An interview given to Ms. Prathima Manohar, some time in 2008 but never published anywhere for some reason.
Some of the questions were interesting, so I thought it could be here
1. What's the latest trend in architecture in urban Indian homes?
There is no single discernible Indian trend. Historically, the show of vanity and wealth has been a major trend and it continues. But one can also perceive that simplicity and environmental concerns are catching up. If there is a pan-Indian trend visible today- it is that the regional variations of the past getting obliterated in the large cities given that similar techniques , services and materials are available in all our cities.
2. Is there a shift towards efficiency from elegance? Are elaborate elements out of favour?
Both efficiency and elegance have never been major concerns except perhaps in rare academic discourses. Ornamentation or ‘elaborate elements’, is also not completely out. It finds different ways of expression. Cladding is often ornamentation. So is excessive use of glass. This alone does not guarantee elegance. Sacrifice of ornamentation cannot bring in efficiency automatically.
3. What do you feel should be the guiding factors while designing a home - architecture and interiors?
It depends on the person you are designing it for. There is a class of the elite who look for ‘architecture’ beyond an ordinary lovable home. This category is increasing in all segments, due to media and higher appreciation of the value of design. A home should fundamentally celebrate the virtue of life. In the current predicament of global warming, run-away economies, appalling political scene, and insecure life- architecture could be meaningful and not simply a show of what one can afford. It could be what one can consciously avoid to make life meaningful.
4. What does good architecture do to make a house warm and comfortable?
Warmth and comforts are personal and cultural. One who is comfortable at certain environment may not be comfortable at another. I believe that there are no universal standards of warmth or comfort. All of us get used to certain comfort levels. A concern and understanding of larger values of life and society often results in an environment with more of natural elements like light and air and a choice of materiality. Thus articulating a thought process that went into the design, could be considered warm at personal level for many. But some can be easily comfortable and feel warm in an artificial and synthetic environment as well, like that of an aircraft. This depends on the basic value system one has developed with or imbibed. One can make a personal conscious choice or go by fashion. It is impossible today, perhaps meaningless as well, to be building at any one extreme, as conditions and contexts are constantly changing beyond individuals means.
5. The social fabric of societies is changing. What sort of influence is this having on architectural trends?
All changes are not deep. Most of them are transient. Economics is changing a lot of lives and lifestyles in large cities. Work pressures are also changing. Age pyramid is getting tilted towards the young working groups. Bachelors with higher disposable incomes are also rising. Nuclear families are on the increase. The demands and hold of old generation is resented but nor revolted. Women have more voice and more visible. But men have not changed as partners in many of habits. Servants are not completely dispensed with; in fact, they are becoming more and more essential. Cooking styles are also not changed fully.
This hybrid situation is perhaps more volatile and is reflected in the architecture. “Multiplicity” seems to be the major tendency in today’s city architecture. The home buyer today is also much younger. In the past, one looked towards having a house as permanent. Not so much today. Therefore, the saleability at a later stage becomes a priority. Modular kitchens and imported toilet fixtures are becoming norms. But one still finds period furniture and moulded shutters behind sleek cabinets and by side of imported electric chimneys. The mood today seems to be one of fashion and not of prudence. I think a maturity to develop out of this hybrid situation over a period of time.
6. How should an architect balance his creativity and client's needs?
Why do we put too much premium on architect’s creativity? Can all architects be highly creative? Can ordinary but well done work be not a good one? Architecture as a profession can happen, at various levels of intellectual or that of a responsible construction. We should not expect same creativity at all levels.
Client’s needs are important to be satisfied. But they should not contradict with the larger interest of society. An architect can choose to build for a client’s wish for a Mediterranean villa or an acropolis in the middle of Bangalore. Those are his fancy needs. But I will choose not be the one to design it, as it revolts against my beliefs, not because it affects my creativity. Attitude makes most of architecture not creativity alone. Talent can be wasted easily.