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Christopher Charles Benninger was born in USA but loves to be recognized as an Indian architect. He studied urban planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and architecture at Harvard where he later taught. However, he didn’t continue for long at Harvard where he was a Tenured Assistant Professor. Do you know why did he quit Harvard job?
Christopher’s association with India and that too with Ahmedabad dates back to mid-60s when he had visited the city to study its urban fabric. This was the period when he came to be involved with what is now CEPT University and also got an opportunity to interact with Balakrishna Doshi. Also, he befriended with architects Anant Raje, Hasmukh Patel and Charles Correa. After completing his studies, Christopher joined Harvard as a Tenured Assistant Professor. That was when Balakrishna Doshi called up Christopher and asked him to take the responsibility of setting up the School of Planning at CEPT. For Christopher who was then just 28, it was a dream offer as it would have given maximum exposure at an early stage of the career. Without giving a second thought he gave up is Harvard job and came to India to set up School of Planning at CEPT.
In 1976 he shifted to Pune, where he founded the Center for Development Studies and Activities. While in Ahmedabad he innovated the concept of Site and Services, an approach to housing providing access to shelter via developed small plots, allowing poor families to construct their own homes, according to their means. In 1983 Benninger wrote the Theme Paper for the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements 1984. In 1986 he was engaged by the Asian Development Bank to author their position paper on Urban Development, arguing successfully the case for extending financial assistance to the urban development sector.
He also had written foreword for the book “The Architecture of Hasmukh C. Patel” in which he had said “…Hasmukh bhai clearly wanted to be a great architect, but he had a vision and a path toward that dream, that was steeped in professional principles and working processes…”