About Us

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 80’s 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.


CVA Trust Founder

R.L Kumar

Following Kumar's passing,we had started a Tributes Pageto acknowledge the tributes and messages of support that poured in from all those who knew him or had heard of him. We keep this page open inviting you to continue sharing your memories of Kumar and also your thoughts on how we could take his ideas and CVA Trust forward.

Our Team


Khalid Rehman

Founder Trustees and Principal Architects who have trained with Kumar since 2003 on all aspects of Vernacular Architecture, from design to construction. At present Khalid handles the day-to-day affairs in the main office in Bangalore and Goutam handles the Chennai office.

Goutam Seetharaman

Founder Trustees and Principal Architects who have trained with Kumar since 2003 on all aspects of Vernacular Architecture, from design to construction. At present Khalid handles the day-to-day affairs in the main office in Bangalore and Goutam handles the Chennai office.


one of the local community leaders from Khader Sharief garden from where Shramik began, he is one of the Founding Trustees. An experienced building supervisor he coordinates all the major projects that CVA Trust has taken up.

Madhu Bhushan

R.L. Kumar's wife and a social and women's activist who was with him in CIEDS Collective and Vimochana, she has also joined CVA as a principal trustee to help hold the work together with the spirit of critical, creative and compassionate curiosity that drove his philosophical search to understand and respond to the world through a unique architectural practice.

The CVA Team

Apart from the founding trustees, rest of the experienced team at CVA Trust includes:

Manju and Mani, building supervisors who also run the Electrical team.

Palani, who heads the Plumbing team.

Muthuraman, senior mason.

Manikantha and his team of skilled carpenters.

Arun and his crew of painters.

Bhuvana, Murgesh's daughter, who in true Kumar tradition was groomed outside the formal education system into a skilled architect involved in both design and construction.

Dinesh, Murgesh's son who is also following in his father's footsteps as a site supervisor.

Madhuri who has come into the CVA Trust, not only as architect but also to help with the publications.

Kalpana, also from the CIEDS Collective and part of the original team of Shramik who has joined in as a part time accountant and also to help in bringing out the publications.

And the innumerable craftspeople who have brought in their masonry skills... each have come together to build with much camaraderie and care, the dream Kumar shared with generous abandon.

In addition to such longstanding members of the CVA family, we also have a strong team of young architects who both design and manage on-site construction as well.

We are also fortunate to have Mr. Sambasivan and Mr. Ramadorai who have joined us as advisors to our Trust.

As is tradition and Kumar's mission, a steady stream of interns continue to work with us, inspiring us and in return being transformed with their introduction to vernacular architecture. Many architects trained under Kumar and worked with CVA may have now returned to their hometowns and/or taken up independent projects, but continue to link with CVA as associate architects or as fellow travelers. Sundeep Nagaraj, Raina Nazareth, Charmy, Adesara, Sindhuri, Raji Rajangam, Chaitali Babar and Durga Shetty are but some who are committed to walking this path inspired by Kumar.

We are indeed a community and our collective knowledge and individual talent is what binds us together.

The Centre comprises of a core team of six architects, eight engineer/supervisors and a team of about 150 dedicated crafts-people drawn from all the building related trades. Apart from undertaking turnkey projects we also offer consultancy, training, promotion of student exchange/resident programs.

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