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VOL 26 (2)

OCT 2012

` 200


26 th Anniversary Edition

GDK Designs Abin Design Studio mayaPRAXIS DCOOP

Manifestation of Fluid Architecture Design Combine Architecture BRIO

Cover Š Indigo Architects

PRACTICES OF CONSEQUENCE Research Design Office _Opolis Hundredhands banduksmithstudio Flying Elephant Studio Anagram Architects architectureRED SPASM Indigo Architects


VOL 26 (2) | OCT 2012 | ` 200 | MUMBAI RNI Registration No. 46976/87, ISSN 0971-5509 INDIAN ARCHITECT AND BUILDER











Indigo Architects







Chairman: Jasu Shah Printer, Publisher & Editor: Maulik Jasubhai Shah Chief Executive Officer: Hemant Shetty

Architecture BRIO


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GDK Designs


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Manifestation of Fluid Architecture (M:OFA)













Research Design Office (REDO)


Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Milwaukee(USA)

Abin Design Studio



Anagram Architects


New Delhi

Design Combine Kochi





Printed & Published by Maulik Jasubhai Shah on behalf of Jasubhai Media Pvt. Ltd (JMPL), 26, Maker Chamber VI, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021 Printed at M.B.Graphics, B-28 Shri Ram Industrial Estate, ZG.D.Ambekar Marg, Wadala, Mumbai 400031and Published from Mumbai - 3rd Floor, Taj Building, , 210, Dr. D. N. Road, Fort,Mumbai 400 001. Editor: Maulik Jasubhai Shah, 26, Maker Chamber VI, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021 Indian Architect & Builder: (ISSN 0971-5509), RNI No 46976/87, is a JMPL monthly publication. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or part, in English or any other language is strictly prohibited. We welcome articles, but do not accept responsibility for contributions lost in the mail.



rchitecture is subjective. Its definition, its perception, its portrayal varies from mind to mind, from context to context and sometimes even moment to moment. How Laurie Baker embraced it was miles apart from how Le Corbusier flaunted it. How B.V. Doshi perceives it is very different from how Charles Correa expresses it. All were consequential nonetheless. Why? Because they addressed issues, challenged notions or shared experiences. But these are examples from a magnificent era bygone. The situation in contemporary Indian architecture is of recurring trends, repetitive discussions, analogous debates and unresolved issues that are addressed again and again, only in futile attempts to define a stand. In this ‘crisis of the imagination’, there is a lack of the novelty that could craft an era in the midst of superficial attitudes and misplaced identities. Despite having reached a level of maturity and expertise, there exists a monopoly of dormancy that hampers evolution, leaving architecture paralysed by the problems it faces. There is no solution, too much variation, no distinction and certainly, no direction! Stagnated, one is patronised by the evident delusion of 'a history in the making'. Is anything created in India today worth standing alongside ‘The Falling Waters’ in terms of its conception? Can it compare to the ‘Barcelona Pavilion’ even a decade down the line, let alone eight? Does it involve as much, if not more, thought as the ‘Salk Institute’ did to achieve impact? Does it, at least, recognise the individual it builds for? Or are we merely the architects in an intermediate phase of limbo, in a dynamic chain of pronounced eras, certain to fade with absolutely no consequence? Nevertheless, contemporary architecture in India continues to seek identity. In a chaos of ethics, expectations and desires, it struggles to celebrate its strengths and negotiate its inhibitions. With invented guidelines suggesting where it came from and ruthless ambitions prescribing where it should go, it fights to define what it wishes to stand for. Manifesto… Does architecture need one? Does every architect have one?


Method… Does philosophy define it? Does it define architecture? Architecture… What is good design? Do all manifestos and methods achieve it? Consequence… Is this the inception of an era? Are we doing it right? Identity… Has the history of the future architecture begun? What is India’s role in it? It is a legitimate assertion that most architects who have shaped the course of architectural history can be described as ‘builders who articulated thought’. They did not merely build to create architecture. They established practices whose inherent values transformed that architecture to language and language to legacy. They were not merely thinkers. They were thought leaders. What distinguishes them is the philosophical apparatus that they apprehend and make subject to their individual temperament, the manner of practice that they employ to convert visions to reality and the milestones they leave behind in history… Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



SPASM is not a singular architectural practice…

projects is by the user and for the user and can only survive if it is user-focussed.

MODUS wo station points in an architectural perspective render greater depth to an image. Over the last 15 years, through endless hours, we have used each other as station points of revelation; evolving and developing particular expression to specific conditions.

SITE The essence of the site’s context: climate, physical features, views, and reachability are crucial to inform the project.


SPASM, very early on in its career, has had the opportunity to actively operate in both India and East Africa - tropical zones, but both culturally different. Today, as we see it, the demands of this profession have grown; the human animal is rapidly evolving, constantly on the move, interested in every experience there is to be had… We cannot claim to be regionalists - we are Indian, educated here, practicing in India and East Africa… We search for a fresh and pragmatic solution every time by examining each situation within its own specificity, peculiarity and cultural definitions… We do not promote a method or solution. We do not theorise. We do not think the process is, in any way, similar in every project. We seek… to capture the fleeting essence. We seek… a reality-check before we face our clients. We seek… to uplift the human spirit. We We We We

search… search… search… search…

emotion. apparent ease - effortlessness. clarity. for the ‘this feels right’ moment.

Certain considerations are paramount in our understanding of our work… USER The primary source of evolving any project are the client's sensibilities and cultural definitions; our belief is that any of our

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

PURPOSE The inquiry into what lies at the core of the project’s purpose, shapes its relevance in architectural, economic and social value. EXPERIENCE The evolution of a project is generated directly from the act of human occupation, through the quality and variance of light, the reference to other spaces and the directness of view, the ability to adapt and the patterns of erosion in materials and memories. ACT OF CONSTRUCTION The process of putting together the construct, the impact of geometry, the weight, textures, and spatial qualities of the materials inform the physical embodiment of the project. The crucial task is to compose the project rooted around the essence of these considerations. And above all, deliver an endearing, relevant, humane project. Our methods remain very intuitive, the first strains of the idea approaches through several dialogues within the team, different perspectives are debated, weighted for originality, authenticity, and appropriateness, edited and fine-tuned to their potent best. Many times, initial ideas are shelved due to inappropriateness, and recur as themes for other conditions where their potencies are reclaimed even stronger. Geoffrey Bawa once said, “Too much architecture between me and the view!” This, perhaps, has become a sort of ethos of SPASM’s architecture. ‘The greatest reward is to be untraceable, as architects’ - Sanjeev Panjabi + Sangeeta Merchant



Images and Writings: courtesy SPASM

Khadakvasla House, Pune Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


All images: The Brick Kiln House, Alibaug

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


SP: Sanjeev Panjabi, SM: Sangeeta Merchant Initiated in 1995, over the years, SPASM has patiently evolved into a consistent practice. With their part-pragmatic, part-experimental approach towards design, their ideas on architecture and practice of building translate into designs that are simple, yet surprisingly alive. Over the years, they have formed a purpose-driven team that contributes consistently to all aspects of development. How did SPASM evolve into a practice? What are the ideas that define SPASM? SP + SM: SPASM was formed when the two of us got together for one project way back in 1997. Knowing each other since 1987 did help - we had already shared ideas through architecture school, travelled together and begun to understand each other’s divergent thought processes and approach to real life situations. We realised it was worth a try to work together. Ideas define SPASM, we have a flamenco kind of approach and a ping-pong kind of pace. Shared experiences over the years make it enjoyable with every project we take up. Our approach is very chaotic upfront, our team is intrinsically involved from the get-go, several ideas are put on the table and worked through laterally. Essentially, our expression is based on the concerns we develop while understanding what is the task at hand. These concerns are then translated into a physical tangible buildable construct using our own very personal intuitive logic, rational decisions based on relevance, appropriateness, technology, budgets, craftsmanship, locale, the list is too long... SPASM is not interested in being avant-garde; like Marcel Proust said, "To see new landscapes you don't need to always journey, but have new eyes." We are a bunch of simple people, very human in our approach, we try to be not fussy in our details. We do try to bring a poetic to our expression but never at the cost of appropriateness. An eastern kind of "inclusivity" is sought, which we feel is in us, every aspect of building, occupation and future ageing of projects is mulled over - many, many, many times over. Every commission is an opportunity to discover ourselves, through what we propose and build. We live a private life with our kids, family and some very dear friends and enjoy it too much, to find time, to go out and advocate any theory or solid basis on which our work is based. We seldom lecture or teach. SPASM has designed in India and East Africa. Their buildings are conceptual outcomes of their readings of the site, their constant spatial and material explorations and their sensibilities. Through a measured process of drawing, modelling, evaluating and detailing, SPASM's architecture relates to a strong sense of place. What are their ‘concerns’ as a practice based in India? SP + SM: We have worked in East Africa and are now working in many parts of India. The concerns remain the same throughout. How honest can you be? How sensible can you be? How humble can you be? What is relevant? How long will it remain so? Can your project go further than its apparent purpose? How humane can it be? Can it lose itself to being a mere backdrop to life, Yet be a new mutation, a slightly improved variant? Will be endearing, through how it performs? Concerns also change, it's all very fluid, quality of intent and product are precious .... Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Under construction: Aon HQ, Dar-Es-Salam

With a focussed team of designers, every project is owned and driven by individual involvement and input throughout the process. This makes the process enriching. All seemingly diverse aspects of work are handled and controlled by multitasking individuals, thus establishing ownership. Their work demands great personal involvement. What are SPASM’s ‘objectives’ – individual and professional? SP + SM: SPASM is a small controlled practice. We are interested in an intimate relationship with our studio, our team, our collaborators, our models, drawings, visualisations, products, buildings and our clients: patrons. We do this because we love it. We sense displeasure; we respect questioning, constructive criticism from all on the projects. We don't know how to run our studio any other way. The extremely personal way our studio runs gives us immense happiness. Our ultimate objective is simply happiness - a sense of doing something. That matters to all involved, and gives our team a feeling of wellbeing. Sanjeev Panjabi and Sangeeta Merchant graduated from the Academy of Architecture and initiated the practice with a collaborative agenda. A contemporary architecture practice in India like SPASM is subject to great many legacies and ideas. What then influences their architecture?

Façade: Exim Tower, Dar-Es-Salam

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

SP + SM: Influences are many, from all spheres of life – from travels to our children. People who work on the sites are most special when you see perfection. People who think outside the box, to achieve difficult goals and challenges are inspiring. People who teach you what NOT to do, through their work are also very important influences, perhaps beacons..... Both of us have many personal influences and mentors, from art teachers, books we've read, colleagues, professors, ex-employers; too many in fact.


Staircase detail: Khadakvasla House, Pune

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


"SPASM is a small, controlled practice. We are interested in an intimate relationship with our studio, our team, our collaborators, our models, drawings, visualisations, products, buildings and our clients: patrons."

Aon Hq, Dar-Es-Salam

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


“Architecture is about the material and the immaterial, search for the Soul; all else will fall into place."

From Travels: Single Rock At Vals, Switzerland

Practicing in developing India and continuing to produce patient qualitative architecture can be challenging. Their buildings have a certain ‘quality’ to them. This quality comes from careful articulation of details, selection of the palette of materials, exhaustive workmanship, and an understanding of cause - effect. What essential ideas contribute to this quality? What is the ‘process’? SP + SM: Our buildings try to be the best representations of their own reality. An architect channels all the conditions, constraints, functional issues, resources at hand etc into a resolute whole. That's where the special quality comes – in an architect’s sense of light, lightness and weight of materials, workmanship, the act of putting things together..... More than ideas, we feel that it is the inner sensibility that contributes to that special feel or quality as you may call it. Process is a fleeting animal! Which sometimes is a stallion to ride on, and sometimes as difficult as a chameleon to nail down, It is never the same. However, there always comes a, “this feels right” moment. That's when the half satiation allows us to think further..... beyond. When things become too complex, we often use a Geoffrey Bawa anecdote, "Too much architecture between me and the view".

Exim Tower, Dar-Es-Salam Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Conceptual model: Ahmedabad House Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Malavali House, Lonavala (3D Visual)

Ahmedabad House (1:20 detailed sectional model)

Ahmedabad House (3D Visual)

SPASM is a studio. Working from an intimate space and with a team of committed designers, SPASM’s work is characterised by a certain quality, material integrity and an elusive sense of cohesiveness. Seen from the perspective of an emerging practice, SPASM has a unique and rigourous approach towards the making of architecture. Projects are intricately detailed and nourished with thought at all scales. There is an element of wonder and inquisitiveness in the way their work comes together. Headed by Sanjeev Panjabi and Sangeeta Merchant, the studio has designed and executed projects of varying scale and character. Their work in India and East Africa is responsive to the contexts of its locations and their sensibility. Experimental in terms of materiality, technical innovations and construction, their architecture is imagined in great detail – both technical and experiential. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


architectureRED CHENNAI


rchitecture, for us, remains a fascinating exploration…

To be able to define an environment, to be participative in its evolution, to seek joy in its existence, to do this with the essence of enriching the planet, and eventually, to do this better all over again the next time around is an irresistible driving urge for us. To create design, picking clues from the context and the programme, to weave this with an exciting and responsible design fabric, to evolve a built-form strategy which captures the essence of the project, forms the crux of what we do. To be participative in a process that defines living environments, with distinct and permanent physical and spatial qualities, we believe, is a privilege a few are offered. To live up to the challenge, and to do it responsibly, is the essence of our firm’s ethos. A strong research-based approach lies at the core of our design philosophy and ensures that the designs are aesthetically cutting edge, functionally efficient and sensitive to the site and its context.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

This also allows for our studio to creatively challenge the programme, pushing the envelope to throw up exciting and unexpected results. Certain design principles are ingrained into every project. The stitching of the building to its surrounds by articulating the ground plane plays a critical part in the design, ensuring that there is always a relevant connection of the built form to the ground. The landscape is envisioned along with the architecture and establishes the setting for the built form. We strongly believe in creating spaces that are sculpted from the built fabric, and designed to have a continuous dialogue with each other. By articulating the built form to respond to the open spaces and keeping in mind the requirement for shade in tropical climates, the spaces become active and interact with the building. This processbased approach applies to projects of differing scales with every design, fulfilling a vision that goes much beyond the given brief while catering to the client’s requirements, and delivering a creative yet pragmatic solution every time. We believe that sustainable design is never an option; it is a basic pre-requisite for the right design solution. This drives us to make each design effort better than the last one… - Biju Kuriakose + Kishore Panikkar



Images and Writings: ccourtesy architectureRED

A process of research and analysis Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


evolve a strategy The approach towards design is based on a strong foundation of research and analysis. These become the fundamental building blocks of a sound design strategy, enabling the approach to remain process-oriented, rather than being product-driven.

create a vision Understanding the physical, civic and sociological components of the larger context in which the site is situated forms an essential part of the analyses and strategies that aid in evolving the project brief. A comprehension of site dynamics, climatic requirements, urban configurations and changing typological needs sets new goals for the project and creates the vision for the designs.

Dynamics of the fast-growing city - the need to develop mixed-use high-density urban nodes to create a cohesive city fabric to unite isolated gated-community settlements.

The vision drives the projects through the design process - setting the conceptual framework in place, identifying the design alternative that creatively realises the project goals and controls the development of the design while remaining flexible to accommodate changing requirements.

design by diagram The practice uses diagrams as a means of providing clarity throughout the design process, while ensuring that the process of design development never dilutes the original idea. Diagrams help them to articulate the concepts and form the basis for further detailing. They also are a crucial part of the narrative in communicating the design to their clients.

Encouraging mixed-use neighbourhoods and open-space systems within high-density high-rises, akin to replicating a horizontal mixed-use neighbourhood vertically.

Analysing the changing relationship of the educational system and its spatial requirements can bring about new design interpretation for a school set within a rural context.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Large township projects set in the outskirts of the city have the critical mass to influence the nature of future development. These projects need to be planned as urban nodes that can act as sub-centres of the main city along the direction of its expansion, contributing towards distinct urban character and forging a sense of place. (Master plan for 82-acre Township, Sriperumbudur)

new urban node


isolated settlements

A hierachy of greens and amenities is interwoven across the high-rise in a manner so as to create relief in the high density. Located on a fast-developing IT corridor lacking cultural infrastructure, a public realm at the ground offers such facilities to serve residents and non-residents, making its cultural mark in the urban fabric.

In a rural environment with scarce infrastructure, sharing of resources becomes critical. The prototype school design is based on the opportunity to engage the private school with the community by sharing its spaces with the neighbourhood. (Prototype School Design across India)

private Opposing the generic horizontal, a vertical stacking of live-study-work-play can generate a space that remains in a constant state of activity.


Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


meet the ground

BK: Biju Kuriakose, KP: Kishore Panikkar A Chennai-based practice with many individual and specific ways of working, architectureRED was co-founded by Biju Kuriakose and Kishore Panikkar. Their projects depict a certain formal order with vivid spatial experiences. Well-articulated and methodical, they focus on the key aspect of circumstance. How do they define architectureRED as a practice? BK + KP: Through a design process. For us, process is as important as the product. The process allows us to learn from every project and sometimes what you learn and discover from one project informs decisions in other projects as well. It allows us to constantly innovate and more importantly, as a practice, helps create a design culture within the studio. We believe that every project contributes to the larger fabric of the city and hence it’s important to look at every project from beyond its boundaries. We do that through an analytical process that helps us get a clear understanding of the context, the climate, the programme and other important issues relating to the project. A defined design process makes sure that we remain sensitive to the larger issues and also reinterpret the project brief in a way to create a larger meaning for the project.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

The contoured landscape in the foreground creates a strong visual setting and the elevation of the structure presents itself as an object in space. (Marketing Office for a Residential Township, Sriperumbudur)


The philosophy targets a merger with living environments, with distinct and permanent physical and spatial qualities. The process attempts to live up to the task responsibly with every step, be it conceptual or on-site. As a young practice, what are their struggles? What are the challenges they face negotiating good work? BK + KP: There are many challenges. We would say that once a vision is set for the project (we do that at the beginning of the project), the negotiation begins. To be honest, we haven’t had too much trouble communicating the design vision to the client. We make sure that we take them through the thought process we had while developing the vision for the project. From that point onwards, it’s a constant negotiation, not necessarily with the client, but with other stakeholders in the project; the contractor, the project manager, the labourer, the vendor etc. The general thinking within the industry today is that an architect’s job is to draw a box and design the elevation. This is our biggest challenge. We are constantly fighting against this. Today, most of time goes in negotiating design. It’s quite challenging, especially on large-scale projects. Today, the emphasis is on time. How fast can one design, how fast can one build? It is clearly a valid question. Unfortunately the industry hasn’t embraced technology in a big way to replace the craftsmanship that existed earlier. We can hardly call any building “highly crafted” today.

