Building Contemporary Dreams with Oscar & Ponni Concessao

With a common dream that they shared for buildings, design and architecture, Oscar & Ponni Concessao have set-up India’s most admired architecture firm, OCI in Chennai in ’96. Today, after much recognition, they have immersed themselves into building beautiful buildings, giving back to Mother Earth and living their dream of design…

WORDS BY: RINKU B

Power couple, Oscar & Ponni Concessao, are founders of Oscar Concessao International (OCI) and Ponni Concessao Consultants, India’s leading urban design and interior design practice. Today, they are known for creating aesthetically pleasing and immaculately planned spaces with an eye for details. Their portfolio boasts of architectural projects shaped by the virtues of Indian traditions, purpose and oriented towards excellence in planning, design, aesthetics and quality finishing.

The Company has won more than 77 International and National Design awards since its inception in 1996, which started in a small room with just five people. Today, they have grown by leaps and bounds with a current team of over fifty employees, numerous awards and are focussing on designing more challenging building typologies, eco-friendly sustainable, smarter buildings and cities in the coming years.

The husband and wife team completed the B. Arch Degree from the Regional Engineering College, now NIT Tiruchirapalli in 1986, and 1987.

“As a child, I was always fascinated by structures, particularly of the architecture of his home town Mangalore which had a strong Portuguese influence. My school holidays were all about building miniature houses, built with the construction material lying around back home.

This inspired me to take up a course in architecture and the rest just followed suit,” Oscar shared. After their graduation in India Oscar went to the USA on a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, Norman and did his Master’s degree in Architecture in Urban Design in 1987.

Ponni also followed to the USA, with a Tata scholarship and completed her Master’s in Architecture from Cornell University in 1989. They returned to India and settled in Chennai, Ponni’s hometown and started their Architectural and Interior design practice on 1996. Over the years they built their practice designing versatile projects such as Universities, Engineering and Medical Colleges stadiums at Doha, Qatar, several Information technology Parks, Bio tech Parks, Nano Technology parks, townships, hospitals, apartments, Hotels, Resorts, Malls, Corporate offices, luxury Bungalows, Factories, SEZ, several Government and State buildings.

The diversity of experience in the team and its multidisciplinary character is its strength. Their blue-chip client list is testimony to the design and quality standards offered by them.

While Oscar handles the architectural aspects of a project, Ponni looks after interior designing. They commitment towards design integrity and a constant search for design excellence is evident from their work which ranges from large scale urban planning projects to meticulously detailed interiors. Their portfolio comprises of projects such as three to five star luxury hotels, resorts, factories, stadiums and luxury villas. Adds Oscar, “My buildings speak a contemporary language. It is a language based on creativity and logic that appeals instantly to people who understand and love buildings.” Both Oscar and Ponni have been conferred with Honorary Doctorates from the University of Malaysia and Universita of Milano for Modern Architecture and Architectural Science. They both worked in New York City with leading architects specializing in Skyscrapers, Institutional buildings, Hotels, Hospitals and Stadiums.

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DESIGN PHILOSOPHY:
According to Oscar Concessao, “Our understanding of architecture and the environment compels us to appreciate and study contextual character, which then influences our design solutions for buildings and places. These are the foundations of our architectural practice. Our core belief is that architecture and place-making matter, as much today as ever before. We believe that great buildings and spaces can inspire, influence and enhance the lives of their users and the community. At its most basic, architecture is a response to fundamental human needs and a way of organizing space while meeting practical demands. At its most exalted, architecture can introduce new perspectives and new dynamics, reinvigorating both landscape and cityscape.

