Saket Sethi wears many hats – from being a master architect to a model, artist, teacher and a TV presenter. As Founder of Archilogics, a design and architecture firm based in Mumbai, he has made mark in the right circles. The firm has gathered a clientele ranging from the common man, celebrities and industrialists and, their projects include commercial, residential and conceptual works. Their style is oft described as modern India and today, Archilogics is one of the leading architectural firms.
WORDS: RINKU B
Architect Saket Sethi is the Founder and Principal of Archilogics in Mumbai and Barcelona – a collective of avant-garde designers redefining contextual future living from a historical perspective for an international audience. He has the rare distinction of being the only Indian Architect hosting two TV shows simultaneously; disseminating the latest on Indian design with NDTV GoodTimes “Luxe Interiors” and a celebrity design chat show with a makeover for Fox Life’s “Design HQ” Season 2.
A Bachelor of Architecture from Woodbury University, LA, Saket studied Digital Design at UC Berkeley and Interior Design at NYU. After that, he interned with Eric Owen Moss, Los Angeles, and Frederick Gibson in San Francisco. Later, he began his architectural work in India in late 2001 with Talati & Panthaky Ltd., on Birla Institute of Technical Sciences, Lloyds Steel, and Sahara India.
Later, he joined Nitin Parulekar as Senior Architect & then as Director of projects. He was responsible for instituting tie-ups with a San Francisco firm and bagged competitive projects for 3G, Birla and Siemens before founding Archilogics with other founders in 2005.With a name like “Archilogics” – it is no wonder that he gets asked the question on its meaning very often. He says, “I just wanted a less self-centric approach to practicing – rather than eponymous name. My goal was to create a platform for like-minded designers to embrace an easily identifiable and accessible architectural brand identity. If we speak about the choice of “logic” in the name – I felt there would always be some kind of ‘genius loci’ or logic to each project, irrespective of how visible or intangible its process.”
His firm’s strongest asset and its evolution over the period of time since its inception in 2005 has been something out of a story book. He adds, “The strongest asset, that we or
any other architecture firm will have for that matter, will always be the client, but in terms of approach, our strength is infusing a certain kind of soul into space and surprise into details – much like a design psychologist would do. Archilogics has a wide array of creative projects to its end.”
DESIGN & WORK PHILOSOPHY:
There are some set notions that every design or architectural firm imbibe and follow in order to create a niche for themselves. When it comes to Archilogics, Saket adds, “Mostly, it is to hold onto some idea of idealism, to dream freely but always to do it in the context of the problem you are trying to solve – in small ways to very large ones that inspire or change how you will “feel” in the spaces we create – whether that’s a table or a campus. Each and every project follows the process of design development, till you reach a ‘eureka moment’ with the design.”
Of course, needless to say, the work culture, styles and textures to the demographics and lifestyles – there is a huge variation from Mumbai to Barcelona. And for any successful firm, it is important to notice the differences between the architectural vocabulary and craft culture at both the places while designing projects. To this Saket says, “there is a certain luxury of a lack of restraint and client dialogue in a design process – although there are the usual constraints and sometimes ideological and design discussions can span days – there is a crispness and order to the manner in which things get done. Contractors and labour are well versed in drawing standards and can extrapolate ‘filler’ details wherever possible, sometimes even being an invaluable part of the team. Quality and finish issues, like joinery and proper orthogonality of surfaces, is considered mostly standard. Rules and Regulations to work within are more stringent; material palettes larger and clients hold widespread knowledge of brands, and have stronger likes and dislikes to reflect their personal tastes and the idea of innovation wherever possible, is also simultaneously encouraged.
Today, Saket engages in various teaching activities and has been featured in leading design magazines like Architecture Design & Elle Decor and also writes for the largest Indian newspapers including the Times and the Hindustan Times Group. He was invited by the Spanish Government to be a guest at the opening of the Spanish Pavilion at La Biennale 2018 in Venezia and is writing an article for his pick of Top Pavilions at the Biennale for Elle Decor India.
He has also been involved in various teaching and judging capacities at Sir JJ, Academy of Architecture and recently with Rachna’s School of Interior Design. He has also provided consulting on design to DSP design associates in the past and continues to work on select projects that reflect the spirit and desires of Archilogics.
