Principal Architect – Architect Vistasp & Associates (Interview PART-1)
The Best Creators interview with Vistasp Bhagwagar produced some insightful projections about the nature of Architecture in the 21st century, and how varying influences have evolved in the field of building and design. With over 25 years of experience, Vistasp Bhagwagar’s journey has been of an overachieving schoolboy who did everything in school the right way. From his words, we learned a lot about the ambitious force in the field of architecture that he is. He used to enjoy drawing, painting caricature, winning painting competitions, school newspaper, and a lot of creative things at an early age. It was very natural that he was good at drawing and thus wanted to get into design. So, he got into 3 schools of architecture, finally settling into the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi in 1987. He came last in the exam because there were limited seats. But, when he finished after 5 years he was awarded two gold medals and was the topper in the whole batch.That’s the story of his undergrad, after which Vistasp moved to the UK and acquired a master’s in Urban Design from Oxford University.
He came back and started his practice in 1996. As he rightly said, “It’s been a 25-year journey since then, and a lot of learnings on the way. No journey is without pain, but without pain, there is no gain.”
Further delving into the brilliant career of Vistasp Bhagwagar, the Best Creators were offered powerful and incisive insights into the structure of modern architecture and his influence in the field of design and building.
“The funny thing about philosophies is that they keep changing every 5 years. When I started, I may have had a certain philosophy that will not be relevant today. Today’s philosophy would not have been relevant then. But I think it’s part of the journey of life, that you keep changing and it’s good to have philosophies that evolve with time because it shows your thinking. Somebody who’s had the same philosophy for 25 years is either a God or he’s not thinking. It’s extreme. I’d say my way of thinking presently is in two aspects. One is in embracing more simplicity in terms of design. How do we get into a mindset which says less is more and more is less? These are famous words by both William Shakespeare and Mies van der Rohe, who’s considered a God in architecture. How to really encapsulate that in design. Can design really be stripped to its basics where structure and architecture combine together and actually form something without having to cover it up? I think minimalism is the result of this thinking. But one philosophy that has captured me always, for the last 10 years actually, is a quote by Leonardo Da Vinci who says Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. When thinking about it, the more layers you can remove and the simpler you can make your designs in architecture or building and make them relatable to human beings is when you reach the highest level of sophistication. The second part is the way we build, the way we look at our built environment which is a matter of great concern. There is every material today which is basically a cladding or a hiding kind of material that does not expose the real architecture. You make materials in RCC and brick and then you clad them in ACP, high-pressure laminate, or clad them in various materials that are pasted on. You can put on a mask, but in buildings, you have to remove the mask and show the building for what it really is. So, more and more, my feeling is to be truthful to architecture. To use materials, there is no material that is lesser. A wonderfully done brick wall can be as fabulous as an Italian stone wall. In fact, I’m a big subscriber that good design does not be expensive. It should be thoughtful, evocative, and experiential. It needs to make you actually want to use the space, get attached to space. Good design is not materials, not combinations of colors, that’s a misconception. It’s something that I feel requires a lot more tutoring and lecturing. Good design is more about space creation, human experiences, and more about the sensorial touch of a space more than anything else. True materials and less is more are my top two philosophies that I would advocate.”
As we progressed, Vistasp elaborated on the journey of an architect and how dreams will guide the way for each aspirant to achieve their goals. His congruent ideas were truly inspiring and we were provided with first-hand experiences of a decorated career spanning over more than 25 years in the industry.
“When you come to our office, which is a statement office, made in a manner to convey our message. There’s signage on the wall, which is a hand-painted art that says, “one life, make it a story worth telling.” What we mean to say to the young designers who come and go in our life, we want to tell them that they have one life and to make it a story worth telling. We also tell them on another level that any project that you’re handling, let it have a story, let it be something you can talk about. The biggest thing I would like to advocate is to have DNA that is part of any design person’s lifeline. That DNA would be D which is the dream and A which is Achieve and the in-between journey between dreaming and achieving requires hard work. That should be the focus and approach for any project, for the client or for yourselves. If 25 years back, somebody asked me whether I’d want a lot of money or to make a big name, I would obviously have chosen the Big Name. And I have achieved that in my own simple way. We are very highly regarded in the workspace design segment and now we’re into the hospitality segment. How did I make that journey? The journey was about dreaming and achieving. We were clear from day one that we will not repeat our designs. We were clear that we will keep our minds thinking about newer and newer things. They say you do something for 90 days and it becomes a habit. We have been doing this for 20 years and we have not repeated any designs of ours for any two projects. We’ve actually created a very enviable portfolio of works. They may not be the largest works. They may not be works that change the destiny of a city or nation. But within the segment we’re working on, we’ve created a name of being creative, out-of-the-box, and original in our thought process. We were 17 years in basements, our office was in a basement. Two years back, we had a dream and we said, let’s get out of the basement and let’s get into an office. We’re at a nice place now which looks out to a lot of trees in South Delhi. And we’ve got a very positive workspace that makes a great difference to the way we work. And we’ve been able to get more clients and convert more jobs than we ever could in the past. Dream and achieve, that’s my example.”
As fortune would tell, the ambitious and progressive thoughts shared are a reflection of his expertise in handling large projects and projecting value for clients as the bedrock to success. Vistasp further elaborated on the importance of understanding a client’s requirements and maintaining transparency.
“I have a very clear message to everybody who’s going to be reading this blog. That is that Rome was never built in a day. I think we need to get out of this business of instant gratifications or instant success. There is no such thing as instant success or overnight fame. Things take a lot of time to develop. We need to get out of this instant noodle mindset we’re all in and think that the next project is going to catapult you to another level. Success is a series of small steps, not a high jump. In a high jump, you jump high and then you fall down. Success is a series of small steps that you take. You define a direction and you take those steps and go towards that direction. Every day you are working on one step or two steps on this massive flight of steps towards a certain success that you want. I think setting a direction is far more important. People often confuse speed with direction. I think to set the right direction is more important, and going there at a constant speed is more important than going at a very fast speed in a direction you may not be interested in.” To be continued. >>