The turn of alternate floors acknowledge an important intersection and become self-shaded balconies in a premium apartment in Chennai.

form - space Subtracted volumes within the massing offer powerful imagery, identify vertical neighbourhoods and generate ample open space in a high-density high-rise apartment complex. (High-rise Apartment Complex, Chennai)

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


the design process This is illustrated using the case of a 1 lakh square feet multi-disciplinary building within a college campus in Chennai. An analysis of the campus network and the features of the site surrounds evolved into the design strategy.


site in campus

discrepancies in street character

existing disconnections

goals: relating to existing spine


creating a distinct address

strategy The strategy is to encourage an active relationship between the building and the street. A plaza created is envisioned as a continuation of the street into the building, linking the building foreground to the open space behind.



conceptual framework

addressing the context - exisitng building edge

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

response - orient along the edge

linking of nodes - extending the campus experience

response - drawing in the experience

linking open space through built form




terrace courtyard

earth berm

The architectural form highlights the juxtaposition of three defined masses and generates multiple spatial volumes - each mass is expressed in a distinct stylistic language. The varying heights of the masses accentuate their individuality further, and create terraces at multiple levels.

The cantilevered volume that seeks to engage with the street is treated so as to get a lightweight feel, while the tallest mass is identified as a solid, bulky mass pinned to the ground. The third volume bridges the two masses, creating spaces that become active public zones, and is articulated to highlight its horizontal connection. The three volumes come together to create a central courtyard space within the plaza.


section through the plaza showing spatial diversity

floor plans

The choice of fenestration and material further refine the language of the masses, while keeping intact the project vision.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Process models

They participate in many architectural competitions. One of their celebrated projects, The Globeville Office in Sriperumbudur is the winning result of one such competition. Is there a certain onus on putting work in an open forum? BK + KP: Competitions allow us to take our design explorations further. We never approach a competition with the intention of winning it. It’s always a bonus when we win competitions. We use competitions as a way to challenge ourselves, test our design philosophies, research more and in the process, learn something new. We wish all the projects were competitions. Projects are developing almost thoughtlessly in many parts of the country. Their firm approaches each of its schemes calling attention to research and analysis in design through deliberated rationales and substance. What is the process unique to their way of working? How does their work deviate from the norm? BK + KP: We are not sure if our process is unique. Our goal is to get a clear understanding of the project through the process that we define. And we do that in a very simple way. We use different tools as part of this process. Creating diagrams is one of them. We use diagrams as a way to design and also to communicate. It works well for us. While Biju brings a crucial sustainable planning and international design expertise to the projects, Kishore adds a touch of robustness and variation through development. The collaboration creates a certain discipline with unique spatial attributes that respect the environment. Is there a collaborative ‘vision’ for the future? What do they see in the future of architectureRED? BK + KP: There is an underlying philosophy and approach to our work. We hope that becomes more and more evident as we do more work and build more buildings. We are very young practice. We are still trying to understand who we are. We are sure the practice will evolve as time goes by and we hope we can continue to create opportunities for design discourses to happen.

Warehouse for Cape Electric Corporation, Oragadam: On-site

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Premium residential Apartments for XS Real Properties, Chennai: On-site

Mechanical Laboratory extension, BSARU, Vandalur: On-site

Department of Aeronautical Engineering, BSARU, Vandalur: On-site


Department of Aeronautical Engineering, BSARU, Vandalur: On-site

Shattering the myth that architecture is merely an extended art, architectureRED develops a comprehensive knowledge-base for all its projects, digging deep into its rationales and resolving its inconsistencies, until all justifications become increasingly relevant and ultimately responsible, and the overall architecture begins to widen its framework in terms of possibilities. It issues a beckoning call to the need of research and analysis in design through calculated logic and evolved substance. Co-founded by Biju Kuriakose and Kishore Panikkar in 2008, architectureRED holds central to its ethic, a philosophy which approaches any design challenge as an opportunity, to contribute to the built environment, creatively and sensibly. The solutions are functional, rational and pertinent, more than anything else, with every decision capable of being broken down into simple line-diagram explanations. Beginning with a vision, strongly grounded in situation, and developed meticulously with strategy, each of the projects resonate a bold distinctive character while maintaining the essence of its initial principles intact throughout. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Indigo Architects AHMEDABAD


e have positioned our efforts in the field of architecture in the context of our time, which is ridden with great contrasts. On one hand, rapid and haphazard development in the cities is putting the existing infrastructure under a severe strain and on the other, smaller towns and villages continues to suffer age-old neglect in the area of planned growth and quality of construction.

There are a few environmental cornerstones in our practice:

With fast-depleting resources, the onus of a sensitive approach to these realities is a dire need...And architecture has the power to effect change, of course.

Using dug-wells instead of bore-wells wherever possible.

The question is about being effective in various contexts. Urban, rural, big, or small, private or public, it is imperative to give utmost care and dignity to the smallest of efforts. Perhaps, this may be a model that allows well-meaning practices to carry on with their tasks with an integral focus, in any profession. Ours is a collaborative practice, two individuals, a group of young graduates, big on-site work and involvement. Internal debates between us become the initial generators of ideas that get translated into conceptual hand-drawn drawings. Further, process models aid in distilling these ideas, which get cemented through intense interactions with the client. This mostly eliminates the confusions that arise out of different perspectives and make the realisation of the project, a common journey.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Strategies to keep the structure cool using passive methods, rather than looking to cool the air within, has been more effective in our work. Use of stored rainwater to create a radiant system to cool and warm the structure.

Substitution of cement in construction through revival and use of traditional lime as mortar and plaster. Lime-plastered surfaces have an amazing durability that gets stronger with time and also bring about a distinct rough-hewn quality that makes a virtue of the intense Indian Sun. Combined with natural compounds like fenugreek, molasses and guggal, it acts as a highly protective yet breathable barrier. Sustainable design strategies are evolved through explorations for a given programme and site. The cardinal orientation, solar radiation control, harnessing prevailing breezes, selectively defining the amount of controlled spaces and its corresponding design responses, define the grammar of architectural elements; a belief that expressiveness rooted in these sensibilities can result in an appropriate architecture that belongs to its time and place. - Uday + Mausami Andhare

Indigo Architects


Images and Writings: courtesy Indigo Architects

Indigo Architects’ Studio

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Indigo Studio: Drawings

UA: Uday Andhare, MA: Mausami Andhare Indigo Architects was initiated by Uday and Mausami Andhare in 1998. Over last decade, the practice has patiently developed a contextually relevant, sensitive approach towards design that is driven by alternative ideas and means to interpret the built environment. What stays as a consistent endeavour that is inherent and essential their practice? What are the ideas that define their work? What influences it? UA + MA: Each project presents itself with an exciting possibility of defining a fit between the programme and the context. Often, the interpretation of the program and the emerging concerns of sustainability in each case define the sub text for our intervention. The excitement is always in the careful elaboration of the germinal idea and defining its expressive potential. A variety of intense experiences through travel, documentation and photography, looking at everything, from ingenious water systems, farm implements, farming methods that define landforms and landscapes, vehicles for local transportation, music traditions both folk and classical have informed our perceptions. As Anant Raje very beautifully once put it to us, “A guru is a set of experiences that one draws from.� Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Photographs of the Indigo Studio


Architects’ Residence: The grass court

Exterior image with green

Intimate space in the verandah

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Koba House; sketch: West elevation

Site plan with features

Morning sun on the north

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



NW from site entrance

Model: Koba House

Working from a studio based in Ahmedabad, Indigo Architects’ work encompasses concerns of social and environmental consequences of architecture at many scales and in many contexts. Their built work comprises majorly of residences and institutions extending into civic functions. Which, according to them, is their most significant project?

Court with the tree

UA + MA: In our view, The Contemporary Craft Centre in, Paddhar, Kutch is the most significant work till date. This is an ongoing project. The institution aims to conduct programs that are aimed at the revival and enhancement of textile crafts along with other crafts. A museum gallery for the crafts of Kutch, exhibition spaces, workshops and residential areas form the core of the built spaces. The site, context and the program has challenged us to seek architectural and environmental solutions that are to be relevant for many generations in a severely resource-scarce region. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


"The question is about being effective in various contexts. Urban, rural, big, or small, private or public, it is imperative to give utmost care and dignity to the smallest of efforts."

‘Lime House’: Agarwal House in Ahmedabad

West façade and the tree

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

West verandah

Process sketches



Edible landscape: Vegetables on creepers


Verandah at late noon

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Conceptual sketch

SLLDC Building in Kutch: Model

Section through the court

Site plan

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Inspiration: Weave and textile


Kund: Sketch

Being closely associated to teaching and academic discourse, Indigo Architects have a constant retrospection of their work. In a small team, they invest in discussion and critical thinking. They have been closely associated with academics. How has that involvement influenced their work? UA + MA: The synergy that exists through interactions with students and colleagues is vital. It always brings back into focus, issues in architecture and various other disciplines relevant in our times. Practice in turn brings a fresh point of view into an academic environment. So the relationship is symbiotic. Their projects are thought to instigate and invest back into the context that they serve. “Buildings that must ‘act on’ a place rather than ‘fit in’.” UA + MA: By ‘acting on’, one seeks to establish an experience that becomes a memory, heightening its context, irrespective of its scale or form.

SLLDC: Exterior

Light permeates

Patterns in the built

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


In the context of a studio-based practice, Indigo works intensively to revive and develop significant technologies, workmanship and regional building materials. Their understanding of the ‘Indian’ context informs their projects in a significant way. As a practice in the Indian context, how do they envision the studio to develop? What are the particular ‘objectives’? UA + MA: In the Indian context, studio practices will have to evolve newer self-defined modes of intervening to be effective and increase their outreach. Our objective is to define trajectories towards meaningful ‘programme’-based approaches, as well as the current project-based consultancy with a sustainable agenda. Given the transformative potential of architecture, new ways of working need to be sought out that make working for a larger social sector, a reality.


Sketches: Ideas and context

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Within the studio, individuals with diverse abilities and a common focus become resources. The stress on design process and dialogue with the end-user provides the basis for meaningful work.


SLLDC: Built form and light

Elements: Images of reference

The work of Indigo Architects has an intangible quality that comes through simplicity. Focussed on the idea of continuity, their architecture looks at context not only to inform the process of design, but also to contribute back to the frame of its relevance. Led by Uday and Mausami Andhare, their work is receptive of the cultural and economic milieu that forms its background. Practicing from their studio in Ahmedabad, they follow a formal discourse in design that has an underlay of their experiences, interactions and exposure to the context of their work and building. Their built work has an honesty of purpose and a greater objective that goes beyond concerns of economy and programme. They seek to actively revive regional potentials through their architecture by engaging with contextual means and methods. Their buildings have a sense of material and conceptual integrity. Simple yet intricate. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012




ounded by Quaid Doongerwala and Shilpa Ranade in 2003, DCOOP is a design studio with a portfolio of projects that range from lamps to institutional architecture. Our approach to design is motivated by a curiosity about the context we practice in, and a desire to grapple with its specificities. We enjoy the process of engaging with the complexities of the times we live in, and at the same time look back at history as a great repertoire of knowledge that we can refer back to anytime – for inspiration and moorings. Keeping these as our starting points, we try to begin projects without preconceived ideas about what architecture should be. We try to plug-in to and inhabit/enhance/exaggerate the idiosyncrasies of the project and the context we practice in. The process of working on every project is a deeply engaged exercise as multiple possibilities are explored, designs developed, model studies made, and material studies undertaken to arrive at design solutions. These are then taken through the construction process with as much commitment on-site. The apparently academic nature of our process is often interpreted as the strength of our practice, but for us the challenge and achievement lies, not just in the beginnings or the conceptualisation, but in the delicate process of translating the ephemeral wisps of thought into the powerful tangibles of the built form. It is in summoning all the tools in hand – structure, materials, form, light, space and details – to communicate the idea to its best. For us, architecture is fundamentally an embodied art and building is critical to the manifestation of its intent. Tectonic articulation and refinement are aspects we aim to achieve in all our work. The spiritual joy of creating spaces, orchestrating light and manipulating materials drives us from one project into another. Detail and coming-together of things has been one of the quests one is constantly working towards. The act of achieving refinement and balance is meditative. As a professional practice, DCOOP aims at bridging the gap that exists between concerns of ‘pure’ design, the contingencies of construction, and sensitivity to the requirements of the user. At the core of the work is the belief that architecture should be constructed well, it should function well and it should look and feel beautiful. - Quaid Doongerwala + Shilpa Ranade

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



Images and Writings: courtesy DCOOP; Photographs by: Rajesh Vora, Nirmal Masurekar, Sebastian Zachariah, Mahesh Hiremath

Y V University Students’ Hostel Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


School of Sciences at Y V University

Conceptual Sketch: Y V University

School of Sciences

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

“The apparently academic nature of our process is often interpreted as the strength of our practice, but for us the challenge and achievement lies, not just in the beginnings or the conceptualisation, but in the delicate process of translating the ephemeral wisps of thought into the powerful tangibles of the built form.�


DCOOP: Design Cooperative Since 2003, DCOOP has designed for a diverse range of programmes – from compact interior spaces to institutions and invited competitions. As a ‘Design Cooperative’, what can we recognise as the idea of its practice? DCOOP: DCOOP is the design studio and “Design Cooperative” is the name which we use for administration purpose. The idea of our practice is to create quality architecture, keeping the contingencies and realities of our context in mind. Its approach towards work has been very pragmatic and yet has an element of research. Is there an identifiable constant in the way they approach their projects? DCOOP: In a design project, the ‘research’ is usually done in the stage when we are defining the parameters for the project - understanding its context, physical and intangible, identifying the limitations, possibilities and implications. After this point there is a shift in thinking. The pragmatic and analytical becomes a sub-text in what is primarily an intuitive process from then on.

Model detail: School Of Sciences

Conceptual Sketch

Isometric model

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Y V University: Students’ Hostel Exterior

Asymmetry and composition: Students’ Hostel

Students’ Hostel: Quality of interior space

Students’ Hostel: Light in the corridor

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Generator House: Composition of forms


The portfolio of their executed work is experimental, evocative and yet grounded in the realities of site and situation. The original idea is not lost in translation and there are identifiable constants to their approach. Which, according to them, are their most significant projects? DCOOP: Seen in context of the practice and our evolution as architects, for us significant projects are those that challenge our comfort zones and push us to think outside the box. Projects which have allowed us this opportunity include the Ensemble office, Indigo I, School of Sciences, the Hostel blocks and the Guesthouse in Kadapa, the competition for SPA Delhi and Kenbridge Schools, to name a few. There is a certain academic inclination in all DCOOP’s work – a recognisable discipline. How does this inform the practice? DCOOP: In addition to individual teaching and writing engagements, Quaid has been interested in the visual and spatial experience of Mumbai’s urbanity, while Shilpa is absorbed by the socio-spatial dynamics of the everyday, which she has worked on extensively as part of the Gender & Space project in PUKAR. Both these research trajectories have been explored by us through various media and methods, individually and in collaboration with others. For one, the academic discipline enables us to approach a project from a certain distance and locate it appropriately in its context, focussing on those issues which drive it. But other than that, it is hard to point out tangible signs of how our academic interests inform the practice, but it is undeniable that they do so.

Interior Space: Indigo

Workstations: Indigo Office Space

Exploded axonometric of the components: Indigo

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Process sketch: Radhika Naik Couture

In the past decade, DCOOP has endeavoured to diversify into designing for many types and contexts. As a ‘niche’ practice focussed on certain ideology, how do they intend to evolve? What is the future for DCOOP? DCOOP: Like most other architects probably, our ultimate aim is to create a context that will enable us to do projects that we find meaningful and to foster clients who will support our ideas unto their logical conclusions. DCOOP has so far evolved organically and we would be happy to let it continue doing so, as long as it supports our quest for architectural nirvana!

Interior space: Mehta Group Offices

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Isometric of space: Ensemble

Interior space: Ensemble


Model detail: SCL Gatehouse

Interior space: Mahesh Studio

Interior space: Tarun Tahiliani Boutique

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


“In a design project, the ‘research’ is usually done in the stage when we are defining the parameters for the project - understanding its context, physical and intangible, identifying the limitations, possibilities and implications.”

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Process model: Private Gym


Competition: Kenbridge Schools

Kenbridge Schools: View of scheme

As a studio, DCOOP’s work is multi-layered and complex. Anchored in their readings of programme and context, their designs have an affinity towards the interface between form and content. Led by Quaid Doongerwala and Shilpa Ranade, the studio invests in taking the brief beyond the concerns of space and function by focussing – with equal rigour – on design and detail. The projects of DCOOP go through a systematic deliberation as drawings, models, material studies and concerns of usability are constantly negotiated. Their buildings have an element of discovery and accidence of tactile features – light, materials, intimacy and access. A sense of control on scales, interactions, movements, visual elements, construction methodologies and experimentation characterises their built work. Their architecture is responsive to reality. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Architecture BRIO MUMBAI


rchitecture BRIO is actively engaged in the creation of contextually appropriate solutions within an increasingly changing world. We set it up as a design-based practice that works with a thorough understanding of architecture and its related fields in Mumbai in April 2006. It seeks to develop design as its core strength and primary focus. Having graduated from prestigious institutions like TUDelft, the Netherlands and CEPT, India, we felt it to be extremely important that the uniqueness of the practice lay in the diverse backgrounds and cultures that we are rooted in. Combining exposure and knowledge in this European forte of innovation and detailing with the richness of Asian tradition and culture, has developed a design philosophy that emphasises the aspirations of our work. The firm works intensively with engineers, consultants, designers and the client, welcoming new insights that can lead to specific, innovative solutions. We believe strongly in design as a process with an intensive dialogue. We use models, both physical and virtual, as tools for communication between clients, engineers and architects. This encourages programmatic and engineering concepts to be fully integrated into the design right from the conception. The practice currently has a broad range of projects, both in the public and private realm. It nurtures the wide variety and scales of its projects and is not defined by a particular genre. Regardless of a project's scale, a common basis of the practice is its commitment to exemplary planning, design and execution. We approach a design brief in an open and explorative manner before arriving at a common standpoint. This then acts as a clear concept, which guides the design process. We find it important to stay connected to the field of academics and interact with students through teaching and juries. The

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

practice participates in various workshops both in India and abroad. These include interactions with other architects, artists and a wide variety of design professionals. Architecture BRIO is strongly influenced by these related fields and emphasises on design and its representation methodology. The documentation and visualisation of a project is, therefore, as significant as the final finished product. Aesthetics, technological and environmentally friendly innovativeness are the cornerstones of its guiding philosophy. Creating solutions for a context where architecture is continuously affected by scarcity is an inherent part of its design philosophy. Scarcity, whether it is in terms of the availability of materials and energy, a declining ecological system, building time, skilled labour, financial scarcity or restrictions due to remote locations of projects. Architecture BRIO’s approach to tackling these constraints is to search for smart solutions. The solutions should not only solve, but also resonate with the complex problems out of which they arise in the first place. The practice believes that there is a need to promote rapid, widespread acceptance of sustainable solutions. The challenge is to generate fresh ideas that carry out self-sufficient systems on a large scale. The potentials of new building techniques, re-appropriating materials in an effective and durable way, and intelligent energy concepts should be uncovered and integrated in an innovative way in architecture. With energy reduction and sustainability as a starting point, the firm attempts to create innovative and exciting architecture, Architecture BRIO, just like the name suggests, is about buildings that give energy both literally and metaphorically and therefore inspire and make people happy. - Robert Verrijt + Shefali Balwani

