‘In the field of Architecture and planning, there are many golden principles which have stood the test of time and are relevant even today. The challenge for a designer is to marry these with new technology and materials and create something that is timeless’, says Ar. Ninad Tipnis, Founder & Principal architect, JTCPL designs in an exclusive interview with Sawdust.
Ar. Ninad Tipnis-min
Tell us about your studio and the fundamental ideas that outline your practice?
Since early days, we have held a simple idiom very close to our hearts and we practice it till today – ‘Client is God’ and ‘Work is Worship’. This ensures that we are always enthusiastic to partner with our esteemed clients and look at every opportunity to exceed the brief and deliver to our maximum satisfaction. Needless to say, the passion is also backed with a strong process-based approach, which ensures that every project is closely tracked in terms of expense and schedule through a strict monitoring mechanism.
How do you define your convictions as an architect?
The world is full of talented individuals; but no amount of talent can help one succeed if it isn’t backed with a strong conviction. At JTCPL Designs, we recognise that it is important to ‘Show up’. We always walk that extra mile to ensure that we fulfill all our commitments and this has resulted in a very short response time for closure of issues.
Which project represents your practice best – your most important work(s) of the last 2 years
Brookfield – This was Brookfield’s third and most ambitious office project in the country, which we had the privilege of developing.
Starting off from the walk- through of their existing facility, there were obvious changes that I knew we would be addressing. Having more time on our hands to actually better and enhance the project because of the lack of back and forth over decisions and approvals, the team and I went an extra mile to up the level. We identified zones, circulation dynamics and got to understand their scheme of things through several meetings. The members of the Brookfield team tend to spend a good number of hours at work, seated on chairs for long periods, which got us to implement world class seating and a large public interface area along with a reception, recreational and collaborative areas.
Once we got the space plan correct, they completely relied on us for the detailing. Certain areas were under committed, yet over delivered and were enhanced much more than what we envisioned and thankfully, a lot of them noticed these inputs. With recommendations not being questioned, they came from a place of respect and we made an effort to understand their requirements in depth and get them right.
What was most special in this project that is not very easy to find everywhere was the abundance of trust that made the journey enjoyable. Usually, there is always a degree of ‘selling’ you have to do to propel your ideas in a project – in this case, it was effortless! It was possible to go the extra mile, as we considered ourselves as part of the team and never on the other side of the table as vendors. We could leap beyond a mere ‘printed version’ and come up with a project that was both simple and iconic in its own right.
What do you say about the planned ‘Smart City’ projects in India? Do you think they are workable?
We laud the ‘Smart City’ initiative by Government. We are confident that this program will give a much needed fillip to the infrastructure sector in the tier 2 and tier 3 cities, which is sure to have a rub-off effect on the other sectors. We have all been witness to the huge transformation that a state-backed impetus in infrastructure can bring about in countries like China and our Country deserves the same.
As with all initiatives, the key lies in effective implementation. This may involve cutting through the red tape and setting up single window clearances for approvals, effective tracking & monitoring mechanism and pinning the accountability. There have been quite a few stellar achievements in the public sector over the past years and this makes us optimistic that the Smart City plan would be a resounding success.
How do you bring a unique finish in every project?
In many ways, Architecture is, but a reflection of the ethos in a society. We are keen observers of humanity and we try and incorporate the current trends and beliefs in our design. This lends freshness and context to our design.
Also, we identify high impact areas in every project and ensure that the best creative minds are deployed to create a visual impact.
If you have to list three best projects executed by you, which ones will come to your mind first and why?
- Deutsche Bank, Pune – What made this project remarkable was our strong belief in achieving the impossible. Right from the outset, there was a certain chemistry between JTCPL Designs and the Project team. Our close collaboration made all the difference. Working to a plan and with infectious enthusiasm, we delivered a workspace that was functional and vibrant at the same time.
- Regus, Navi Mumbai – This is our first foray in the heady field of co-working spaces and who better than Regus to start with. It has turned out to be an outstanding project in the way it addresses the various intricacies of co-working spaces.