We strive to synthesize these two goals, to create buildings that perform as well as excite, buildings that uplift the spirit and are memorable.”Oscar & Ponni Architects approach is built not on a pre-determined aesthetic or a rigid “signature style.” It grows naturally from a quest for ideas and answers. Designs are never imposed. They evolve from a rigorous inquiry into the particulars of location and program. They represent a determined belief that they can transform problem-solving into art. At Oscar & Ponni Architects, the design process begins with a careful, in-depth study of each project’s requirements and constraints, its use and users. It is then analyzed, evaluated, and interpreted through the prism of their core principles-the formal propositions of spatial relationships and adjacencies, symmetry and asymmetry, use of exterior and interior materials and sense

of order that constitute the discipline and practice of modern architecture. With this inquiry and understanding as a starting point, they build a rationale of ideas and experiences, a program of needs and goals, and a carefully constructed collage of forms and spaces that is at once dynamic, aspiring, and meaningful.Oscar & Ponni Architects practices designing in a manner that best incorporates the context of the building into the design in a very substantial way. They add, “Our buildings are never decorated to fit into their settings. There is always an overall integrity in the relationship between functional, programmatic, environmental and contextual needs. Along with strong conceptual and historical awareness, nature’s forms and shapes appear as a recurrent source of inspiration for Oscar & Ponni Architecture and Interior Design. It includes attention to physical contexts and landscapes and fine detailing.”

TIPS FOR YOUNG ARCHITECTS:
Oscar adds that, “My best advice for someone starting a practice is to find a place that you like and stay. Everything else will work itself out. As we did, you can overcome the lack of connections and people you know. Those come naturally with time. Work hard, have the endurance to do the best design work, but service your clients with the same enthusiasm and dedication. The service you provide, in most cases outweighs the design you create. Focus on a particular type of work, be it housing, commercial interiors, educational facilities, etc. But most of all: be patient! The practice of architecture takes time and it is very difficult to be successful on a large scale without first being successful at smaller scales. Small victories eventually lead to bigger opportunities.”

USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN ARCHITECTURE:
Most stages of architectural practice utilize the computer for increased accuracy and speed. Architects create presentations, 2-D construction documents and 3-D models in addition to typical business documents on the computer. Computers aid design understanding and implementation of complex structures through computer-solved equations and information generation.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has become the tool of choice for many architects. However, many firms continue to miss out on the technology’s capabilities by using it purely as a production tool and building 3D models solely to create 2D documents, much like they did with their CAD software.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has become the tool of choice for many architects. However, many firms continue to miss out on the technology’s capabilities by using it purely as a production tool and building 3D models solely to create 2D documents, much like they did with their CAD software.

Whereas CAD is largely hand drafting on a computer, BIM is much more than the next generation of CAD. It is a tool for the digital age, both a framework and a methodology with a database at its core. As elements are created in a building model, their position and properties are stored in a structured data repository that becomes a treasure trove for the resourceful architect. Also there are plenty of 3d visualization software’s available in today’s market.

GOALS & OBJECTIVES:
Both Oscar and Ponni look forward to some fantastic, dramatic big new buildings and social projects in the work they do. Ambitious cities are good for architects they say, but what about how people actually live? They add, “We must shift architecture towards a humane socio-economic approach, and a human scale. The architectural profession continuously plays a pivotal role in the development of sustainable solutions to the built environment all over the world.

The architect’s multidisciplinary skills and ability to apply a holistic view is vital to tackling the extensive climate change challenges. In this decade, this will be even more evident. Secondly, architects know better that anyone how projects involve a process. Today, we experience a rising acknowledgement of the advantages in user involvement. By involving various user groups in the development and design process of for instance new public buildings, the local community and end-users will bring new ideas and insightful knowledge into the project, and innovative solutions come to life. This forms the important basis of the social dimension in architecture, it is our hope that this tendency will increase in the years to come. Thirdly, architects provide excellent and functional solutions every day all over the world. However, we should never neglect the artistic and qualitative virtues of architecture.

Think about it, architecture frames the life of human beings. We are today looking forward to the birth of new courageous architecture that will capture and reflect the human and social thoughts and values of our age.”

