PROF. CHARANJIT SINGH SHAH

Founding Principal-Creative Group (Interview PART-1)

Professor Charanjit Singh Shah has a 50 year legacy of practice in architecture, since 1970. He was practically born in a refugee camp in purana qila. His family migrated from a part of India that is now called Pakistan. His journey was such that his parents came barefoot to this beautiful land. He was born in the refugee camp and slowly studied his way to get into architecture. At the start of it, he recalls that his parents thought civil engineering was a good idea. He mentioned that he didn’t have any particular passion for architecture. But he got admission in top universities across the country, choosing Delhi so that he could save money on hostel expenses and other things put together. Doing architecture in SPA School of planning and architecture, professor Charanjit Singh Shah was a scholarship holder for all five years. The famed architect attributed his success to the fact that the teaching faculty was fantastically good. All the great masters were his teachers. Some of the contemporary pioneers put him into the understanding of what architecture is all about. That learning made him passionate. It’s like putting yourself into an igniting mind and gradually Charanjit Singh Shah dug up things together to understand the material, the smell and taste of the material and how evolution can take place. His journey is a true inspiration for every aspiring architect and the industry fraternity at large. As he practiced his profession, Charanjit Singh Shah uncovered his niche in architecture and empowered his colleagues to establish a strong work culture.
Professor Charanjit continued to shed light on his journey into the world of architecture with insights for us all to relish.

who shares his experience of over 50 years in the field of building and sustainable architecture.

The journey into architecture

Professor Charanjit Singh Shah has a 50 year legacy of practice in architecture, since 1970. He was practically born in a refugee camp in purana qila. His family migrated from a part of India that is now called Pakistan. His journey was such that his parents came barefoot to this beautiful land. He was born in the refugee camp and slowly studied his way to get into architecture. At the start of it, he recalls that his parents thought civil engineering was a good idea. He mentioned that he didn’t have any particular passion for architecture. But he got admission in top universities across the country, choosing Delhi so that he could save money on hostel expenses and other things put together. Doing architecture in SPA School of planning and architecture, professor Charanjit Singh Shah was a scholarship holder for all five years. The famed architect attributed his success to the fact that the teaching faculty was fantastically good. All the great masters were his teachers. Some of the contemporary pioneers put him into the understanding of what architecture is all about. That learning made him passionate. It’s like putting yourself into an igniting mind and gradually Charanjit Singh Shah dug up things together to understand the material, the smell and taste of the material and how evolution can take place. His journey is a true inspiration for every aspiring architect and the industry fraternity at large. As he practiced his profession, Charanjit Singh Shah uncovered his niche in architecture and empowered his colleagues to establish a strong work culture.

Professor Charanjit continued to shed light on his journey into the world of architecture with insights for us all to relish.

A pioneer in large-scale sustainable architecture

He said, “I started as a humble freelancer, and now we are a corporate firm with more than 100 architects working in our organization. We are probably one of the rarest architectural engineering consultancy. We are doing A-Z particularly in aviation. In airports, besides the architecture in terms of terminal building, we do air sites, city sites and everything put together called airspace, airspace conflict, air traffic movement and the return on money and the pre-feasibility study. We do in-house and many projects for more than 20 airports as well as 13-15 railways stations like Chennai, Coimbatore, Lucknow, Charbagh, Pune, Faridabad, and many more. We are into waterways, metros, land-ports like Kartarpur corridor. For Jamshedpur city, we have given the vision of how to make the city green. We have covered India and extended beyond our borders to global places like Gabon, Gambia, Rwanda, Nepal where we design green airports. The journey has been very good and God has been very kind. One thing that my practice has been revolving around is sustainability. Maybe its macro to micro level, we are into sustainability where we love to be near Nature, learn from Nature and get hold of all those sayings which we call real green architecture.”

Charanjit continued to explore the necessity of sustainable architecture and his devotion to Nature that has introduced God in every living form. The Best Creators wanted to delve into the brilliant mind of Charanjit and uncover the philosophies that guided him through the years. His response was truly humbling, for a man who has achieved many milestones in reshaping and structuring modern India and much of the world.

To live within your creation is a big part of architecture

His response was truly enamoring the close link between art, spirituality and architecture. When asked about his guiding philosophies, his poignant articulation shed light on the many strengths that make great architecture.

