Kunal began his career working for other firms and today he feels that as a fresher he concentrated on the job given to him and never saw how the work fitted into the bigger picture, which generally happens with many employees, as the firms never share the bigger picture, nor give them the experience other than their routine job. His stint as Project Architect for hospitals made him more confident, though he was leading the project and was the youngest of all, he says he had so much to learn from everyone, not just those connected with construction industry but from healthcare industry too, like doctors, nurses, and from the housekeepers too. Everyone was co-operative towards him which made his experience more worth it. His stint with Fortis group of hospitals is what changed the course of his career and his life too. He was managing other renowned architectural firms and the learning on the job was immense. Design philosophy and complex understanding about projects developed only after he began his own firm, as design philosophy comes from within when you begin your own firm, His failures and his rich experience have helped him in adding tangible value to projects without taking unnecessary stress about other factors like contractors, vendors, etc. involved and helped focus more on design.
Since Kunal loved literature and language, design philosophies had to be his favourite topic. Kunal feels that many confuse philosophy with strategy and tactics. Philosophy in a profession is a set of rules that embody one’s theoretical understanding of all the practical experiences and implementation one has gone through. This helps in further informing and enriching all future work. It reflects in the way we behave, work; it is the embodiment of our understanding about the subject, and, over a period of time, through practice, it becomes our second nature and this theoretical realization then starts reflecting in our work which leads to successful implementation of projects.
We often get to hear about an immediate reaction towards a design in terms of likes and dislikes, but design is a creative exercise and shoul’t be linked to individual likes and dislikes. One of the greatest strengths of an architect is the ability to insulate the entire decision-making process in design from one’s own likes and dislikes. Therefore, he debunks the theory of “signature styles” in Architecture, where the creation is prejudiced by individualism, as every building is contextual and depends on many other factors.
The interest of the project is supreme; the architect owns the project as much as the client until it is handed over. An architect values the project. Aesthetics is the intrinsic value of a design which can only be felt and not the one which is seen physically; it is in the core of a design philosophy. Aesthetic sensibility develops over time and starts reflecting in one’s work over time. His love for language and literature has also helped him in developing his aesthetic sensibility. It is not about the look of the project but it is about the feel of the project. To be continued. >>
Way of approaching larger projects is that we generally first design it at a macro level and then gradually go into the micro level. But Kunal believes that while we are designing at macro level, one should be continuously be able to simultaneously zoom-into the project and look into the smaller corners whether it works and then be able to zoom-out again to get the larger picture. The ability of an architect to continuously zoom-in and zoom-out of the project adds holistic value to the project.
Many clients request for alternatives of designs while beginning a project but Kunal feels that the design is a process that seeks best solution to a problem, and there can be only one best solution. We arrive at a particular design through a process of elimination which is fundamental to our core beliefs in design and hence cannot be a process of selection. The design of the building evolves on its own due to various factors; we do not impose ourselves on the design, the design evolves on its own; we need to let it grow, let it evolve. The process is so fluid that it gradually evolves through various push and pull, rules, bylaws, funds availability, economic constraints and various things. A good design is one where the users feel comfortable as they interact with various building elements while carrying out their regular functions inside the building; that is when the building is said to be in harmony with its users.
Efficiency generally carries the idea that it is based on quantity, often at the cost of quality. Kunal’s firm gives more weightage to quality. They focus on building design capability in the architects. Design process in his organisation is made in a very participative and collaborative way, this helps in intellectual contributions at various levels. Efficiency for them, when considered from the client’s perspective, is a healthy respect for client’s money. Every design is examined for viability, and value for money is accorded priority. He suggests that the clients shoul’t consider the design fees as an expense but as an investment, as they add value to it. They do not consider their services as a business but as a practice.
Within the industry, Kunal feels that there is less very little knowledge sharing due to insecurity. This robs the avenue for development for everyone in the industry. The industry should focus on students, educational institutions, increase student interaction.
Educating client is the biggest challenge, many clients consider the fees paid to architects as an expense and not as an investment. For implementation of designs on site, good construction managers are needed which, if skipped, might affect the project as they form an important part of the project. Qualified supervisors are needed to supervise the workers. Cost benchmarks in the industry are abysmal in terms of quality that can be delivered at that cost; they are built with the sole objective of reducing capital cost even at the expense of operating cost which could drain an operator four times over.
Experienced clients look for functionality, viability of the project. They look at the broader picture. Macro level designing is not easy where they look at functionality, space efficiency, manpower efficiency, equipment efficiency, image to be projected to the public, all these are abstract ideas and hence implementation is a challenge. Many clients are consumed only with appearance of the building, and not aesthetics as we understand it; when it comes to aesthetics, an architect comes to in the picture, he looks at that extra element, the emotional and the psychological aspects of the design. Most clients look for 3D views of the space for better understanding of the design. The latest software helps the architects focus more on the design.
Design is more about problem solving and is more contextual. As he debunks the theory of signature style of an architect and individual likes and dislikes in design of a project, he doesn’t follow other building trends. Magazines generally portray the external aspects of the building designs and doesn’t explain why the design is the way it is, how did it evolve etc., guided visits in buildings are necessary to learn more about the designs.
He feels that his stint at Fortis Group of Hospitals has been a defining moment in his career. He got the opportunity to work with stalwarts in the industry.
He feels that integrity and honesty towards the profession is much needed in the industry. Learning and educating clients about architecture and what to expect from an architect is important. Educational institutions need to recalibrate their course curriculum, need innovation in their teaching methodologies. To be continued. >>