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Architects Take | October 2014

Back to basics

Architect Arun Nalapat of Bengaluru´s Studio ANA makes buildings that make us proud. His motto is simple: ´No prizes for being the smartest or the slimmest here. It´s all about your buildings.´

Bengaluru may have been christened the IT City of India a couple of decades back, but its rapid growth has taken its toll on the city´s architectural quality, feel many reputed leading architects sharing similar sensibilities.

Not one to mince words, Bengaluru architect Arun Nalapat has definitive ideas about the state of the city´s architecture. From remini¡scing about how old Bengaluru architecture coyly hid behind a verdant veil to calling some of the new buildings red-lipsticked arch¡tecture strutting the streets, Nalapat happily shares his views about the architecture in the city.

Presenting excerpts from an interview with the man who has created some of Bengaluru´s best designed residential, housing and hospitality projects.

´A 5,000 year old profession can´t be reduced to just a job.´
Nalapat and his firm Studio ANA that he founded in 1996 with his wife Jyothi have created some of Bengaluru´s most gorgeous residential, commercial and hospitality projects for clients like Brigade and Times of India. Their design policy is very transparent. To aspire and reach for a space that is perfection or as close to it as possible.

Nalapat: ´Our practice is fuelled by the old fashioned, vain and certainly grandiose belief that what we design and build has to have the potential to transcend beyond its materiality. It also has to give us glimpses of the immeasurable and the intangible. To reach to that level of satisfaction, the strategy has to be just right. Our strategy is to try and pay complete attention to what we do and not stop or give up until we feel it´s just right. Whether we succeed or not is another matter! But it´s more fun to work with this belief than reduce a 5,000 year profession to a job´.

´Todays´ buildings are fast food; old Bangalore was ´slow food´ but soul food´ Bengaluru, known as India´s Silicon City has been ranked as the country´s top business destination by Global Initiative for Restruc¡turing Environment and Manage¡ment (GIREM) and has emerged as one of the most livable cities in the country in various surveys over the years. While Bengaluru boasts of some spectacular architecture, it is also true that the frenetic pace at which the city has grown in the last two decades and is continuing to do so, is putting some major stress on the quality of design.

Nalapat: ´I see three categories of architects in Bengaluru today. There are a few gifted architects who are doing remarkable work and making a difference, and whose work should be celebrated. Then there is a small segment which is comfortably, competently mediocre. Unfortunately, it´s the third category that is throwing up the vast majority of buildings that are thoughtlessly slapped together.

´Buildings earlier were built with much affection, deliberation and care. Unlike today´s brash red lipstick wearing structures, strutting the cities´ streets, the architecture of old Bangalore coyly hid behind verdant veils of greenery. The majority of these older structures exist now only in memories. If today´s´ buildings are fast food, old Bangalore was ´slow food´ but soul food.´

´There´s no prize for the richest, smartest or slimmest architect; it´s always about your buildings.´
Studio ANA believes that each project is a singularity, built on a unique site, for a particular client at a specific time. It will never happen again. The IT industry´s influence on the city has seen the mushrooming of glitzy buildings that are abundant in number; but fall short when it comes to defining great design.

Nalapat: ´I have not been inside most of these structures. The few that I have visited fall under the latter two categories. As far as the city is concerned, these seemingly glittering objects behind secure, inaccessible walls are disconnected implants, like some sort of alien sprouts in the urban wasteland. Perhaps if there was a law in the land which required all buildings fronting public streets, to make say 1 or 2 per cent of the spaces accessible and usable by the public and allow locating this strip in the setback adjacent to the compound wall there could be some interaction with the street and the city.

´There are no prizes or awards for the richest architect, or smartest, or slimmest´It´s always about your buildings. Security guards will shoo you away after you finish your project. Young architects should consider every project as unique and singular. Something that is going to happen on that site, with that particular client, and with their current skills, only once in their lifetime, actually happens only once in human history with those particular inputs! And therefore it is precious, worthy and requiring all their attention, time and effort. Remember it´s not about you. And no one will ask at the end of your career, how many buildings you have done. So do less if you have to, but do them well. What applies to doctors -primum non nocere - applies to us architects as well.

´Even serendipity requires time...´
For a firm that has just come of age--Studio ANA completes 18 years-it has done extremely well, growing into a medium sized firm doing a wide variety of prestigious projects in several countries.

Nalapat: ´The fact that we have not done any ´landmark projects´ allows us to be always excited about new projects and hope that it´s just around the corner! Of the three categories of architecture I described, I feel it is important to somehow expand and consolidate the middle segment, that of the competently mediocre or average. The bar needs to be raised in terms of a minimum level of competence so that the majority of buildings built are at least average and not tacky and crude. The really brilliant work will happen anyway because they are created by driven individuals. If the middle segment becomes the majority, the bottom will slowly drop out and wither away.

´The city has a large number of extremely talented architects but it´s probably wishful thinking in today´s impatient frenetic world that they all come together to sculpt the future of architecture in the city. But perhaps they can collectively slow down a bit so that something positive can emerge. But the speed at which architecture is realised nowadays, I see this as a negative. Highly unlikely that anything significant can happen. Even serendipity requires time.´

scripted by: Sushmita S Sen
Contact
Studio Arun Nalapat Architects, 4c/124, Varthur Road, Bennigana Halli, Bennigana Halli, Bengaluru, Karnataka-560036.
Tel:080-2524 7326

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