‘Artificial material and their use today, is a blind game that is going on with hardly any logic behind it’, says Alhad Gore, Beyond Design Architects & Consultants Pvt. Ltd. in an exclusive interview with Sawdust.
Alhad Gore -min
Can a history of architecture ever be useful?
Yes of course. We learn so much from it, proportions, materials, construction techniques.
Do you think learning to build like our ancestors is essential for the survival of the planet?
Basically, our ancestors never used “artificial materials”. All that they used was natural and hence it responded with local weather perfectly. Artificial material and their use today, is a blind game that is going on with hardly any logic behind it. Developers and designers use a lot of aluminium composite panels on top of brick walls and then fill the joints with silicon. These joints then need to be filled and refilled over the life of the building. A very prominent IT campus in Pune has structural glazing right outside the washroom and plumbing shaft. Why, just because it looks nice from outside. So, we are first creating a problem and then addressing it. That’s stupid way of working.
Tell us about a project that represents your practice best – your most important work(s) of the last 2 years.
It will undoubtedly be Globant in Pune. The client started with a very different brief and I must say we were lucky enough to get a client who supported all out of the box ideas. We did a lot of experimentation with materials, detailing and designing. So right from multi-coloured board room chairs to every meeting room being in different shape and format to tyre zoolas in the office to trycycles to open ceiling to acrylic birds in the ceiling and so many other features. We used live moss as a green feature. We designed MS sculptural trees along walkway, container look alike recreation area, a slide which connects 2 floors vertically, bus handles hung from top for employees to do “pull ups” and so on. This was the most challenging project for us as the client had a tight budget, we had a tight timeline of 90 days for execution and a lot of materials had to be customized for the specific use or imported. So, while it was the most demanding one on creativity, it was equally demanding on cost and timeline too. Finally, the efforts paid off as we won the most prestigious “Society for British and International Design” award for the Best commercial space.
If you have to list three best projects executed by you, which ones will come to your mind first and why?
It would be “Globant” in Pune for the creativity involved. “Here Solutions” in Mumbai for the use of materials and new concepts and a current project in Pune where we are converting an existing hotel building into a co working space.
Share with us the philosophical foundation of your studio. How do you approach your work.
Well the philosophical foundation can be summed up in our “vision + mission + value” statement. Our vision is “to be the most respectable Architectural firm in the country”. Our mission is “to provide holistic approach to each project” and the values that we cherish are “Honesty, hardwork, and humility”. With these aspects in mind and in our DNA, every client is approached in a methodical way, understanding their DNA, work culture, aspirations, budgets, timelines etc. Once that is understood, the rest is only a matter of following the design process.
Are there any special benefits – in terms of knowing latest techniques, architectural practices, etc.- by enrolling oneself in international architecture schools as compared to the best local architecture schools?
In international schools, there is a lot of emphasis given on self learning and research based study which is lacking in our curriculam. So while Indian schools create “working hands”, schools abroad create “thinking minds”, which is far more required step.
Tell us about your experiences where you studied.
I did my architecture from “Academy of Architecture” Mumbai and graduated in the year 1993.
Bringing newness/uniqueness in every project is a difficult proposition. How do you tackle this?
Frankly, the only way to tackle it is “not to bite more than one can chew”. An architectural practise is more like a doctor. There can never be a generalised solution. It has to be a customised solution every time. Hence maintaining a small studio and giving niche solutions is the best approach.
Do you think foreign architecture firms entering India pose any threats to local architecture firms?
Not really. In fact, in this era of globalisation, we should look at it positively. More competition will always give rise to better delivery model for client. Also, let’s not just blame the foreign firms for the sake of it. Let us understand they come down with a lot of processes, think patterns and ways of working which are new for us and which are a huge learning opportunity as well. Let’s take the positive in it and move forward.
Getting quality manpower is a problem for you?
Definitely yes. And I think it’s not just a problem with us but with all our contemporaries. It’s a problem which we have been facing for years and going forward, it’s only going to worsen. And I am saying it so, because I have been going to various architectural colleges as external jury. I was also appointed as an “Industry expert” by MSBTE (Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education) to revise the curriculum. Although we have changed the curriculum from academic year 2016-17 by introducing cad, professional practise and sketching in the course, the real problem lies with the system and the mindset of parents and students as well. And it gets reflected in very basic aspects. Like todays students don’t want to take efforts on line thickness and every drawing is flat. Whereas our generation is aware that every line means something and portrays that in our sheets. This basic meticulousness coupled with non-application of logic is proving to be disastrous in the time to come. Colleges have a pressure to pass the students to meet their commercial demand. So even though a kid spends 5 years in an architectural college, his output is not even worth what a draftsman will do.
How important is client briefing? Apart from client briefing what are the other ways you adopt to know client’s mind?
Client briefing is I would say the most important aspect for a successful project. A detailed brief will ensure that the designer will exactly know what solution to give to the client, and many a times it can also be “reading between the lines” as many clients may not be able to express what they want to say but as an industry expert, the designer is expected to read between the lines. I always tell my clients, it is like going to a doctor with headache. The doctor has to infer if the headache is because of just common cold, eye, brain, sinus or any other possibility. Visiting clients existing office and meeting all levels of management is also the most effective way of “understanding” how the organisation works.
What are the main difficulties and challenges you encounter – Market fluctuations, Material shortages, Spurious materials, Clients who don’t know what they want or Others
While “clients who don’t know what they want” is one of the challenges, the bigger one is “clients not able to do apple to apple comparison while selecting architects / designers” remains a big challenge too.