A Naukettu inspired homes making a comeback

Coloured by sepia-toned memories and a strong sense of nostalgia, getting ‘back to our roots’ is in vogue. This heightened longing for the good old days has been instrumental in bringing back many classical architectural styles, and one of them is the nalukettu veedu in Kerala…


NALUKETTU means four blocks and a typical house built in this fashion would be divided into a north, south, east, and west block. The naalukettu was a typical feature of the Kerala tharavadu tradition, where joint families lived together for generations with a patriarch and matriarch overseeing all their affairs. At the centre of the house is a nadumuttam, which is an open courtyard that served as the focal point of interactions between the family as well as various household activities and festivities. The larger and wealthier families had ettukettu or, the rarer, pathinaarukettu houses featured eight and 16 blocks with two and four courtyards respectively. All of these houses were built following the principles of ancient thachu shastra or the science of carpentry and developed during the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when the Nairs and Namboodiris

dominated the society with their power and wealth. These aristocratic families who prided on their lineage and the name of their tharavadu would build extensive naalukettu homes that would feature a grove with a snake mound to facilitate the popular worship of snakes, a basil leaves plant installation made of stone or brick, and even a pond for the exclusive use of the family. Naalukettus can be sprawling, entirely built on the ground floor or can go up to three storeys high.

Typically made of teak wood or the wood from wild jackfruit trees, brick, and mud, these houses had superior ventilation and lighting that kept the house well lit and aerated at all times. A padippura is a distinguishing feature

atop a naalukettu gate consisting of an elaborate, temple-like gopuram. The entrance to the house would have a verandah designed to receive visitors. Inside, the nadumuttam is surrounded by rooms on all sides like the ara, a special room meant to store valuables. Granaries, cattle sheds, kitchen and utility, dining halls, bathrooms, bedrooms, puja rooms, wells and other purpose-built spaces filled all the corners of a naalukettu. Another feature that showcases the technical ingenuity of these complex yet very thoughtful structures is the roof. Gabled windows on the top of all naalukettus ensured cross-ventilation at all times and let in enough light into the attic while extended rafters gave ample protection from the heavy rains that are characteristic to Kerala.


Naalukettus faded into oblivion as socio-cultural changes swept over Kerala. Education gained prominence, and more women began migrating from a life led entirely inside sooty kitchens to the outside world of work and independence. Nuclear families evolved with men and women settling down wherever work took them resulting in the break-up of the joint family system. Soon, naalukettus housed only the elders in the family and the upkeep of such large properties became near impossible. With the demand for elaborate homes dying, architects lost the special skill sets required for building these traditional houses.
Today, only a few of the original naalukettus remain mostly in the form of museums or heritage homestays.
Modern constructions now sport some features of the naalukettu style of architecture like the sloping roof, a small verandah supported by tall pillars, and a mini courtyard in the middle. Used by not only houses but also restaurants, ayurvedic spas and other establishments that are traditional to Kerala, the naalukettu design is now seeing a massive reprise. It is not uncommon to see naalukettu houses for sale in cities and real estate agencies advertising low-cost naalukettu houses to customers. And although not as glorious and rambling as the older naalukettu houses, they are a treat to the eyes.

Building Modern Indian Aesthetics – The Purple Ink Studio

The Purple Ink Studio was started in Bengaluru with the different ideas of two individuals who strongly believed in their respective design concepts which believes in constantly exploring the parameters of design and blurring the boundaries between architecture, landscape and sustainability. The Studio is working on experiments which are based in the present day scenario (as prototypes) which when multiplied, would breed into a series of ‘Eco-cities’, set in the future. These experiments focus on the ‘Kilometer Zero’ concept, which strives to generate locally everything that is necessary for our living…”


