The History of CVA Trust
The Center for Vernacular Architecture Trust has grown out of Shramik, a co-operative of building craft persons initiated by the late R. L. Kumar, in the late 80ís as part of his work with the CIEDS Collective.
The CIEDS Collective — the space in which Kumar and his ideas and work grew — was initiated by visionary human rights and women's activist Corinne Kumar and several other colleagues in 1976, to search for meaningful ways of life and politics rooted in and relevant to the specific realities of India and other non-western cultures. The Collective has been working on a range of concerns — human rights, women, rural, urban and tribal communities, environment and ecology, housing rights, film and communications, art and culture, peace and militarisation. And in the process has given birth to many dreams, ideas, institutions and organisations, Shramik, which subsequently was to metamorphose into the independent CVA Trust, being one of them.
As part of the Collective's efforts to secure land and housing rights and access to basic civic amenities for slum dwellers Kumar began working in Khader Sharief Gardens, one of the city's biggest slums. Participating in community-led initiatives included taking English classes for young girls and boys and intervening in local body elections along with other members of the Collective including Altaf, Kalpana, Lakshmi and Madhu, Kumar went on to initiate Shramik in the late eighties as a cooperative of skilled and unskilled workers who resided in the slum.
Murgesh, one of the local community leaders who joined Kumar as an idealistic social worker became a lifelong friend and partner, central to Shramik whose members included carpenters, plumbers, masons and electricians. The seeds of construction sown in those early years when Shramik took up humble repairs and minor interior projects took creative wings when Kumar befriended architects Jaigopal from the Laurie Baker school of architecture, Stanley George and other architects of Costford through the National Campaign for Housing Rights and worked on projects with them.
The years that followed brought in independent projects that shaped and sculpted Kumar's inherent talent for materials, textures and architecture. Nurtured from within the CIEDS Collective, the informal building workers' cooperative became independent and was subsequently reconstituted as the Centre for Vernacular Architecture Trust.