AR Gurkiran Sanga

Principal Architect | Former Head Design-Space Matrix Design Consultants Pvt Ltd, Bangalore(Interview PART-1)

In this industry, professionals have experienced the industry in a big way. At times, their experiences aren’t traveling to others in the industry that can solve many problems that many people face. Best Creators was born with the intention to bring in the best creators, architects, builders, turnkey contractors, designers, and suppliers to share their experiences, philosophies, and challenges that have helped them grow in the industry.

The following extract is from the Best Creators interview with Gurkiran Sanga, an experienced architect with a world of wisdom to share. Her powerful insights were very valuable to the discourse of the expectations in the industry and how strong values are the guiding force in any person’s life. We were thrilled to record her responses as she offered advice that is beneficial for the entire fraternity. Clearly, we saw the leader that has spearheaded numerous projects with her strong values and philosophies.

Believing that things will fall in place

“First and foremost, it is very important to know what matters to you and what is the purpose behind it. As life will keep moving, no matter how busy we are, things will keep coming to us,it’s all about the way we deal with it in any given situation, whether it’s a pandemic or how to adapt to a sustainable solution.

With respect to the environment, how many of us have changed our behavior during this global warming? We all were into it, but the conscious shift that should have been practiced, could not happen. Only a small percentage of the population was living consciously to save the planet which was much lower in comparison to the percentage that could have brought the change in saving the environment since last 2 decades. The message needs to reach far out and I feel, the pandemic year 2020 has become a prime example as a source of realization of planet abuse. It’s changing our habits, it’s changing our perspective, to explore life with compassion and care for the environment.

Change in adapting to the challenges faced by humanity at large will help people to bring value-added behavior towards being the new normal. Today our habits are forced to change, lifestyle is forced for a change, we are forced to bring in a change in our attitude. We are all marching towards developing adaptability as The New Existence. Change is inevitable.

Hence Adaptability leverages solutions to reforest, re-establish and reorganize ourselves. One need not reinvent the wheel, we rather investigate deeper from where we are coming from to where we have reached and where we are heading to. It’s about how we adapt to sustainability when relating to Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose Refurbish and Recycle.

Next important aspect to change would be to be in the flow. Since technology is playing a big role in every aspect of our life, people of all ages have to adapt and accept it. Technology entered our lives much earlier but today it has been highly valued and deeply appreciated  as the solution for interaction with one another in the times of pandemic be it education, medical consultation or business transactions or working from home and even family virtual get togethers, etc…This adaptive flow and steadiness made people embrace  technology so that they don’t miss the bigger picture of moving their lives.

Another thing that is really important in my view, is about togetherness that includes the collective approach of coming together and collaborating together for greater ideas leading to greater solutions.

Time is ticking so what could be a better way to have a solution for oneself, or one’s client, or for humanity at large. It’s very important to be curious, to be aware of what’s happening and yet be humble. Keep vigilant with solutions and be prepared to adapt for anything to happen anytime. That’s how I perceive situations and design solutions. Lockdown helped me to look deeper in architecture, my purpose as an architect took a inward journey which I would have never practiced in my otherwise busy life.

The next important aspect is that one needs to be sensitive by being empathetic. Sensitivity towards the changing environmental needs,and the changing scenario in architecture is vital. Always try to place yourself in the shoes of your clients, your superiors, or even your teammates. Once you get the association, it’s easier to evolve and create adaptive solutions as an in flow.The moment you look at that understanding with an empathetic approach, solutions begin to fall in place.

Keeping design above everything is essential, as design itself when approached with the above aspects gets a flow in depth, it evolves possibilities.

