Proprietor, Rupande Shah & Associates (Interview)
Architecture was not well advanced three decades ago, and it was generally not considered a career prospect for women. However, Rupande Shah not only worked as an architect during that time but also made it a point to educate her clients about architecture, especially those who were unaware of it. Her designs are minimalistic, and she believes in keeping them client-centric.
Rupande Shah says that her journey as an architect has been a memorable one. She is a trained architect from the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai, after which she worked in Mumbai as an architect. Then, she went on to pursue her Masters in Architecture from Pratt Institute, New York. She was a part of a project in New York that focused on building homes for the homeless. Rupande credits her contemporary style to her formative years of studying in the US. Due to this interesting combination in her educational background, she has always aimed to give a contemporary look with an Indian blend to her designs. She returned to Kolkata and began her venture, Rupande Shah and Associates. Since very few women were in architecture then, so it was not easy for her.
Also, people had less knowledge and exposure then, so she had to educate her clients about architecture. Instead of being constrained by the limitations, she challenged her creativity. Intending to reflect the myriad Indian cultures in her designs, she innovatively uses natural materials. Her projects are examples of effective use of space and light, combined with color and texture. Rupande Shah has designed the homes of many notable personalities in Kolkata.
Rupande Shah’s work speaks for itself in many languages. Central to her design philosophy is the mantra that “less is more.” She creates clean, uncluttered, and elegant spaces by employing a unique interplay of space and light. She utilizes raw materials in innovative ways, and experiments with unique textures and colors, enriching the designed space. The result is functional yet magnificent. Rupande is a versatile designer who adheres to minimalism and ensures that each project meets its unique demands. She avoids a fixed design language, whether working on a localized or high-end project. Her primary philosophy revolves around keeping the design client-centric. She understands the client’s needs and preferences and strives to provide a space that aligns with their comfort rather than imposing something unfamiliar. Rupande believes in educating her clients, making them aware of design possibilities and offering them options that suit their requirements. Her designs feature minimalistic elements, allowing them to evolve organically and adapt seamlessly to the given space.
Rupande has always focused on discipline, attention to detail, and punctuality. She is committed to her work and consistently delivers her services on time; she is well-known for her dedication. She also believes in the value of hard work, and her principles have been instilled in her team as well. They all work together with the same spirit. When the team is working on projects to ensure timely delivery, Rupande believes in being with them, which is a sign of great leadership.
Rupande eloquently expresses that everyone walks their journey on their unique path. Some may reach their goals quickly, while others may take more time. Therefore, we should not give up on our dreams but persevere through challenges. She suggests that we should always stay true to our passion and convictions.
After Rupande moved from the US to Kolkata, she faced numerous challenges. These challenges ranged from being a woman in the industry to people’s limited knowledge of architecture and a lack of awareness about automation, which was not well-known at the time. Additionally, people were not very experimental, so there was a need for education on these topics. While these were the challenges Rupande faced years ago, a recent challenge that everyone encountered was the global pandemic. This challenge forced her to adapt to remote work, highlighting the ability to work from anywhere at any time. Whether then or not, Rupande remains committed to not letting constraints limit her, instead choosing to challenge her creativity.
Regarding client preferences, Rupande emphasizes that clients primarily focus on aesthetics and their emotional connection to a project. They may not delve deeply into technical details, but aesthetics is crucial. Architects should prioritize aesthetics when designing a project to meet the expectations of their clients.
Rupande believes in learning through various mediums, and learning is an ongoing process that occurs every day. One of these mediums is the internet, which allows her to stay informed about global events and keep herself updated. She actively participates in online seminars at both the global and national levels to remain connected with the world. Additionally, she regularly attends online workshops to ensure she stays current with technological advancements.
Rupande strongly advocates for change within the industry, with a particular emphasis on the need for transparency in every aspect of business. She practices what she preaches and has garnered a loyal client base by providing comprehensive and transparent explanations to her clients. Whether it pertains to costs or the number of vendors required, everything is presented clearly and honestly. Rupande believes in focusing on one’s own work without disrupting the work of others.
Before Rupande began her career, while she was studying, everyone criticized her because she was a girl pursuing architecture. They told her she wouldn’t be able to complete it. However, she saw it as a challenge and proved that both men and women can excel in this field, fueling her passion for architecture even more. After moving to Kolkata, she had to convince people that architecture could bring a fresh perspective to space design, unlike the traditional methods of our ancestors. She even continued working during her pregnancy, facing one of the most significant challenges that women in her field encounter when trying to pursue their passion. Every time someone doubted Rupande’s abilities, she took it as a challenge and creatively proved them wrong, overcoming all odds.
She advises all aspiring architects never to give up on their passion, as it will eventually yield results. Rupande emphasizes the importance of clarity about one’s career goals, which she believes the new generation already possesses, commitment, and conviction. She encourages them to pursue their passion relentlessly.
Rupande suggests that vendors should exhibit commitment and transparency in their approach. Although facing tough competition, they should strive to be as hands-on as possible and proactively engage with both the designers and the clients to provide the best services.
Rupande states that turnkey contractors often prioritize economics over quality. Instead, they should focus on maintaining the quality, refrain from pursuing additional discounts, and resist the temptation to cut corners, remaining dedicated to their profession.
Rupande has always believed in the importance of teamwork, asserting that a leader should not merely speak but also lead by example. Furthermore, a leader should consistently offer support to the team. Rupande ensures to stay with the team when they work late on projects or face impending deadlines, as they are equally dedicated to delivering excellent services to the clients as a team.
Rupande expresses it beautifully: design is an integral part of our everyday lives. Everything we do incorporates certain elements of design, whether it involves reading books, sitting in a place, or engaging in a conversation. We should not lose focus; instead, we must actively observe the designs in our daily lives. Design is inherent in everything whether it is manmade or naturally occurring.