Prem Chandavarkar, Managing Partner, CnT Architects emphasises the fact that functionality and aesthetics in commercial buildings can never be considered independent of each other.
Be it commercial, residential or any other building, the perfect balance of aesthetics, functionality and design is what makes a structure iconic. The context of the building´s functionality and design is important, which in turn determines the element that takes precedence. Commercial building design today works towards a larger picture where aesthetics, functionality and design complement one another. Prem Chandavarkar is the Managing Partner of CnT Architects. The firm has produced award-winning creations and published work throughout a history that stretches back across generations. The firm is one of Bengaluru´s first architectural organisations. Chandavarkar is the former Executive Director of Srishti School of Art Design & Technology in Bengaluru. He is an academic advisor and guest faculty at Indian and international colleges of architecture. Besides his design practice at CnT, he writes and lectures on architecture, urbanism, art, cultural studies and education. In this interview, he discusses the various aspects of ensuring efficiency and profitability while embracing design concept.
What is CnT´s approach to commercial architecture and its design?
We believe that the true test of a project is not just in its aesthetics but in the way it lends itself to the user. We always endeavour to make a project a positive experience for its inhabitants, both for immediate satisfaction and in the long run.
Brigade Rubix, a retail and office complex that we worked on in Bengaluru was designed based on the client´s desire to create a local commercial centre that was to herald the first of several projects, by the same client, in the area. The triangular site, placed at a junction of major roads was an aspect we took into consideration for the creation of the mixed use tower. The retail stores on the ground floor contribute to its presence in the neighborhood. As the building goes up to the commercial spaces, its column-free and unique design has been well-appreciated by the end-users as an exceptional experience, further contributing to the iconic status that the building enjoys today.
Similarly, we have worked intensely with Mindtree for the creation of their buildings. We have a deep understanding of their needs from spatial, commercial and multiple viewpoints. Our creations for them have been a reflection of their culture and identity to a large extent.
Why are design and aesthetics becoming increasingly important?
Aesthetics have always been an important aspect in the designing of commercial buildings, along with functionality. Aesthetics should not be placed over a functional design. In fact, the two must never be considered separately; they should be ingrained into each other.
The increasing importance of aesthetic design in India is currently being influenced by two primary factors - India has globalised, and the exposure and influence of international trends has never been higher. There is an attempt to match up to these international standards. Secondly, the market is becoming increasingly competitive and there is a need to differentiate oneself from the others. Today, there is an increasing awareness about how unique architectural design can be one of these differentiating factors.
How do you work at balancing efficiency, profitability and good design?
With every client, you work with a new set of variables. The mix of these factors will depend on what the client´s needs are. In the case of Brigade Rubix, the need was to create an iconic building and hence the budgets were higher than usual. However, great designing is not dependent on budget at all. It is not about spending money, but rather working creatively with constraints that may be present. When a client presents his requirements, there are always a set of constraints and it is entirely dependent on the architect to view them creatively and work with them.
On several occasions we have been faced with the situation of having a nala pass through the property, which must be worked around. The Infosys building in Electronic City that we worked on in the 90s´ was one such example. The nala cannot be removed and so we incorporated it into the design using creative ways such as converting it to a water body, a rainwater harvesting system or some form of a landscape feature, while aesthetically blending it into the design. Creativity is the key here.
Is there more to the efficiency of a building than just the green aspects that may be incorporated?
Designing a green building is just one aspect of architectural design. When doing so, you take into consideration the immediate benefits as well as how the design will serve its purpose 10 years into operations. At times, a 5% increase in investment may help with a 50% savings at a later stage. However, this makes sustainable architecture merely one aspect of efficiency that is taken into consideration. Optimum utilization of space, too, is an important aspect.
In a city like Bengaluru, what can be done to enhance the commercial buil¡ding landscape around the city?
The emphasis must not be the commercial value of a project alone but also on the quality the inhabitants may look forward to. There is a lot more that needs to be done in order to enhance the commercial building landscape in the city. Internationally, commercial hubs have a vibrant presence where they seamlessly move from being efficient work spaces during the day to having a vibrant night life. A lot more is required from the city planning and master plan development perspectives as well.
What is your designing mantra?
´Enrich Life through Architecture´, which is essentially our tagline and the mantra we follow with all our work. We believe design should go beyond function to catalyse a better lifestyle.
What is the direction you would like to see the Indian architectural world take in general as far as smart design is concerned?
I would like the architectural community to get more thoughtful and not stay confined within established conventions. It would be great if the field is more critical and idea driven and better connections are established.
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