Architecture BRIO


Images and Writings: courtesy Architecture BRIO

Biodiverstiy Tranining Institute, Sikkim overlooking the Kanchenjunga Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


main frame out of matti wood 100x50mm



door frame out of 40x100mm matti wood beading out of saghvan 10x25mm

supari screen 20x40mm acrylic sheet 6mm thick beading of saghvan wood 30x20mm

door frame out of 40x100mm matti wood beading wood 30 gas spring

beading out of saghvan 10x25mm door frame out of 40x100mm matti wood column out of 50x100mm matti wood

Concept sketch of beach hut at Dunhill Resort, Goa

Detail of front shutter supported on gas springs that open up to shade the deck

Construction process Dunhill Resort

Completed Dunhill Resort Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Being intrinsically familiar with several contexts makes you very aware of what opportunities and possibilities a particular context has to offer. In our work, we explore, conceptualise, reveal and exploit these in such a way that they become the guiding principle for a project.

gas pring acrylic sheet 6mm


gas pring

acrylic sheet 6mm

Detail of roof and roof beam junction. The entire structure is completely dismantle-able Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


RV: Robert Verrijt, SB: Shefali Balwani Set up as a niche design practice in April 2006, Architecture BRIO comes together as a holistic approach of variegated scales, diversity and cultures that separately comprise and inform the character of its studio and work. What is the story of its origin and roots of its collaborative practice? RV: I am from a small town in the Netherlands and Shefali grew up in Mumbai. Being from a nondescript town, I had an early urge to travel and spend many summer holidays roaming from city to city in Southern Europe. During my student years at TUDelft, I travelled to Japan. Doing a semester in India reiterated my interest in Asian cities and culture. Of course, back then I never knew I would be living here six years down the line, but it now seems very natural to me. SB: After graduating, Robert went to work in the office of Channa Daswatte in Sri Lanka. Geofrrey Bawa was an inspiration to us both. I started my professional career in the office of Rahul Mehrotra and then joined Robert in Sri Lanka. Those were our formative years and have certainly defined the direction our architecture practice has taken today. The architecture expands on principles in terms of creating connections – interactions with the context, a physical embodiment of ideas and symbolically linked forms and functions. It hopes to instil in sensitivity to aesthetics that allow for moments of experience and discover to strive for meaning in the manipulation of architectural forms. The projects stem from an intrinsic understanding of the Indian context. What is the ‘Modus Operandi’ particular to their projects? RV: The Indian context is very peculiar and distinct to me. Being intrinsically familiar with several contexts makes you very aware of what opportunities and possibilities a particular context has to offer. In our work, we explore, conceptualise, reveal and exploit these in such a way that they become the guiding principle for a project. Many a times, they arise out of fascinations that have lied dormant for years, such as in the example of the Himalayan Biodiversity Training Institute in Sikkim in collaboration with fUSE Studio, The Netherlands. Years after visiting and being so inspired by the Moss Gardens of Kyoto, we suddenly got the opportunity to work in a climate where mosses thrive. As pioneer species, mosses kickstart ecological succession and therefore tell a wonderful story about biodiversity. The design of the Biodiversity Institute together with elements such as the beautiful stone walls we saw in Sikkim and the idea of a building as a tectonic uplift is built around this idea of mosses and lichens forming an educational element on the building exterior. India is so varied - and we are blessed with being able to do work in these diverse places - that there is always a completely new story to discover.

Ritigala Forest Monastery, Sri Lanka

Concept sketch for house near Kodaikanal situated on a rock

SB: Most projects start on the drawing board through a sketch, and design inspirations and references that help to convey the idea of the sketch. However, we find that more often than not, projects start by trying to define a brief for the client. Sometimes this is easy because you just articulate it for them. However, for our projects such as the Butterfly Reserve in Sikkim, we needed to spend months of research before being able to develop a sensible brief for the client. Sometimes, the client has a brief but it is not necessarily the right choice or right for the context or environment. Redefining this brief becomes crucial then. That said, it happens that a great idea at a start of a project transforms the brief altogether.

Model of the house

"We are pragmatic architects. We sense at the start of a project what approach has potential for a particular site. Instead of fighting the conditions, we take them as a starting point and then push those boundaries."

The stone-walled courtyard creates an introverted retreat


A light timber clad pavilion, cantilevered over a rock outcrop

The forms of their buildings rise above constructive logic and encircle a rooted, inherent approach. It captures the essence of cultures and gives it form. They are a distillation of colours, light and sensual imagery of native inferences. What are the influences that inform their work? SB: We are inspired by architecture that blends in, rather than stands out. We don’t believe in necessarily making grand gestures to do good architecture. Architects who are true to their context, culture and focus on good details are the ones who inspire us. From the older generation, the works of Tadao Ando, Geoffrey Bawa are inspirational for being rooted in their regions and the beautiful relation between inside and outside. Among the more contemporary architects, the works of Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura/Mansilla Tunon, David Chipperfield, Kazuyo Sejima inspire us for the simplicity and, at the same time, boldness in design. RV: I believe that developing an encyclopaedia of places and, more specifically, discovering their architectural solutions is essential for an architect. Exposing yourself to different contexts and situations allows you to truly pick out the right architectural solution for the right place. Close to my heart are places such as the Katsura Imperial Palace in Japan, the Ritigala Forest Monastery in Sri Lanka or the ruins of Hampi. They keep recurring as references in our projects. But for modern architecture, my home country keeps feeding me with inspiration.

Concept sketch, netted enclosures, Butterfly Reserve, Sikkim

Microscopic detail of butterfly wing

Shingle skin of proposed Interpretation Pavillion

Interpretation Pavillion perched gently over the landscape

Inspirational image of a butterfly gently perched over a flower

Aerial view of site with the river Testa running through it

Basking Pavillion, Butterfly Reserve, Sikkim

Existing site Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Entrance pavillion with watch tower and butterfly-netted enclosure; Butterfly Reserve, Sikkim

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


The refined ideas are committed to the vocabulary of its making; the simple and the poetic, the rational with the reactionary that enhance the functionality of architecture. The intent signifies and summarises the way each structure is shaped – of an appropriated response to the feeling and spirit of context. They emphasise on the ‘process’ as intrinsic to their work and its development. What do they wish to convey by ‘design as process’? RV: When you believe that from the enormous range of possibilities of interventions you could do in a place, there are only those few which are appropriate for that place and time, the design process becomes an uncertain search for that right solution. The process gets interspersed with a variety of ideas and thoughts. We consciously try to have those ideas float around for a while. But eventually we attempt to narrow it down and focus on the truly essential elements that are required to make the project work. We try to delay the unnerving moment from when we start making crucial decisions and start the elimination process, because from that point onwards, we become quite rigid. SB: After these first steps, there is still a long process of the development of the project ahead, where very different kinds of elements and requirements need to be integrated. At that point, we start developing the design into something that has every nut, bolt and screw drawn up. I say 'drawn up' because for us a project is finished in our heads when we have thought of every bit, drawn and documented it, and it all comes together. You don’t know that everything fits together until it is all thought about in its entirety in the actual materials that it will be built in. Two parallel and complementary forces exploring levels of philosophy and interactions renew both the spirit and meaning of the practice in this firm. The spaces reveal themselves as a series of unique and inviting relationships achieved through a thoughtful analysis of the programme in terms of multidimensional orchestrated programmes. Where do they see Architecture BRIO in future? Will it be a ‘niche’ practice or a ‘mainstream’ firm? SB: Let's say, we hope mainstream architecture in India goes through major transformations and there is a demand for architecture practices like ours. Currently we are a niche practice because mainstream demands are uninspiring. We are, however, lucky to have a few clients who have given us the opportunity to work on some ‘niche-mainstream’ projects. We hope that is the beginning for more such projects to come our way. “The practice believes that there is a need to promote rapid, widespread acceptance of sustainable solutions”. In the context of present architectural discourse, what is their definition/understanding of sustainable architecture? RV: Indian architectural production seems to be in a confused denial mode. It either reflects a nostalgic harking back to a romantic past of a place somewhere else, or an opportunistic, uncritical belief in a bright new future that could be anywhere, as long as it is not rooted in reality. So, the apartment towers cropping up everywhere are either clad in Roman colonnades or clinical reductions of what is supposed to be modernism. Instead of communicating the challenges of our time, generic buildings are being rubber-stamped across the country. We don't believe in these generic design solutions. Each project is unique and has a specific response to a context, but what is constant is the realisation that we have to change our way of living to be able to have a world worth living in for future generations. Our approach is to try and get this message across in the most effective way. Nature is respected in every form, be it natural or man-made. With the integration of nature in every aspect, energy conservation is made an integral part of the design from the beginning. A building that has been conceived with care and intelligence exudes this. One can sense this in buildings. And so, often a building is cared for in return and hopefully, has a much longer life to live. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


1. entrance pavilion 2. life cycle pavilion 3. inspection huts 4. research centre 5. anatomy pavilion 6. feeding pavilion 7. basking pavilion 8. way to camp site

9. resting platform 10. reproduction pavilion 11. mud puddling pavilion 12. nursery 13. water harvesting pond 14. staff quarters 15. parking

Site plan, Butterfly Reserve, Sikkim

level 0

level 3

section ff

Drawings of Entrance Pavillion, Butterfly Reserve, Sikkim Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

level -2

level -1

section gg


Moss-covered stone walls at the Training Institute, Sikkim

The material and spatial expressions are never arbitrary. Elements partake in the architectural thought in favour of their possibilities to enrich a curated, considerate environment. The cultural references of these materials are as strong as the structural and aesthetic rationale. Can they discuss their interpretation of the context “where architecture is continuously affected by scarcity�. Do elaborate on the approach and progressive search for smart solutions. Lichens in Sikkim

Local stone walls, Sikkim

Mosses as the start of ecological succession and biodiversity

Lineout of Training Institute, Sikkim overlooking the Kanchenjunga

RV: As a society, we need to learn that resources are limited. Even more so, they are being depleted very quickly. We are living on borrowed time. At the same time, I see so much being wasted and it is really depressing sometimes. The construction industry is very rudimentary, architects seem to not be able to carve a space out for themselves to design buildings holistically and clients so often have a limited time horizon. But when you think of it, so many resources go into a construction project: lifetime savings, loads of material and energy. So, we feel very responsible as architects to use those resources intelligently. SB: We are pragmatic architects. We sense at the start of a project what approach has potential for a particular site. Instead of fighting the conditions, we take them as a starting point and then push those boundaries. It's a very strategic approach. It often has lead to extreme proposals: where we had acres of forest land to build on, we compressed the project in an extremely compact building to minimise its footprint; when a project was to be demolished after a year, we made sure everything could be demounted and reused; when we had no budget to work with, we got rid of all walls; when our client had a very strong feeling of their house needing to be solid and permanent, we cast it entirely in concrete; and where the site has been extremely remote and precious, we made sure the structures could be prefabricated and transported to site. In India, we live in many centuries simultaneously, so we encourage using traditional building methods, with contemporary detailing and using innovative technologies, wherever appropriate. We believe that good buildings open themselves to reality and the facts of our lives. Along the way, we end up challenging conventions, and solving other problems. But within these extremes, we tend to design in a muted architectural language.

Architecture BRIO, under the guidance of Robert Verrijt and Shefali Balwani, revels in the spirit of enquiry, challenging preconceptions and testing conventions. Their reciprocal values echo in the designs with underlying logic and substance. The calling is for spaces that promote richness, harmony and simplicity – conducted not by habit, but a conscious sense of the surroundings. The architecture can be interpreted in many ways, wherein it extends to many dimensions and layers of meaning. Their observations, as a practice, detail out the versatile ideology which offers architecture its unique rhythm and transformative potential. The syntax of their work emerges as cultural acts imbued in the vision of timelessness that permit an informal idea of how various formal and environmental disciplines can be converged. The gesture reads of buildings that become part of the whole, choreographed as a collective performance with the context. The firm recognises this dialectic as pervasive and a reinvented exploration of spaces. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012




:OFA abbrev. mofa [m uf ], emphasis on ‘m’ which stands for ‘manifestation’. Manifestation: one of the forms in which someone or something, such as a person, a divine being, or an idea, is revealed. An appearance: in bodily form of a disembodied spirit. Materialisation: a sign of embodiment. e e

‘Manifestation of Fluid Architecture’ is a realisation of a design theory where architectural realms are redefined beyond the rules of regularised grids, dimensions and principles. Architecture in this context becomes a more fluid expression, continuously throbbing with vibrations of life. Here, the walls bend, column grids twist and the floors rise up and fall, responding to the ever-changing energy fields created by the life forms it houses. The architectural box melts into a fluid, leaving a void to adjust the continuous paradoxes of the modern lifestyle. At M:OFA, architecture is treated as a living organism that changes, adapts itself and responds to every change around it. The architectural organism is a storehouse of energy where the energy resources are conserved and recycled to sustain it. Our biggest influence is life itself, the complexity, simplicity, paradox, restrictions and fluidity that life itself has is exceedingly mentally stimulating to apply, interpret and iterate. Every design has a soul, which comes out of our reflections of ideologies, patterns and forms that we see in life at that point of time. We take this soul further empower and nourish it with our experience, analysis and workability. We try and iterate this soul in various layers, levels and mediums. What gets built is what effortlessly and fluidly pours itself from the idea to occupy the real space. PRACTICE We started our practice in 2002, but it was through the practice and realisation of what we, as architects, would like to stand for and contribute towards, that Manifestation of Fluid Architecture (M:OFA Studios Pvt. Ltd.) was formalised in 2007. The firm, M:OFA Studios Pvt. Ltd., was established in 2007 as a team of highly trained and determined architects and planners registered under the Council of Architecture with a global vision in architecture design, planning and urbanism .The vision of the company is the vision of every individual in the company - to give a holistic approach to every project in the field of architecture, interiors and urbanism. Every project, throughout its lifecycle, undergoes multiple layers of planning, design and realisation. We, at M:OFA, take every project through these processes, backwards and forward, through various simulations, case studies, exhaustive research, discussions and application. We see various faculties of architecture, planning, engineering, management and finance as not individual components but as various expertise/sciences needed to manifest a project. The influx of these sciences is fluid at multiple levels, stages, times and sequence. We explore programme, design concepts, technology, and engineering issues, project cycle, sustainable and green architecture, deliverance and supervision. We are constantly trying to surpass our own benchmarks and standards. - Manish Gulati + Tanushree Gulati + Abhinav Chaudhary Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



Images and Writings: courtesy D4 Design, Rajesh Suneja, Manish Gulati; M:OFA

The M:OFA City: Graphic representation of their work Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Omaxe Forest Club: Restaurant across the rivulet

Omaxe City Club, Lucknow: 3D Visualisation Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Light permeates to the basement of the club illuminating the green court

MG: Manish Gulati, TG: Tanushree Gulati, AC: Abhinav Chaudhary, M:OFA: Manifestation of Fluid Architecture M:OFA is a collaborative practice that operates from New Delhi. From an energetic studio space, they work on projects of multiple scales and complexities. With individual capacities to negotiate design, planning and infrastructure, M:OFA’s multi-faceted team has led thinking and execution of complex programmes. Being a studio-based practice, what is the idea behind ‘M:OFA’? What makes it significant? M:OFA: The idea behind M:OFA was creating a platform for design in totality; a platform wherein multiple disciplines of design interact together to create innovations and psyches. Architecture is an environment which surrounds us majority of the time. Be it a school, colleges, offices, houses, hotels etc, we spend almost 75 to 90 per cent of the time indoors or within a designed space. It is the quality and sensitivity of this designed space which often creates subconscious learning and sensitivity. M:OFA stands for change and the power of change that any of us fortunate to be present and living during today’s times can foster. We take our chance to design as a privilege and responsibility standing at the precipice of change. We are persevering to integrate the energy and mindsets of today and infuse those in the context and pertinence of tomorrow. Collage of M:OFA Models: Design development and methodology

It’s significant as it records the flux of times as a context and expression in our projects. This organic growth, issues and development taking place in India or in a larger context, the earth, is reflected in our design. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Master plan/campus development for Sports City at Satgarhi Village, Bhopal

Studio: Staircase and elements of the wall

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

"We see various faculties of architecture, planning, engineering, management and finance as not individual components but as various expertise/sciences needed to manifest a project."


Models in the Studio

Over the last decade, they have produced energetic architecture that is experimental, programmatically complex and visually stimulating. They have evolved over a period of a decade. What, according to them, are the core concerns that pertain to M:OFA’s work? M:OFA: What is the relevance of the vernacular language of forts, palaces, villages, step wells, temples, mosques etc. built in the past, today in an India dealing with growth and development of a very different time, scale, magnitude and pertinence? What is the connection between Modernism as a movement in the West versus what happens in India then and now? The core concern of our work would be to abstract these time periods, movements and styles to quality of space, spirit and thought. Like Bhagwad Gita teaches, 'atman' or the soul remains eternal, the body keeps changing. Hence, what we relate to is a larger context of the cosmos or the environment, rather than stylisations which are Indian or regional/vernacular alone. In spirit, our spaces reflect the scales and feel that is vernacular and equally cosmological, without literally using the elements and materials that are vernacular. Till date, M:OFA has developed a diverse portfolio with projects ranging from product designs to master plans. On an interactive map on their website, one can see a diverse, rich city-scape that composes the range of their involvement. What is their most important work? Why? MG: Without sounding even a little bit politically correct, each project in the studio is very dear to me. Every project in its time and space took us a step ahead in our pursuit. We chose a path and each project was an encounter to manifest creativity in brick and concrete. Each project and almost each client enriched us with the experience. Even though, like all architects, we too have many un-built works which couldn’t get executed for various reasons, yet contributed towards the development of the practice, but it’s the built work which finally gave us an identity. TG: It’s impossible to name one. They are all special for various reasons; completed and ongoing. There is 100 per cent synergy with where we want to move towards with both DPCC Head Office Building and VAT Building (competition). It stands for everything that we have strived towards in the last 10 years and will keep doing so in the future. NIFT Kangra at the moment is a project which we have worked very hard over.

