Abraham P Kurien (Biju) isn’t your average harbinger of environmental change in India — he may have potentially started a movement. He began with a fairly simple initiative, that took him four years to set up; what is today known as ‘Oor - Abrahams Homeland’, a home for assisted retirement living; which he says is more of a community based elderly support system. Set up in Mallappally, Pathanamthitta District of Kerala, Oor consists of 15 rooms, built for couples and individuals who wish to spend the later half of their lives in pure leisure. To most, this may seem like any other ordinary initiative for the elderly...until you dig deeper.
Although the house came up recently, the house’s interiors go back to anywhere between 50 to 900 years ago! Built using traditional methods to uphold Kerala’s vintage style, the entire residence has been put together with reusable or recycled material. From old laterite stones, wooden cross beams, window frames and shutters, doors, and even clay tiles, the home consists almost entirely of ancient ware, except for the floor tiling. One would think this may compromise on their elderly residents’ comfort but till date, there have been no complaints! Their facilities as well as residents are taken care of by trained professionals, who are available 24/7.
“Initially, people thought I was crazy for using materials that were anything between 50 and 900 years. Now researchers, students and faculty want to replicate the idea and have come here to study the plan,” says Abraham, on his achievement. Initially, he looked for a blueprint he could base his idea off, but found none. Finally, he decided to pursue his dream with a plan of his own with aid from architect R.D. Padmakumar and Biju P. John (Costford District Coordinator).
The foundation was set in December 2014, while Abraham continued to hunt down material for his project. From demolition projects, old houses and more, he began to collect as much material as he possibly could over the years. By the end of it all, he talks of the many purchases made, “In total, we had purchased 24 old buildings, including 14 houses, 2 government schools, 2 church buildings, 3 government hospital buildings, 1 court, 1 railway good shed and a state transport bus station building — and we completely refused to cut down a single tree for any of the house’s framework.”
“Today, I can proudly say that I have built my home without cutting a single tree or extracting a single stone. I hope that the youth will remember the beauty of villages, and of nature. I feel like people are slowly starting to realise the importance of building in a sustainable manner. There are already around six to eight homes being built using the same principles I have,” he says, on a closing note.
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