O-founded by Akshay Heranjal and Aditi Pai Heranjal, Bengaluru-based The Purple Ink Studio is a young architectural practice which believes in constantly exploring the parameters of design and blurring the boundaries between architecture, landscape and sustainability. The underlying focus of the studio is to integrate architectural theories using hybrid techniques to develop a new breed of regenerative architecture. The Purple Ink Studio is a multidisciplinary practice that believes in an integrated approach to design – which while being complex, stems from an innate focus on regenerative theories and moves beyond digital techniques.
The Purple Ink Studio is a multiple award winning practice which was started in 2011 by Akshay and Aditi, wherein the firm today has evolved as a confluence of two distinct architectural backgrounds – one being extremely rational, aesthetic yet responsive and the other being based on strong responses to nature and inclusion of natural elements in the design. The studio believes in constantly exploring the parameters of design and blurring the boundaries between architecture, landscape, and sustainability to create a contemporary design which resonates with its context.
Akshay Heranjal is the Principal Architect at The Purple Ink Studio. He graduated with honors from BVBCET, Hubli. Training as an apprentice with Ar. Karan Grover in Baroda gave him an opportunity to understand green technologies at close quarters, and gave him adequate exposure to LEED/IGBC certified projects. After the internship, he joined sP+a, a young practice headed by Ar. Sameep Padora, where he stretched his repertoire into core designing. He later worked with Sanjay Puri Architects, and got experience in handling several large scale projects of different magnitudes and typologies. While Ar. Akshay says that architecture happened to him by accident, his years spent working alongside three influential Indian architects (all with very different design philosophies) powerfully influenced him. He adds, “All of them helped me mould myself into what I am today, as a person and as an architect. That also helped shaped the firm’s approach. The work we do stems from diverse contexts that we connect with, which respond to the regional framework and setting. That is just the beginning of the process. There are so many more layers.”
Aditi Pai Heranjal heads the Landscape + Sustainability division at ‘The Purple Ink Studio’. She took her Bachelor’s degree from Gogte Institute of Technology, Belgaum and followed it up with a Masters in Landscape Architecture from CEPT University, Ahmedabad. She trained as an intern with Integrated Design (InDe), Bengaluru headed by Landscape architect, Mohan Rao. She later continued working with him as an Associate Architect and worked on various environmental design projects involving landscape design and sustainability.
Akshay and Aditi’s cumulative educational background and diverse professional experience lends the practice an emphatic edge. “We both very strongly believe in our design concepts” explains Ar. Akshay.

The Purple Ink Studio brings you a contemporary expression of design emerged from the urban context with finesse and poise


“One of us is extremely rational, aesthetic yet responsive while the other is strongly influenced by their responses towards nature and the inclusion of natural elements in the design,” he adds. It is this contrast that adds a unique dimension to each of their projects, he feels. Each of our projects goes through this rigorous process of design development and evolution with very careful consideration of the context and limitations, making each one very special in its own way, they say. Adding value to the practice is

Associate Architect Nishita Bhatia, and a young, enthusiastic team comprising architects, interior designers and allied professionals! The constant effort to engage in ‘regenerative architecture’ focused on conservation and performance through a conscious reduction of the environmental impacts of a built structure, kindles their commitment to sustainability. The studio is working on prototypes which when multiplied, would breed into a series of ‘Eco-cities’ set in the future.


These experiments focus on the ‘Kilometer Zero’ concept, which strives to generate locally everything that is necessary for living.
The design team works closely on each program. Every site that is selected for their projects hold a strong theoretical context. In addition to this, the firm believes in developing an integrated approach which is complex, progressive and constantly engaging in the practices of ‘Regenerative Architecture’. Through its body of work, the studio is focusing on the ‘Kilometer Zero’ concept that is necessary for its existence. These experiments which are based in the present day scenario would work as a prototype which when multiplied would give rise to a series of ‘Eco-cities’ set in the future. Since its inception in 2011, The Purple Ink Studio has won 4 International Awards, 3 Indian Awards and has also been nominated for 5 Indian Awards thereby earning themselves tremendous recognition in the field of Architecture and Design.
Living by the maxim – “The will to live differently needs to start somewhere. There is a constant need to re-look at growth that affects the social and regional patterns of a city.

It is imperative to look at strategies that help us use less and produce more. It’s crucial to be Sustainable by Design…. by Life!” – The Purple Ink Studio has spread its presence across varied project typologies, in the four major verticals – Architecture, Interiors, Landscape and Sustainability.
From the refurbishment of a single-screen theatre in Rajkot, Gujarat to a luxury apartment for a Dubai-based businessman; from a school in Hubli to a spa in Bengaluru the practice reinvents its ideology wonderfully well, across diverse projects – to suit the context and brief!
Akshay provides insight on the opportunities and obstacles that come with starting your own firm and reveals how he resolved the trepidations that comes along with establishing your own practice. He says, “I personally believe that there is no specific time for starting your own practice, but what does matter is the experience and understanding that you can derive from your mentors while working under them. I believe I was privileged to have worked with three different architecture masters or ‘gurus’ – Karan Grover, Sameep Padora and Sanjay Puri;

