Architect Sankalpa and Thumb Impressions Collaborative: Pioneers in Sustainable Wood Design

SANKALPA Architect Thumb Impressions Collaborative (TIC) is a renowned architecture and furniture design firm known for its commitment to the environment and sustainable practices. Led by the talented architect and academic, Sankalpa, the collaborative has created a niche for itself by incorporating salvaged wood and teak from Valsad, Gujarat, into their projects. During an insightful interview, we had the privilege of interacting with Sankalpa, who graciously shared his invaluable insights into Thumb Impressions Collaborative’s wood sourcing practices, quality standards, and the challenges they encountered when using wood in their projects.

Sankalpa, the co-founder of Thumb Impressions, is an architect and academic who has been teaching at the Faculty of Architecture CEPT University (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology) in Ahmedabad, India since 2008. Holding the position of program chair for the master’s in architectural tectonics at CEPT, Sankalpa’s work seamlessly merges academia with practice. He focuses on the engagement of the body with structural forces as a means to experience architecture. Additionally, his research explores the integration of industrial and natural materials, particularly timber and bamboo, in response to the environmental crisis.

One of the key aspects that sets Thumb Impressions Collaborative apart is their preference for salvaged wood or teak sourced from Valsad, Gujarat. With a deep commitment to minimizing the negative impact on the environment, they prioritize the use of salvaged wood whenever possible. By repurposing wood, they eliminate the need for tree cutting and actively promote sustainability in their projects.
Wood sourcing is a crucial consideration, and at Thumb Impressions Collaborative, they ensure responsible practices in this area. For teak, their vendors acquire the wood through the forest department auction held in Dang, Gujarat. Additionally, they have established a dedicated supply chain and reliable vendors to provide a consistent availability of reclaimed wood for their projects.

Evidently, sustainability remains at the forefront of Thumb Impressions’ philosophy, and they take extensive measures to ensure that the wood they use is sourced sustainably. When obtaining wood through auctions, they rely on the forest department’s guidance regarding the type of wood available, enabling them to make informed choices. Moreover, their use of salvaged wood inherently promotes sustainability, as it involves the reuse of materials instead of cutting down new trees.

Protection against pests and decay is essential for the longevity of their projects. Fortunately, salvaged wood is typically well-seasoned and requires minimal protection in this regard. Local wood also poses no significant problems with pests or decay. However, to safeguard against moisture-related issues, Thumb Impressions Collaborative applies a Polyurethane coating to their wood creations.
The practical application of wood in Thumb Impressions Collaborative’s projects is truly inspiring. Sankalpa highlights the harmonious balance achieved by combining wood with materials like steel and brass. In their architecture projects, the fusion of wood and steel creates a visually stunning and structurally sound result. In furniture design, wood complements metals such as brass, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal.

Ensuring high-quality standards and prioritizing safety is paramount in architectural design. Thumb Impressions Collaborative adheres to these principles through rigorous tests on the load-bearing capacity of the wood they use. Fire resistance measures, including the installation of fire hydrants and other safety precautions, are diligently implemented to ensure the utmost safety for occupants. Hybrid structures that combine wood with materials like steel and concrete have gained popularity in architectural design and they have extensive experience in this area, primarily utilizing steel alongside wood. This strategic combination offers the desired strength and serves as a mutually advantageous choice for both materials.

Adaptability to local climate and weather conditions is a critical aspect of successful architectural projects. Thumb Impressions Collaborative follows a logical approach by sourcing materials that are indigenous to similar climatic regions. However, they acknowledge the impact of moisture on wood and employ effective techniques to mitigate such concerns.

While Thumb Impressions Collaborative’s commitment to sustainable wood design is commendable, they do face certain challenges. Sankalpa highlights the issue of moisture in teak wood, which necessitates the application of a Polyurethane coating. Additionally, salvaged wood sourced from old furniture, windows, and doors may present challenges such as nails or cracks that require careful consideration during the design and construction phases.

Despite these challenges, they have managed to establish a network of vendors and retain their focused approach to wood sourcing to ensure a streamlined process. Their limited wood requirements, coupled with their dedication to quality, enable them to navigate the industry smoothly. Looking ahead, Sankalpa envisions a brighter future for the Indian woodworking industry by outlining necessary steps. He suggests increasing tree plantation efforts to secure a sustainable supply of wood. Moreover, incorporating bamboo alongside wood could alleviate the strain on wood resources, presenting an eco-friendly alternative.

Architect Sankalpa and Thumb Impressions Collaborative exemplify a forward-thinking approach to sustainable design. Their emphasis on utilizing salvaged wood, promoting environmentally conscious practices, and pushing the boundaries of combining timber and bamboo materials sets them apart in the architectural world. As the field continues to evolve, Sankalpa and Thumb Impressions Collaborative remain at the forefront, envisioning a greener and more sustainable future for construction and design.