Focus has always played a vital role when designing all these years, it’s all very subjective as it is based on adaptive approach. Learning to cultivate a considerate approach is amust. Creating a design that ignites focus may feel as if one is sacrificing one’s comfort zone due to pressing timelines but in the end, when the user appreciates your design it’s a different feeling. From that perspective, stretching design beyond the limits to the extent of the requirement that has come from the client should cater beyond the clients imagination. That’s what a designer should always strive for. The design to revolve around sustainability is the truth. A satisfied client, a coherent team play, is a must as without the support of a dedicated team, one cannot  achieve results. It’s always Us, it’s always We.”

She continued to share her experience in the industry and delved into the premise of developing skills in order to stay competitive. She admires the role of technology in modern architecture, and has built her career by adapting to challenges and providing cutting-edge solutions, her wisdom was truly earmarking.

“When you see an end, there’s always a new beginning”

–   Gurkiran Sanga

“We have to understand that not all days are the same, so it’s very important that we focus every day on what we are doing. Things can go beyond control but we need to believe that everything will fall in place. Focusing and upgrading your skills eventually gives us results. Some days would be good, some would be bad but it’s fine.

Another really important thing that I experienced is that when you see an end, there’s also a new beginning. One can rise from where you are and go with the flow. You need to have that trust and see what your priorities are at that moment and keep moving forward. One of the great learnings that has emerged with time and are my most favourite ones. There are many learnings but here are the top two.”

Gurkiran shared her design challenges over a decorated career handling projects of all sizes, and her insightful words provided much clarity to the evolving trends in the industry. Her optimistic approach proved to be a valuable asset that any architect or industry expert can learn from, to incorporate a result-oriented solution for every challenge or problem.

Every challenge is an opportunity

“It all starts with accepting and believing that challenges will come. Nothing goes smooth, but seeing the opportunity in every challenge can help you take a different and perhaps a unique direction.

Having experienced both design-based/design-build projects, some of the challenges one faces are when the materials fail to arrive in time and then, the situation turns into the client getting desperate, numbing the high spirits of satisfaction irrespective of how good and genuine one’s design intention is. From one of my experiences on a project, everything was done, even to the extent of standing on site, overseeing what’s happening, there was nothing in the flow as control. That’s when I realized that when one thing fails how things connected fail, everything fails. It was an eye-opener with the lessons learnt. Personally it was unacceptable as I had never experienced ever in my professional life. But eventually the project did come out good as per the  design intent. That was one moment where the material and support played a major role for me as a designer and not just for a project manager.

The timelines and meeting deadlines were some of the challenges in one of the projects.  I learnt in my journey of Architecture and Design, when things are no more in one’s hands  it’s all about acceptance and moving forward which is where a team play will always give a feel good factor. Always remember project delivery is extremely important not only for the client but also for an organisation. Both, the design process and change management if running parallel elevates one to stretch beyond limits within timelines.

Mainly these are some of the challenges shared, if we overcome them as a successful act of collective experience as team effort with the promising  support of vendors, project managers ultimately leads to a win-win for all.

Collaboration plays a vital role in today’s times and has always been. Virtual collaboration has taken over. and optimised efficiency for sharing ideas and meeting one’s goals.

Companies today are merging  in order to expand their strategies. Architects are also collaborating, and I look forward to working in that model for deeper expansion. Collaboration helps in forming One team. Being open to collaborate with architects in any part of the world and add value to the projects with my professional/spiritual experience is my vision ahead .

It always starts with small steps, but if one takes it in the positive spirit, one can expand their reach. Here I’m overcoming my challenge and not limiting my growth through collaboration. One can only achieve by being together by accepting challenges as an opportunity.”

The importance of sustainable design

Before the start of the pandemic, the focus of office interiors for clients was always on efficiency of the floor plate as the main criteria, today, it is different, it’s about optimising spaces and focusing more on employee wellness and safety.

Design takes its role in connecting culture and adds value to the growth of the company based on current trends and situations. The designer strives in understanding the client in meeting their expectations, respecting the timelines and the budget which is of huge significance for the client. Design then enhances the project through creative and innovative ideas.