“My philosophy has always been spiritually intact. Nature and spirituality go hand in hand. Who created this universe is one of the things we always talk about. We say God has created this universe. Then where does he live? The next thing we say is that he lives within his own creation. So taking a lead from the creator, being an architect who is also as a creator, we are a miniature level creator who tries to create a built mass, a design which he tries to showcase as per the functionality and aesthetics of the form. If somebody asks, you created this? Where do you live? I say, within my creation.

“As an architect, I live within my creation”
Charanjit Singh Shah,

“I really wish to live within my creation once, I tell God that I will be in love with my creation. And once I’m in love with my creation I will not be cosmetic, I will be organic. I will see that what I create with Nature is the larger perspective of life, in harmony with the nature just like God intended it to be. I do not practice to destroy Mother Earth. That’s what the philosophy is all about. Any build form should not be treated like a mere brick, mass and concrete but as a living organism which breathes and is embodied with Nature and that is what I am for. I put my soul into my creation. The architecture which I create has a soul like a living organism which breathes. Once I create a build mass which breathes, I cannot do injustice to nature to put it together. Anything that I put in, if it is from Nature and by Nature, I do what’s recyclable and do not destroy the balance of the cosmos.”

The balance of the cosmos is reflected in good Architecture

It is evident that Charanjit is a source of knowledge that continues to serve the industry and the world with the best practices in his field. His conception of sustainable Architecture stems from the deep connection with Nature and the balance of the cosmos. Best Creators wanted to dig in further and understand the fuel to his fierce spirit.

He continued, “I believe in Guru Nanak’s philosophy and Lord Krishna’s philosophy. Krishna said to Arjuna, “just keep on doing your karma and forget about the dividend. I never aspired that I would have a large office, but the only thing is that the process should be understood. If your process is for the right purpose and you continue to do the right thing, nothing wrong or bad can happen to you. Once I have an make up my mind to do and perform, the aptitude will develop. Sometimes I have a very good aptitude but I do not have the attitude to deliver. So the aptitude is of no use. What’s happening is that the process of making any build form, whether micro or macro level requires a design process. Once the design process is understood, you need to do passive architecture and cosmetic architecture as perhaps that adds on. With that add on, I started doing things to get green accredited or nature accredited, or any other accreditation. It’s like putting red into green. Yet we see that we put green into green and see how that will come with sustainability.”

Understanding the design process to complement the bigger picture

“How my building performs on the basic elements of natural resources and the oscillation of the sun. Any human settlement is actually to protect you from rain, heat and other atmospheric pressures. Once I respect the solar movement, the oscillation of the Earth, the day and night, I can see the sun’s movement which in the morning is in the Northeast and I conclude that South is the highest point here, and when it comes to Southwest, it’s below. The harshest sun is the west sun. How I protect the glaring west sun penetrating into my building during hot and dry climate is important.” When talking about the technicalities of sustainable design, Charanjit revealed examples of how integral a thorough knowledge of the cosmos is in designing a building.

Optimizing the design to embody Nature

“When I stimulate my building with the oscillation of the sun rays, I can see where I can justify myself and the penetration of light without any heat coming into the building can provide benefits to the building. It’s like maximizing daylight and minimizing heat entering into the building. That comes in case I really stimulate the building in a manner respecting that North is North with glare free light. I try to use that glare-free light to the utmost. That’s how I play with my window placement and all the architecture of the form and function. All are put together to create sustainable architecture, where the shape and size of the building can stimulate the best of the sun’s movement. I also see how to really preserve my natural resources.” In the process of exploring how Natural light can influence the building design, the genius of Charanjit revealed some critical reflective questions that architects can implore for their designs.

He explores the following insights.

  • Can i Produce my own water?
  • How do I produce my own water?
  • How do I reach net zero?
  • How do I see that my solid waste management is taken care of?
  • Can I make it off the grid with no energy required?
Scientifically choosing the right materials

Charanjit Singh Shah was very firm about his beliefs that have led a decorated career in the field of architecture. Choosing the right materials is an integral part of every project. He provides insightful advice about the driving force behind his decisions in picking materials for a project. Having headed numerous big operations, it was eye-opening to learn from the master himself.
He said, “What I’m creating is not putting pressure on my central grid. I produce my non-conventional ways like solar panels, biogas, windmills or any source management beside my design in a passive way, in such a manner that I’m not consuming energy in terms of air conditioning and other elements. I am very cautious about the envelope of my building and how it works. Envelope of the building is very important and that is a material. It’s like layering the building. When I select the material, I need to understand what the insulation is. A building must be protected in terms of conduction, convection and radiation. All these three factors are scientific processes in the design that have to be understood and reflected in your entire design. Once the process is understood, it’s no longer cosmetic. Why I say God is in charge is because God has made everything in my body functioning properly, without any effort. I am breathing but there’s no effort, it’s a process. Once I understand these processes, perfection ought to come. In all my 50 years of practice, these are the first takes. How does the sun move? How do I protect my sun?”

