St George Orthodox Church


St. George Orthodox Church at Mattanchery was the first church of Christians in the land of spices (Kerala, India) set in A.D.1615. Years of negligence and encroachment left this historic monument in shambles. With increasing demand over resources, it is the responsibility of architects to use materials with very less embodied energy. Mud as a material can be expressed in its true form through various methods like earth blocks, rammed earth, wattle and daub and many more. The exploratory spirit combined with pressing demands our designs are born; which are evolved through a series of dialogues between the masons, architects, clients and an immediate understanding of the site and the surrounding. Rammed earth and compressed earth blocks are dominant materials in the design process. The head of the Christian sect of Kerala (His Holiness Moran Mar Baselious Marthoma Paulose-II) took a brave step in rebuilding (keeping the foundation intact) this monument. Wallmakers, trained by Ar. Satprem Maiini from Auroville Earth Institute, Pondicherry explained to the client the possibilities of earth architecture and the historic importance of arches and vaults in religious edifices. The resulting partnership produced magic aimed with reinstating earth architecture in south India, this was prime opportunity. The concept of domes, vaults and arches rose from early symbols of eastern Christianity like Marthoma cross finally ending in an altar blessed by a "cross of light" a concept by Ar. Tadao Ando but in this case by earth bricks, by nature. The masons received training by the architect himself in building with compressed stabilized earth block using ancient Nubian technology of arch and vault building without extensive shuttering (revitalized in early 20th century by Ar. Hassan Fathy). The project led to training of various students of architecture who have come to understand the importance of building with earth to have a better future.

Constructed, 1615
Rebuilt, 2016