all of whom have moulded the design aesthetics and the ideologies that I hold today.”
The Studio won the most coveted ‘Best Practice in India of 2016’ award from TRENDS EXCELLENCE AWARDS for Architecture & Design and have also been listed in the PERSPECTIVE 40under40 ASIA and as the Top 50 Next Gen Architects who will shape India, amongst other numerous National & International Honors.
To conclude, Akshay adds, “To do well, it is important to be rigorous when you are learning. Do not look at your current workspace as just a stepping stone for when you start your own practice. Do not work through it superficially. Invest in your workspace. You need to gather enough knowledge and experience before you can start on your own. Devote all your time and energy into learning and grasping as much as you can about design strategies and running a practice because as the principal architect of a new firm, you will have to undertake every role and responsibility necessary for managing your practice.”


ABOUT DESIGN: Axis Vanam is designed as an exclusive apartment that connects with greens at every level. Each apartment has an extended private garden blurring the line between the outdoor and indoors. The community living is enriched by including the productive greens at the ground floors that encourages residents to growing they own food and imbibe a lifestyle much closer to nature.


ABOUT DESIGN: ABOUT DESIGN: The modest space of 650 sqft is celebrated with an accentuated idea of the arched windows with drapery of the by-gone era which is represented in the most quintessential form, the “Arch”. The strong geometry of an arch articulated in a modern dialog creates the setting for a dramatically themed display. The challenge however was to utilize the space to its full potential in terms of the exhibits. The design was hence planned to juxtapose the elements on display with the interior layout making it a seamless.

ABOUT DESIGN: An integrated design approach was followed to evaluate and maximize the energy reductions of the building. Solar studies and simulations were used to generate data regarding daylighting, shadow analysis, rainfall pattern and shading systems. These studies, along with lighting analysis, were critical to generate the load calculations and sizing and selection of all the Mechanical Systems.


Pragati Maidan Top international architects lead the redesigning project

One of the largest exhibition grounds in India, Pragati Maidan in Delhi is undergoing a transformation as top global architects are redesigning it with a hope to catapult this famous venue to the international league



MOST exhibition sites and halls in India have for years been prosaic places, where businessmen, traders, sales personnel and government officials interacted with one another on important dates and browsed through boring stalls.
Thousands of people who have nothing to do with the event also descend on the exhibition halls, collect colourful brochures, fancy bags and other sundry items. Some also dream of bagging a token gift from some of the exhibitors.
Most of the exhibition halls also lack basic design and are shoddily put up at the last minute to meet the needs of the exhibitors. The halls were originally not designed for exhibitions; in fact, many across India have been converted into exhibition halls. Earlier, some were textile mills, factories or ordinary structures.
Things, however, are finally set to change with the massive redevelopment project at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, undoubtedly one of the largest and most prestigious exhibition sites.

Largest exhibition centre
Pragati Maidan is owned and managed by the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), the trade promotion agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It is the largest exhibition centre in India, both in terms of exhibition space (65,054 sq mts) and the number of events held.
The Pragati Maidan Complex – which includes the National Science Centre and Crafts Museum – covers an area of almost 125 acres in the heart of Delhi.
Besides business-to-business (B2B) trade fairs, it also hosts large consumer fairs including the India International Trade Fair, Auto Expo and World Book Fair.

Though Pragati Maidan enjoys better average occupancy of over 30 per cent (as compared to many international exhibition venues, which have 10 to 20 per cent occupancy), it has been losing clientele because of the mushrooming of a number of similar venues across India.
And Pragati Maidan has not been able to host large international exhibitions, despite India’s emergence on the global map as a major economic power.


Consequently, the Government recently went in for a major redevelopment plan for an integrated exhibition-cum-convention centre at Pragati Maidan. The project is expected to cost a whopping ₹2,250 crore.

Top architecture firms
The redevelopment is led by a consortium comprising Aedas, one of the world’s leading architecture and design group, and Arcop, a top Canadian architectural firm. The Government chose the two from a list of nearly 20 international architectural firms who participated in a design competition.
The revamped Pragati Maidan will feature a convention centre for nearly 15,000 people – making it the largest in India – about 100,000 sq mts of exhibition space, highest exhibition halls in India (with heights of above 18 m), a 3,000-seat amphitheatre and plenary and multi-function halls,
The entire project is being executed by the National Building Corporation Ltd (NBCC), which will also maintain the exhibition complex for five years. According to an NBCC official, the convention centre that is being planned will have a capacity of 7,000.
The Indian government also plans to lease out 3.7 acres of land (for 99 years) at the complex to private players for developing a hotel.
By the time the revamped Pragati Maidan complex gets ready next year, it would have transformed the exhibition architecture landscape in the country, and catapulted Delhi to the international exhibition league.