Resource management is vital

With a series of thought-provoking questions, Charanjit explored the many implications of vastu and how architecture should be in tandem with the natural processes of life. He stressed on sustainability as the driving factor behind his buildings and designs. “How do I conserve rain water within my site? Create some water body where I conserve water and use it for my gardening, landscaping, and air conditioning. This is how resource management should be done within the project. It’s not the government’s headache to give me light, water and dispose of garbage. I can use garbage to the best and probably achieve net zero.”

Embodying the rich heritage and values of Indian architecture

Professor Charanjit is a passionate advocate for home-grown design. He often refers to the rich heritage and diversity of this nation as the pedestal to future innovation. His experiences in various parts of the country and the world have been met by successful projects of many scales, where his wisdom and charisma are a shining beacon for the industry.

He said, “My intake has always been that this part of the subcontinent is very rich in heritage and still we adapt from the west. America has a history of 300 or 350 years but we are probably the oldest civilization recorded in the Indus Valley Civilization which was also the most well-planned. Whatever is our great heritage, we have a diversified heritage all along our Indian borders and we can learn so much from our great heritage. If you go to Jaipur or further down South to Mysore or Ooty or Bangalore or Chennai are the great places from where I learned so much. We’ve done more than 20 projects down in the South from Coimbatore, to Tirupur, Bhavani, Erode, Chennai and all these places put together. What I learned is that there is something called Vastu Shastra.” Charanjit shed light on Vastu and how scientifically it proves the sustainable design of buildings.

(Interview PART-2)

What does Vastu Shastra really mean?

He said, “This was a science to understand how the building industry should work. The Brahminhood made it a myth by enslaving us with different terminologies like if you sleep in the west you will die. If your head is in the North you will get a brain tumor. I became enslaved to some of the Vastu pundits. But I understood the real science of climate Vastu. What is the purpose of making northeast the lowest? What is the real purpose of making the southwest the highest? All these are practically an outcome of understanding the solar movement. Northeast is the lowest because once I keep the Northeast as the lowest, the Southwest becomes the highest where the Southwest will try to cut the Southwest sun coming into my building and I will have shadow on the surrounding of my building where I can sit very coolly. This is one thing related to the understanding of the oscillation, orientation and various other functionalities of the sun, but not a myth. Not the phonetic vastu.

God has given me this intellect but I become enslaved by the rituals associated to vastu. I agree with the myths because I lack knowledge. Vastu science is different in a housing project than in a house or commercial building. I studied industrial Vastu and all that to make the perfect industrial buildings in the milk plant near Erode. I made a housing project in Tirupur which caters to all Vastus. I could satisfy the client’s myth and I satisfied myself with the clear understanding. Once I get into the scientific understanding of the sun’s oscillation and various other things, I will be doing justice to my profession. I will definitely understand my client and his psyche. If the client says he wants a project done as per Vastu, I will do it as per Vastu but I will make you understand exactly what Vastu is about.”

His deep thoughts were earmarking insights into the fundamentals of architecture. His knowledge in the field is an expression of vast experience in creating massive structures that continue to serve the world today. He attributed architecture as the expression of the mind.

Architecture is the expression of the mind

“The fundamental thing is that the expression of mind should understand every knit and bit in detail. I would like to quote Sadhguru Vasudev, who always says be in confusion but not in conclusion. The confusion ought to be cleared with knowledge so that you can conclude. But a conclusion from someone else’s mind like a Brahmin telling me not to put a window on this side, means that I am directed by somebody else’s conscious and not by my own conscience. My conscious is my soul and the soul is a product of knowledge. Put that all together and justify your mind to apply your mind in a conclusive way. Learning is good, but always guide yourself by your own consciousness.” A passionate advocate for sustainable design, the Best Creators gained powerful insights behind Charanjit’s work ethics.

