Saturday, January 27, 2007

Indian Architects & Interior Designers

I have run out of things to write about. Actually, upon pondering about it for some time, I come to the conclusion that I have run out of the desire to write. If you want to write, you can write about anything. You don't need a burning issue to write about; not a excellent movie to review; no satires; no rejoinders. Of course these are the things good and successful blogs are made of, but when we talk about writing - it could be about a bad experience on the road while driving back home or about driving back home (without any thing extraordinary or remarkable to write home about). You can just ramble about something, like I am.

I tried writing about various things, but the gas ran out within the first few paragraphs. I have several saved drafts, waiting for their turn to be completed. I doubt it will happen any time soon if at all. I tried writing about personal life, but shelved the idea when I saw I was divulging more than I should. After all the fact that this blog is supposed to be shrouded in anonymity shouldn't be rendered useless by a post that talks too much and too openly about me and my life. I tried writing about non-topics, but failed miserably over there as well. Then I cam up with this idea.

I work closely with architects and interior designers. I have made several friends over the past few years that I have been in this industry. This is a profession that gives immense power to these individuals, almost Godly, as far as some companies are concerned. For most people they mean nothing. Most of us live our lives without ever coming in touch with an architect or an interior designer (professionally). Working so closely with them and seeing their power in play, I have come to understand their strength and I intend to bring forth the nature of their power in this post.

Architecture is one of the oldest professions in the world. All around us, the buildings, the townships, the bridges, the towers, the monuments - are the handywork of some architect. The Colosseum in Rome, Taj Mahal in Agra, The palace of Versailles in France, The Pyramids in Egypt, The Ajanta, Ellora & Elephanta Caves, Qutub Minar in Delhi, The Pantheon in Rome, The Temples of Olympian Gods in Greece, The Khajuraho temples and The Grand Moselum in Istanbul - all of these and more.

These are of course works of some very talented human beings who are no more between us. Today, the world has architects by the truck load. Every city has some or the other architectural institute. In Mumbai alone we have JJ, Raheja, Rizvi, Rachana Sansad and a few more, which keep spewing forth more and more architectural aspirants. The products of these schools go on to slave under some reknowned name for a couple of years and then break out and start their own practice. This is an aspect about which I intend to speak later, so will move on to other things.

There are very few names on international level which have transcended their national boundaries and have made their place in the annals of Architectural History.

Some of the most famous names include -

Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965) - More famous in India as Architect of modern Chandigarh.
Edwin Lutyen (1869 - 1944) - Most of the Govt. Buildings in Delhi, including the Rashtrapati Bhawan
Louis Kahn (1901 - 1974) - IIM Ahmedabad & The Bangladesh Parliament.
Norman Foster (1935) - Most celebrated living British Architect. Works wonders with his architecture. Some of the major landmarks in London can be credited to him.
Zaha Hadid (1950) - This Iraqi-British architect is a personal favorite. Her buildings are literally out of this world.
Phillippe Starck (1949) - This French Architect has made his name in product design as well. He is another personal favorite.

Now, lets talk about the power of an architect. As things stand today, an architect plans and designs a structure and decides the why, how, when and what of any project - be it the interiors of a small apartment or the construction of a 80 storey tower. I don't envy their position, because it is a very painfully long and detailed process. Imagine specifications involved in the interiors of a small apartment. We will list some of the items that need to be finalised -

1) Paint - Finish, colour etc. There are several multi-billion dollar corporations vying for their attention (Asian Paints, ITC, Berger, Nicholas Piramal etc).
2) Cement - ACC, Birla, JP etc.
3) Marble, Tiles (Floor, wall, textured tiles, plain tiles, imported (from China or Europe), or wooden flooring (real wood panels, or laminated panels) - Endless list of names - Tau, Graffitti, Roca, Grescasa, Refin, Bisazza, Pergo, Quick Step etc.
4) Wires and cables, lighting fixtures, switches etc - again several MNCs are fighting every day for their attention. We will not even mention the local players, cause putting them in the picture means the numbers go wild. Schneider, Clipsal, LeGrand, Anchor, Roma etc.
5) Door handles, hinges, door stoppers, door closers, locks etc - D Line, Dorma, Hafele, Hettich, Yale, Assa Abloy etc.
6) Sanitary ware, bathtubs, shower trays, shower cubicles, Taps & Faucets, Shower panels etc - Duravit, Hans Grohe, Grohe, Dorn & Bracht, Villeroy & Boch, American Standard, Kohler, Toto, Roca, Vitra, Hansa, Keramag etc.
7) Furniture - readymade or made to order, different veneers, laminated veneers or real wood veneers.
8) Kitchen Cabinets and automation systems - Poggen Pohl etc.
9) Fabrics for furnishings.
10) Air-conditioning.

Likewise there are N number of decisions to be made and N cube numbers of options available. The permutations & combinations are mind boggling and I have just listed a few basic items.

The second point which I tried to make here is that these architects hold the key to untold riches for these corporations. Imagine this - Sahara declares it's ambitious Sahara City project which involves making large townships in the B & C class cities across the country. Single such township will have close to 20,000 apartments. That's developement of almost 15 million squarefeet of built up area and to this add the shopping complexes, malls, hospitals, schools, and similar buildings. An architect just needs to specify the name of the product/brand in the project master plan. Most companies go to great lengths to secure those specifications.

For Mumbaites, Hiranandani Gardens is a very good example. Architect Hafeez Contractor and Hiranandani Builders together have built a superb township and turned a forsaken land into prime real estate. Hafeez Contractor is probably the most famous architect in India today. The Hiranandani Gardens, The ITC Grand Central at Parel, The Atria Mall at Worli, ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton, Hyatt Regency at Sahar Rd, IL & FS and Citibank buildings in BKC, Gateway Tower in Gurgaon, All DLF Projects, Nirmal Lifestyle in Mulund, All Infosys projects - just to name a few. I have not been able to make up my mind about him. I think all his buildings are very 'grand' and striking.

I am sure many of us have read Ayn Rand's epic Fountainhead. The Fountainhead examines the life of an idealistic young architect, Howard Roark, who prefers to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision by pandering to the prevailing taste in building design.

Most architects today do interior-designing and are fully capable of doing so. But all interior-designers may or may not be architects. Today there are many institutions which are offering interior-designing courses ranging from summer courses to 2 year long diplomas. Interior designing for these individuals is limited to re-furbishing an apartment or so. I have seen the difference in works of an architect and hobby driven interior designer. The architect can work wonders even with limited spaces and resources; I can't say this safely for interior-designers (exclusive interior-designer). One blazing example is Mrs. Twinkle Khanna-Bhatia, who also owns a life-style & interiors showroom called the White Window. They will help you chose your sofas and beds, your curtains and sheets, your paintings and other artefacts; they might suggest this light fixture from this company and that wash basin from that company. They might show you the picture of a pretty living room from the Home & Garden's latest issue and then they might copy that ditto for you in your suburban apartment. The truth of the matter is, I myself hope to do the same thing some day.

I guess I have rambled more than enough and feel much better about my blog now. Will end this post here. All the best!


Blogger marry said...

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