Retail/Salon for Toni & Guy, UK

Institution for ITM Universe Amphitheatre

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Through technology and design, the studio has invested substantially in developing their understanding of energy-efficient architectural and planning systems. Their buildings have a global outlook and local response. What and who are the people, things and places that inform or influence their work? MG: Architectural learning happened to me in 3 phases. It started with a formal training at the School of Architecture, CEPT under great mentors like architects and professor Anant Raje, BV Doshi, Kurla Varkey, Leo Pereira and Neelkanth Chhaya through their teachings of Modernism, their passion and appreciation for Masters like Corbusier, Wright and Kahn that got absorbed like a sponge in my mind then. That formal learning at CEPT in its 2 nd phase found its physical manifestation during my short stint at ETH University, Zurich, from where I travelled all across Europe, soaking in the spirit of great architecture and urban spaces both in time and space. My exposure to various disciplines of art forms and understanding the parallels and connections has taught me to create architecture that is bold and larger than life. In my 3 rd phase of learning, it is my client with their age-old wisdom, cross disciplines and experience that combine to teach me and help me realise my bold ideas into reality, helping the project to be a perfect balance of fresh ideas with a strong backbone of sustainability.

NIFT Campus at Kangra: Girls’ hostel block

Schematic sketch

NIFT: The central staircase Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

NIFT: The hostel corridor


section aa’ Section aa'

section Section bb'


Head office for Delhi Pollution Control Committee: Sections

office complex for delhi pollution control committee, new delhi

DPCC: 3D visualisation Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Aerth Resort: Naggar

Resort under construction Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Well exposed to contemporary technologies, the architecture of M:OFA finds a pragmatic common ground between experimentation and continuity. As they develop, what defines their ‘vision’ for the future? MG: Vision is a huge word. I simply love to design day-in and day-out. At the same time, as a professional, I consider it a huge responsibility to contribute to the future generations to come, architectural creations that are bold, out-of-the-box, yet deep-rooted and self-sustainable. To me, that is the future of architecture. Any creation that cannot sustain itself becomes a burden on society. We, as architects, are not creating only sculptures to be admired but our creations provide meaning to the lives of millions.

National Institute of Water Sports, Goa: Proposal

TG: What excites me about architecture is smart ideas which create spaces that inspire and nurture, thoughts, ideas, feelings and its occupants. It’s when humans merely stopped being functional and worked towards aspiration, was perhaps when architecture happened. Today, many people understand architecture as just façade/surface treatment or just engineering. It’s when you move ahead of those, that’s when the fun starts. Many people, in Indian cities especially, are yet to experience and enjoy what architecture can bring forth to their everyday lives despite spending tremendous resources. To me, architecture means quality of life and thought that uplifts and creates better opportunities. I see it as a perfect balance between art and engineering which always, and always, creates the next step that nature and civilisation can walk together on. So the vision is to keep learning and creating such architecture and leaves those same aspirational clues for the occupants to take ahead and grow. AC: We are fortunate that our passion and work, both, lies in architecture. The excitement of exploring new possibilities has always grown with every new opportunity. It’s truly astounding to know that when one is learning, it never stops being joyful and one yearns to keep exploring and learning more. Hence, there are no limits and our vision is to keep moving ahead in innovation.

NIWS, Goa: Visuals

Master plan/campus development for Sports City at Satgarhi Village, Bhopal

Bold, experimental and progressive, the architecture of M:OFA is informed by contemporary contexts of technology, material innovations, formal tools of exploration and progressive ideas. As a practice, their work is radical, iconographic and extensively layered. M:OFA has worked on diverse projects; varied in type and content. Through critical arguments and a philosophical approach, they constantly seek unique and unchained expressions for their designs, all the while measuring their ideas against realities of use, finance and efficiency. The studio and the process of design are driven by articulating issues and thoughts, and constantly evolving through research and exposure. Manish, Tanushree and Abhinav have individual interests, areas of focus and expertise which enables them to approach a programme from multiple perspectives. They follow a rigourous process of design – modelling – analysis – design. Their buildings have an element of non-predictability and awe. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



The Context, the Concept, the Journey and the Traveller The birth of GDK Designs was a consequence of the multitude of impressions and observations that became a part of the consciousness of architect Girish Dariyav Karnawat as he treaded through his work stints in Ahmedabad, Zurich, Surat, Goa, Mumbai, Alibaug and Mangalore - freelancing, working with other architects and travelling. 1995-2001 defined a period of transition for him where, confronted with the inability of the present educational structure to empower its disciples with the aptitude to execute projects on-site and the chasm apparent in the construction industry between technology and professionalism, the architect decided to address these concerns by pursuing a holistic view of architecture. Projects at GDK Designs are conceived precisely in the studio even as improvisations on the site are inevitable and carried out by Girish’s continual presence on-site during the entire duration of execution of the project, following the design development stages. The architect is involved in all stages of the design and execution process, aided by a project assistant and professionals with specific expertise. Design development incorporates research, sketches, models, and digital media, all stimulating myriad of brainstorming sessions between the architect, the project assistant and the project team. The continual presence on-site ensures that all gaps are filled between technology and craftsmen, and only when the project is handed over to the clients does Girish move out, thus making construction an intrinsic part of his designs. Teaching, painting, writing, travel, photography, cooking, custom-modification of antique motorbikes etc. serve as good breaks for Girish and keep the work momentum going. The established practices of teams and systems thus have limited significance in case of Girish, who works with a new set of local craftsmen for each project. This nomadic approach is reflexive of him and engenders the concept of impermanence of a design studio. This is a result of Girish’s strong conviction that continuation with preset conditions, be it in terms of design process or people or thought process, defeats the very purpose and meaning of ‘to create’ which can happen only when there is vacuum or ‘nothingness’. In hindsight, this travel back to nothingness each time has worked for Girish in the past two decades as apart from an enhanced creativity; it leaves him with time to devote to his other passions. Commencing repeatedly from a fresh, clean and neutral state gives him renewed energy every time that contributes to the evolution of his works. There is an immaculate bonding with the site in all projects, where the site’s unique conversations with Girish make him work

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

out a completely contextual design after having understood the client’s requirements thoroughly. Espousing the significance of slowing down, Girish is content in getting involved in one or two projects at a time, giving himself entirely to them; conceptualising and designing their shell, interiors, landscaping and also executing them himself. ‘Contextuality’ is the precinct of any design thought and the firm enters into every project sans any premeditation – the site itself demands its ideal materials, orientation, spatial planning and technology. Each project thus gains distinctiveness while continuing with the belief in appropriate and regionally rooted architecture. This is not an easy process. Due to the intensity and personal involvement that goes into each project from the initial stages of design to execution on-site, Girish is extremely selective of his clients, accepting only those projects where his terms and conditions are met with. Evading stagnant solutions or reiterative ideas, his firm is driven by a sense of discernment to realise new solutions, experiment and reveal innovative ways of achieving spaces. Obtaining clarity in circulation, massing and focus on materiality and spatial detailing also make each of the firm’s ventures innovative. Minimalism and sustainability are inherent in the process of construction. So while shuttering plywood used for RCC slabs creates furniture in one project, smaller pieces of Rose wood treated as wastage are recycled to create wooden flooring in another project. Such innovations and experiments help form an appropriate cost structure and most often, result in a unique aesthetic. When experimentation doesn’t yield expected result, or in the event of mistakes on-site, Girish treats that as an opportunity to innovate, turning the situation into an advantage. Craftsmen are an integral part of the realisation of all projects. Besides acknowledging their workmanship, the architect confers on them a lot of dignity for carrying on unabated with their crafts through generations that forms an integral part, a sort of backbone to our traditional and vernacular architecture. India by virtue of its culture, craft and tradition has immense potential that seems to be getting dormant. At GDK Designs, a persistent attempt is made to stay embedded in one’s roots, because it is only from here that additional growth and learning would eventually take place. This ‘unconventional practice’ looks to meander its way to designs that define the ‘soul and spirit’ of architecture. While being unperturbed by trends and in a quest to find intricate solutions to his questions, Girish sticks to his passion for design, and single-handedly manages to shoulder a part of the responsibility that, as professionals, architects have towards society.

GDK Designs


Images and Writings: courtesy GDK Designs Text: Ar Apurva Bose Dutta

A clarity in circulation and massing of the structure dictates a major part in design; Mobius House, Goa Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


The power of ‘space’ remains paramount and besides designing of the shell, the interiors and landscaping are designed in tandem to it; Mobius House, Goa Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


"I believe the sense of belonging can happen only when the project is in harmony with the world and universe, within and around, in all its aspects."

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Sharing an immaculate bond with the site, each site becomes Girish’s workspace and the workers - his team; Aqua House; Anjuna, Goa

The features of traditional Indian Buildings like a courtyard remain an integral part of the start point of all designs; Mobius House, Goa

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


GDK: Girish Dariyav Karnawat A continuing development of ideas, both subtle and bold, GDK Designs has sought a specific sense of approach to architecture – of design authenticity rooted in the context and culture. The architecture speaks of this, enabling new relationships, modes of movement and of thought through two decades of transience. Girish Dariyav Karnawat has a very reclusive way of working – personal and intimate. How and why did this approach emerge? What is the ‘idea’ of his practice? GDK: My practice is definitely very open to those who can participate with the same intensity, same understanding and with the same purpose. For the rest, I would best let them perceive it as a ‘reclusive way of working’. I cannot really pinpoint as to how and why the approach to practice has emerged the way it has. Everyone has their own ways of practicing and this is the way I am most comfortable with. Answering this in any other way would mean cooking up and coming up with something that sounds intellectual and intense, which would mean being dishonest.

The presence of Girish on the site makes the coordination and understanding between the workers easier; Mobius House, Goa

My idea of practice simply is to come up with meaningful designs that are deeply beautiful, uplifting, built in a religious way, rooted to the context, and are an outcome of the ongoing process of evolution which can further add to the region, society and the world we live in. In tangible terms, GDK Designs personifies a nomadic practice with an essential inwardness that allows for a realm of ideas nurtured in direct engagement to the sites. As a studio driven by processes that involve working on-site, what informs and influences his work in the context of your practice? GDK: It is ‘context’ that inspires the approach and methods. The nature of my practice too is an outcome of that. Everything else is subservient to the context - from the clients brief, his personality, the budget, the physical characteristics of the site, topography, climate, traditional building techniques of the region, modern techniques/methods, locally available materials/crafts and craftsmen, cultural/religious nuances to long-term and broad-based concerns at national and global cross section in terms of sustainability, energy efficiency etc. and its meaning to the specific project and region etc. My own pursuit to reinterpret, redefine and manifest all of the above in a manner that pushes the existing thresholds and sensibilities in a way that is appropriate in the present times and attempts at being timeless, forms the basis of my practice. GDK Designs presents architecture as a powerful source of experiences often concordant with a directness that engenders discipline, commitment and creative participation with craftsmen on-site. Can he tell us about the people with whom he works on-site? Does he work closely with craftsmen/skilled builders for his project and details? GDK: Usually and almost all the time I (we) work with craftsmen, skilled and unskilled labourers, and under very close supervision and instructions. These workers come from various regions and are not necessarily local at all times. At times we don’t speak the same language. Their core objective is survival, which at times brings in conflict of interest. But usually it’s a matter of time. Once the security that they are seeking is assured of, the team spirit falls in place. Given a choice, they are all willing to go beyond. I usually try and avoid working with a fixed set of people. Even though it is tempting to remain in a comfort zone of dealing with familiar skills and people, people who already know how I work and what my expectations are, I am scared and sceptical of comfort zones as it defeats the essence of creativity. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Every design is born from the site, keeping the context in mind; Mobius House, Goa

The paradigm comes together as a diverse social construct; architecture that manifests thinking, beliefs and interactions. What are the core objectives or concerns of his work? How does he see his unconventional practice grow – conceptually and otherwise?

Instead of letting the roof sit on the mass, a sliver is formed through a glazed wooden girder running all around its perimeter inviting varied scales and textures, light and vistas, and spaces; Aqua House; Anjuna, Goa

GDK: There is one fundamental objective and concern, and that is to create a sense of belonging. I believe the sense of belonging can happen only when the project is in harmony with the world and universe, within and around, in all its aspects. I thus see a qualitative growth in that direction, a constant process.

"My idea of practice simply is to come up with meaningful designs that are deeply beautiful, uplifting, built in a religious way, rooted to the context, are an outcome of the ongoing process of evolution which can further add to the region, society and the world we live in." Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


The competition entry of the Memorial for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims evoked a lot of detailing and design development. The aim was to direct people to bury the past, contemplate and move on

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


A lot of sketches, models and researches lead to the final design concept; Trapezium House, Bengaluru

The architectural impulse belongs as an echo of a building’s programme and is principled as a means to make architecture more productive than it serves. Rationalising details conceives and reads the buildings in terms of sequences making them more permeable, more humane. There is a constant negotiation between the work in studio and the work on-site. How does this affect the project/building? What makes it essential to ‘be’ on the site? GDK: If you look at history, the time when there didn’t exist drafting boards, AutoCAD, GPS systems, drafting tools like pencils, inking points, T and set squares, architects were mathematicians, astronomers, astrologers, painters, sculptors etc. - all in one, and they worked on-site. The buildings, water management systems, windmills, dams, forts, cities etc created during those times are still an inspiration to all of us. They drew on sand, on earth; they worked in teams, they worked for years, they had patience, commitment and pride. What motivated them and what infused the character in those buildings that unfortunately most of what we call as architecture lacks today. This is despite the fact that today’s age is better equipped with technology. What worked then was this one-to-one human connection, the synergy, the collective spirit, the acknowledgement of the other, and the wisdom. Sadly, that is lost now or is almost at the verge of being lost. There are certain things that technology cannot replace, one of the most sensitive being the human touch. It is this human touch that makes it essential for me to be on the site. For me, the design doesn’t get over on the drafting board. My presence on the site is only a logical and natural extension. I am a human being, those I am building for are human beings and those building are human beings, too.

Construction is the fundamental part of all designs; Mobius House, Goa Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Also, even the skilled craftsmen cannot read drawings in our country. Most of them come from economically weak backgrounds - they leave their homes, families, and friends because they have to survive and go to places. Thus, drawings are not their language of communication, be it models or drawings or sketches. It is all a matter of communication – my alone feeling the sense of belonging towards the project doesn’t help and doesn’t bring the human touch. I believe my job is also to make everyone


Minimalism and sustainability, like in all other projects are the key factors of this award winning-design. Mobius House, Goa

else feel the same way. It is almost a Gurukul for a short time - I am merely a composer and they are the ones who play the notes. Though I am sure there are other ways to deal with this but this is my way of feeling at ease. I also enjoy the process of construction and building. It is my inherent need to be a part of the whole process - from designing in the studio to handing over the keys to the clients. Pavillion House, Anjuna, Goa

Nothing though is essential. It is a question and matter of choice.

The spatial core is anchored to GDK Designs as an evolving fabric of time, belonging and layers. It reiterates and evokes the interpretation of context in the broadest sense to include culture, location, programme, and client, manifestation of an articulated pursuit for each project. This introspective depth completes the building in many ways. It represents an attitude to the practice of architecture, as an involved spatial art, concerned with a wider understanding of possibilities of design process – an approach that amounts to both an architectural signature and a design paradigm.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Flying Elephant Studio BENGALURU


ur practice of architecture is direct in its approach; attempting to tackle issues pertaining to programme, site and materials. We believe that asking the right questions is the key to guiding the design process. To quote Wittgenstein, ‘The meaning lies in the use’. In architectural practice, this is all about understanding programme. The question could be how to reconcile top-down and bottom-up approaches to understanding the ‘use’. A whole-to-part strategy that positions a new intervention with clarity in relation to site and context; focussing on issues about ‘occupying’ the site, examining relations with terrain and urban setting. On the other hand, starting from a deep understanding of the smallest functional unit, and working backwards from needs of the individual user. In some cases, one may even look at radical ways of reinventing the programme as defined by the client brief; creatively turning it on its head, if the need arises. Then there is the question of site and how it is ‘read’: from obvious things that hit you at first glance, to less discernible nuances that may require a slower, more contemplative reading. How does one gather traces of the site and region, drawing them into the project, anchoring the new insert firmly to specific locale as well as larger cosmos? How does a new intervention ‘stand out’ or ‘dissappear’? How can something merge with its setting, or emerge organically from features of the landscape? This also reminds one of the notion of 'swayambhuva', referring to form arising of its own accord in nature. One can recall many instances, within the Indian artistic tradition where, for example, the sculptor ‘sees’ a form latent in a natural formation, and merely sculpts i.e. removes material necessary to reveal the image that already exists within the rock. Can such examples open up interesting ways of relating past and future, old and new, nature and artifice? How can we look at landscape in relation to man? One could think of landscape archetypes, that reveal varying degrees of human intervention in natural terrain. These may also recall traditional

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Indian categorisations: opposing grama (village, settlement) and kshetra (cultivated field), or, nagara (city, culture) and aranya (forest, wilderness); or even the five landscape types of medieval Tamil Sangam poetry. Can these inspire architectural compositions thematically, presenting ideas of difference as well as co-existence…integral aspects of the science of ecology? At the level of lived experience, how can architecture enable human communion with nature: actively engaging elements of sun, wind, water and landscape? How can climate-responsive architecture create thermally comfortable spaces that enhance user well-being; inducing sensual delight in everyday acts of living? Can we combine this with a theatrical sense of urbanity, that lends itself to human interaction and community? Then there is the whole aspect of making: the question of what materials to use and how they work together. How can one employ materials in most efficient ways, utilising fully their innate structural characteristics as well as visual-tactile qualities? Can they come together in a ‘finished’ product that still reveals the process of its making? How can one also integrate mechanical building services for optimal performance, also allowing for easy change to accommodate ever-changing technologies ? Finally, as an overall approach, one is inclined towards Mies’ dictum – ‘less is more’. How can one achieve maximum performance with minimum means? How can one thing have multiple uses? What is the least one can do, in terms of design, and still achieve a goal? Can we exercise restraint and actually curtail design, letting go of the desire for obsessive, absolute control of the project? How can design be sufficiently open-ended, robust and resilient to accommodate elements of chaos arising from contingencies of use and change over time; without actually diluting intent? These are some of the questions that help shape our practice. - Rajesh Renganathan + Iype Chacko

Flying Elephant Studio


Images and Writings: courtesy Manoj Sudhakaran and Flying Elephant Studio

2DC House-Studio Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


IIIT-B, Bengaluru Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



RR: Rajesh Renganathan, IC: Iype Chacko Established in 2007, Flying Elephant Studio continues to scrutinise architecture with a provocative, polemical and eclectic eye. What makes ‘Flying Elephant Studio’? What is the idea of its practice? RR + IC: Flying Elephant Studio brings together a diverse set of people, with varied backgrounds, skills and interests, sharing a common passion for making quality architecture. We try, through our practice, to engage creatively with everyday concerns pertaining to contemporary architecture in the Indian subcontinent. In the process, we hope to contribute towards, and also influence, critical architectural discourse in the country. With projects in India, within their contexts and the activities they contain, the practice creates a singular architectural language that springs from a collaborative process. As an emerging practice with strong conceptual roots, what is the approach to their projects? What is the ‘method’ unique to Flying Elephant Studio? RR + IC: Our approach is fairly direct: we try and dig into issues pertaining to programme, site and materials. A common thread underlying our work explores opposing themes of Nature and Urbanity. The experience of nature includes making connections with sun, air, water and landscape, while the sense of urbanity encompasses theatrical public spaces that bring people together. The play between these two themes is a key ingredient of our architecture. The projects are thoughtfully curated, rooted in contemporary architecture, influenced by spatial explorations in light, materiality and expression. In each percolates the possibilities of the programme and a meaningful connection to the ideology of the practice. If you were to tell us about your most significant work, what would that be? Is there a ‘landmark’ project? RR + IC: Difficult to isolate a single work. However, looking at different points in the trajectory of our practice, projects like 2DC817 House-Studio, Rishi Valley School, IIIT-B and Healthcare Centre can be considered important milestones. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


IIIT-B, Bengaluru

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

"A common thread underlying our work explores opposing themes of Nature and Urbanity. The experience of nature includes making connections with sun, air, water and landscape, while the sense of urbanity encompasses theatrical public spaces that bring people together. The play between these two themes is a key ingredient of our architecture."


