Your buildings and spaces seem to suggest a certain need for simplicity in complex times…
The complexity of our contemporary urban architecture seems to be a gross incongruity of “globalised” style being pastiched onto a weak scaffolding of confused design sensibility. Our designs seek to use technical efficiency with simplicity of aesthetics at minimum cost to the client. We are convinced that architecture must come home and draw creative inspiration from the inherent and timeless simplicity of our vernacular design idiom. Cliched as this may sound, “less is more,” continues to be our time tested mantra.
What are the USPs of your design practice?
Our design team extends beyond the desktops of my studio. We tow a multi-disciplinary chain of allied designers like painters, sculptors, textile and fabric artists, lighting engineers, sometimes even fashion designers, to jointly create a saga with interdependent skills. To make this happen, we initially ideate a thematic architectural matrix and mentor each designer to spread his or her creative talents onto this concept.
What impact has playing several roles – practitioner, professor, facilitator and an activist – had on your understanding of architecture?
In each avatar, I have come closer to a profound comprehension that architecture is elemental to catalysing any human endeavor. I have increasingly grown to appreciate, rate and create architecture of contextuality. Far from merely making a living out of architecture, my various proactive engagements with my profession have steered me to make a life in it.
In your opinion, how important is context to the development of architecture?
Creating architecture without context is rather like a doctor prescribing medication without conducting a physiological evaluation of the patient’s symptoms. History, sociology and economics should necessarily dictate architectural contexuality while time, line and space should pattern its evolving paradigm.
Tell us about one of your most significant projects…
The creation of Utsav restaurant in Secunderabad is undoubtedly the biggest game changer in our firm’s professional growth curve. Chancing upon a dilapidated and condemned 200-year-old colonial bungalow in the Cantonment, we saw its latent potential for adaptive reuse as a restaurant. After extensive structural restoration within the ambit of conservation parameters, and as a result of much creative brainstorming, we restored the seemingly disparate language of its classical formalism with the implied ethnicity of its name “Utsav”, to create an award-winning and much acclaimed venue. Stumbling upon archival photographs of the building in the East India Company records and reconstructing its various avatars across two centuries of its existence defined our inexorable compliance with preserving the building’s historicity during its re-invention.
In your 35 years of practice, what are the major changes contemporary architectural practice has witnessed?
The internet has revolutionised both the content and speed of change, as global design trends flood our servers with the best (and worst) of contemporary design. India’s tryst with “development” is manifested in architectural aspiration. However, somewhere along this roller coaster ride, we have been uprooted from our past and lost the continuance and contextuality of ideational identity. The obsession with Vaastu Shastra, which its protagonists have now reduced from being a systematic building science to a mere superstition, has insidiously killed creative individuality in our designs. The China factor has singularly doomed the soul of our interiors and resulted in predictable sterility of style.
What are your thoughts on the current academic curriculum?
Architectural pedagogy is archaic. We must necessarily hinge learning with experienciality. Students must be challenged with deeper mandates and teachers must rise to the passion of mentoring from their merely transmittal functioning.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect in architecture?
Let history compartmentalise style. In reality, architecture has seamless boundaries of time and its constant engagement with being a “people” art must remain the pervading essence of its mandate.
How do you maintain a balance of tradition and ambition in your designs?
While the intangible grammar of our design philosophy is essentially traditional, we use the lexicon of contemporary architectural language to articulate our aspirations.
Amongst your contemporaries, whose work do you admire? What aspects of their work do you find the most intriguing?
The “wow” factor in the works of Sanjay Mohe and Sandeep Khosla is deeply exciting. Their architecture is effortlessly elegant, confident and knows where to stop. Here is India, modern at its creative best. Intriguing? Not at all. What you see is what you get!