Specials

Is India ready for new design architecture?

February 2019
India being a resource-crunch country of 1.2 billion people where a large portion lacks human habitable homes after more than 70 years of independence, an ideal way forward would be to implement young, fresh and creative design ideas.

“It is time to realise that old, archaic, prosaic architectural ideas have failed us and will continue to fail,” says Debmalya Guha, Principal Architect and Planner, Pace Consultants. “Although it is a herculean task to convince a builder or government agency to adapt energy-conserving, resource-efficient, creative design ideas, it is reassuring to see so many sustainable buildings coming up across the country.”

Architecture should not be stagnant and fresh ideas should flow into the continuum, believes Vivek Gupta, Founding Principal, Arvind Vivek and Associates. “Material innovation, climatic responsiveness and a design approach discrete from each project to enrich spatial experience are what every budding architect should aspire for.”

For his part, Huzefa Rangwala, Director and Co-Founder, MuseLAB, feels the Indian design fraternity and maybe a certain percentage of the lay population is ready for young minds. However, he points out that every young architect or designer stands a chance of being ‘used’ without being remunerated for their services. Unless backed by a strong reference, established developers rarely opt for newcomers. “There are times, though, that young architects are responsible for strong concepts and eventually collaborate with older, more experienced architects to rationalise the technical details of the project.”

As Kunal Mohan Naithani, Design Principle and Founder, White Studio Architects, sees it, the fraternity has very few and far between who are honest to themselves and their craft, let alone the client! “An insignificantly miniscule percentage of the luxury individual home owner or the visionary business owner in India is ready to accept the same on paper, at the initial design stage for sure, but not mentally prepared for what it entails in terms of time and money, in that order,” he shares with candour. “On the other side, the average developer is not ready to accept anything that compromises on functionality and space-leasing efficiency, let alone build cost—and you can’t really blame them, given the volatile real-estate market. Last, the industry itself is not equipped to handle the execution finesse required with these radical design concepts. This is where the reference of nonsensical mimicry comes in. When architects attempt to create a Zaha Hadid styled building, with its skin peeling and crumbling in 12 months just because Rs 500 was spent to mimic something that should have been Rs 50,000, it further takes developers and owners into their shell rather than experiment with bold buildings.”

Global designs with local flavours
Architects often take inspiration from global designs to offer India a fresh and creative skyline. But how much, and how is this being localised or recreated for the Indian scenario?
Naithani seeks a lot of inspiration from global designs, especially Southeast Asian countries—the way they draw out design ideas from the West and beautifully infuse local, tropical flavours in them. “There is no shame in getting inspired from works abroad,” he says, seeing inspiration as a splash of fresh water any seedling needs to sprout and thrive. “A trend is prevalent of localising international design trends, especially with innovation in infusing a lot of local materials and applying them on European design forms,” he says. “A lot of it is interesting and there are quite a few firms doing brilliant work in this domain.”

Having studied at MIT and with immense international experience working in the US, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia, Guha came back to his roots where design solutions are crafted independently for each project considering the needs and aspirations of the client, the contextual influences and latest global design ideas. “We take particular care to make buildings energy-efficient and socially relevant,” he says. “We specialise in concept-based designs, taking care to make them sustainable ecologically and economically and unique in nature, transcending the expectations and dreams of everyone associated with the building into a memorable experience.”

All considered, design is contextual and addresses the needs of a certain community, region, country, culture, and so on. “One cannot localise a global design as it might not apply to our country, for instance, in terms of the climate,” observes Rangwala. “However, one can apply the approach to design. That’s where one needs to derive inspiration.” Young architects who study aboard apply digital marketing techniques and parametric aspects to design built with local craftsmen using local materials.

Without a doubt, India is slowly drawing close to the developed world in the architectural context. “The influx of new technologies and design ideologies is aiding the elevation of Indian architecture,” concludes Gupta. He believes that ‘recreation of styles’ shall now be reversed and, internationally, “our architectural perspectives will flourish further.”

SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN

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