So what made Saket Sethi choose architecture as a career path? Saket responds, “When I graduated from the U.S. and came back to India in 2001, I just wanted to make sure I had a well-rounded exposure to life before I committed myself to a life of design.
Modeling happened by accident as I had a photographer friend who shot some pictures and sent it for a casting. I did my first ad for Nescafe and it took off from there. Art has just been part of my life for as long back as I can remember, so I guess it just continued. And now there is TV, which I consider to be another aspect of my career where I can to express myself – like on NDTV GoodTimes’ “Luxe Interiors”, Fox Life & Design HQ as well.
According to Saket, everything from the ordinary to the extraordinary – a sensation, a conversation, an image, a material, a drawing, sculpture and the client of course are inspirations for their work. He says, “My creative process is a mix between the experimentally whimsical and the highly structured. My process of design varies from project to project, becoming more conservative or explorative as required by the context.” He is deeply inspired by artists and entrepreneurs alike such as Gaudi, Art Nouveau, Pedro Almodovar, Shiamak Davar, Kumar Birla, Ratan Tata and Steve Jobs.
“Working with nature, understanding climate and bringing in light and the other elements of nature to create buildings that are simple but not simplistic, that are modest and not monumental.”
Also graffiti artists, self-immersed trade workers, passionate people and talented performers. His inspiration comes from creators of the unthinkable, the novel and the inspired – those that say it can be done, selfless individuals, great friends and family – not necessarily in that order.
DESIGN PROJECTS & PORTFOLIO:
Saket has worked on several celebrity design projects namely residential spaces for actress Raveena Tandon or Shilpa Shetty’s Iosis Spa. He says, “There is no sure fire way for this to happen and such projects to come to you – especially when you have a balanced portfolio but it varies from how clients get to hear of your work – or how you meet a meet a client who is looking to hire a designer. In my case, working on Iosis bought the work to Raveena’s attention. I will say that working for a celebrity does bring a certain level of uniqueness to a design challenge and that can make it a lot more fun to work on.” Saket has also designed an office space for Salman Khan’s much talked about brand Being Human.
On this project he adds, “Salman’s project was one of the easiest to design – there is so much material on him and his life. Understanding brand Salman and brand Being Human was the key to generating the design. Over-the-Top materials, flourishes and design gimmicks of any kind became a no-no, the moment you consider him a man of the people. We used dots to symbolize the common man and created a giant “being human” billboard made of such dots and this sets the tone for the entry of the space.
We went for an accessible and earthy modern vibe, compensating for the lack of light, which was one challenge and another major one was developing practical and extensive storage that was not as visible to see, for all the ‘Being Human’ charity files.”
His other project, “Infinity Resorts” located in Corbett National Park perfectly merges architecture with nature. Here, he explains his design concept. “Using a client brief to build with local materials and a modified local look and feel; extended an imagined fantasy storyline of how an English expatriate came to and fell in love with Corbett, and then built to his needs much in the safari way.
We put together African and Indian details onto western forms, juxtaposing new and old together – particularly in the case what looked like a destroyed fort turret (which was created to look like that) and then let nature back to grow all around the site,” he says.
His other project “Private residence” in Alibaug, where he has perfectly amalgamated Frank Lloyd Wright’s “exploded” box windows with a relaxed Tuscan villa feel have brought him several accolades and pats of recognition.
Explaining his thought, he adds, “Over the course of time, I like to put together sometimes unrelated and diametrically opposite design concepts.
This house has two completely different elevations – and they are contextual to the desire of the client, and what we envisioned the programmatic requirements to be.
The Tuscan feel is communicated via a more formal and closed entry facade whereas the exploded box windows bring light on the other elevation and open toward the pool part which is private to the enjoyment of the family.”
Aditya Birla Science & Technology Center. A project like that comes once in a lifetime.
Important Lesson Learnt.
A C grade student can do much better in life, than an academically perfect A grade student.
Brunelleschi, Lutyens, Wright, Norman Foster, Herzog & DeMeuron and William van Allen.
In India, Kanchenjunga by Charles Correa and the Aditya Birla Science & Technology center in Taloja, Navi Mumbai.
Words of wisdom to aspirants.
Never give up and learning is infinite.