Screen detail: Healthcare centre,Dharmapuri

Screen and column detail: Rain Forest House, Havelock Island, Andamans

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


The architecture imparts rich meaning to spaces through natural elements and the many aspects of daily life, drawing on an incredible reservoir of concepts and ideas which filter through the specifics of the site, the purpose, the form, the climate and other circumstances of the project. The spaces are calibrated with a functional transparency, layered subtly with interstitial spaces and the outside. For architecture that reinterprets and extends spatial disciplines, what informs and influences the practice? Are there mentors to the studio? RR+IC: Everything around us. First-hand sensual experience of life, in all its variety, and assimilation of the same in the form of a memory bank. Similarly, the fascination for and study of nature, especially landscapes and geology; and also underlying spatial patterns at different scales from micro to macro, and the processes that generate them. Then of course, good buildings…and evocative art. When you enter a space, and feel a sense of exhilaration, you begin to ask questions. We’ve received so much from numerous friends, peers and family, it would be impossible to name them all. However, a notable mention would be our own contemporary Gurjit Singh Matharoo, whose work we admire. His selfless engagement with our practice, constant encouragement and support, even through some difficult phases, is something we’ve truly valued. The relevance of its progressive architecture is contained by the union of creative visions that shape the potential of an institution under the aegis of strong roots and prospects. The perception of details and dynamics in this foresight brings a unified sense of aesthetics and functional consideration. As a ‘niche’ practice, how do they anticipate the evolution for Flying Elephant Studio in the future? RR+IC: With the practice now getting some recognition and, consequently, more and larger commissions, we need to pause and introspect. The challenge really would be to maintain quality and depth of thinking, while continuing to add new layers of meaning. The next few years could be critical in charting the course of our development.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Student Dormitories: Rishi Valley School, Madanpalle Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Pavilion, Bengaluru

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Healthcare Centre,Dharmapuri

Flying Elephant Studio’s work is deeply embedded in its sites and is expressive of them. The eclectic, self-effacing style serves the essential understanding of the architects to engage in a real dialogue with the surroundings. The sense of the buildings are conditioned to be sharp and intense, a direct and effective reading of the site, its programme and an inclusive spirit of materiality. The primacy of designs is dictated by a coherent balance of questions that represent the architects’ manifesto. The body of work stands as testament to intuitive and synergetic perception of its origins. Identifying characteristics are subtle and generic - a tightly organised and consistently inventive plan unites the client’s needs and the qualities of the site with a dedicated belief in structure and materials. It defies one descriptive label and materialises as a unified translation of core concerns of notions, virtuosity and creativity. Architecture, here, is a way of knowledge.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Hundredhands BENGALURU


undredhands was founded in November 2003. We currently have ten architects and are working on a mix of residential, institutional, industrial and commercial architectural and interior design projects. All our work is produced through a rigourous process of manual drawing and model-making. We do not believe in the ‘napkin sketch’. The final outcome cannot be ascribed to any one particular decision - it is always a response to the haphazard, random series of events we encounter through the process. Chance encounters, a photograph, a conversation, a movie...and of course, the site, the brief, the contractors, and the client - all carry with them clues to an incredible outcome. Initial sketches carry the seeds, but sometimes, the process is so varied and complex that the end product is much richer and layered than expected. All our work seeks to address the existing condition we are presented with and to find a way to augment existing patterns, and establish new ones as extensions of these. We are interested in this newness, but not in isolation. Architecture and interior design are inherently violent acts - our effort is to minimise the impact of this imposition by weaving our projects into systems that may already exist. Through our work we are trying to address concerns which are larger than the briefs given to us by clients; we want to engage with the real opportunities India provides us - the chance to work with sophisticated craftspeople and specialised fabricators, the chance to reinvent mechanical systems to address building techniques and sustainability issues, the chance to look at buildings beyond building systems and in terms of principles. In working with the locally available materials, recognising local skills, and directly responding to the given conditions (site, climate, etc.), we are only continuing an age-old practice of being prudent and responsible. We think this current predilection of talking about green architecture or sustainable architecture is redundant - we should always be thinking of an all-inclusive practice - or as Graham Morrison says, 'an architecture without adjectives.' - Bijoy Ramachandran + Sunitha Kondur Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



Images and Writings: courtesy Hundredhands

Sketch: Centre for Hope Orphanage, Trichy by Bijoy Ramachandran Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


From the sketchbook: Hope

Model images by Hundredhands team

All sketches: Hope Orphanage by Bijoy Ramachandran Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


All photographs by Bijoy Ramachandran: Hope Orphanage Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


NUA in Bengaluru: All images by Mallikarjun Katakol

NUA: Diagram of the space by Kulshresth Patel Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


HH: Hundredhands Hundredhands initiated as a formal practice in 2004. Led by Bijoy Ramachandran and Sunitha Kondur, Hundredhands’ Bengaluru-based studio has worked on a variety of projects, consistently developing thought and quality. What outlines the idea of the practice? HH: Hundredhands will turn nine this year. Our practice, is in some, ways modelled on the old-fashioned ideal of a ‘slow practice’. We spend a lot of time considering the work we do in terms of drawings and models. In having completed projects of different scales and typologies, we are now conscious of a different kind of rigour required to get things done in India – the clever and inventive use of materials and detailing to address the unique opportunities and challenges working here offers. Purpose-driven, their architecture develops from a patient process of visualisation and material experimentation. Their work refers to the context in terms of the urban and considerations of the environment. What forms the ‘central idea’ or the ‘process’ that defines their architecture? HH: We do not approach our work in merely intellectual terms. We are careful to understand the client’s brief, observe the conditions that exist physically and the demands made by the programme. The process is usually a back and forth between drawings (sketches, details, etc.) and models (physical and CAD).

SEVEN Hotel: Images by Clare Arni and Bijoy Ramachandran

SEVEN diagrams by Pramod Jaiswal Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


IME Sketches and drawings by Bijoy Ramachandran Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

"Our practice is, in some ways, modelled on the old-fashioned ideal of a ‘slow practice’. We spend a lot of time considering the work we do in terms of drawings and models."


Through a continuous development of ideas, Hundredhands has produced remarkable work in response to diverse and challenging programmes. What are the critical objectives for Hundredhands? HH: We are hoping that the work is representative of the conditions in which it was produced and the context in which it exists. Our relationship with clients is often what drives the work. Their reactions, requirements, and aspirations have a direct bearing on what we produce. The ‘concept’ is usually buried under the many seemingly banal conversations we have with clients, the ‘demands’ of the site, the directions the projects take because of the people who work on them and the often tedious negotiations we have with our consultants and contractors. The work is not produced in a vacuum. “We are interested in this newness, but not in isolation," says a transcript of the ‘Propositions’ lecture. HH: We are interested in creating a ‘new’ experience, but see our work also as part of a continuum. It is responsive to the many conditions that make the work possible. Hundredhands’ projects have identifiable elements and articulations in form and detail. The materials, spatial compositions and ideas of space have a consistent development over time. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for Hundredhands to evolve as a practice in India?

Cardinal louvres and the tree

From the street: Photograph by Mallikarjun Katakol

HH: Our work needs to focus on the way we build. We have, so far, worked primarily within the mainstream construction idiom, but I think we need to find ways to tap into alternative ways to build to address the urgent environmental issues we face. We still have access to quality craftsmanship and it is still possible to custom-design and fabricate things in India. We are interested in the great opportunity this provides us, both in creating unique solutions to address construction and environmental challenges, and as a way to collaborate with a much larger group of people to produce the work.

Cardinal: Steel, concrete and wood Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Alila Hotel and Residences: All images by Nathan Willock

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Patient and purposeful, the work of Hundredhands responds to fundamental concerns of form and space, material integrity, economy and efficiency with a strong efficacy with respect to function and relevance. With a team of architects and architecture trainees directed by Bijoy Ramachandran and Sunitha Kondur, Hundredhands has a significant investment in the conceptual development of their work and architectural discourse as an extension. Pragmatic and grounded in ‘doing’, the built work of Hundredhands is developed through an analytical process of drawing, physical and virtual model-making, detailing and a control on the process of building. Their buildings have a sense of clarity that comes through methodical process and elimination of the unnecessary. They use contemporary building technology and materials responsibly and with due regard to available skill. Their architecture is enriched through selection and restraint.

Raja ra Mane: Drawing by Bijoy Ramachandran Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



Design is the art of putting this wonderful array of stuff together. Two powerful things bind them – the idea and the detail. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Power of the IDEA

Practicing architecture in India can be quite painful yet rewarding. Inspite of poor construction standards, it still is an ideal place to explore and experiment. The army of masons, carpenters and other craftsmen and technicians make some amazing buildings, when there is good design. One can almost put together anything here – from traditionally crafted to the most cutting edge technology, product. This possibility of bringing in craft and technology, tribal to global and folding it into architecture makes design and practice exciting.

The trigger for the idea can come from anything; the programme, the site, the specific function or the material – light and energy for a lighting museum, the barren-rocky landscape for a house, yoga postures for a yoga retreat or even a foot overbridge as a public sculpture. The idea remains intact through the entire process, even through changes in form, programme or detail. These changes occur in an improvisational manner – as the design evolves in reaction to requirements, without losing the power of the generative idea.

Craft of the DETAIL


The words maya and PRAXIS come together in architecture. The design of spaces begins with maya (Sanskrit), the idea that lies in the space of imagination and improvisation. Praxis (Latin) is the craft of making – an involved making (of drawings and of buildings). In other words, involved making [praxis] gives form to the idea [maya].


bout 11 years ago, mayaPRAXIS was born in Bengaluru; in an office shared with another friend. Bengaluru seemed like [and still is] a great place for an architect, where cosmopolitan culture stands alongside a traditional and tolerant ethos. Other than the one friend, we knew no one else in Bengaluru. The first year went by with one project on board and one architect to pick on in the studio. We would ponder on the nature of practice, and see an Eisenman, a Piano and or a Correa in the staircases and toilet designs in those one or two projects. We survived mainly with the energy we found in teaching at the School of Architecture. It extended our learning and interest in Architectural Theory and History [ArTH]*. The Master's in ArTH was a gap filler.... of the stuff we forgot to learn, or never had the chance to “see” in college at SPA [New Delhi]. Working with wonderful architects like the Kamaths and Gautam Bhatia in Delhi was, of course, eye opening, but still the gap was large. Thinking about historical and the philosophical ground of architecture as the main part of a Master's programme opened up a third eye – one which still closes shut most of the time. And when this eye blinks sometimes, we find ourselves debating and discussing our work critically as well as all the other things we see around us. This, I think, is intrinsic to our practice. While we are more practitioners than theorists, we manage to get under the programme, the detail and the idea of the typical project.

In fact, the idea is given form through material and detail. The selection of materials for their lightness, heaviness, roughness or smoothness, is made with reference to the idea - prismatic glass for a lighting museum, local boulderstone rubble wall in monolithic form for a house in a barren landscape, steel pipes woven in to a spiralling form for a foot overbridge, etc. Through careful detailing, the structure, scale, lightness or openness of the space is formed. Restraint and consistency become two important factors that help this forming of architecture. Restraint helps temper the number of materials or formal strategies to a few that will make the idea powerful and tangible. Consistency makes the parts merge into a whole, and the way each part is detailed in constant reference to the whole keeps things together.



The materials of architecture come to life at the construction site. Raw brick, exposed concrete, solid steel, sand, and plywood are put together with a lot of effort by the masons, helpers, carpenters and fabricators – and one can almost feel their sweat and energy in the mass/tectonic power of the building. E=mc2 seems an appropriate metaphor. The energy [E] of a the workmen is embedded in the mass[m] of the place after it is constructed [c2] – one can almost feel it. So, if by design, one can capture this energy and make wonderful spaces, architecture can be powerful. For that, one has to respect the nature of the materials and the craft of putting it together.

Efficacious Practice through DRAWING


Drawing anticipates engineering, carpentry, art and ornament; and brings it to a sublime whole. Drawing can be an immersive state, almost meditative, when combined with design. The sketch and working drawings register the idea and resolve the detail. When it is well-crafted, both in drawing as well as in construction, it is possible for the architecture to be well-resolved. mayaPRAXIS remains a small, evolving practice, even as it learns to negotiate this terrain. - Vijay Narnapatti + Dimple Mittal



Images and Writings: courtesy mayaPRAXIS

Yoga Hall Building, Yoga Nikaya Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Power in the lines of a plan

The studio Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


VN: Vijay Narnapatti, DM: Dimple Mittal mayaPRAXIS setup studio in 2001 in Bengaluru. The principal architects, Dimple Mittal and Vijay Narnapatti, hold architecture degrees from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and Master's in Architectural History and Theory from the University of Cincinnatti, USA. Over 11 years, mayaPRAXIS has evolved as a progressive contemporary balance between practice and academics. The interplay between spatial arrangements and details embeds the practice with a specific kind of manifestation which influences the character its work reflects. What is the idea of ‘mayaPRAXIS’ as a practice. What are the core concerns that define its work? VN + DM: mayaPRAXIS is a small, tight-knit studio. From the idea to the detail, down to the last finish or door handle, there is a deep involvement with the process. This level of involvement brings the consistency and quality of detail in our work. How do we get all this done with a motley crowd of young bums – who are hardworking, naive and wonderful, and keep changing every year – is one big challenge, but we seem to have mastered it somewhat. Can we make each work sustainable, crafted, efficient and poetic and yet make it not an assembly of parts, but good, solid architecture? This is perhaps our core concern.

Inspiration - Pompidou Center

The projects are diverse and vivid. The essence arrives from a sense of collaborative experience and shared knowledge through academics. The capacity for a specific architectural language to communicate new meanings questions the extent to which architecture defines the context. Is there an idea that threads all the work into a conceptual whole? VN + DM: Our works begin with the idea that architecture is not an object. It is inhabited; fundamentally, through an embodied experience of the people who use and inhabit it. Design can deeply influence the way the place is used and perceived, both in the background as well as in the foreground. So, while we make our work ready to perform in the background, we also pay attention to how it looks and fits the context – some are more sculptural in keeping with their public nature, some more restrained to make them warm and homely. Style and fashion are incidental. Material, craft and use are deeper and deliberate elements to our design process.

Inspiration - Bhaktapur

Power of idea - Lighting Museum Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Cottages - Yoga Nikaya

Cottages under construction - Power of material

Under construction: Light roof on the heavy masonry walls

The practice’s acumen for subtle interventions, more than formalised ideas, carves out possibilities of customised personal expressions. As a developing studio, what would defines its strengths? What makes its work unique to mayaPRAXIS? VN + DM: We are detailers. And we are 'idea people'. Crafting both, the bigger idea and detail together, in a way that makes poetic and functional sense is perhaps our strength. So, if each project stands out in the place as something special, and yet works at a mundane level for the user, the weather, etc we think that it becomes successful architecturally. Sketch

The work puts together transient elements rooted in exploring and experimenting inclined towards rational analysis and imagination. The design begins with this thought and identifies with the constraints and opportunities that help inspiring architecture happen. How do the principals wish the studio to develop? What is the vision of its practice for the future?

Plan - Cottages Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

VN + DM: Work should be like a plum cake. It should last a long time, be rich with ingredients, have strong flavours, not just be sweet and pastry-like. And then, maybe we could have the cake and eat it too. While design is enjoyable, it should have a substantial purpose that is larger than the whims and fancies of a few; it should serve a larger public. We would love to do more “public” projects, and collaborate with others who complement us. In the process , if we are able to blend traditional craft and modern technology into a great architecture, we will be greatly satisfied. And nurture wonderful architects who can become an intrinsic part of our work and studio.that would be great!


"Our works begin with the idea that architecture is not an object. It is inhabited; fundamentally, through an embodied experience of the people who use and inhabit it."


Front Elevation


Side Elevation

Reception interior: Yoga Nikaya Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Observatory, Yoga Nikaya

"Material, craft and use are deeper and deliberate elements to our design process."


Side elevation

Front elevation

Observatory initial sketches Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


House Triangle sketch

Cottage sketch

Yoga Hall sketch

Detail sketches

House Triangle

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Power of idea - Foot overbridge (FOB)

Orion 3D elevation

Work in Progress - Foot overbridge (FOB)

Orion sketch

"We are detailers. And we are 'idea people'. Crafting both, the bigger idea and detail together, in a way that makes poetic and functional sense is perhaps our strength."

With each project, the firm sinews new ways to integrate an organising idea with the programmatic and functional essence of a building. Rather than imposing a style upon different sites and climates, or pursued irrespective of programme, the unique character of a programme and a site becomes the starting point for an architectural idea. What is the ‘process’ that is understood as common to all its work? What is the approach inherent in all projects?

Bookshelf Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

VN + DM: Every project is a collaboration of the end-user and designer. The exploration begins with the intent from the client, something we don’t take literally – a footbridge is converted also into a public sculpture, an apartment becomes a cluster of houses, a school as less classroom, more landscape and activity spaces, etc. From here, one or more notions from the site or the programme drives the concept development – and it is generally not form-based. The concept is strengthened and tailored, hashed and mashed into architecture and details of all kinds – material, structural and compositional – condition the design in every way...