AWARDS & ACCOLADES:
Oscar & Ponni Architects have won more than 68 International, National and State Awards for Architecture & Interiors. To highlight a few, in 2004, Oscar & Ponni Architects won an award for ‘Excellence in Built Environment, awarded by the His Excellency, the former President of India, Dr. A.P. J Abdul Kalam for the Satyam Technology Information Technology Park at Bhubaneswar, Odisha. In 2005, Oscar won the ‘Architect of the year Award 2004’ from then Chief Minister of Pondicherry, Mr. Rangaswamy.

In the year 2008, they bagged the prestigious Indian Institute of Architects, IIA National Award 2008 for the Sastra BioTech Park for Sastra University at Tanjore, Tamil Nadu.They have won the Indian Buildings Congress Award seven times for their numerous designs and work on information technology parks, campuses and townships. In 2009, their project won the Archi Design ‘Best Institutional Building’ Award. In 2012, they won six national awards for their Township and Hotel projects, awarded by ‘Artists in Concrete awards’ at Pune. In the year 2013, Oscar & Ponni Architects won three Indian Buildings Congress Awards for Excellence in Architecture and two awards for Artists in Concrete Awards Asia, 2012. Some of Oscar and Ponni Architects ongoing projects are large affordable Housing Townships, Villas, Hotels, Shopping Malls, Hospitals and Skyscrapers.

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FUTURE TRENDS:
India’s construction industry will continue to expand with investments in residential, infrastructure and energy projects. Today, construction sector of most emerging economies, including India, is witnessing sharp growth.

In fact construction industry in India today is one of the major stimulants of the economic and social growth of the nation.

Architectural practices have changed irreparably in the past decade, but those who know how to adapt just might find themselves in a far better place in a few years. Technology has revolutionized the potential of architectural practice.
Design tools such as CAD, Revit, BIM, 3D Printing and new software are transforming its boundaries.

This does not imply that all architectural practices are now doing their work in a revolutionary way. Many architects need and must recognize this transformation and think differently.

Oscar says, “The construction industry is one of the most information-intensive industries, as major construction process requires extensive exchange of data and information between the project’s participants on a regular basis.

In the construction industry, employees must adopt new forms of technology to achieve the time, cost, and quality goals of a construction project. New technologies are constantly changing the construction landscape.

Drones now make it possible to survey and map a site with ease, and at a lower cost. Smartphone’s and tablets make on-the-go communication a breeze. Digital blueprint apps and other project management software’s make it possible to map out a project ahead of time like never before. Even the use of robots seems to be on the horizon. The construction industry globally is slow in adopting technology innovations despite a rise in project complexity and associated risks. For some, the cost and risk of adopting new technologies outweighs the perceived benefits, while others may be reluctant to move out of their comfort zone.”

On challenges front, as India is rapidly urbanizing it faces multiple challenges of finance, construction technologies, skilled manpower and clearances.

GREEN BUILDINGS:
The economics of green building has never been more topical. They say, “The 21st century presents us with one third of the earth already developed, much of it in sprawling waste. A fundamental change of attitude, a re-visioning of values must take place. To create sustainability in a community, architects need to integrate the concept of sustainable community development in their actions both as citizens and professionals. While the role of architects as professionals can be defined as a process to preserve, improve and create the required quality of built environment under the particular condition of each community, in an ideal and sustainable world their role as citizens should be to become sustainable members of their own community.” In the building industry, growing interest in affordability and sustainability is stimulating realignment of environmental and economic choices interests. This dynamic has obscured the reality that sustainable development can be profitable by definition, and there has never been a better time for the building industry to embrace rapidly evolving technological innovation.

The delay in adopting such measures is higher up-front costs, lack of knowledge, or potential risks are often cited as reasons developers might reject green development practices. To overcome these barriers, governments, primarily on the local or state levels should offer incentives as a way to minimize or eliminate costs or issues related to their adoption.