Pune, Maharashtra, India

The Centre for Development Studies and Activities (CDSA) is a place of exploration, reflection and analysis on the great laboratory that is India. It was built by the architect for his own trust activities whose focal concerns are the study of development processes and the role of planned interventions in societal changes and transformations. Professor Benninger was the founding director of this institute in 1976, and remains the president of its Governing Body.

The campus is perched on a hill terrace, two hundred meters above sea level, along the slopes of India’s Western Ghats Mountains as they meet the great plains of the Deccan Plateau, providing vistas up into the mountains, or down into valleys. The mild climate allows the Institute’s activities to take place out-of-doors and under semi-enclosed spaces within the fifteen-acre garden site.

The academic quadrangle reflects the podium of Greek gymnasia that were also perched on the brow of a hill slope on the fringe of Athens. The ‘groupings’ of buildings around this platform, focusing on views and statues, also draws its roots from classic Greek traditions. A fabric of build has emerged from the assemblage of three generic elements. Stone, which has been cleared off the land, where terraces are planted with orchards, forms a strong pattern of east-west parallel walls. These stone walls create a fabric of built form achieving a rustic sense of rural space. The spaces enclosed within these basalt walls open to views of the mountains in the west and the growing metropolis to the east. Transparent sliding glass panels form the second element; shaded by verandahs, they act as screens that can be adjusted in individual spaces to regulate the breeze, avoiding the need for electric fans, and providing energy-free lighting during the day. The third element is that of tile roofs, which slope more steeply towards the west, from whence strong winds blow, bearing the heavy monsoon rains off the Arabian Sea. Facing east, they slope more gently against the delicate morning sun. This asymmetry, which is used throughout the fabric, reflects the thoughtful mind, which is always wondering. The sloping tile roofs laid on marine ply boards, supported by steel rafters accommodate mezzanines connected through interior balconies and two-storied interlocking spaces. An interesting play of spaces has been created with the studios opening out into their own intimate landscaped courtyards, which again visually connect to the main central podium through square apertures. One can see what activities are taking place, yet one can claim authority over one’s own privacy. This openness reveals the deep-rooted meaning of the Institute, in which the liberated mind searches for the resolution of specific problems, often through teamwork, or through the exchange of opposing ideas.

The three elements are held together by a system of courtyards, stone walls, stone stairs and paved pathways. Staggered steps, with sitting blocks, and lotus ponds all reflect local forms of space making, common in the village squares, mosque courtyards, and temples of this mountainous region. The silhouette of a sculptured bust by the famous artist Piraji Sagara greets ones approach into the raised podium courtyard. Falling on two levels, the stone paved podium is planted with great restraint, while giant earthen pottery provides storage of rainwater. Traditional seating platforms known as ottas are used for rising up statues, or as a base for an antique bird feeder. These mechanisms are in fact used to attract the mind away from the core of the institute, where daily tasks, and the details of work, could overpower one’s creative energies.

The materials, finishes, detailing and spatial design, attempt to consolidate wisdom of the past while attempting to articulate original spatial experiences.

The residential village of the institute, set back in the campus gardens, is composed of twenty-four rooms, each having an attached toilet and private courtyard.

This design developed in the mid-1980’s draws its spirit, use of materials, and language from the Alliance Francaise in Ahmedabad.


LocationPune, Maharashtra, India

Built Up Area2,500 Square Meters

Site Area15 Acres



Prof. Christopher Benninger


Prime Contractor

Bharucha and Motiwala,

Bhate and Raje


Landscape Design: CCBA Designs, Pune

Interior Design: CCBA Designs, Pune

Structural Design: C.E. Godse, Pune


Ramprasad Akkisetti and Deepak Kaw

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger, Madhav Joshi, Manisha Boradkar, Rajiv Vishwas Rao, Gautam Balsekar, Nikita Oak and Rahul Sathe