Architecture must be practiced with your nerves

“Once I drive a car, I learn and become the master. I subconsciously drive without looking here and there because it has gone into my nerves. Architecture must be practiced with your nerves, by the soul and not into the worldly cosmetics. When I do something that is cosmetic, it’s not original, it’s copy pasted and that shouldn’t be the case. To understand global empowerment is to be socially empowered to create great architecture. I have gone through so many books and when I was doing the dairy plant project, Mr. Rajasekar was the managing director, he didn’t know English and I didn’t know Tamil but he said ‘Vastu.’ He came to Delhi and asked me “You Vastu pundit?” I said yes because pundit means that I understand and put the Vastu studied into the building to show that my building is as per Vastu. My building is as per the understandable Vastu and that has come out as one of the best projects.”

It was clearly a fortified work ethic that defines Charanjit Singh Shah’s success in the industry.

Challenges of handling large-scale Chennai airport project

Charanjit Singh Shah reflected on parts of his life where he thought they were pivotal to this journey in the field of architecture. Having experience in some of the country’s biggest projects, his intake was revolving around sustainability and collaboration. He explored the various roles that contribute to the success of a project, no matter how big. He gave us examples of massive projects that were challenging yet a great source of learning.

“Few of the very large projects were very challenging. One was the Chennai airport from 2007-2011, which was a 2400 crore project, making the international terminal, the domestic terminal, making the metro and that too in a brown field airport. If you have seen the Chennai airport, on the right side there’s no space, it’s practically overlapping with the road. And how you do these brown field projects is very challenging. We had to plan out things in a manner where the project manager and architect should be good at management. By virtue of understanding, you cannot be a designer in isolation and let it go to hell so somebody else can come and do it. You have to see that what your design is practically created. It’s like you can be like Hanuman who didn’t have anything to work with Sita going there but he was a true disciple of Rama. He said he will go and bring Sita. That’s the type of person an architect has to be. You’re not the master of all arts, neither a jack but should have a comfortable knowledge of the basic elements of applied architecture which is wholesome, all-engineering, quality and time. All these are the product and how you see it unfold.”

The references to scriptures and tradition are deeply embedded in Charanjit’s identity as an architect. He believes that sustainable architecture is the home-grown masterpiece that reflects the true nature of this nation’s spirit. Then, he invited us into a process of design thinking and how his experiences were a clear reflection of humility and constant learning.

Delivering excellence with design thinking

“These challenges we have met in Chennai airport, Raipur airport and recently during the Kartarpur Sahib corridor at Punjab and Pakistan border which on the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak is opened with a direct corridor which goes to the Gurdwara of Guru Nanak. And that project ambitiously with the Ministry of Home Affairs faced a lot of issues because of the border, but we could complete the project of 400 crores in 4 months. This is how I tell you that your contribution should be holistic. You need to understand how the contractor works, how the client works, how the project works. All these things we have to practically foresee. Unless you do a surgical analysis of the project, you cannot walk in. You need to walk into the process of construction and how it’s taken care of. This is your experience and your feedback. You see that on day one the work has begun and how the whole thing pans out to get finished on time based on how the whole thing backs up and start working well. According to these parameters, we work things out. When the Prime Minister came on the 9th of November, he was so fascinated. I was getting reports that this would not be completed and he was so touched that we completed it. It’s like the pleasure of motherhood. If the mother knows there’s a miscarriage, it’s difficult and heartbreaking. The mother’s confidence has ability to turn a miscarriage and bring about a proper carriage. Everything is possible and nothing is impossible in this world. Have the determination and confidence.”

His insights are powerful learning’s for aspiring architects. His values are strong and indeed the pivotal focus of every architect’s journey. He attributed resource management and sustainable design as the key focus of every project.

He continued, “Ability to perform is an intention that lies with your resource management. You must have a competent consultant and the right people around who can guide you and put you on the right track. It’s teamwork. Unless I am comfortable with the many people involved in a project, I cannot go through the high and low tides because teamwork is fundamental.”

Recognition from the PM for great architecture

Charanjit Singh Shah has been a recipient of national and international recognition for his marvelous work in the field of architecture. He narrated an experience, “On the 15th of August the Prime Minister spoke of the project saying he salutes the team for a project of this nature in such a timeframe. Nothing else could match up to the words of our honorable Prime Minister speaking about our project well.”