Materials should always be proposed with its lead time keeping the timelines in mind in any project. We can consider local available products to save time and transportation costs as well. Clients also look for sustainable and flexible solutions and as an Architect, always look for durability and good quality, maintenance free materials that can support the design for better finishing. Experiencing the joy of looking at design in one of my projects after many years gives credit to the selection and quality of materials for better maintenance and sustainable solutions.

As all clients tend to look for current trends and want the best of the best, design is always above all aspects of situations because even in a low budget one can achieve an innovative approach and a creative design. Just like form follows function, budget also follows design or vice versa. But, even despite that, one should avoid reaching a stage where one starts to compromise on design. We have a remarkable history of old heritage buildings by amazing creatives from architects before us, where spaces are created using minimalistic usage of materials leading to simplicity in design. Eventually, one may feel it’s being within the budget that makes a project win, but it’s the design that leads to a greater impact and a passionate client would always vouch for an efficient design.

Sustainability aspect is something people are always looking for. We as designers need to give solutions that are helpful for the building, cost reduction and energy efficient design, because in the end, it’s not just about delivering the project but how the project is sustaining itself in the long run. Everything is so important as it’s all interlinked, thus the clients requirement should be respected.

Being open to solutions and accommodating flexibility

“If I look back at a process from its start it’s important to understand the space strategy solutions. Whether it’s a workspace or any space, one needs to get into the depth as everything originates from there. A designer’s deeper understanding is not just about your client with their requirements, but perhaps reaching out to the users, understanding them from their perspective is another layer of design experience by itself.

Another aspect in design is about looking for flexible solutions. How open are we with our design solutions? Incorporating flexibility into our design matters, because nothing is permanent. One has to be open minded to accept that things are likely to change, hence it’s equally important to educate our clients on the insights on future growth and developments as a value addition through design. This has added a lot of value for clients in the past, where I’m sure today if they have to undergo the changes, it will be at the minimal cost. Providing long-lasting solutions which may be expensive as an investment but it’s worth the effort. With effective solutions one can modify spaces as per the new situation or create spaces that are not bound but were as an adaptation to the new change.We, as architects, are all sailing in the same boat where we have created an exponential growth  and evolved in multiple directions that we are getting to see as it’s outcome today. The end point is where are we heading to ?

Technology plays a major role in improving efficiency. Dedicated Software developed for architects and designers is all for achieving an efficient work flow. The way new age softwares integrates the services and design in the design development process helps one save time and achieve better results for smooth coordination much before the design hits the site for execution.

Last but not the least, equally important is teamwork. Being transparent as a team encourages a collaborative approach to brainstorming that always impacts idea generation in lesser time. These are some of the key things I see that are important in a design process.”

Gurkiran shared with the Best Creators the design methodology and philosophy that is driven by collaboration. She is an advocate for teamwork which makes the dream work. As she embarks on a new road towards success, her dedication and commitment to togetherness is fuel for the entire industry.

Making optimum use of technology

Design has always been an evolution, getting inspiration from nature helps me a lot. To me nature has always been an inspirational gift of light, with its purity and it’s pace. Traveling nature destinations  has always motivated me. When traveling, it’s not just that I’m looking at things the way it is, but inspires me to see the unseen coming into perspective. It’s the unmanifest meeting the manifest which is the zone for creativity. For example, a furniture show that helps to perceive products as an architect might give a feeling of inspiration, a constant inflow of creatives with no break whatsoever…  So, nature helps you enter a constructive state of being inwardly patient, helps unwind, unlearn, erase, apply concepts of reuse, re-establish, innovate and renovate on projects after projects. Nature bridges me to adapt to adaption.

