Shivani Gour

Studio Director, Associate, Design Synergy Leader–Gensler (Interview PART-1)

Shivani Gour was born and brought up in Delhi. She was brought up in a joint family, that has a lot of influence in her connect with the social and cultural context of what she designs. It has come from the way she was brought up to pay close attention to what others require. She completed her schooling from a convent in Delhi and later went on to graduate from CEPT, Ahmedabad. She owes a great deal of her success to the formative years spent at CEPT that molded her approach towards Design. Her initial years in the professional world were exploratory, where she tried her hands on interactive museums, exhibitions, furniture design, and craft-based designs.

She further moved on to a more core Interior’s practice in the Hospitality and Retail world. She worked with firms like PSDA and HBA, who are pioneers in hospitality design, and got to work on some top-notch hotels. In 2010 she moved to Bangalore, where she went on to work in the field of Aviation, Retail, Healthcare and Education. Throughout her career, she developed a diverse portfolio, that speaks of her spirit to take on new challenges with rigor. So far, she has had the opportunity to work on more than 12 airport terminals – (International and Domestic), focused on interior-planning and design and developed a thorough understanding of this sector’s needs which is much in need of the current times. All the diverse practice areas come naturally to Shivani. She usually distances herself from the standard stuff and leans towards a more creative and customized approach that requires fresh thinking. Her 20+ year journey is truly inspiring and a testament to the massive strides taken in this field.

Believing in the purpose of design

In this excerpt, we dissect the philosophies that guided Shivani through a decorated career of 20 years in the industry, where she reveals the role of belief in the process of design thinking.

She said, “I conduct my design processes believing in the purpose of design, which shouldn’t be forgotten. We have to look at what is the ultimate purpose of design and that is to improve life. It’s very generic but it’s important that we don’t forget it. Architects and designers often get distracted by the urge to create aesthetical compositions of forms, forgetting that all of that is created for the life that walks through it, and for the people who are going to experience it. The attention has to be brought away from the physicality of design to the experience of design. If we are more mindful of what experience we are creating, then it will surely make life better for its users and will duly serve its purpose.

Evidently, the design excellence of Shivani Gour is well-depicted in her statement, where she attributes the success of a project to the design process. Her belief in people stays fundamental to realizing that everybody plays a vital role in the success of a project. We asked her about workplace efficiency and she responded with insightful advice.

Understand your clients well by sincerely listening to them

How a client’s understanding is fundamental to furnishing the project requirements was something that Shivani repeatedly enforced as a design principle. She said, “It’s really important that we understand our clients well and for that listening is really important. Many a times architects get a gist of things and think that they know the solution. I think one has to stop oneself from jumping onto solutions too soon. It’s important to sincerely listen to the clients and understand why they are saying whatever they are saying. Many a times, clients suggest solutions, saying that they want specific design elements. That doesn’t mean that we give them exactly what they ask for, but it means that we should understand why they are saying so. An inquiry into their ‘why’ leads to much better solutions and enables us to advise them better by giving them more comprehensive and advanced solutions.”

Communication is the key

“It’s important to understand the ‘why’ behind whatever is being spoken. Plus, it’s important that the understanding is translated to the team because I’m not the only person who is designing – it’s a whole team which makes the design happen. Not just the team that sits on the drawing board, but also the team that goes and executes. It’s important that they all understand the ‘WHY’ and if I am able to become an efficient bridge between the client’s expectations and the team that’s delivering, we bring everybody to walk towards a common goal. This collaborative and transparent process can create really efficient and good projects with desired outcomes – An ideal picture would be that even the junior most carpenter on the site who’s hitting a nail, should know the big story behind a project. If he knows, he will be inspired to do it in the best way.”

The core of the matter retains fervent communication across all levels of a project, as the defining factor. Her commitment to sustainable architecture emerges from the commitment to people. Best Creators asked her about the learnings she would like to pass on to others in the same segment of design and architecture. Her response was heartwarming and truly inspiring to us, the Best Creators.

Believe in the process to nurture a universal design

“Believe in the process. Don’t be fixated to the final outcome – it will happen and it does happen! It’s important that we undertake a process that looks at the overall context and anything/ everything that can impact that design. Plus, implement a collaborative approach, because the more the perspectives that we respect and include in our design, the more universal the design becomes; the more acceptable and inclusive the design becomes. It’s important that we take a collaborative approach. It’s never my design. It’s never your design. It’s everybody’s design. Keep the process in a way that enables collaboration, where every voice has a say in the process. To be continued. >>