contested. 

The thesis attempts to look for ways in which craftsmen can be empowered with the industry through upskilling, find out ways to produce architectural spaces combining the indigenous building practices with the contemporary, for modern needs. 


Studying the context of the town I was designing for gave an insight into the local building practices , material usage, space planning and cultural context.  The following study also helped understand the climate responsive strategies that needed to be considered in a state like Orissa. 

Rapid sketching to derive key design elements to incorporate in the campus  

A glossary of design elements were developed during initial sketching sessions. 

A central semi open workshop area 

Workshop module configurations 

Façade details and landscape elements 

  • Lack of research , efforts in documentation, upgradation and upskilling artisans in the state. 

  • New proposal of Odisha Skill Development plan  (OSDP) and the indigenous peoples plan, on which the project proposal is based.  

  • Initiatives like the Artisans self help group to give impetuous to the training of craftsman in the industry to form corporations thereby helping the artisans in the state

workshop area
Design studio 

To understand the role and the participation of the craftsman in the industry, I compared the contemporary construction industry with the indigenous. It was clear, that though the indigenous construction was organic it worked well with the Indian conditions of diversity, diverse contexts and kept the artisan at the center of the ecosystem