Concept model - Roots Academy

Power of idea - lighting - House in Barren land

While anchoring each work in its specific site and circumstance, mayaPRAXIS is a synthesis of Vijay Narnapatti and Dimple Mittal’s sensibilities endeavouring to obtain a deeper beginning in the experience of time, space, light and materials. It is a continuum of specific situations that enables works of distinct individuality and stylistic variety from project to project. The unit system embodied in a web of ideas serves as a perfect model in the pursuit of new directions in contemporary architecture. Besides early, lasting influences, the ideology moves across various concepts through a closer understanding of space, materials and visuality. Every project has a realm of details where the essential qualities are crystallised and catalysed at multiple scales. Formidable intersects of the architectural idiom and academics attributed to debates and processes analyse the relationship between sculptural shaping and visual perception of architecture, and provides a broad presentation of the building. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


_Opolis MUMBAI

“Architecture, as an object, stands the test of time only when not just the nature of the material used has been expressed and maintained, but the skill and love invested in the building by its architect can be felt. A building can become a social asset only when it has been constructed by a craftsmanship that is motivated, above all, by the joy of creation. Ornament in classical architecture moves us not by its beauty or the message behind it, but by the traces that remain there of craftsmanship.”- Fumihiko Maki


n our opinion, this aspect of “time” is very important in judging the sustainability of a building and far outweighs several other more trends like ratings, which seem to be more fashionable and hence, have a “shelf life” from the sustainability perspective. An architect’s work reflects his or her values, design principles, sensibilities and personal inspirations. We believe a successful building must embody a sense of its purpose, place and tectonics. A work of architecture must give expression to the life for which it is intended: not only must it fully and competently satisfy the requirements of the programme, but its form should resonate with the diverse spaces and activities it contains. Similarly, we conceive of architecture as a natural extension of its surroundings, urban or rural, ancient or entirely new, and recognise its responsibility to contribute richly to its setting and enduringly to its community. To achieve a successful fit between a building’s purpose and its design requires that the architect and the client together engage in a process of exploring the values and choices that will evolve into the final form of the building. An architectural programme lists quantitative requirements, but often misses many qualitative issues. Through dialogue, we draw out these subtleties and address the complex issues of a building’s character, image and symbolism. We search for the most appropriate solution in the context of each particular place and time. We have designed buildings in places as diverse in geography and culture as Jaipur, Coimbatore, Kolkata, Doha, Ahmedabad, Pune, Goa, Bhavnagar and Mumbai. Always balancing our broad spectrum of experience with our commitment to develop vital forms, we seek a close connection and reciprocity between a building and its setting, and an architectural language infused with the essence of the cultural context. For every project, an appreciation of the site and region’s landscape, climate and heritage has deepened and enriched our design and construction process. Finally, we believe that people have always derived the greatest pleasure from architecture by recognising the way in which real materials come together to create a building. One can comprehend how the skeleton, flesh and skin hold together in the colonnade surrounding a temple or in flying buttresses that brace a cathedral’s roof and walls; in the structural lattice of woodwork in a Tudor country house, or in the wood beams and joists of a room. We believe that the qualities of rich and textured detail which we

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

associate with architecture of the past, can develop today from careful, innovative and expressive methods of construction. We have adapted a manifesto from the practice of Todd Williams and Billie Tsien - and go through it regularly to remind us of some basic principles. “Whatever we design must be of use, but at the same time transcend its use. It must be rooted in time and site and client needs, but it must transcend time and site and client needs. We do not want to develop a style or specialise in any project-type. It is our hope to continue to work on only a few projects at a time, with intense personal involvement in all parts of the design and construction. We want the studio to be a good place to work, learn, and grow, both for the people who work in the office and for ourselves. The metaphor for the office is a family. Each person must take responsibility for their own work, but as well must be responsible for the good of the whole. We do not believe in the separation or specialisation of skills. Each architect in the office will work through all aspects of a project. We would like to be financially stable, but this will not outweigh artistic or ethical belief, which will always come first. The work should reflect optimism and love. The spiritual aspect of the work will emerge if the work is done well.” We, at Opolis, believe that sustainability is “a way of life” and this involves change in the lifestyle of its occupants. Simple strategies for orientation, shading are key parameters and combined with a changed lifestyle can help reduce the carbon footprints of the building and its occupants dramatically. To reduce “demand”, using passive techniques - architecture that our forefathers knew very well - is what interests us. However, we also believe in giving the “beauty” component of architecture a “weightage” for sustainability and hence, to make attractive architecture using passive techniques is of crucial importance to our practice. We believe that sustainable living is the only way forward, as in the long run it will also make economic sense besides serving the environmental concerns. However, the architecture produced has to be “beautiful” and has to emerge out of this basic market-driven “sustainability” to achieve a higher level and degree of architectural quality and space. We are positioned as a young practice to accept this challenge and drive this change for our country. The use of indigenously developed techniques is critical rather than aping the practices such as LEED, which come from a region where energy demand is very different from our country. “As with durability, the ultimate judge of the true social value of a building is time.”- Fumihiko Maki - Rahul Gore + Sonal Sancheti



Images and Writings: courtesy Opolis

Amby Valley House

Chowgule House: Model

The following processes do not focus on individual projects, but on the process that are inherent to our practice

Models: House on the Ridge

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


“To achieve a successful fit between a building’s purpose and its design requires that the architect and the client together engage in a process of exploring the values and choices that will evolve into the final form of the building.”

The process: Ideas at the beggining undergo an evolution in the phases of design and construction and eventually - the product Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


House on the Ridge: The thrill of building in the middle of nowhere; non-intrusively and with respect to the environment

RG: Rahul Gore, SS: Sonal Sancheti Initiated in 2001 by Rahul Gore and Sonal Sancheti, OPOLIS is an emerging studio. They have worked in multiple contexts and at many scales. What are the origins of OPOLIS? SS: OPOLIS was set up by two individuals with very similar academic backgrounds and more importantly, very similar travels and stays around the world done together. The practice got its experiences of not only travelling, but also living in three different cultures for substantial periods of time (apart from India) - Europe, Japan and America. As the name suggests, the practice works within an urban mindset bringing to it these varied cultural inputs. Incidentally, the ‘O’ of OPOLIS comes from the Japanese language, where O is put as a prefix to a word of importance. OPOLIS is a young firm. With a consolidated and focussed team, their projects are driven by individual contributions and care. As an emerging firm with great personal stake in each project, what is the ‘modus operandi’ or the ‘process’ that is unique to OPOLIS? RG: The process is “everything” and our belief is that if a certain process is followed, the result will always do justice to the project. When this is followed, there is time for the application of an intellectual process, thus giving a chance to innovation in the project. We believe the “slowness of design” is an important concept to ensure that the process is followed. However, this does not mean inefficiency and should not be confused by meaning projects with indefinite timelines. The important thing is to set a definite timeline for a project giving enough time for design and then thrash it out in the given time frame.

The process of construction and the slow development of ideas - to experiment and to enjoy work

Both Rahul and Sonal have travelled extensively. Their travels and their study abroad have significantly influenced their work. Who and what are the people and things (built and un-built) that have contributed to their work? RG: 'Gurus' and institutions to look up to are very important in any professional’s life. We have been fortunate to have been influenced by our alma mater, CEPT, in more ways than one can count. Besides this, Professor Shimizu and Fumihiko Maki from Japan, Thom Mayne at UCLA and Rahul Mehrotra have been important influences. The work of Nari Gandhi has been instrumental in developing an inquiring mind into the nature of spaces and how humans react to the same. This has set us up for a search for these qualities in our architecture. Spatially complex, quaint extensively detailed, OPOLIS’s work across diverse programmes has a quality of patient architecture. Which is their most significant work/their most crucial project? Why? SS: Every project that engages us is significant in its present moment. Currently, we are working on the Bihar project along with Maki and Associates and will be undoubtedly our most crucial project. However, looking back at our last 12 years of practice, every completed project is significant as there are several learnings from each of them. The House on the Ridge stands apart for being our first house, and the passion and craving for pureness in its architecture is cherishable.

A lot of sketches, models and researches lead to the final design concept; Trapezium House, Bengaluru Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Process of designing a weekend home in Khandala: Experiments with bamboo and consequential designs Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


“Through dialogue, we draw out these subtleties and address the complex issues of a building’s character, image and symbolism.”

Continuity in the design of Zen Healing Centre, Mulshi; a year in design, research and development in Bamboo Construction

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


The Opolis Team: "It's a team game, you cannot play it individually."

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


OPOLIS has a diverse portfolio: from master-planning to architectural detailing. What do they see as the principal domain of OPOLIS’s work in future? RG: Engaging in larger projects without losing the design edge is the crucial part of architectural practice. One often sees that one loses control once the scale of the project exceeds, as there are several forces at play and some are beyond the control of the architect. Yet, to delve in this space is the most exciting, as it continuously throws up new challenges and is part of the real world that we exist in. Homes are still the best way to really pursue an architectural exploration of space-making, as it gives the opportunity due its limited scale. The crucial part of a practice is to have all this happening together in the office, for that is what keeps the sanity in the office. Hence, we take pride in not specialising in any domain, but go where there is stimulation for the mind.

Design of the Bihar Museum : Fumihiko Maki, Maki & Associates., with _OPOLIS Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


"What we really owe to is all our travels. We have been fortunate to live in Europe, Japan, US and India"

"One never stops learning and one always needs to be hungry for knowledge and exploration" Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


For a decade-old practice, OPOLIS has worked on projects of great diversity and complexity. Practicing from a Mumbai-based studio, their projects, large and small, are developed through a steady conceptual process. Through drawing and modelling, they develop and resolve their programmes into coherent and articulated spaces. They have a great command on materials and detail. Their architecture is nourished with much deliberation in the process. Responsive and contextually relevant, their buildings have a liberating openness and a sense of integrity. As an emerging practice, OPOLIS’s work is anchored to the present, yet transcendent to the same.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012





esearch Design Office - REDO - is a collective of designers in India and US working on a variety of project types; education, cultural, and residential. REDO serves as a support system for a small group of designers. Monisha Kejriwal, Latha Kovelamudi, Sweta Khilani Meier, Brook Louis Meier, and Deepa Shetty direct offices in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Milwaukee (USA). REDO was built on the idea of effective collaboration and the belief that together, we could accomplish more than we could on our own. We believed that by grouping together to lean on each other we could avoid the isolation that too often hampers small firms. In 2007, when we started REDO, Latha and Deepa had been working individually on small-scale work - retail, commercial, and single-family residences - while Sweta and Brook were moving to India after quitting their jobs in the US. Sweta had worked for large corporate firms on Science and Technology/Higher Education projects and Brook had a wide range of experiences on smaller, detail-oriented design projects. After years of developing her own practice rooted in single-family residences, Monisha joined us in 2009. At REDO, collaboration occurs internally between directors and externally with other designers, architecture firms, and clients. It's never been easier to rent expertise or engage freelance designers all over the world and we try and take advantage of those facts as much as possible. Competitions are a prime example of how we do this. While competing for a new college campus in Siliguri, we were able to staff the project with people located in the US. This enabled us to finish the submission in four weeks and win the project, which will be completed in 2014. We actively collaborate with other firms to compete for interesting large-scale work - a good example would be the renovation of Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium, Kolkata. We didn't feel equipped to handle such a complex project ourselves. Furthermore, a stadium is an icon for a city, so we put together a team that would do justice to the project and make it the landmark it deserved to be.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

We assembled a team of international designers that consisted of REX - New York and Tom Leader Studio - San Francisco, creating a proposal that engaged a wide range of technical issues that faced the deteriorating stadium - such as maintenance, drainage, and revenue streams. The proposal wasn’t limited to how the stadium would look, but how it functioned and would survive financially. Even though we ultimately didn't win the commission, it was very exciting to work on and a great experience for us. We have also teamed up with non-profits like Architecture For Humanity to set up health clinics in India - designing and implementing these outposts as an effort to connect quality healthcare with low-income patients. The fact is, collaborating with people that are in different cities or countries is a challenge, but technology has made this easier than it would have been 10 years ago; office meetings via Skype, sharing files with Dropbox, or passing around a SketchUp model to each other. The key to keeping REDO going is direct and constant communication. When you are in the same office space, it's much easier to pass around a sketch or discuss a project. Keeping regular meetings, updating colleagues on workload, or just knowing someone's travel schedule, all keep the office organised and more efficient. REDO is definitely a 'work in progress' in many regards. India - along with China and Brazil - is easily one of the most exciting places for an architect to be working. The scale and diversity of projects and the evolving role architecture can play in modern society create unique opportunities and challenges. As exciting as India can be to work, it is equally frustrating. Each project becomes a challenge just to complete, and that's before you even attempt to make the project architecturally significant. REDO is our effort to minimise distractions that make great architecture so hard and maximise our individual ability to create great work. - Sweta Khilani Meier + Brook Louis Meier + Monisha Kejriwal + Latha Kovelamudi + Deepa Shetty



Images and Writings: courtesy REDO

Yarlagadda Residence, Hyderabad Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


International School of Hyderabad

J.P Sahu Institute - Siliguri Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


SKM: Sweta Khilani Meier A decade-old, REDO reflects that rare melding of thought exchange between five associates - Monisha Kejriwal, Latha Kovelamudi, Sweta Khilani Meier, Brook Louis Meier, and Deepa Shetty - which brings together a body of work which is comprehensive in the diversity of scale, material and form. Across multiple cities, they have a unique collaborative practice. How did this initiate? How do the offices of REDO work?

J.P Sahu Institute - Siliguri under construction

SKM: Over the last 10 years there have been a lot of alternative business models popping up in the architectural profession. These new ways of thinking appealed to us as there is a lot about the typical firm that is just broken. The possibility of creating an idea for an office with a fresh perspective - tailored to the way we want to live and work - was very appealing to us, and with emerging technologies of communicating and collaborating these possibilities became more and more realistic. The concept of deconstructing the idea of an office was exciting and had a lot of potential. As architects, we are intimately tied to our work and travelling is an integral part of that process. Visiting a new city, for us, is all about the buildings, the spaces, the infrastructure, and the restaurants. We like to see the city as someone who lives there sees it. So, the goal of being able to spend a month in a new city and still do our work in a different part of the world was liberating. In 2005, Brook and I were living in Milwaukee and had started to work with Latha on a multiplex in Hyderabad - we began to get excited about forming a group of individuals - not necessarily 'employees' - that could work with each other and do exciting design work, while living anywhere in the world, knowing fully well that certain systems and structures needed to be in place for this to work effectively. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Brook Louis Meier, Deepa Shetty, Latha Kovelamudi, Monisha Kejriwal and Sweta Khilani Meier

Proposal for Eden Gardens, Kolkata (image provided by Tom Leader Studio)

The multi-faceted attitude inscribed within this close collaboration is democratic and purposeful. The poetics of architecture – the convergence, the expression, the forces – are based on the prosaics of the componentry of the firm. They are different people with different ideas. How do they find a common ground to work? What is the ‘process’ that is intrinsic to Research Design Office? SKM: We are all different people but we share a common design sensibility and we depend on each other not just for support but also for judgement and critique. We each have our own projects that we design and execute but input from each other is encouraged and really crucial to the process. However, architecture is not just about design; in our daily routines we have to manage clients, vendors, and staff, so comparing notes on these topics is a great way of avoiding mistakes and finding the best path forward. It is in the end, a balancing act of integrating and responding to all the needs of a project: material and measurable; as well as the spiritual and intangible, the subjective; it is about making valued judgments. What are the core ‘concerns’ for their practice? What ideas define their work? SKM: Communication is the biggest concern. Technology has been helpful, but it hasn't solved this for us. Individually we have to get better at communicating - even something as simple as explaining your project out loud can lead to new possibilities. Each year this deconstructed office works better, so we believe in it as a concept and are committed to making it a reality. Clean, modern design defines our work. We strive for innovation; improving and clarifying existing concepts. We hope that each project we do is an opportunity to advance the office as a whole. We try to keep this in mind and see each project building towards the next. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Shetty Residence, Bengaluru Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Interiors for the offices of Meenakshi Group, Hyderabad Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Junaid Residence, Bengaluru Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Myneni Residence, Hyderabad

"We strive for innovation; improving and clarifying existing concepts. We hope that each project we do is an opportunity to advance the office as a whole. We try to keep this in mind and see each project building towards the next." The conceptual envelope of the architecture retains a cohesive tenor. Though simple in its systematicity, the architecture is deduced from parts rather than from any sense of a perfectible whole. With a diversified practice operating from four distinct locations, what makes their work identifiable to Research Design Office? Is there an ‘identity’? SKM: We really don’t have a cohesive identity as a firm, but we each have our individual design tendencies, and our instincts grow & evolve over time with each experience. We have our own path to follow in this regard, so we don’t necessarily think that a REDO ‘identity’ is something that is achievable or desirable. How the variety of perspectives work together is much more important than a unified or singular outlook towards architecture. For over a decade of evolving ideas as much as the built form, defining a new type of organisation for endless intensifications and diversifications, REDO stages a reinvention of the process. As they grow, what is the plan for their practice? How do they intend for it to develop? SKM: We are now developing our office in Hyderabad to be capable of being the ‘hub’ for our firm. The goal is to make the physical office less important and we believe that one should not be confined by geography in order to do great work. The Directors should be more focused on design and process and less encumbered by office management. The set up should allow someone to work out of a shack in Goa for a month or meditate for a week without the whole system falling apart. This is of course the ideal scenario. We keep dreaming of making this a reality someday. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Working model for a residence under study

Proposal for Science City - Navi Mumbai

Informed by strong confluences, the catalogue of REDO’s work reflects the diversity of interest and accomplishments. The originality of its architecture stems primarily from the driving enthusiasm and intuition that each brings to the work. The layered transposition from project to another act is natural extensions of a sensitivity that the firm collectively stands for. In examining the trajectory of their built and unbuilt work, their evolving work is full of optimism and adaptable in a world of shifting paradigms – a harmonious blend of modernist sensibility, local craftsmanship, indigenous structures, and respect for nature. The discrete elements combine to bring forth a unique edge, a fineness, strength and profile – an inventive diction of approaching architecture in as many ways as one can. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Abin Design Studio KOLKATA


e, at Abin Design Studio, believe that the paradigm has shifted from “why” to “when” in terms of practicing responsible architecture. We design to create ‘biophilic spaces’ that respond to the changing socio-cultural, economic and environmental traits. We try to update and upgrade ourselves through constant research activities. Every project aims at exploring and enhancing the architectonic value of design. We, therefore, offer initiatives that help people understand the need and importance to improve an aesthetically sensitive built environment through the collaboration of professionals, designers, leaders and local communities. We promote and encourage the best in contemporary urban planning and development and bring modern architecture, traditional craft and design closer to people. In contemporary India of hazy architectural identity, we gyrate among the few young enthusiastic design studios which aim at centrifuging the anomalies by seeking a universal dialect of “responsible architecture”, building upon low carbon-footprints and extensive use of locally available materials, despite the continuous conflict between logical reasoning and creative senses of emotion. Our inherent design philosophy is to deal with every design problem at a fundamental level. We are certain that a sustainable experience is seldom about the first ‘wow’ and hence, do not

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

believe in a single ‘big idea’ approach. The practice explores ways to engage the user, the way they move through the space and interact with it, and appreciates the fact that designing a space offers the opportunity to build in layers, which unfold differently for different people. I founded Abin Design Studio in October 2005. What started off as a small, three-person firm is now a frontline design firm rendering comprehensive design solutions. Our Studio includes creative genius and technology-savvy professionals who work with dedication, passion and, above all, are pragmatic in approach, being efficient enough to knit ideas into a strong architectural vocabulary with immense passion about the work they do. We describe ourselves as creative people constantly in the process of exploration of new thoughts and ideas, new materials and technology, drawing inspiration from ordinary things. We believe in extensive research work, and are open to what is happening worldwide. We aim to set the built environment free from the prevalent crustacean architecture and infill sustainability through a holistic approach of uniting architecture, interiors, landscape, signage and products. Our vision is to constantly explore new paradigms in an inherent desire to stretch our boundaries and lead our ideas to international platforms in the next few years. - Abin Chaudhuri

Abin Design Studio


Images and Writings: courtesy Abin Design Studio

Bold lines, bright colours and unstoppable curves: International Institute of Management, Kolkata Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


AC: Abin Chaudhari Founded in 2005 by Abin Chaudhuri and partnered a year later by Jui Mallick, Abin Design Studio started off as a humble three-person firm to mature into an elaborate organisation, conceptualising space, object and visual. Over the years, they have developed a variety of building typologies. What are the factors they consider most significant to the growth of their practice? AC: We try to deliver every design at a very fundamental level. What is important is that our work not only inspires amazement once, but also innumerable times after that. Maybe even for many years to come. Our aim is to approach every project with a new thought, its own unique design vocabulary. This is important because every project is unique, with its own unique location, context, requirements, and of course, the end-user. It seems easy when you say it aloud, but you have to understand the social aspect, the significance of the materials used, and the users’ response. Our practice navigates with six basic approaches: • Integrating comprehensive solutions in various fields of practice (such as architecture, interior design, graphic design, retail, signage, industrial design, design of exhibition spaces and building information modelling). • Working on projects with various global partners. • Establishing ourselves by publishing work in various magazines worldwide, and participation and merit in competitions. • Encouraging the team’s creativity through training facilities. • Using various software formats. • Carrying out continuous research on the new, upcoming global material and technological advances.

