Lost in nature

BANGALORE: It is not seldom that people forget the goodness of the earth.

Thanks to the highrise apartment culture, people have also forgotten how living with nature can be a joyful experience.But as I turn left from the Bangalore Mysore road, just after Kengeri, and absorb the scenic beauty that rolls by my window, I am quick to realise that there are some people who haven’t blotted out the goodness of the earth from their memory or their way of living. “We are engaged in bringing together like-minded people with a common vision of building a sustainable future,” says Stanley George, the MD of GoodEarth.

Hammock set in the midst of nature, with a canopy of coconut and sapota trees spreading its charm on the houses that play hide-and-seek with nature, sustainable architecture and community living come together in a way at Good Earth Orchard, that makes me say, ‘That’s where I want to be when I retire.’Alternative architecture is what Stanley George believes in. And by alternative, he means to say, architecture that goes beyond the realm of ‘living in a box.’ As I stroll down the lane and scan the horizon I gradually let the feeling of tranquility sink in to my senses still buzzing with the madness of morning city traffic.Burnt brick and stone blocks form the exterior of most of the houses. Large windows and wide verandas catch my attention. Local and medicinal plants steal the sidewalks. And the common areas boast of lush green carpets of well trimmed grass, ingenious rock installations and crafty light fixtures. “We have designed this place keeping in mind natural light and good ventilation.

We have also made sure that there are spaces that let people meet,” notes Natasha Iype, architect. True, as I look around, I see no high compound walls. Even if there is one, it blends aesthetically with the trees and flowering shrubs that surround it. “Such a community generates a strong sense of belonging while also enabling a collective sense of security and responsibility for nature,” she adds.But that is not to mean that people have no room for privacy. The backyard of every house is like a little weekend getaway. With trees and even a well, it is a hideout for those who want to stretch their legs after a long day’s work or grow their own vegetables and herbs.Based on the work and philosophy of late Laurie Baker, the award-winning British born Indian architect, Good Earth was started by a group of architects and engineers who abide by his belief in sustainable architecture.

The team, comprising Stanley George, Jeeth and Natasha Iype and Parthasarathy has been experimenting with alternatives in architecture, exploring concepts of holistic development, through ventures in housing, organic farming, tourism, for the past 18 years.“When you say eco-friendly, it doesn’t just include the materials that go into making a building. The ecology around you is also important,” says Stanley. “In the city, the flora and fauna that existed on the land is replaced by high-rise buildings and lawns that people hardly walk on. Our effort is to build homes that go hand in- hand with nature, without disrupting natural beauty,” he adds.I walk around the trees and smell the air. The smell of ripe sapotas give me a sweet high. And as I step into the car and bid adieu to the little haven off Kengeri, I know that my encounters at the orchard have made me closer to nature.

By Ponnu Elizabeth Mathew