Date of Birth: 21-10-1942
Place of Birth: Areeparampu, Kottayam District Kerala

Prof. Oommen is one of the most respected architectural educators in the state of Kerala. He is remembered by his students as a soft-spoken professor who listened closely and loved to teach architecture design, urban design and history. An outstanding student, he graduated as part of the first batch of architecture (1963-69) from College of Engineering Trivandrum (CET) under the University of Kerala (First class and first rank) and a Master of Architecture (First class with Honors, Second Rank) in architectural design from University of Roorkee in 1974. He was the first full time Head (1979-91) of the Department of Architecture at CET, which until then was manned by architects from the Kerala Public Works Department. Under his stewardship, the architecture department at CET rose to being one of the prominent schools in the country. Prof. Oommen led the turn from a PWD modernist approach to one that took context, culture and environment seriously. The documentation work of traditional and vernacular architecture that he led from the late 1970’s, the most prominent of which is the Padmanabhapuram Palace complex, remain some of the best work produced by the school. Importantly, it initiated a period of collective rethinking of modernity and context. 

The 1980’s were also a period of great churning in which Laurie Baker was attacking some of the bland and costly ‘PWD modern’ architecture. Prof. Oommen added to that mix in his unique way by working from within architectural education. For him this meant not only involving Baker as much as possible in the department, attempting thereby to soften the hard line stance against him within the engineering and PWD establishment, but also the aforementioned introduction of documentation of vernacular and traditional artefacts as well as bringing in ‘stapatis’ – traditional architects practicing a building tradition handed down through codified practices and texts. It also involved engaging students in both the design studio and in history classes with architectural work and theory emerging from other contexts like Japan and the US.  

Personally, he seems to have attempted to keep clear of ‘camps’, attempting to draw from each in his own work. Needless to say, the 80’s and early 90’s was an extremely productive time for the department in terms of the intellectual quality of both faculty and students. He was awarded the Madhav Achwal Gold medal for excellence in architectural education in 1994. The medal was instituted in 1988 and he was the seventh awardee after Balkrishna Doshi, H.N. Dallas, C.S.H. Jhabuala, F.B. Pithwadian, Kulbhushan Jain and Rusi Khambatta.   

Prof. Oommen was active in practice throughout his career actively developing the consultancy cell of the department and through private practice. He led faculty and student teams in multiple competitions and proposals, many of which given the limitations of the governmental set up that he was working within, ended up being unbuilt. The consultancy cell became a kind of graduate ‘finishing’ school and an in-house architecture office for young faculty and students. Much of his private practice, primarily involving the design and/or renovation of churches and residences, was done for very little money and largely with a view to help popularize the profession. As a government officer he went on to lead various departments becoming the first architect to lead both the Department of Technical Education, Government of Kerala and the Lal Bahadur Shastri Centre for Science and Technology. He was also the founding principal of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology. On his retirement in 1997, he took up a position as Principal Architect for the Government of Botswana, where he worked for a decade. He returned back to Thiruvananthapuram in 2010, and has retired from both teaching and practice.  

EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS

  1. BSc (Physics & Mathematics); Union Christian College, University of Kerala, 1963
  2. B.Arch; First Class with First Rank, College of Engineering Trivandrum, University of Kerala, 1968 
  3. M.Arch: First class with Honors, University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee), 1974                                                       

MEMBERSHIPS

  1. Fellow of the Indian Institute of Architects (F5353)
  2. Registered with Council of Architecture (CA/77/3580)
  3. Life Member, Indian Society of Technical Education (LM 3954)

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

  1. Lecturer in Architecture, College of Engineering Trivandrum - 1971
  2. Assistant Professor – 1976
  3. Professor and Head of Department – 1979-1991

ADMINISTRATIVE EXPERIENCE

  1. Founding Principal, Ranjiv Gandhi Institute of Technology, Mahatma Gandhi University, Government of Kerala, Kottayam, 1991-1992
  2. Joint Director & Director of Technical Education, Government of Kerala, 1993-95
  3. Director, LBS Centre for Science and Technology, Government of Kerala, 1995-1997
  4. Principal Architect, Department of Architecture and Building Services, Government of Botswana, 1998-2010

ARCHITECTURAL EXPERIENCE

  1. Assistant Architect, United Architects, Kollam, Kerala, 1969
  2. Jose, Ramesh, Baby Architects, Calicut, Kerala, 1970
  3. Architect, Consultancy Cell, College of Engineering, 1976-91
  4. Architect, Rural Housing Wing (National Building Organization), Trivandrum 1980
  5. Consultant Architect, Lal Bahadur Shastri Centre for Science and Technology, Trivandrum, Kerala, 1979-94
  6. Principal Architect, Department of Architecture and Building Services, Govt. of Botswana, 1998-2010. 

ACADEMIC BODIES

  1. Member, Board of Studies in Engineering, University of Kerala, 1982 – 91
  2. Chairman, Syllabus Committee for B.Arch Course, University of Kerala, 1983
  3. Chairman, Syllabus Committee for post graduate course in Urban Planning and Design, University of Kerala, 1982
  4. Member, Board of Studies in Architecture, Bangalore University
  5. Member, Board of Studies in Architecture, Mangalore University
  6. Expert Member, Curriculum Development Committee for Architecture in Polytechnics, Kerala
  7. Resource Person, Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra
  8. Member, Expert Committee for construction of school buildings, Operation Black Board, Govt. of Kerala

EXAMINERSHIPS

  1. University of Kerala
  2. Kerala Public Service Commission
  3. Nagpur University
  4. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad
  5. Mangalore University
  6. Anna University, Madras
  7. Bharathidasan University, Trichy
  8. ‘Transition’, National Ideas Competition, 

IMPORTANT ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS

  1. Service Block for Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences for Cardiology and Nuerology, Along with N.Mahesh, 1979
  2. Design of building for Department of Architecture, along with members of faculty, 1983
  3. Administrative Building and Laboratories for Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Calicut, With Members of Faculty, Department of Architecture, CET, 1985
  4. Masterplan and design of Campus Masterplan and administrative Building, Lakshmi Bai National College of Physical Education, Along with Koshy K. Alex, 1986-96
  5. Extension of Post Master General’s Office, 1989-1992
  6. Masterplan for Kasargod Engineering College, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology, 1998
  7. Several Public Buildings for Post & Telegraph Department at various locations in Kerala
  8. Design and renovation of several Christian churches in Kerala
  9. Several Residential Buildings

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS

  1. Madhav Achwal Gold Medal for excellence in the field of architectural education, Indian Institute of Architects, 1994
  2. Won first and second place in the first and second stage of the national architectural competition for the Ezhimala Naval Academy, leading a group of architects from Trivandrum, 1989
  3. Organized along with students, 1982 Annual NASA Convention in Trivandrum. For the first time an environmentally oriented theme of “Conservation and Preservation” was adopted as a theme for all competitions.