Creating Smart and Safe Cities

Everyone wants to live in them, yet cities are crumbling with excessive population and deepening safety and security concerns. Nishka Rathi looks at how urban planners and thinkers are ideating to create sustainable, smart and safe cities…

The shiny lights induce thousands of rural folk every week in India to pack their bags and move to cities looking for a better life, lucrative jobs, improved healthcare and amenities.
Yet, cities have a dark side too. There are hundreds of thousands of people who become victims to violence, car accidents and pollution. Delhi, for instance, is known as the rape capital of the country and it rarely wishes away its polluted haze; Mumbai is a veritable mountain of waste with 7,000 metric tonnes of refuse spewed each day and around 7.5 million commuters crammed in local trains; it is fast scrambling to find solutions.

Residents in cities realise what they lack – from playgrounds for kids to security for women, transport facilities, clean air, adequate water… the list goes on. If cities are our only option at living a better life in India, then how can we make our cities better?
In a TED talk, Robert Muggah, a Canadian political scientist, spoke about the fragility of cities. He said, “Fragility occurs when the social contract comes unstuck leading to multiple kinds of risks: income inequality, poverty, youth unemployment, different issues around violence – even exposure to droughts, cyclones and earthquakes,” he noted recently.


Fragility not permanent
And fragility is not a permanent condition. Some cities that were once the most fragile in the world – like Bogotá in Colombia or Ciudad Juárez in Mexico – have now stabilised and are doing well. But fragility is fast deepening, especially in those parts of the world that are most vulnerable: North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia. Muggah cautions that when cities become too fragile, they can collapse, tip over and fail.
How do we stop our cities in India from crumbling and how can the Smart City Mission help us strengthen the very

core of our cities? Will technology for smart cities make them sustainable, inclusive and above all more compassionate to the varying needs of the people who live there? In short, how smart are our cities?
Recently, this writer attended a UN Habitat’s Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) hosted by Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and a gender stakeholder meet of the Stockholm Gender Forum by the Swedish Institute in Mumbai.
The organisers sought to involve the youth, the future leaders of the city to play a part in solving gender equality-led issues due to rapid urbanisation.

Latha Shankarnarayan, CEO of Developmatrix and one of the key organisers of UTC, noted that “for many women, cities have spaces of fear, areas where they have to constantly look over their shoulders.”

Smart technology and Safety
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) can increase safety by recording data, maintaining records and providing active surveillance through CCTV cameras, embedded sensors, etc at most locations.

In many developing countries these settlements have been growing unmonitored, with no proper provisions for even essential services. In such a situation smart cities technology can help. The strategy and involvement should come from planners, stakeholders and citizens.
In many Indian cities the answers can only be piecemeal because they have already grown in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, with building upon building, green spaces changed overnight to malls and buildings, choking cities and leading to yearly waterlogging crisis in places like Mumbai and smog in Delhi


Along with technology, we also need connectivity. But this begs a question – will the population of a smart city need to be technologically savvy and in possession of a smart phone to access safety?
Urban population expands in three ways: natural rise in population; the migration of rural dwellers; and as settlements expand and become more densely populated, the reclassification of rural settlements as urban.
Lack of planning and the missing will to strategise on a city’s growth in these three stages lead to the mess we are in today.
In many developing countries, these settlements have been growing unmonitored, with no proper provisions for even essential services. In such a situation, smart cities technology can help. The strategy and involvement should come from planners, stakeholders and citizens.

In many Indian cities, the answers can only be piecemeal because they have already grown in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, with building upon building, green spaces changed overnight to make way for malls and commercial establishments, choking cities and leading to yearly challenges such as waterlogging crisis in places like Mumbai and smog in Delhi.

Smart city and compassion
Smart cities can reduce congestion, cut crime and provide timely amenities for its residents. Yet far too often, these benefits do not extend to those most in need – the poor, the disabled, the homeless, those without Internet access or technical savvy as often left behind doe to socio-economic factors.