The spirit of union is evident in Charnajit’s tales of historic achievements in the field of building and architecture. His voice is the face of today’s industry, rapidly evolving yet deeply intertwined with a rich heritage and tradition.

Holistic architecture is fundamental

The Best Creators then inquired about the force of his clients and how they perceive his creation. His response was yet another insightful narration of experiences that have shaped his career at the top of architecture.

“There are a variety of clients. Government clients are not very concerned about the budget. If it goes a little more or less it doesn’t matter. But when you talk to a private client, he wants the best and he wants it cost-effective. As an architect you don’t look at whether it’s a government client or private client. Whatever we create has to be aesthetically appealing and functionally the absolute best. It also has to be cost-effective. Value for money has to be there and that’s why in our projects we do value engineering to assess the rightful pricing for a project. There are so many tools today, where the accuracy of BIM is that you get the exact cost and layer the building in a manner to finalize the building requirements. When you are working, you can integrate your thoughts not in isolation, but by giving your client all the steps of understanding. You must see the social, economical and cultural angles to provide holistic architecture.”

Charanjit further expounded the prospect of home-grown architecture as the key to our future. He urges Indian architects and the Government to engage with the history of this nation and the architecture that has formed our diversity in the past. We must take this forward. His insights were truly reformative and awe-inspiring.

“How do you take our identity forward as the builders of the nation, the industry builder? How do you create an environment which is soothing to my soul is pure architecture?” – Charanjit Singh Shah. To be continued. >>

(Interview PART-3)

“Suppose I’m working on a project in the South and I use a glass block that’s used in Gurgaon, it would be meaningless. The architecture has to be for the people and the place. Once it’s for the people and the place, it has belongingness. Once I have the belongingness, I will definitely maintain it and preserve the building. I do not know where I am now, because almost every big city is outsourcing their work to a foreign concept. I breathe architecture, but I do not breathe architecture in Bangalore. Any ethnic concept amuses me. Unless we breathe architecture, we cannot recognize architecture from this subcontinent. Progress comes from recognizing the architecture of this subcontinent. Let the Europeans follow. Why do you think that following the globe is global empowerment? Global intervention is good but global empowerment is killing. My mindset is that I’ve changed my uniform, my dress and everything. Do you think all my ethnic things were bad? I’m trying to put this across to the soul of architecture. Am I living with my soul or following in footsteps of global soul? We label it as universal. There’s nothing universal about the savory of global empowerment which indirectly reflects the physical slavery of 70 years ago. Today we’re enslaving ourselves mentally with the idea of a universal approach. How do you take our identity forward as the builders of the nation, the building industry builder? How you create an environment which is soothing to my soul is pure architecture.”

When asked about his experiences handling projects, he spoke of various projects that challenged his team and that they had overcome with unity towards a common goal.

The Chennai airport design was inspired by birds flying

He narrated his story of doing the Chennai airport which was a global competition.

He said, “Airports are gateways into a city or country, where people recognize the beauty of its architecture. We had set reservations when working with the government, while working for private clients has some more flexibility of some other nature. So, when we were designing this project, we thought to create dynamism in shape. It’s about form and function. We thought an airport is about flying and birds flying are an inspiration even to the Wright brothers. When they can design an aircraft from a bird flying, why couldn’t we design an airport inspired by the wings of the bird? We started with a form of the wings of a bird, transforming that functionality into the wings of the building. Wings of the bird transformed into the terminal building and brought sustainable architecture with the functionality required. We know that mega projects are energy guzzlers, but we tried to see that we have incorporated glare free light into the building, south shade light into the building and all those elements were incorporated into the building. How we saw the envelope of the building was by putting double insulating glass, double skin kalzip roofing on top, where the insulation was so predominantly strong that the heat inside is reduced and the heat load on the air conditioning is optimized, saving 60% energy on the oscillation of the building and material applications.”

Sustainable architecture begins with the virtue of an Architect

“By the virtue of an architect planner taking the lead to make a building sustainable, it can ensure great energy savings. That’s what we did there. If everybody takes these steps, we can build sustainable architecture. We built a non-air conditioning mall in Raipur. Can you believe a mall without any air conditioning? How do you do it? You stimulate sustainable design. Do not be in a haste to stick to your comfort zone. Why not design the building sustainably where new ideas can be generated. We did housing for TERI in Gwal Pahri who are responsible for giving the green accreditation rating, where we used air tunnels as a cooling system. Just go 4 meters down; taking the hot air below the ground where the soil is wet and when the air penetrates with pressure, the dry air is reduced by a temperature of 10 degrees. In that case, I don’t need air conditioning. If all the scientific knowledge is applied in the right direction, sustainable design is absolutely achievable.

