Round Table

Contemporary Design

Contemporary Design

October 2019
In association with Liebherr, CW organised a panel discussion and debate on the subject on August 7, 2019, at the Liebherr Experience Centre in Mumbai.

Contemporary architecture and design represents ‘the style of the moment’. To delve deeper, CW, in association with Liebherr, organised a panel discussion and debate on ‘Contemporary Design’ on August 7, 2019, at the Liebherr Experience Centre in Mumbai. Moderated by Falguni Padode, Co-Founder & Group Managing Editor, ASAPP Info Global Group, the evening brought together a perfect mix of aspiring and leading architects from across Mumbai, including experts from the architectural fraternity on the panel. The discussion focused on what characterises contemporary design in a home and how it lends itself to a commercial set-up; what materials today cater better to any one style; and whether contemporary design needs frequent upgrades. Further, in a resale scenario, do contemporary homes fetch a better value vis-à-vis modern homes? We present some excerpts from the conversation:

(Moderator) 
Falguni Padode, Co-Founder & Group Managing Editor, ASAPP Info Global Group
“As a design mantra, ‘contemporary’ came into being around the 1970s, after modernism, and we got into contemporary architecture. Contemporary by definition means something that is constantly evolving. It is the need of the hour today. It is a reflection of our lifestyle. It is also connecting to the soul. I think contemporary is the here and now of what is required across where we are and what we are building. And going simply by that, contemporary is constantly evolving. I mean what was five years ago is not now and what is today will not be five years from now. What we are trying to do through this discussion is to look at contemporary design and the context in which it is applied to the work we are doing; its relevance and importance across different genres of work, how pertinent it is and what the architect fraternity’s experience with it is.”

Milind Pai, Principal Architect, Milind Pai-Architects & Interior Designers
“Contemporary is an extension of a lifestyle, and often, it is a misunderstood word. When clients want something really good, they say they need something contemporary in design. And the theme of contemporary has crept into the majority of projects. 
So whether we call it contemporary or not, it is part of the design evolvement that has taken place. Basically, the clients’ aspiration is driving us to contemporary design; and as professionals, we have to stay ahead of them and keep introducing innovative ideas. Ultimately, it all begins with understanding the client. Unconsciously, we are trying to understand the clients’ background and exposure and putting together their needs, such as family size. 
All these elements are put into design under the brand that we call contemporary. In the Indian context, we can be rigid and say that contemporary is the only way forward for the Indian psyche.”

Amol Prabhu, Partner, Shashi Prabhu & Associates
“What we have looked at in projects that are emotionally and financially successful is that the projects meet the needs of a person in a contemporary sense. Many of my clients talk about words like contemporary or classical, and they have a fixed thing in their mind. At times, we wonder whether we are architects, designers or psychiatrists because we have to get into the mind of the person. At the end of the day, be it a home, commercial space, hospital or hotel, what the client looks for is the fiscal success of the project and that it meets his emotional needs. I strongly believe in the principle of relativity. While there is one section of society where people are living in their fancy houses, there is also another section where people are living in slums. And the definition of contemporary is very different for each one of them.”

Noopur Doshi, Principal Architect, Studio Environmental Design
“Lifestyles have become too complicated. So when people say contemporary, what they want is simplicity, straight lines and simplified things. There was an era in between when people wanted larger than life and thought grandeur is what would connect to a lifestyle – but now it’s simplified. When we designed a hospital for surrogate mothers, the contemporary design had to relate to both the surrogate mothers, who are from a basic lifestyle, and the end-users, the foreign parents who come to have kids. The aesthetic is there but with the whole commercial turnover, people are clear that it has to sustain and they need to give back to nature. Basically, the space remains the same. With simpler forms, it is the material used and adaptability to it – a person should be able to relate much more to it and that makes it more contemporary.”

Kalhan K Mattoo, Principal, Office of Kalhan
“Contemporary is relevant to the present times in some sense. Clearly, it is modern in many ways. But over time, our sensibilities change and evolve and education evolves, so we understand contextuality better than before. Thus, contemporary is contextual to a large extent. Output is always the function of the process that we use. Contemporary design uses contemporary materials and technologies to fulfil the clients’ needs. Contemporary, by the way, is linked to the core biotechnology, but it also has a soul to it. Clearly! There is an emerging sense of doing things right. While style is secondary, one has to understand the contemporary mind. Contemporary thinking is a lot more evolved than trying to achieve; it is about doing multi-variable analysis actually. It is extremely individualistic in some sense and that is the core of contemporary design – you respond to the particular needs of people, whatever those may be.”

Shobhan Kothari, Partner, ADND
“I look at contemporary design as a lifestyle. If the design is an extension of a lifestyle, it is going to have a longer shelf-life, else it will be only an eyeball-catching gesture. From the olden days, it has become a blend from where it was purely functional and then an exploratory route to now, where contemporary design is a nice blend of design, functionality and some sort of a flavour, which definitely complements the lifestyle. When one is looking at the urban fabric – and Kalhan Mattoo used a nice word, ‘democratisation’! – there has to be a common denominator. And that is what design is lacking completely in our country per se. The debate should be on how one brings-in that sense of contemporariness to the regulatory bodies because they are not listening clearly.”
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