- Brookfield, BKC, Mumbai – This was their 3rd office and there had been some disillusionment with the designers in the past. We took over from there and turned out a stellar project, which in the words of their Managing partner, achieved the balance between being conservative and elegant at the same time. It is ‘poetry in monochome’.
How do you incorporate sustainable practices into your projects?
Apart from working on many LEED certified projects, it has been our endeavour to adopt sustainable practices in all our projects. This manifests itself in the form of either recommending a more efficient HVAC system or insisting on LED lighting fixtures and daylight sensors in open plan offices to specifying low flow sanitary fixtures. We are also strong proponents of low voc paints and PVC free carpets.
We are aware of the huge responsibility that designers carry and we do our utmost to reduce environmental impact through focussed efforts.
Do you think foreign architecture firms entering India pose threats to local architecture firms?
Like any other sector, entry of foreign players is inevitable and welcomed. Considering the rate at which the Indian market is expanding, there is more than enough work to keep everyone busy and hence there isn’t any perception of threat.
We believe that our creative prowess and an in-depth understanding of local customs and bye laws sets us apart from the competition.
Getting quality manpower is a problem for you?
Not at all. We are dogged in our efforts to identify and on board the right talent. Most of our design associates are hand picked and then groomed to achieve their true potential. This has helped us to optimally size our team and invest in their development.
Are there any special benefits by enrolling oneself in international architecture schools as compared to the best local architecture schools? Tell us about your experiences where you studied.
While local architecture schools equip the students with the necessary tools to run a practice, international schools definitely offer a wider exposure to state-of-the-art building technologies and innovative materials. Also the experience of staying and working overseas is a great learning in itself, which is sure to hold one in good stead in the future.
I studied at the Academy of Architecture at Mumbai, which is a reputed Institution known for its academic rigour combined with a creative aura. It was a fabulous experience to learn and grow here. We were fortunate to have a faculty who gave us a lot of freedom and also pushed us to achieve our best. It also instilled a work discipline in us, which helps us to tirelessly pursue our goals and those of our clients.
Is client briefing an important aspect?
Getting a complete brief is one of the keys for delivering a successful project. In order to achieve this, we closely interact with the clients to evolve a water tight brief. This becomes a benchmark for all future interactions.
We believe in offering multiple options to the client and the response actually helps us to understand their mind-set.
Comfort, cost and environment friendliness – which aspect is the most important for you?
I could safely say that any harm done to the environment is almost irreversible and hence that should be the topmost in our collective consciousness. Cost and comfort are relative and hence negotiable. However, environmental impact is not.
What are the main difficulties and challenges you encounter?
In a market which is largely fragmented, we have established ourselves as a company that is fiercely protective of its ethics, designs and quality standards. It is sometimes challenging to make clients understand at the outset what we can bring to the table. But through persistent interface we are able to make them see our point of view.
Clients and consultants who have worked with us have gone on to become our ambassadors in the industry and we are grateful to them.
Learning to build like our ancestors an essential element for the survival of the planet?
Undoubtedly! Our ancestors had deep insights on how to survive and progress without harming the environment. They learnt from nature and were respectfully wary of the devastating impact that nature could unleash, if messed around with.
Unfortunately, this was lost somewhere along the way and we started taking our nature for granted. Advancements in science & technology were seen as means of conquest over nature. No price was too high to pay for progress and development. However, over the past 10 years, we have been made painfully aware of the nature’s vagaries. Country after country has reeled under environmental impact and the time has come to correct the colossal mistakes committed in the past.
A move towards building an eco friendly infrastructure is definitely a step in the right direction. Adopting time tested design and planning principles can result in reducing environmental impact. Use of locally available materials and manpower can go a long way.
Can a history of architecture ever be useful?
As the venerable Carl Sagan has said, “you have to know the past to understand the present”. In an age of information overload, amassing the right knowledge is the key. In the field of Architecture and planning, there are many golden principles which have stood the test of time and are relevant even today. The challenge for a designer is to marry these with new technology and materials and create something that is timeless.