Technology being one of the valuable driving forces helps in connectivity. As one lands up connecting to the lighthouse of another architect or designer across the globe in no time, information is just a touch away. Webinars are bridging gaps for any needed information. Earlier, we never looked at webinars as value additions for better communication, because the culture conditioning  of meeting face to face felt quicker and easier. After the lockdowns, webinars are creating effective interactions as our touch n feel of a face to face meetup mindset. So there’s a lot of awareness being generated with relearning. Things that I probably missed out on or di’t realize, how webinars can play a big role in relearning.Technology pushed me to create my own blog online. That’s helping me adapt easily towards progressive outcomes. My feet are not traveling , but at least my eyes are. Without technology, we would have gone bonkers. I’m grateful for this era having technology in place. Looking back 100 years ago, people felt bound. At least we have our work in flow. We are in a constant upgrading mode through technology today which is time saving and helps in reviving areas of work that may have gone amiss in life. Apps helping one reboot one’s hobbies – to discipline one’s health and work life balance for being productive for the day. A lot has come from the practice of meditation. This downpour of technology flow as information if not implemented can be counter productive. Where does all this find its balance within? Hence,it’s equally important to sit in silence and meditate.

A career packed with lessons and achievements

“There’s the new and the old experiences that have defined my career. Every chapter in life helps define self as it gave me an experience that led one to another. If I had not gone through even one chapter, I would not have evolved till where I have managed till now in life. We create our own story, and we are one of the characters in this story. You may feel that this moment was bad, or not good enough or the best moment of one’s life, but if you look back you’ll see how the dots are getting connected and how they are binding everything. My initial years of my career were memorable moments where I deeply evolved to understand the value of Design and Architecture. It’s given me greater experience to adapt. This has been a treasured journey. Moments, like how hands shape the clay on a potter’s wheel which keeps rotating till it emerges  as a form. This is what happens when one is moving on that wheel and allowing oneself to adapt. Then, comes a time when the pot gets directed to set off the wheel and starts experiencing creation. Thus formed my next defining moment of envisioning myself creating the poiesisin Design and  Architecture.

Her idea about the changing trends in today’s industry was an eye-opener. She delved into the details of forming relationships through collaboration and how every contributor to the project must come together for the best results. Her regard and respect for people in her team were given as the major force behind her success, and how people from all walks of life can come together to achieve greater results. At the end of the day, the end-user of every architecture project should feel the sustainable design.

Navigating the competitive industry landscape

“We have been guided very well in this pandemic, where we started looking inwards, which is starting to procure products locally. We need to reach out to the local craftsmen and revive their art and skills sets through collaboration and see how we could help their existence come into play through design, architecture and technology. Arts and craft should be encouraged. This will not only give employment to the rural areas but create a revolution in expansion in using alternate materials available locally. Focusing on how to “make in India” that has already started. Looking at recycled materials gives us immense flexibility on design possibilities. One should be more open to solutions that are sustainable.

A hidden wheel for Innovation One thing which is really suffering, which always suffers, is quality. We know that quality and finishing are often questioned on products to the extent one requires, but to have a backup solution can be reassuring for design.This is what I really look forward to with contractors. They need to be really flexible and adaptive to the design by understanding the design intent with drawings. Through knowledge based training and interactive workshops one can resolve issues much quicker otherwise, we will have the designers land up on-site forever which disturbs the time frame of a project.

These are experiences from my perspective, but it is important for everyone to know that since we need to keep growing, one need not be complacent saying that this is what we are. it’s now or never, we need to make every opportunity count. When the contractor comes in collaboration with the designers, they have also realized the need for the gap filling. Both verticals can work independently yet sail by being interdependent. Design-build emerges  as the changing face of the industry today, bridging the gap between contractors and designers. Clients prefer fast track delivery of projects which has brought in effective collaboration of the two, resulting in a better synergy of timelines. That is why Design-build is the new way to adapt.”

Her leadership values and commitment to team effort are inspiring news for us all. Undoubtedly her insights into various aspects of the industry are great learning for the Best Creators and everybody graced by her words. To be able to understand the industry, one must understand themselves and what they want to contribute to the world. After all, architects, designers and builders are the real creators of our world.To be Continued. >>