When the Chief Minister Dr. Raman visited the site, there were thousands of people. The Chennai airport was inaugurated by the President of India at 6:30 in the evening without a single light on because it had provisions for receiving good amount of daylight, therefore minimized light consumption with daylight savings. These are the things that reflect experiencing architecture.”

A clear recollection of his experiences with prominent people has been extensively attributed to the great work he has done for the field of architecture. It is without a doubt, the recognition of a pioneer in the field that has addressed various elements of culture, innovation and sustainability in his work. The Best Creators further delved into one of the best creators in the field, exploring his powerful command over his profession. He further elaborated on a decorated career in building massive projects for the government and private sector.

Modern architecture inspired by nature and ethnicity

“When we did Chennai, it was more about global influences. We bought large steel structures, brought innovation with 80ft cantilever which is the largest in the world. We were the first to put bend on half a meter 16mm thick pipes. Our flyover is the thinnest which is just 400mm width with 80mm wafers, hollow section that was steam cured. We brought that technology to India to make the thinnest flyover in the world. Technology plays a vital role in sensitizing the project. Once we did this, we thought the terminal in Tamil Nadu wasn’t good enough. We could have let a lot of cultural influences make way into our project. But we went into seeing how to create belongingness between the place and its people. In Bhubaneshwar, if you happen to check our website, you will see a Jagannath chariot. We included the Konark wheel, temple art into the aesthetics of the material in a very contemporary manner. It looks like a Jagannath chariot and I’m pulling the Jagannath chariot. The story of Jagannath chariot involves pulling the chariot from one temple to another and that’s what we tried to incorporate. Once you’re in the terminal you feel like you are with Jagannath. That is the trend that I work towards. When I showed it to the minister, they said it was truly from the heart.”

His hearty words were inspiring us at every turn, showcasing the value that his contribution has brought to the world. It is truly honorable to learn from the masters in the industry and understand their thought that drives progress and innovation in every project.

“If somebody can make that kind of a built form that touches my heart, with contemporary architecture I am emotionally bound.”

  • Charanjit Singh Shah

“We did the same thing in Varanasi with Ganges, Ghats and silk sarees put together into the architectural form and function. The fluid shape of the terminal shows the fluidity of the river Ganges. The artwork speaks of the real carpet design put together. The Sanskrit shlokas are engraved into the interior once you visit the Varanasi airport itself, you feel like you are in the Viswanath temple. Just three days ago I was in Ayodhya where we tried to create the entire street of Ayodhya where I am walking for 3 kilometers along with Prabhuram. Can you create that sort of an art put together with holographic artwork which creates a moveable museum? Why can’t you experience traveling as a museum? That’s the philosophy. An architect should have a great understanding of history. I read the Ramayana to understand the real philosophy of Lalla Ram. Unless and until I am a researcher, I am not a person working only with brick and mortar. The brick and mortar should have the philosophy of where it’s being made. A great chef uses his recipe in a very progressive manner, understanding whom he is going to serve. When I am inclined towards the footsteps of Prabhuram, then I know what type of dish I need to satisfy the soul. That is architecture.

My advice to all students of architecture is that you are an igniting mind, dreams transform into thought and thought into vision and vision into reality, perhaps comes with knowledge. That’s what our Dr. Abdul Kalam said, a person with a lot of dreams, an ambitious person who traveled with the scientific journey who was very spiritual and humanistic.”

A decorated career at the forefront of Architecture

“I’d rather live every day than die every day. I do not let my achievements off-track me by becoming proudy. Life is impermanent. In case I understand that I am no more tomorrow, I will not do badly today. Every day is a take for you to understand yourself and improve upon. Sadly, we look at someone else and try to improve them without improving ourselves. I would like to stress upon Isha’s Sadhguru Vasudev’s statement that everything is about inner engineering, which when done perfectly you do not speak, your soul speaks. When your soul talks, it will do justice to everything.”

A set of strong philosophies and design thinking is the mantle to his spiritual connection with Architecture. Charanjit Singh Shah is responsible for the evolution of architecture and it is due to his expressive nature and strong command over the necessities of each project. For him, architecture is a reflection of the soul and something that can be felt from the depths of ourselves if we paid close attention. In the finer details, Charanjit Singh Shah elaborated the deep connection with Nature that bases every creation.

