Monday, 25 July 2016

'A future that brings back nature...'

                                    'A future that brings back nature...'

The ultimate goal of design should be to formulate an innovative built environment that responds to the needs of a given time and society, architect Dikshu C Kukreja tells Jisha Krishnan

He believes in the collective responsibility of transforming human habitats into a futuristic, intelligent environment that spontaneously responds to and meets the human need for space, amenities, health, finance and social equality without endangering heritage or natural and non-renewable resources. Dikshu C Kukreja heads a 40-year-old architectural firm that has designed some of India's leading landmarks like Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, the US Embassy in New Delhi and the Delhi Metro, among others. In an interaction with Deccan Herald, the managing director and principal architect of CP Kukreja Associates discusses the new challenges, old treasures and more. Excerpts:

What's the role of an architect today?
The architect today is not only endowed with the responsibility of designing spaces, but also the imagination and innovation of a larger environment that fulfills future aspirations of a rapidly developing, peaceful and healthy society. Architecture, in the contemporary context, stands as one of the most significant disciplines as it is among the saviours of our built environment, social and natural landscape. Today, more than ever before, its significance is in the hope of a future that brings back nature, culture and art into the built environment. In order to respond to the contemporary issues regarding sustainability and smart and intelligent development, architectural designs have moved beyond the design of buildings to involve planning and configuration of larger complexes and urban spaces consisting of buildings, nature, structures and infrastructure.

Whether it is residential design, urban design or any other design discipline, the ultimate goal should be to formulate an innovative built environment responding to the needs of the time and society. Architecture today is perceived as a collective response of different design disciplines like interior design, residential design, commercial design, conservation, urban design and urban planning. The need of the design fraternity is to imagine a multi-disciplinary approach towards imagination, innovation, and planning of spaces - whether at a building level or a city level.

What's your most memorable project till date?
I believe that every project is a reflection of its time, context and environment. Each project is like a journey of rediscovering the significance of space, its function and persona with respect to its requirements. For us, every project is memorable and special as we believe that each of them has allowed us to redefine the role of architecture and architects in shaping the future of our built environment.

Let's talk about energy...
At present, there is an urgent need for saving our rapidly depleting natural and non-renewable resources - the most important one being energy. The industry is currently experimenting with technologies and designs of buildings and urban environments that save, store and produce energy, and in the same respect, 'zero energy buildings' (which consume zero energy) and 'net positive buildings' (that produce energy) are trends to watch out for. Buildings of tomorrow are gradually being envisioned as urban generators of energy, which would not only save resources, but stand as a hope for sustainability.

Two sides of a coin...
Architecture and interior design are like two sides of the same coin - both are intertwined in their pursuit of a perfect expression of the built environment. A perfect design should seamlessly blend the two to create continuity in the spatial experience from inside to outside, both aesthetically and functionally.

Where do you find inspiration?
Two of the most inspiring architectural designs for me are Fatehpur Sikri Complex at Agra and the Louvre at Paris. The former is an age-old complex, which I believe is extremely contextual, as it is a magnificent example of a great architecture which simultaneously bears the character of an outstanding urban design. It is a truly inspiring example, which exhibits how good environmental design, space aesthetics, public space design, and art can coalesce into one masterpiece. Fatehpur Sikri, to me, is not only a well-designed complex but a space bearing the cultural heritage of Agra. The Louvre, on the other hand, exhibits how traditional architecture can coexist with a modern masterpiece in harmony. The glass pyramid is a modern intervention, which has immortalised the historical context on which it stands.

What makes for an iconic design?
An iconic design must stand out and ideally become a flag-bearer of a new trend or an idea. It must go beyond its own age into the future and exhibit a significance that has not been previously explored and hence, show a new direction in the field of design and technology. Essentially, iconic architecture should involve innovation of aesthetic statements, technology or ideas about a better environment and society.

Retaining our 'Indianness'...
Today there is a need to look at avenues which embrace our cultural continuity even though we may cruise ahead in technology and global economy. Our cultural symbols, which have been preserved as activities, rituals and faith in different corners of India, deserve to be conserved and must find their rightful expression in our future built environment. There is a long unfinished responsibility of defining 'Indianness' in global modernism through aesthetics, functions and technology, which still remains a major challenge for all Indian architects.

We need to search hard for the signs and symbols that have identified our land and us for ages; methods are needed to be innovated to translate these symbols and messages into architectural vocabulary. We believe that the search for global Indian modernism will be a great pursuit for our future generation that would collectively require the contribution of conservationists, urban planners, urban designers, geographers, historians and anthropologists in defining a future development that would simultaneously act as a tool to conserve our cultures and our identities.

How does one select the right architect?
The same way one selects a doctor or a lawyer. The most important thing is the comfort factor; the architect must be able to understand and respond efficiently to the aspirations of the client. The architect's past body of work, approach towards architectural design, time commitment, number of current assignments and the ability to respond to contemporary socio-economic conditions and aesthetic trends in design are some other factors worth considering.

Bengaluru has historically enjoyed an amazing natural geography, climate and a beautiful terrain with immense greenery. The city became an important business hub during the economic liberalisation of the country in the nineties.
Unfortunately, the aspirations and the development envisioned could not be efficiently contained in the broader planning model, which has put a huge pressure on the incongruous urbanisation of Bengaluru today. Both built and natural infrastructures are being stressed and are seen to be struggling to match the rapid growth of the city. This calls for an urgent need for a holistic vision of sustainable urbanisation.

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