In such an environment, initiatives like The Youth Design Innovation Challenge are a small experiment to involve the youth of a city in its urban planning. Currently, this initiative is open only in Mumbai but in future, the organisers plan to reach out to the youth in other Indian cities.
This helps people explain and express what they need from their city much better as only the locals can exactly pinpoint the areas that need addressing. Yes, helping transform a city by making its smart folk count requires more ideas for a comprehensive solution that includes all. Technology should be treated as one of the aspects of a smart city; it helps but it cannot be a 360 degree solution.
When you ask questions like ‘How would that work for the disabled?’ or ‘How could we extend these benefits to those without a broadband connection?’ you’ll start finding the answers. Till then the growth will be one-sided and fragmented.

Lucknow havelis Thriving hubs in the past

For centuries, havelis reigned supreme in places such as Lucknow, but recent decades have seen a gradual decline in the number of such palatial homes



Today, there are more than a dozen heritage hotels in Uttar Pradesh that have managed to restore the grandeur to many of the havelis of the past. Besides providing a peep into the history of a lovely land, the hotels have also managed to preserve the rich history and heritage of Uttar Pradesh.

FOR centuries, thousands of Indians living in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, would stay in havelis, which were traditional mansions with divisions within.
Havelis have been popular for centuries and during the Mughal Empire, they rose to prominence with many of the impressive buildings being described as havelis.
Sadly, today even historic cities like Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, do not have many havelis on display. Many of the old structures in the city have crumbled because of the lack of adequate attention by the owners, most of who have become impoverished.
The few havelis that can be seen are at Katari Tola, but most are in bad shape. To enjoy the true essence of living in a haveli, one has to stay in some of the impressive heritage hotels, not just in the capital, but other parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Today, there are more than a dozen heritage hotels in Uttar Pradesh that have managed to restore the grandeur to many of the havelis of the past. Besides providing a peep into the history of a lovely land, the hotels have also managed to preserve the rich history and heritage of Uttar

Pradesh. Indeed, many of the havelis and palaces are still owned by the erstwhile royal families, who were desperately lacking funds to ensure the upkeep of these majestic structures built about 150 to 200 years ago.
They have tied up with hotel chains to ensure the upkeep of these properties.
The palatial mansions and havelis have in recent years been refurbished and transformed into heritage hotels, where a growing number of middle-class Indians (not just the very affluent) are able to spend a few nights in royal splendor.
The heritage hotels in UP reflect the glory of the Mughal era and also during the British empire, going back to those days of grandeur in those palatial buildings.

Tourism officials in UP claim that the havelis and palaces – now converted into hotels – reflect wonderful stories of heroism, sacrifice and even romance.
Of course, quite a few books have also been written on these ancient monuments that once mesmerised the people – both ordinary folk and the royalty – with their grandeur.

Adity Chakravarti, an artist and jewellery maker, who is also the wife of an IFS officer – and has lived abroad in many capitals for several years – wrote a coffee table book on Lucknow’s havelis and other homes. Rehaish – At Home in Lucknow, her book, discovers the historic homes, havelis, kothis and bungalows of the city.

In her book, she writes extensively about some of the most fascinating havelis in the city. She travelled extensively across Lucknow, interacting with the owners of the havelis to come up with her book.
Havelis have been popular across Uttar Pradesh for centuries. Before the Mughal empire, havelis – a generic term for mansions and townhouses – were popular in north India.
They featured courtyards, which were the centre of the house and all members and guests gathered there. Some in Gujarat and Rajasthan also referred to a few temples as havelis. Rajasthani architecture also influenced the construction of havelis in many cities.
Unfortunately, the era of havelis has virtually come to an end, though some of the heritage properties are trying to preserve the ancient structures.


Creating a balanced symbiosis of Design & Nature

Studio Symbiosis, an architectural & interior design studio based in Delhi, London and Stuttgart is reckoned with working on projects of various scales and sectors across South Asia. A design philosophy that focuses on creating integrated design solutions imbibing efficient, robust and sustainable designs, performative architecture is here to stay in India


VOTED by CNN (International) Style in 2017 as one of the top architects who could change India’s skylines forever is the young team of Ar. Amit Gupta and his wife, Ar. Britta Knobel Gupta, both founders of Delhi-based design firm Studio Symbiosis. The firm is only about eight years old but is looking at aggressively shaping the skylines of many major cities and skylines across South Asia. Ranging from lone-standing structures such as hotels and offices to several large-scale housing and city-planning projects, the scope for Studio Symbiosis is unique and fulfilling.