School of Architecture & Planning, Bhopal: Process models

The studio is essentially a diversified one. In its context, it can be seen as different, challenging established trends and questioning accepted norms; it is almost revolutionary, constantly evolving new concepts that stand out. What do they think of their work? How did they decide to take up creative projects? AC: Our endeavour is to set apart free built environment from prevalent crustacean architecture and infill sustainability through a holistic approach. The team includes creative genius and technology-savvy professionals who work with dedication, passion and pragmatism enough to knit ideas and concepts in creating a strong architectural vocabulary. We describe ourselves as creative minds, constantly in the process of exploring new thoughts and ideas, new materials and technology, while drawing inspiration from ordinary things. We essentially believe in extensive research work, are open to what is happening worldwide and are extremely passionate about the work we do. Participating in international competitions, where there is no restrain of ideas and imagination, gives us ample scope for research work and hence, immense space for improvisation. We can also ascertain where we stand on the global platform. Most of our recent projects are through these competitions.

"Our endeavour is to set apart free built environment from prevalent crustacean architecture and infill sustainability through a holistic approach. We describe ourselves as creative minds, constantly in the process of exploring new thoughts and ideas, new materials and technology, while drawing inspiration from ordinary things." Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


School of Architecture & Planning, Bhopal: Process sketch

The central promenade

View of the Library

View of the Academic Block Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012



BUILT FORM DEVELOPMENT Solid wall to protect against west sun

Solar protection

Solar protection

Inviting Northern wind into central plaza

Cut-out to introduce daylight into the building Outwards cantilever glazing to cut out solar gain Shaded courtyard to minimize heat island Iconic tower for evaporative cooling Water pool for cooler micro-climate

Double roof provide solar protection from top and sides Large overhang allow large glazing

Shaded walkway to protect from harsh sun

"There are many masters who have made their difference in the world of architecture, contributing their share to this art. We want to be able to make that kind of difference with an experimental edge. We aim to create a universal dialect of 'responsible architecture'."

International Management Institute, Bhubaneswar: On-site interactions

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Library becomes a half circle to reduce insolation hence reducing electro-mechanical energy

Development of Academic Block using large overhangs and extended canopies


International Management Institute, Bhubaneswar

Library from the Courtyard

The philosophy appears to challenge the conventional. With the vision and verve to transform the city-scape, it has almost become representational of the confidence and passion of architectural youth in Kolkata. If they were to select a landmark project of theirs, which best represents this essence, which one would that be? AC: I think it is the International Management Institute, Kolkata. This was our first project. Kolkata is an ancient city in eastern part of India. Post-independence, this city has not grown like others in India, and has not yet adopted architectural character. On the contrary, the city is becoming more chaotic and mono-chromatic. However, it definitely has a vibrant life, and people here have a love for art and culture. As our vision was to build the most expressive, vibrant, technologically advanced and sustainable management institute, we thought of adding colour to the city life. With bold lines, colours and curves, the building stands out from its tightly packed and primarily residential surroundings, while representing all that the locality and the city stands for - joy, youth, vibrancy, and a sea of identities, colours and ideas.

View of the Administrative Block

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Istanbul Disaster Prevention and Education Centre, Istanbul (Competition Entry)


impression of mosque

distortion of rationality

creating journey

evolution of form

contemporary language of the silhouette


Upper Plaza

Lower Plaza 2D plan of the site given in the brief

3D of the existing situation

Terracing according to the natural slope of the site

View of the interior Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Building is divided according to the functionality. They are placed on different levels.

Building is the midway between two plazas which creates the soul of the journey through and outside the building.


The practice demonstrate several values essential to architecture. Be it contextual respect, pragmatic strategising or technological innovation, the work shows a thorough exploration of the strata. Inceptions usually have inspirations. Who and what influences the firm? Do they have any mentors or masters? Has any place or building moved them to create such an impact? AC: Frankly speaking, there are many. My father, primarily, was the one who played a very important role in my life. He, a mathematical genius, being a constant inspiration in my work, was responsible for my eye for perfection and the desire to create “spectaculars” for the nation. Apart from that, there are Charles Correa, Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando and their creations, which immensely influenced our thought process. Speaking of mentors, we must say we are lucky to have interacted with the likes of Mr. Pradeep Surekha, Mr. Sanjay Jhunjhunwala, and Mr. Sunil Bhandari, who have given us immense guidance in our vision.

Praxair Township, Paradeep

Yes, there are many buildings that have moved me. The Sen Residence in Kolkata designed by Charles Correa is one of them. It was the building which changed my life and convinced me to take up architecture as a profession. With strong values and a focussed direction in place, where do they see their practice in the future? Is there a vision that they would like to share? AC: There are many masters who have made their difference in the world of architecture, contributing their share to this art. We want to be able to make that kind of difference, becoming a respected architectural design firm globally, with an experimental edge. We aim to create a universal dialect of “responsible architecture”.

In a city that, though culturally rich, has remained fairly unaffected, perhaps even purposefully neglectful, of contemporary architectural developments of the country, a dynamic philosophy attempts to trigger a ‘think revolution’ by challenging the conventional to recreate the city-scape of Kolkata; a passion, rare but crucial. Abin Design Studio was founded in October 2005 by Abin Chaudhuri. He was partnered by Jui Mallick in 2006. What started off as a small three-person firm is now a frontline organisation rendering complete design solutions from conceptualisation to realisation of space, object and visual. Intrepid lines, bright colours and unstoppable curves in designs unflinchingly imply the idea that the older generation is now required to step back and pave way for a brighter, bolder youth. The projects have a strong spatial quality which contains and liberates a person, both at once, fusing lessons from past traditions with aspirations of the present in a sparkling coup of energy. The passion to transform, the verve to change, and the nerve to challenge is almost incomparable. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Anagram Architects NEW DELHI


nagram is a spatial design consultancy recognised amongst the emerging practices in the world, with a commitment towards delivering innovative, context-specific designs that encourage sustainable lifestyles. Our young and dynamic firm has very rapidly garnered acclaim for designs that span a wide array, from modest residences to large public-infrastructure facilities. Through our work, we attempt to enrich elemental modernity with intensive research into traditional as well as non-conventional practices, evolving culturally relevant, contextually responsive and resource-efficient designs. Our practice is based on a philosophy of holistic sustainability that responds to the economic, socio-cultural and environmental contours of a project. We explore an architecture that is not merely physically sustainable, but promotes an experiential reconnect with ecology and nurtures responsible and aware lifestyles. We, at Anagram Architects, enthusiastically explore opportunities to investigate spatial design and endeavour to provide innovative and fresh design solutions by delving into our rich experience in various fields. We also undertake collaborative design projects with other designers and artists so as to articulate more holistic designs and to enrich and invigorate our own design experiences.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

The practice has revolved around the core values of: ACUMEN We strive to offer our patrons holistic design services of the most exacting standards whose quality and expertise compare to the best internationally. AWARENESS From the latest developments in construction technology and materials to age-old cultural practices, our designs are informed by intense research in order to render the best quality. We are also keen on allowing our work to be an exploration into design for both, our clients and us. SPECIFICITY For us, each project is unique within its specific context and we endeavour to provide our clients with design solutions that are not only tailor-made to their requirements, but also respond to their socio-economic, cultural and geo-climatic contexts. INNOVATION Equally at ease with the latest design trends and traditional and alternative building practices, we innovate and minutely detail design and techniques to elicit resource-efficient, context-specific design. - Vaibhav Dimri + Madhav Raman

Anagram Architects


Images and Writings: courtesy Anagram Architects; Asim Waqif, Andre J. Fanthome (Kindred House), Ayush Prakash (Food Labyrinth)

Brick screen wall: SAHRDC building Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


3D Model: SAHRDC

MR: Madhav Raman, VD: Vaibhav Dimri Anagram Architects was initiated as a collaboration with a niche team in 2001. In last decade, Anagram has produced some very fresh work across many scales and types. Eliminating the idea of ‘style’, their works depart from a conceptual understanding of spaces and materials. How did ‘Anagram Architects’ become a practice? MR: Anagram Architects started as a partnership of three people right after we graduated from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. While our third partner decided to retire to study further within a few years, Vaibhav and I wanted to continue the firm and try and evolve a practice. The beginning was really a trial by fire. A decade or so ago work was not easy to come by. Most certainly not for a start-up firm with no experience, no links to the industry nor any qualifications or specialisation beyond a basic bachelor's degree. The only thing we had to offer, really, was indefatigable enthusiasm. Evolving a practice was the only sure-shot way to learn, grow, explore, build and earn a living - all at the same time. It took time, but slowly we found our groove as it were; learnt to get instinct and then, in turn, to trust it. We realised, if we learn something, no matter how small, from absolutely every project we do, we might just get a better education that any post graduate programme or a greater experience than working at any celebrated firm. I think that this is pretty much where we are and I hope this is where we stay. I don't think Vaibhav and I really want to become experts at anything, ever!

Helical brick courses

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

VD: Almost immediately on starting up, we were acutely aware of the number of gaps in our knowledge and our lack of experience, not just in building, but also in running a firm and managing clients. So we had to “practice”: grab at each and every opportunity possible to design, studiously learn from mistakes and rapidly try and gain all that we lacked. We learnt that there was not just much in the realm of architecture that we were yet to discover, but that there was a whole universe of understanding outside our profession that was yet to be explored. And that our practice is a vehicle for this exploration. We gradually realised our own individual talents and weaknesses. In fact, Madhav and I are each other's worst critics and best friends! I think that's what powers our practice.


"We explore an architecture that is not merely physically sustainable, but promotes an experiential reconnect with ecology and nurtures responsible and aware lifestyles." Delhi Studio - Anagram Architects

Delhi Studio - Anagram Architects

Gairola House: From the street

Gairola House: Volumes and brick courses

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Anagram’s portfolio includes works across many scales – from residences to workspaces to urban proposals and installations. Their well-articulated approach to architecture enables them to produce diverse work that is fresh, interesting and clearly defined in logic. They have a collaborative office. What is the common ground to work? MR: Modernist architects (like most of us are taught to be) expect to be the pinnacle of a pyramid-shaped project team of any building project. The prerogative, onus and credit for vision and control traditionally is vested in the architect. In a sense, the construction industry and the business of building were structured accordingly. However, today the cracks in this structure are beginning to show. Project processes are no longer sequential. Control is often with developers and globalised visions might be imported. Architects themselves find opportunities in plugging in horizontally to broader team structures. With architecture becoming programmatically and technologically complex, the only option to retain the top spot is for firms to become larger and increase their own in-house capabilities and capacities. Invariably this leads to a greater distance between architects and architecture. Let's face it, the days of architects being the sole design leads with everyone else falling in as a sub-consultant are numbered, if not over. Collaborations are extremely fertile seedbeds for innovations and we find cross-disciplinary ideations an exciting experience. It's like showing up at a BYO picnic! And when it works, it's magical. The diversity in skill sets, expertise and design processes can, if managed well, greatly enhance the quality of the design and its articulation. VD: Managing collaborations is often a delicate exercise and not all projects can be collaborative. Formulating a good collaboration is often an endeavour that is not project-specific and needs to be nurtured and tested over time before it works for a particular project. Further, partners within collaboration must share some values, not necessarily whole ideologies, and be comfortable with each other for a frank exchange of ideas. We find successful collaborations emerge out of learning to trust your partners and their abilities as well being able use them to expand your own thinking. Ideally, a collaboration should attempt at being greater than the sum of the parts, while guarding against being erosive to the contribution of each part.

Pioneer office: 3D Visual

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Kindred House: Pergolas


Vaansa: Under construction

Vaansa: Under construction

Vaansa: Site section

Kalpavriksha: Memorial proposal for Cross Maidan

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Proposal: Ring (T)Rail Project

Through a non-formal and independent approach to work, Anagram indulges in problem-solving at all scales. Their projects have a quality of surprise – colours, spaces, materials, light and intricate elements that bring forth the experimental spirit of their practice. What can be identified as their most significant work? Why? MR: That's a tough one. I don't think any of our projects is singularly significant. For us, each and every one of them has some value, more than monetary benefit. It's fair to say we have grown with each of our successive projects so far. I guess, SAHRDC is the one that got us wide critical acclaim and global recognition. So, it is the one people immediately identify us with. But it was our first completed building, nearly six years ago, and today even our clients have sold it and moved on! VD: The work we are doing for the Ring (T)Rail Project is quite close to our hearts - partly because it was self-initiated and also because of its nature and the number of stakeholders involved; it's a painstakingly long-term project. But the day it reaches fruition, it will definitely be one of our most significant works. Ring (T)Rail Project: Visualisation of the environs

Both Vaibhav and Madhav involve themselves in the academic discourse. Their practice is amalgamation of young, impatient people who have individual stake in projects. Working from a studio-based environment, they invest in ideas that may not relate to their practice at this stage but, may develop into cohesive concepts eventually. How do they see a link between academics and practice? MR: I think that's partly got to do with the fact that Vaibhav and I ended our academics at the graduate level and went straight into practice. At a certain level, we would like share all that we have learnt about design outside academia. We would like show students of architecture that its practice is not just a cerebral activity of the mind, but one that involves the heart and might just help you find your soul. And that this exciting journey is there and accessible to all who seek it with passion.

Ring (T)Rail Project: Visualisation of the environs Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

VD: We also learn so much by teaching! Staying in touch with academics means being able to access libraries, critique students' work, take the time to have meandering conversations with colleagues and students on architecture and design. These are all the privileges of teaching. And it does inform our work and influence our thinking in some way or the other.


Banganga Crematorium: Concept sketches

Banganga Crematorium: 3D Visualisation

Anagram Architects have grown substantially in past five years. The scale and type of their work has diversified. Their built work is experimental, young and responsive to the context of their commissions. They have substantial work in the pipeline and an urban-design proposal that is critically acclaimed. What are their key future objectives? How do they see Anagram Architects in future? VD + MR: We hope to expand the studio over the next few years. Not just in numbers, but also in domains. We are currently evolving a strategy to channelise what we do in to a practice, a consultancy and a research-cum-advisory. We expect to create multiple “rich� linkages between these channels, while reducing clutter and increasing our efficiency in being able to deliver specifically to our clients' needs. This channelisation would hopefully also allow us to drive innovation and direct ideas in specific directions based on our credo of creating designs that enhance awareness (both for our clients as well as for us). Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


LCS Customs Building

LCS: Visual of the portal frame

LCS: Detail of the built form

Bamboo joinery details for LCS Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Food Lab

Detail: Food Lab


Led by Madhav Raman and Vaibhav Dimri, Anagram Architects is a growing studio that engages in architecture, installation, urban design and material innovation. Energetic and conceptually firm, their work has a quality of youth and variety. Through an open and consolidated team, Anagram Architects manages to involve in experimentation – material and architectural and simultaneously in academic discourse. Beyond architecture, they have designed objects and installations with a strong, cohesive sense of material, detail and execution. Strong in their conceptual footing, they develop each project in a distinct, independent framework that makes their approach towards architecture experientially rich. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Design Combine KOCHI


esign Combine, for me, symbolises a vision of an architectural practice starkly different from most contemporary understanding of individualistic, personality-driven architecture. In an age which symbolises the Architect with the capital ‘A’, my team thinks of architecture as a collaborative approach, always stressing on teamwork as a method of arriving at better-designed products. This approach of conceptualising the design process itself as ‘teamwork’ has been far removed from individual approaches of design and has enabled us to become a firm where young architectural talents are nurtured, given freedom of creative thinking, while honing the expressions of the same, under nuanced guidance. Design Combine has inspired several practices in Kochi that together evolve the very look and feel of architecture in Kerala. We have great respect for the traditional milieu of vernacular architecture while transforming its language to a modern day context. The team draws on individual strengths of each of its members, to produce a collaborative design which becomes an amalgamation of all these strengths. We create design details within this traditional format, which has now become the norm de rigueur for many peculiarities of the typical concerns of Kerala. Today, we continue to carry on the initial attitude with similar ethos, but have adapted to the tastes and needs of the changing times as well as individual design sensibilities.

