‘We make it a habit to explore unchartered waters and head in new directions, to disrupt the notion of “normal” and make our designs hum an unfamiliar melody’, says Prateek Chaudhry, Founder & Captain, The First Ferry in an exclusive interview with sawdust.
Prateek Chaudhry, Founder and Captain, The First Ferry-min
You are a Gold Medalist Post Graduate in Advertising and Marketing and you are running award-winning, international Interior design/Architecture boutique. How this all happened?
My maternal grandfather published a radical pre-independence newspaper in (then) Bombay and our home hosted the time’s leading politicians, thinkers and artists. I grew up in an extremely stimulating environment and saw up close how every meaningful creation came from disruption, from changing your stance to seeing what was not obvious and from exploring spaces that were untrodden. That, by the way, is also where The First Ferry comes from; we make it a habit to explore unchartered waters and head in new directions, to disrupt the notion of “normal” and make our designs an unfamiliar melody forever.
I started my career as a writer and film-maker, but I believe all creativity comes from the passion to express. No matter what shape it takes, for art to touch our souls it must be born of a deep desire to tell a story, paint a picture, immortalise a moment in song or dance. It was an unconsidered, almost-irrelevant move in 2010 from making ad films to creating lasting spaces that would introduce people to design like they had never seen or believed possible. The intent has resolutely been about Art, about infusing our work with Artistry, about bringing alive something as mundane as a logo with an original approach and about preserving all that is original and beautiful in the world.
How important is the education in architecture and interior design to be successful in this field?
Architecture is, like anthropology, always in a flux, evolving to reflect progress and personal choices. We lived in caves at some point, and many of us are moving back closer to nature, to simpler living today. A formal education in any creative field only helps when it grounds you in a solid understanding of technicalities without constraining the imagination. Being a non-conformist.
All creative endeavour needs the mind to be left unleashed, free to roam fearlessly – while the body is disciplined, hard at work interpreting what the mind sees and feels. It is this combination that creates the best works in any field. I personally believe that most of our education systems are limiting; there is too much emphasis on doing it the “right” way. If you think about it, creative work – by its very definition – cannot, should not ever be comparable to anything already existing. How then can we slot any of it as right or wrong?
At The First Ferry, my biggest motivation is to help unleash our creative team. To set them free. When they come with some experience, they tend to play safe, confining themselves to known formulas. We, on the other hand, pride ourselves on never repeating works. No works of ours looks like any other work because true creativity is fluid. Our work is to tell our clients’ stories, not fit his life into our interpretation.
Which project you consider gave you the biggest break in this profession?
Our first project, our first artistic endeavour, was luckily an apartment in Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world. It is a beautiful building that has real character, and the apartment needed to match the strength of such an iconic structure. The apartment was a 2-bedroom affair and one of those bedrooms is possibly my favourite so far. High on the 55th floor of Burj Khalifa, this apartment has expansive views of Dubai: Twinkling city lights for miles around on the ground below and hundreds of stars you could almost touch in the sky above. The room reflects these lights by creating a starry midnight-blue roof over the bed. The combined effect at night is not just visually stunning but also extremely soothing.
The College of Fashion and Design, Dubai is our most prestigious project so far. The space was not massive, about 32,000 sq ft, It was the first Fashion and Design college of the region. For us to be chosen to create the inspirational space that would spawn and groom the next generation of designers was a real honour. (The fact that The Vogue magazine covered our work was just another feather in our cap).
Do you have any role model whose traits you often follow?
The world is my school and every passionate artist inspires me, fires my imagination and teaches me something new. Art draws from the hues of the dawn, the twinkle in an eye, the innocence of a look, the magnificence of nature, the fortitude of an ant, the artistry of a spider – there is no end to inspiration. However, what inspires our work most is the desire to create a piece of immortality, a work of art that will remain as relevant, fresh and inspiring as a Beethoven melody is after hundreds of years.
Are you very choosy in selecting the projects which you want to do? Or you take up any projects which come your way? How do you go about it?
As we are getting known for our “eccentric gene”, we are getting a lot of inquiries from people whose mindset matches ours, and who want to create unique spaces. So far, educating the client, un-lidding his mind and opening it up to new ways of looking at a space has been our biggest challenge. Many times clients would appoint us with the intention of doing something unique – but then they would share the concept with well-meaning friends and family, who would often convince them to go for a toned-down version. Now, happily, we are attracting far more adventurous clients who are thinkers and visionaries, who share our tangential outlook and are more willing to experiment. We work with people we like and connect with, on projects that inspire us. It is a rare privilege to be picky, but one that I believe we have truly earned.
You have done many projects so far? Which are the ones very close to your heart and why?
Even though The First Ferry has been in existence just over five years, our work has been surprisingly exhaustive. From the UAE embassy in Singapore and Sheikh Mohammad bin Khalifa al Nahyan’s office in Abu Dhabi to Hotels in Kenya, a palace in Nepal and luxury villas in Emirates Hills and Barari, to Kiza, an award-winning restaurant and Redknee’s zany office – our work has been very diverse.
Every single project is close to my heart. Each one of them. Every job is a different experience and our passion for the smallest project is no different from that for the largest.
What is the significance of Sustainable design and Green architecture for you?
We hear a lot about sustainable architecture in the sense of preserving the Earth’s resources ad environment. While I am all for back-to-basics organic living, I believe it’s foolish and arrogant to think that the earth needs protecting. It is the Mother of all there is, of all we are. It has been around for billions of years and can smother mankind with an effortless flick. It is Art and Artistry that truly needs preserving in my opinion. It is with this intention that we formed the The First Ferry Foundation. Ancient art forms all over the world are being lost because these techniques are time consuming, artists don’t get paid enough – so their children are rejecting the family tradition to embrace modern education and city jobs. We are working to ensure every project of ours will carry bespoke signature pieces made by tribes adopted all over the world specifically to preserve traditional art.
Progress need not only be about increasing speed of delivery and reducing costs or using a trending style or material; in my books it is also about increasing our circle of influence, adding intangible value to our work, empowering those who are weaker – and taking a soft step back in time to carry along all that is fragile and priceless.
You have come thus far quite fast, what next?
The last year has seen us focus on strategic alliances that take us closer to where we eventually want to be: the only name for every Artistic touchpoint in Design. Our client is highly discerning and we want to do it all – from Painters, Sculptors, Bespoke fabrics, Rare artefacts, Precious stones or rare metals to Ancient art forms practiced by few, The First Ferry will one day be known as the only go-to name for Distinct Design.
I wish all my readers a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.