This young, creative design firm has been involved in several prestigious and high end projects like Hilton Ahmedabad, Trans Ganga Master plan 1200 acres, Kanpur Riverfront Redevelopment, Allahabad Master plan 2300 Acres, Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex, Taj Ahmedabad, Taj Jodhpur, Mundra Hotel, Punjab Kesari Headquarters, ID Headquarters Lucknow to name just a few.
The dynamic duo met whilst studying together at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, United Kingdom and then subsequently working together

with the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid for five years. During their time together there, they were involved with several award winning designs and projects. While they both come from diverse backgrounds – Amit from India and Britta from Germany, this diversity existed to a certain point and a strong convergence of ideas took place while studying and working together later on. They both have keen interest in travel, nature and technology and that is best reflected in their work together. They feel all this gives their practice a unique outlook on designs.


Founded in 2010 by Amit and Britta along with Dr. Vandana Sehgal (Honorary Partner), Studio Symbiosis is involved in projects of various scales and sectors, ranging from master plans, hospitality, mixed-use development, offices, housing and villas. They also have ties to Germany, where their firm’s international headquarters is located. But it is in India where these designers feel their projects really make an impact.

The core focus of the design firm is on creating spaces that exist in equilibrium with their surroundings. Elements of program, site, context, landscape and climate are studied and interfaced, thereby resulting in the amalgamation of these design considerations in one coherent design and resonating the term “symbiosis” in the design. The outlook towards the projects is to create a unified design language as an outcome of the design parameters and to push the boundaries of the conventional design in terms of efficiency, design language and execution techniques.

The architects believe that each project is unique and needs to be treated differently, keeping in mind the environment it is built in and the use. They do not believe in style based architecture but rather let the design parameters drive the project. By not trying to force the design into a certain criteria of design language, they feel that the result is a seamless amalgamation of the design parameters with the outcome taking its own form. They also are interested in sustainable designs, ensuring this brief is communicated and imbibed in the design process in an early stage.

Incorporating natural ways like open, free ventilation or shading is an integral part of the design and form from the Studio. They also enjoy knowing more about projects and their future vision which forms the driving force for their design which is then becomes the driving force of the design element. The projects they work on come from a background where there is a very strong sense of design as they are based on one system and thought which is followed through and that drives the entire project.
The research and intent of the practice is to create performance as a design driver, to achieve Sustainable and Smart buildings. The duo adds, “Every project we have done in the office is special to us. It is very difficult to single out one. From the inception of the projects we take an iconoclastic approach towards design.

It is a process of going to the basics of the design and not trying to fit the design in the preconceived image of the given typology. It is this process of dissolution of existing ideas that leads to meaningful spaces and thereby creates Iconic and elegant architecture.”

An underlying approach for their designs is to address the issue of sustainability in designing. “We have been working on sustainable design solution in various projects of varying scales. Trans Ganga Master plan, Allahabad Master Plan, Aqua villa, Mundra hotel, Kanpur Riverfront Development are some examples of the projects that have sustainability deeply embedded as an integral part of the design”, they add. The team tries to imbibe elements from nature such as sun path diagrams, wind patterns, topographical levels etc are studied both digitally and physically to instigate a design process where the overall form presents an optimum solution.

This is an inherent part of the design process whereby a feedback loop is established that constantly updates the formal language of the project thereby embedding environmental sustainability in the form itself. India faces the extremes of climates in most places and for this reason it is important to utilize these natural resources by making them work alongside the design.

The biggest challenge for them is to create meaningful architectural spaces in India with the existing construction techniques and having a developer driven market where the design value of architecture has little but no significance. Keeping in mind the end user is very important and architecture should be about the experience and perception of the user, they feel. Construction in India is different from anywhere in the world, feel the architects. There is a combination of factors here – the use of high and low technology processes and tools are used for construction so one is typically working with materials that are otherwise uncommon or rarely used in other countries. For example, it is very rare for one to find buildings constructed with steel in India, but one can find buildings made from concrete everywhere. “The challenges of design in India are in terms of construction techniques and pushing meaningful architectural forms and spaces are seen by us as design parameters.

