Prof Christopher Charles Benninger, CCBA
"As architects' we bring to the context more than just the utilitarian goals…we seek the poetry in the place, the lyricism in the built-forms and vibrancy in the inhabitants' lives." Prof Christopher Charles Benninger
Christopher Charles Benninger Architects (CCBA), founded in 1999 by Prof. Christopher Benninger along with Founder Director Ramprasad Akkisetti, is globally recognized architectural firm for 'excellence in design.' With a team of forty architects and studios in Pune and Thimphu, this internationally known 'design house' creates projects ranging from capital cities and new towns; educational campuses and corporate headquarters; housing estates and complexes; hotels resorts and hospitals; down to the design of individual chairs and art works. The firm believes that 'The entire range of materiality plays a role in the studio's search for beauty. In the end, it is not the "things" that the studio design's, but the transcendental experience of the people using them, looking at them, or just being in them which is the essence.'
Born in 1942, Prof. Benninger grew up in America where he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture as a boy. At the age of twelve, he read 'The Natural House' by Wright, which left an indelible mark on him, that can be seen in his work today. He studied urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and architecture at Harvard University where he later because a professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design.
He started his career by working under the famous Spanish architect Jose Luis Sert and learnt a lot from him. This experience brought him in contact with the "European School" of thought where abstraction, and a separation between nature and built form, played important roles. His association with Barbara Ward brought him into the Delos Symposium group where he was associated closely with Constantinos Doxiadis, Buckminister Fuller, Margarete Mead and Arnold Toynbe. He came to India on a Fullbright Fellowship in 1968, and later as a Ford Foundation consultant to set up the School of Planning at Ahmedabad (1972) jointly with Padmashree Balkrishna. V. Doshi. Since then, he has been living and working in the South Asian region for overy forty years. Some labeled this as a "self-imposed exile."
Prof Benninger often quotes Gandhi's indicative, 'Live in a village and plan for the world'. He noted that he craved a life of 'being in reality,' as opposed to studying it from afar. "Being an outsider is elemental to seeing problems in new ways. It leads to more creative insights and angles from which things can be seen and related."
He says, 'Architecture is the experiences of the people who live in milieus or enliven places, imbibe forms, perceive spaces and become lost in the in-between spaces, forgotten or intended, which impact on the emotions, sensitivities and memories of individuals.'
Further he elaborates, 'Architecture and city planning involve social, spatial, cultural and technological relationships, and being an outsider allows one to throw off the given truths, to reconsider them, and to re-think what the nature of things are. We can never know the truth in architecture, but we can search the 'good' in architecture; that is we can search pleasure, efficiency, convenience, beauty, balance, and comfort.'
'For our studio, the good life exist just a step outside of materiality, in a mystic twilight zone, which we call architecture. Our endeavor is to create environments, ambiances and milieus, which enrich our clients' lives and make living a meaningful experience.'
Prof. Benninger has been associated with a group of technical consultants in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune in the areas of structural, services, landscape and interior design as his firm CCBA offers comprehensive architectural services from design to supervision.
Over the years CCBA has built this enormous pool of knowledge, experience and trust which makes it a unique firm to engage with. The firm is directly engaged by patrons and many projects were won at national level competitions over other firms. The firm believes in having state-of-the-art electronic and computer equipment to work with latest software to deliver the best in design and drawing. The architects undergo continual training to keep abreast with the latest in technology. They are both at technical level as well as at intellectual level, at par with the best in the world.
Prof Benninger define his firm as, "CCBA is a laboratory of exploration and experimentation where search and research for solutions to our clients' problems and aspirations. We analyze the parameters and factors that define physical products, which are affordable, durable, functional, ecological and beautiful. Our firm has always functioned as a studio, only taking up projects involving study, analysis and exploration of visual, spatial, formal, social and technological ideas and concepts related to architecture, urbanism and human settlements. "As architects we bring to the context more than just these utilitarian goals…we seek the poetry in the place, the lyricism in the built-forms and vibrancy in the inhabitants' lives."
The firm CCBA has received over 35 awards and citations. Recently, it has been awarded with India's most sought after commissions: the Azim Premji University at Bengaluru; and the Indian Institute of Technology, in Hyderabad, along with the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. Prof Benninger's expansive campuses reveal an understanding of Indian "place making" reflecting the great temple complexes and the Mogul campuses. His narrative presents a language that lies between American ideals embedded in its wooded Arcadian landscapes and sacred notions enshrined within Indian courtyards, generating a unique approach to architecture and place making.
Prof Benninger has lectured at many countries / cities including Germany, Austria, Berlin, India (Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Cochin, Chandigrah, Indore, and Kolkata) etc.
He has been on the Board of the United States Education Foundation of India (Fulbright Foundation), Member of the Bureau of Indian Standards, and on the Board of University Teaching and Research at the University of Pune. He is a Distinguished Professor at CEPT, Ahmedabad and on the Governing Council of the World Society of Ekistics at Athens. He is Statutory Member of the Board of Governors of the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi.
Moreover, Prof Benninger is the founder of the Center for Development Studies and Activities at Pune (1976). After heading the institute for twenty years, he relinquished the management of CDSA to become fully involved in his design studio.
In addition to above, he has been an advisor to the Planning Commission, to the Ministries of Urban Development, Rural Development, Social Welfare and Home Affairs (GOI). He has also been a consultant to the Ford Foundation, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the UN-FAO, UN-ESCAP, UNICEF, UNCHS [Habitat] and many urban development authorities. Under these consultancies, he has prepared urban and regional development plans for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.