Our architecture embraces many ‘firsts’ in the ‘Kochi-scape’. Our transformation of the old courtyard house of Kerala, with its sloping roofs and encompassing ‘verandah’, into a 21st century house equipped with all modern needs has become the accepted language of residential architecture in Kerala. However, the genre in which we see our maximum impact is resort architecture, because here, we evolved a veritable style of architecture, imbuing Kerala’s traditional architectural ethos into the modern comforts of a premium tourism sector. Today, we operate with the same design ideologies of representing Kerala with its best foot forward, yet transforming it to suit modern times. As founding partner of the Kochi Chapter of INTACH, I, along with my team, initiated the transformation of the old Dutch Bungalows of Fort Kochi into boutique hotels, which today, 15 years since the first project of its kind in Fort Kochi, has become a popular solution to conserve old decrepit structures and to provide an economic impetus to this part of the heritage town. We feel a constant abhorrence of being bracketed into a ‘style’. We consider styles in architecture to be limiting and stress on evolving each project based strongly on the context and brief. Thus at any given point of time, we work on designs using starkly different building materials, design details and aesthetic languages. This not only increases the entire ambit of our design, but also keeps reminding us that architecture at the end is subservient to the context it lives within, as has been practiced successfully for generations of extremely climatically and contextually appropriate architecture the world over. - Ramesh J. Tharakan Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Reinterpreting traditional Kerala for the modern context

Design Combine


Images and Writings: courtesy Design Combine


esign for me is a very solitary, almost meditative, exercise. From the conceptualising of a project all the way down to the smallest details, from the structure to the interiors, from the lighting to the landscape, and even to the design of the furniture that goes into the space. The achievement of true ‘harmony’ between the elements is possible only if a single mind conceives every piece that constitutes the end product. On receiving the brief from a client, and seeing the site, one develops a ‘vision’ for the building. One’s vision, of course, would be the summation of everything that he values in architecture. This vision is the key; and while the means of achieving the vision may undergo change as one works on a project, the fundamental idea itself remains consistent through the process, and through the various elements that constitute the project. This brings me to the point where I have to make a potentially unpopular statement; that I do not believe that design can be done by a ‘committee’; because a vision is seen only in one man’s head. Form Follows Function | Less is more | God is in the details Perhaps the three most ‘clichéd’ quotations in contemporary architecture, these are three ideals that I identify with. Yes, I most certainly am a designer who is driven by the functions of a building. From the functional requirements emerges the organisation of the building; and the organisational structure of the building dictates the most appropriate structural system, these becoming critical ‘form generators’ of my buildings. I am a minimalist at heart. I believe in the elegance of simplicity. If there is one aesthetic that I resonate with, I would have to say that it is Japanese. It is simple, to the point, and yet warm and interesting. Detail has the ability to make or break any piece of design. For me, a brilliant concept without elegantly and intelligently worked out details is just as incomplete as the converse would be. An incessant connection between the inside and the outside; nature – plants, water, the light of the sun – is a major element in my designs as this connection is fundamental to human well being. A commitment to getting as close as possible to “zero-sum” architecture; every building I design today will be self-sufficient, with no inputs and no outputs. And last but not least, I have always been fascinated with modular and prefab architecture. It is my belief that this is the direction the future of the building industry is going to take. However, prefab construction has always had a bad connotation of being bland, industrial and infected with a sterile ‘sameness’. This is what has to change. All the above defines good architecture. However, great architecture happens only when it transcends these definable elements and manages to touch the soul and uplift the spirit. Architecture finally has to be equal parts innovation and humanity. Design becomes meaningless if we are not exploring ways of taking that next step with every project. Yes, our first responsibility is to fulfil the brief. But from that point on, the job is to push the envelope and to educate, convince and help the user see the exciting journey we can set out on together if, and only if, he can agree to come on board. - Jacob George Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


P.C. Mathew, Monolita Chatterjee & Ramesh J. Tharakan

RJT: Ramesh J Thakaran, JG: Jacob George Founded by Ramesh J. Tharakan and later partnered by Jacob George, Design Combine is a unique collaboration. Their projects show a wide variation in typology with equal measures of logic and aesthetics. They have even pioneered several attitudes that significantly contribute to the language of architecture in the context. What is the underlying idea of the studio and the collaborative nature of their practice? RJT: To me Design Combine represents a sum of many parts. In the 30-odd years of its existence, the firm has encouraged individual expression in the design studio, to think out of the box; but yet remain respectful to each others ‘skill set’ while serving the client with complete transparency. JG: We have always enjoyed sharing the same practice as we feel that we can be of help to each other in various areas of the practice. Ramesh, as the senior partner, has always been supportive of me, and thanks mainly to his very generous temperament, we have always gotten along well, despite working on our different projects. We have our different styles, but we share the same design, intellectual and philosophical integrity, and this is what keeps us together.

Vasundhara Sarovar Premiere Resort: Interiors

By the backwaters: Kayal Resorts, Kumarakom

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Le Colonial, Kochi: Restoration of heritage structure

The Suresh Panniker Residence, Kochi

View to the horizon: Kayal Resorts, Kumarakom

Conservation of the Tower House, Kochi

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Detailing: Kayal Resorts, Kumarakom

Creating a style: Dr. George’s Residence

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012




All Above: Design development of the Resort for MFar, Kumily

All Above: Restoration of 8th Bastion, Kochi

Design is a very integrated exercise in their practice. Jacob has stated, “Where does architecture end and product design begin? Is a highly detailed steel-glass-wood staircase architecture or product design? Any ‘thing’ that needs to be built, be it a hospital or a safety pin, is, therefore, fair game”. What is the central idea? How does their ‘ideology’ represent their work? RJT: The adage that “God is in the detail” is the underlying mantra that dictates our design, be it in architecture, product design or graphics, and that is representative in our work. JG: Specifically and intentionally ALWAYS trying to re-invent the wheel. With every new project or product, we go back to first principles, and try and look at new and improved ways of solving the problem.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Design Combine Office, Kochi

All Images: The BrickResidence, Kiln House,Kochi Alibaug. Jacob George’s

Design Combine Office, Kochi: Interiors

Jacob George’s Kochi: Interiors All Images: TheResidence, Brick Kiln House, Alibaug.

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Both, Ramesh and Jacob, work on different projects in practice. Ramesh’s team initiated the adaptive re-use of heritage structures in Fort Kochi and Jacob’s thoughts proposed the use of pre-fab construction as a direction for the future. In both cases however, their greatest strength is their lack of dependence on conventional and historically accepted solutions. How would they elaborate on this? RJT: As life is evolutionary, so also is the design process. We do respect our historical antecedents but that does not mean that we are trapped in its ideology or aesthetic. In our world of diminishing natural resources the goal is towards responsible architecture and to tread lightly using technology, as a tool to further traditional craft. JG: This question has partially been answered above. Furthermore, new materials, new technologies, new lifestyles, even new problems and constraints and a new and enhanced awareness of the world around us are bombarding us every day. How can one not be constantly adapting to these changing circumstances? While Ramesh thinks of architecture as a joint endeavour with stress on team-work, design for Jacob is more of a reclusive and reflective process. With two such strong independent, almost divergent, philosophies behind their approaches to design, how do they find a common point in their studio/practice? RJT: “Variety as we know is the spice of life”; and though our design sensibilities may embrace divergent philosophies, the design approach remains the same, with form always following function, and detail taking precedence over appearance.

Jacob George

JG: The common point lies in the basic integrity of what we provide our clients. We share the same values. As far as architectural styles are concerned, we are actually happy to offer two different options to our potential clients. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Industrial Design: RETHM TRISHNA

Design development of the MES School, Perunthalmanna

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

The Water Health International Kiosk (India & Ghana)


As a firm, they design for architecture, graphics and products. The projects depict a combination of respect for nature, sensitivity to tradition and a vision for the future. It seeks no style in particular, except one that is distinctively its own. How do they see their practice in the context of India in future? RJT: With the bulk of current architectural practice in our country veering towards the creation of sterile, monochromatic glass and aluminium-clad buildings in gated communities and special economic zones, I see our practice continuing in a design narrative that is qualitative in a textural milieu, whilst embracing the neighbourhood marked by an emphasis on humanistic values. JG: The world is becoming a smaller place. Many of the issues facing India are issues that are common to the rest of the world as well. In many ways, therefore, architecture is certainly becoming more ‘international’. The differences arise in the cultural context we need to design for, the need to be extremely conscious of costs given that we are still, in most ways a poor country, the climatic conditions we need to be designing for. Apart from some of these issues, I don’t think the “future Indian context” is going to be very different from the “future world context” as many of the most important issues we need to be most sensitive to fall into the realm of protecting our planet.

Corporate Office for AV Thomas and Co., Kochi

Residence for Vijay Raghawan, Chennai

Headed by principals Ramesh J. Tharakan and Jacob George, Design Combine is a Kochi-based practice where architectural forbearance is not merely a preached idea, but an intrinsic characteristic as well. The philosophy of practice acknowledges that while architecture stems from its roots of history and tradition, its branches ultimately soar to the future. It challenges prescribed norms and while learning from the traditional, tackles every new problem with aesthetic, technological and environmentally friendly innovation; these underlying philosophies being the single point of convergence. This established, from here emerges an acceptance of the subjectivity inherent in architecture, both in terms of perception and in terms of process, thereby allowing a deeper deliberation and attention on the development of the architectural piece itself. The respective architecture echoes an obvious ‘diversity’, emerging from the different, almost divergent approaches to design. However, the radiated essence unites them together in a combination of respect for nature, sensitivity to tradition and an understanding that everything we do today can still be done better tomorrow. It seeks no predisposed style, except one that is uniquely its own, one that is born out of its own set of circumstances. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


banduksmithstudio AHMEDABAD

ARCHITECTURE AS CONVERSATION racticing architecture is a conversation between us and the context: the existing environment and the one we are trying to create, the client, the contractor, the fabricators, carpenters and masons, materials and money. We are all working together to evolve a piece of land and space, to respond to needs and to improve the systems we inhabit.


With that in mind, we bring to the conversation the many references we find in our environment. We take from it the cumulative knowledge of a group of people, each excelling in a particular craft. In each successive project, we weave together the knowledge and experience we have gathered, pushing ourselves to search further, discover more, and answer new questions. Our endeavours are linked by what we have learned from the world, but the variety of scale, of place, of material, lets us explore the uncharted, discover the unexpected, and surprise ourselves with what we make. We aim to marry a materially sensitive design approach with respect for the context, into which each project is placed, celebrated through a considered relationship with the physical and social condition of its surroundings. Most essentially, we put materials together to form shelter. We use materials from nearby when we can, and techniques that are familiar to those who are making the buildings. We study the way that sun, wind and water, as elements of nature, form architecture that is also shaped by the structure of its materials and the rituals that take place in it. Because we see the finished building at the starting point of its life, we aim to anticipate how it ages, that it may weather and transform elegantly over time. We anticipate where we can, and where we can’t, make decisions that predict the building to age gracefully and transform simply, while maintaining its essence. This is practiced in the details as well as the form. We study the scale and relationship between spaces with reference to structure, material, body and programme, because the life of the building is made better by a design that resolves the material and structure with the space, and not just with programme, which easily changes. Details should extend the material’s lifespan, and increase its strength through solid connection and simple upkeep. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

In practice, we design the ‘constants’, elements around which specific conditions can emerge and elements can evolve. This reflects in the way buildings are executed as well. While the structure of the architecture holds fast, we evolve the interiors to anticipate the changes that we have to go through during the execution process. CONVERSATION IN PRACTICE We spend as much time on-site as in the office, design both before and as we build. The design evolves through studio discussion, talks with client, contractor, carpenter, fabricator, plumber, electrician, mason. Our phones are active for small questions and ideas that come up because of the discovery of an unexpected soil condition, new fabric find, or suggestion about a particular wood joinery. Where possible, we will work out details on-site, drawing on the walls, discussing as we decide with the people who will make it. Because we work in many different places, with construction teams of widely varying skill sets, the details must be resolved to the level that they can construct. It doesn’t make sense for us to design a beautifully complex detail if our fabricator can’t make it, so we tailor our construction details to the specific agencies we are working with, always pushing them to improve their skill, but meeting them at a level that they can reach. In the same way, we use the construction process to take input from our agencies. The carpenter spends his life with wood, so why not learn with him? We are ultimately working as a team to produce better buildings, and as much as we can bring them new ideas and innovations, they can teach us about the intricacies of their craft. When everyone is part of the conversation, not only are drawings and details made clear, but all who are involved also feel that the work belongs to them, that their opinion matters, and they are also responsible for making things perfectly. It is in this space of engagement and conversation that we build our practice, bridging between agencies and clients, site and idea, material and space. We are all part of a collective effort to improve the built environment. - Sachin Bandukwala + Melissa Smith



Images and Writings: courtesy banduksmithstudio

2 x 2 Terrace Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


2 x 2 Terrace detail

2 x 2 Terrace: Construction photograph

SB: Sachin Bandukwala, MS: Melissa Smith banduksmithstudio is a collaborative practice. Emerging and experimental, the studio’s work develops greatly from the contextual relevance of each project. The forces that shape their work are perceived in their architectural responses. What are the origins of the banduksmithstudio? What initiated the idea of a practice that is diverse and yet cohesive? SB: I have been serving and learning as an architect since 2001. I met my architect/urban planner-wife Melissa in 2008, and we agreed to continue to serve our built environment together. The diversity was natural because of our vastly different backgrounds, and the cohesiveness came from our similar aspirations. MS: After Sachin and I met, we decided to build together. To me, to build is a beautiful way to see the world optimistically. As people who make, we must not only critique, but also offer solutions. We respond to what we see with questions, aiming to innovate, to create. This, combined with training in both architecture and city and regional planning, gives us the tools to be effective in transforming the built environment at small and large scales, working through the systems of building, neighbourhood and city. Practicing from Ahmedabad, banduksmithstudio indulges in observations and discussions as a retrospection of their way of approaching architecture. Their work develops (intuitively and otherwise) from these pieces of information. As a niche studio, what informs and influences their work? Any specifics or constants? MS: We actually don’t see ourselves as a niche studio. We are a young studio, but believe that the way we work can be applied in many scales both here and abroad. I hope that our method of designing with careful study of the context, with respect for how things are made and how they age, could be the way most buildings are made. If our designs can be elegantly and simply resolved, they can age beautifully, and can support transformations later on in their lives. We draw our designs, our material choices, our details, from the source that fits each circumstance timelessly, and not from contemporary trends.

2 x 2 Terrace: At dusk Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

SB: Observations - everyday, and days when I travel - inform and influence our work. The aspirations to make things better and continuous inspiration from the order of things in nature, are the biggest motivators, these are the constants in specific problems that we try to solve here.


Unjha Ghar: Model

Unjha Ghar: Interior image

Unjha Ghar: View from the street

Unjha Ghar: Light filters through louvres Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Wadi Talavadi: Conceptual sketch

Wadi Talavadi: Process layouts and visuals Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Wadi Talavadi; process drawings: Approach to water



"We spend as much time on-site as in the office, design both before and as we build. The design evolves through studio discussion, talks with client, contractor, carpenter, fabricator, plumber, electrician, mason."

Discussion at the carpenter’s shop

Travel: On the way to Amarkanthak

Travel: Polo Forest Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Two Square House: Section

Two Square House: Roof detail articulation

Two Square House: Process sketch

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Two Square House: Under construction


Polo Forest

Three Tree House: Under construction

The architecture from the studio is diverse in terms of scale, materials, typology and its socio-economic context. Their projects address the concerns economy, appropriateness, usability and character. Purposeful and unassuming, their work focusses on the meaning. They work at many scales and their ‘projects’ address concerns of context. Is there a ‘process’ typical and inherent to all their work? What are the common threads? SB: I start with perceiving the context, in time and space, and in nature and architecture, with its utmost purity, without me as a participant, to understand the spirit of activities and materials that support them, which come together to form the system of the place. I think of material because I think of space with its weight; solid, and void. If it is solid, how heavy is it, and if it is void, how light can it be? The conversations thereafter, the negotiations thereafter, carry forward the spirit of the concept and realise it. MS: Each project calls for its own process, and I would say that we respond quite differently to each site. I gather as many cues as I can, from the people, the activities, physical markers and the orientation. I try to first understand each element, and then look at how they interact. This way I begin to see how the building should respond.

Three Tree house: Concept montage

In the studio I also try to reflect on our collective project memory. We work on many projects at once, and the ideas don’t always move forward. Sometimes they jump sideways, from one project to another. The lateral trails end up in our sketchbooks. Every architect in the studio carries a sketchbook, present for discussions, detail development, site visits and meetings. The ideas, and conversations are sketched in order of time, and the books stay with the studio, whether the architect remains or not. The overlaps among books catalogue the studio’s mind as ideas emerge, transform and evolve. The banduksmithstudio has worked on many scales – from objects that are designed for interaction to schemes that are meant to impact on a larger context. Throughout all their projects, the studio negotiates the development of work with patrons, workers, employed craftsmen and stakeholders, thus keeping the formal system open and democratic. What defines their most significant work? Why is it important? MS: Each project pushes me toward a new understanding of what it is that I am doing, and I hope to carry these particular lessons forward. So in that sense, every project is the most significant.

L House: Model

For example, in the Tower House, now in construction, the initial design concept development impressed upon me the value of our partnership and the usefulness of multiple minds to accomplish a complex task. As we hashed out the ideas about our approach and the project direction, we decided to spend some time alone with the site and the design, and to come back together to talk with our drawings. When we came back, Sachin had moved from inside out, stacking bubbles and finding voids between them, while I started at a green envelope and dug in, bringing the outside along. Our two proposals dovetailed beautifully, each filling in the gaps of the other’s. The resulting conversation led to pockets of space wrapped by a green screen and arches that gripped the building. SB: None and all. Nothing is most significant or least, because we are yet to achieve equilibrium among client brief, site context, time and culture, material and technology, and our ability to synthesise all this. Each project is a new opportunity.

L House: Montage

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012


Tower House: Sketch views from model

Tower House: Process drawing from model

Through constant critique and introspection, the studio invests in thought and dialogue. This enables them to create architecture that preserves ‘identity’ in terms of quality and nature of the product through the nature of the process. With a small team and individuals having a direct stake in work, everyone develops with the idea. How do they see their studio in future? What is the way forward? SB: More and more, we would like to do projects that influence as many lives as possible, without losing intensity to serve the specific. We would like to design new programsme, new rituals, that embrace changing times yet respect the past, in India and wherever we find the opportunity.

On-site: Discussing the foundation plan

Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Tower House: View of model

MS: We would like to grow, to see a variety of projects, but we must always remain close to the ground, to the site, to the materials and the construction. If we lose that, we lose the joy of making, and the grounded beauty of the conversation of architecture! We are also working on bringing in more research work to the office, so that parallel to creating, we make time to study the world as well, to learn from the wisdom all around. As we build a body of work in both areas, the lessons we learn work as feedback for our richer understanding of the built environment and the social and environmental processes it supports.



Staircase: Magnolia Office

banduksmithstudio is a small, collaborative practice. With projects of different scale and type, the studio invests in research and critical dialogue. They have developed their sensibilities through an inclusive process of design + experimentation. There is a constant focus on ‘materiality’ of spaces – the way they will be made and the way they will be used. Their designs are truly contextual; each responsive to the forces and the nature of its surroundings. In the process of addressing issues of context and relevance, the identity of design is not lost. Through intricate detailing and individual involvement in all aspects of work, their projects raise and resolve questions of collaborative work, aspirations of a small team and the general objective of their commissions. With designs that engage in a variety of settings, banduksmithstudio has worked for individuals and communities. Research and observation are their introspective tools. Indian Architect & Builder - Oct 2012

Profile for Indian Architect & Builder Magazine

October 2012  

IA&B's 26th Anniversary, October 2012 issue, featuring the 16 emerging architectural practices in India, that includes GDK Designs, Abin Des...

October 2012  

IA&B's 26th Anniversary, October 2012 issue, featuring the 16 emerging architectural practices in India, that includes GDK Designs, Abin Des...


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