These constraints are embedded in the design from the inception itself where by computational tools and the iterative design process helps us in using these challenges as design drivers. Digital tools along with local construction knowledge are embedded in the design. With most of the projects based in India, it is very critical to understand the local construction techniques which enables us to deliver a robust final project,” they say. While every cloud has a silver lining, the architects feel that these challenges and having a set-up in India gives them an edge over other firms globally who are unable to tap and deal with the dynamic India design and construction scenario.One other challenge one is faced with is that small and unknown architectural firms tend to take projects for very low fees thereby bringing down the standards of designs. This does not allow highly qualified consultants to get good meaningful work which is expensive sometimes.


The challenges of design in India are in terms of construction techniques and pushing meaningful architectural forms and spaces are seen by us as design parameters. These constraints are embedded in the design from the inception itself where by computational tools and the iterative design process helps us in using these challenges as design drivers. Digital tools along with local construction knowledge are embedded in the design. With most of the projects based in India, it is very critical to understand the local construction techniques which enables us to deliver a robust final project

Indian architecture — particularly traditional construction techniques — has served as inspiration for several of Studio Symbiosis’ bold, futuristic designs. “We’ve spent a long time studying India’s architectural history,” Knobel Gupta said, “mogul architecture, Wada architecture and of course the famed ancient stepwells. But we then take these historic designs and re-imagine them, and so you may not even recognize it at first because it’s done in a completely new form.”
The perspective has aided the firm’s mission to create sustainable and environmentally sensitive designs. For example, the architects revamped traditional cooling techniques to tackle India’s scorching temperatures. Britta Knobel Gupta points to a traditional South Asian technique known as jali, which involves creating perforated holes on walls or window screens to cool the space by compressing air. “It’s a technique we find extremely interesting because it lets in light but does not let in heat,” she said. Similar cooling techniques are seen in one of the firm’s newest projects: the Net Zero Affordable Housing Jhansi.
Creating spaces and built forms that are elegant, timeless and in harmony is what drives the design team. The inspiration for every design comes from understanding the process driving the various phenomenon of nature. “We believe in having a research based approach to the practice whereby systems are studied, tested and developed and translated from elements of nature to an expression of architectural design. Nature has developed and tested the various elements over a period of billions of years making elements very efficient; anything that is not required is taken away from the system hereby making it an elegant system. It is this research of natural phenomenon that interests our practice. The feeling of seeing our designs being executed and to see them once finished gives a feeling parallel to none,” they add.

Britta Knobel Gupta, Partner of Studio Symbiosis was recently honored with the prestigious “40 under 40 Europe Architects” that recognizes the excellence in the field of Architecture. Also they have been recently awarded the prestigious “iGen Architects of the future 2014″, International property awards for best hotel project in India for Double Tree by Hilton Ahmedabad, Iconic Design for

Best Master plan of the year for Kanpur Riverfront Development, German Design Award 2015 for best Urban Design of the year for Kanpur Riverfront Development. Studio Symbiosis has been recognized as the best Architectural practice in North India by Global Lifestyle Awards for 2015-16.THE FUTURE:
The young, creative architects at Studio Symbiosis are raring to go. They add that the Indian architecture industry is really transforming in India. The increase in economic standards and disposable incomes in the last decade has really increased the demand for new, well designed buildings crafted by highly experienced professionals. Consumers too are well travelled and know what they want to make an impression while keeping in mind the environmental footprints. Due to this huge demand, many international firms working out of India are interested in the development of our country. More and more Indian architects are returning back to the country and setting up base here due to this increase in demand. Also budgets too are sizeable and there is plenty of land available to build on. This only will help create more room for younger, smaller practices to move in with their bold new designs.

While Studio Symbiosis has also been commissioned to work on several large-scale projects, with three major city-planning designs — Transganga Masterplan Kanpur, Allahabad Masterplan and Chola Masterplan — now in the works. The duo feels that well-thought out city-planning projects are very crucial to India’s progress, much like smart cities that has been launched by the current Government. Today, besides just a few exceptions of city planning like Lucknow and Chandigarh, no real Indian city has been planned and since the growth is so phenomenal, we can see the repercussions and strains on the metro cities already. Of course, one cannot change the system overnight but the architects are hoping that urban planners take due cognizance of their perennial problem facing Indian cities and work towards the same over time.
Concluding, the team adds, “We at Studio Symbiosis have extended our research unit in the office also into academics in terms of workshops and symposiums. It is important for the youngsters to have a very clear focus and looking over the boundaries into parallel fields like product, interior, movie and fashion industry. Our profession might be a very slow one but it is worth every second.”