Architecture has a soul and it’s deeply intertwined with Nature.

“Mostly, to be very honest, what’s happening is that we are into the rat race of so many global materials where we need to see how much of the energy is being consumed. We have to study these materials being used that come from across the world or even here. I would prefer if I could understand the local contractor and start using local materials modify them and do what’s more sustainable. We need to make an attempt to find innovative materials locally. I just got a video of a low-cost housing project by IIT in Chennai. We talk about burning things and creating pollution. I was so happy to see this project created from rice husk which reverses impacts of pollution. Can we create an innovation from garbage like a material that’s good for insulation? Let’s be more innovative and let’s not be cosmetic in the world. Let’s see that we regenerate, reuse and reproduce materials. Using more ACC blocks and aluminum composite blocks which are not degradable. Practically after Covid19, my intake is to be near Nature. Someone says you are raping mother earth and earth will finish. Earth will not finish; the human species will finish. We are trying to finish ourselves while Earth will remain there for somebody else to come. Let’s see to it that we maintain the Earth and conserve the Earth in a manner she likes. We have covered the Earth with plastic and now the Earth has covered man with plastic. Look at the doctors in PPE kits. The day is not far off where you are in an oxygen cylinder. I reside in Delhi with a purifier in my room. Because pollution levels have risen from 2.5 scale to 450 to 500.

While he highlighted the pollution and drawbacks of unsustainable architecture, he also delved into the prospect of nurturing the field with sustainable thought leadership. The thought leadership of the master in architecture is truly commendable and eye-opening.

Build sustainably for the future of humanity

He wants to guide the future of this industry with thoughtful leadership that sparks sustainability.

He said, “Today there’s a lot of competition. The technology advancement is so much that you can do a lot of things in a scientific manner. I do not say that you are pneumatic or robotic. Today I’ve become robotic. Becoming a robot is not just all about automation. You need to understand the technology. With today’s technology I can scientifically penetrate into a project on day one. I can plan out better. In case I could utilize my technical understanding, the input in terms of material calculation put together, I can minimize the wastage. Sometimes the wastage is more than 10%. If I can control the wastage on any project, that 10% is my profit. Again, I will not be wasting my resources. Another aspect is time management. If I can finish a project on time, it’s inspiring. I was really inspired by the great master Sreedharan who did the Konkan railways first and then the DMRC metro railway. He made a process and a system where everybody involved is executing a job to the best of specification and on time. That was Sreedharan’s baby. That’s the intake. You need to frame out and make bar charts. We work with a lot of big players on big projects and we see that how we sit together matters a lot. You have to maintain the bar chart to maintain quality and time management as well as cost management. The contractor should also make profits out of the project. The resource management is collectively done. It’s not a blame game but a collective effort to make the project successful. Like the Kartarpur corridor, it was a reflection of how the contractor, the architects and all were on the same page solving the problem without creating problems out of ego. Work on time, material and finally get the best results together. Be in love with your profession.” Rightly said, when you’re in love with your profession, there’s very little in the way of success. He ended the discourse with a powerful analogy of how love is the pedestal upon which dreams are built. This is an ideal representation of how architecture makes up a big part of our lives. It is also a beacon that signifies Charanjit Singh’s contribution to the world of building and design.

Fall in love with your work

“Once you love your profession, you work 24×7. If I start loving my profession the same way I would love my lover, then I am working 24×7. Once you are in love with your profession, even in your dream the project comes. When you are writing, there’s some vocabulary of thought which communicates with your body, mind and soul put together to wake you up with an idea. Let us see that we are into the romanticism of architecture where we are working together 24×7 to bring an attitude that brings aptitude which turns into excellence for excellence. See nature, and I am an admirer of Nature. You love Nature, you breathe Nature, you eat Nature and you practically participate with Nature that you become Nature. We are just astral bodies that are part of Nature. Let’s not create cosmetic architecture which is destructive, killing, polluting and the cause of today’s global warming.

Architecture has a soul and it’s deeply intertwined with Nature.” As the discourse came to a close, the famed architect Charanjit Singh Shah outlined a message that resonates with every professional in the fraternity. His wisdom is a true light for the road ahead in the field of construction, building design and architecture.