Architecture

Green buildings require an integrated design approach

HM Architects is an Ahmedabad-based multi-disciplinary design studio, which specialises in architecture and interior designing and has built a distinguished corpus of work. An interview with Harshad Mistry, partner, HM Architects.

WORDS: STHAPATI

What new trends do you see emerging in 2018 and over the coming years?
The trends are different in each segment that we design for – high-end bungalows to affordable housing apartments to commercial buildings. Hence, trends are difficult to generalise but we can look at them separately.
Trends vary based on changes in regulations or sentiments of investors/actual buyers. Commercial buildings are the most affected by changes while high-end bungalows are the least. To understand the trend, we have to understand the present and the past as well.
Financial perspective: Investments in real estate have not appreciated in the recent past as compared to equity markets; they both share a very close relationship. This has significant impact on investors as well as actual home/property buyers – in the way they want to park their money.
Sensex and Nifty are at all-time highs with returns up to 30% in the last year. While there is a trend of excessive cash inflow into equity market, the rate is proportionately lesser in real estate markets. Cheaper loans from banks should encourage young buyers to take the plunge as it leads to reduced EMIs. Prices are expected to remain stagnant.
Regulations: RERA’s impact had cautioned the developer community in the beginning. The projects that we do are already RERA compliant. We saw excessive number of projects coming to us for design before implementation of RERA and a lot of them did not materialise even after their design was complete.
Basically, there was a slow down last year, especially from smaller and new developers, as they wanted to check the impact of RERA. We expect that many of those clients looking to ‘wait and watch’ will gain confidence from others and come forward in 2018 – after all no one can sit idle with money for long.
RERA brings in more transparency to buyers. The Supreme Court has taken strict action against developers defaulting on their commitments. Hence these changes will encourage buyers – give them more confidence that there is someone working for their interests.
The new General Development Control Regulations (GDCR) for Gujarat launched last year resulted in changes in some projects. We expect 2018 to be streamlined after some hiccups of 2017.
Buyer’s perspective: There seems to be an increasing demand for affordable housing – value for money – from for home-buyers. It generates employment for the youth, which is good news. We expect that to continue with government preparing its last full budget before general elections.
People tend to prefer high-rise multi-apartment schemes with lot of amenities, which cater to the needs of the family.
Construction technology: People are moving towards alternative construction technology apart from conventional cast-in-situ RCC construction. People are exploring other models – precast/prefab construction, column free structure, etc.

What are your views on the emerging green building concept?
Green building design deals with the way of life in which both the occupants and environment stay healthy. Putting green roof and wall does not make a building green – or for that matter painting the wall green – they can be counter-productive if not executed well; eg it could be water intensive.
For a city like Ahmedabad, shading is far more important than green roofs and walls. Simply look at green curtains that people put up during summer outside their windows and balconies; the façade never looks the same.
Green buildings require an integrated design approach with active involvement from all the stakeholders including clients, consultants and contractors. There is an increasing awareness in certain pockets about green buildings but there is a long way to go.
However, there is no doubt that we have to adopt the concept and create exemplary buildings for others to follow. Clients and occupants have been benefitting from them greatly.
We are trying out wherever we can. We see ‘Vaastu’ being implemented without ‘Shastra’, which leads to counter-intuitive designs – one cannot use principles without understanding the context. With so much technology and computing power available these days, we need more incorporation of science in buildings. Buildings have to evolve.

What changes do you foresee in designing following technology revolution?
We have already initiated certain changes in the way conventional architectural practices run. We believe that those changes will be implemented on a wider scale.

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Technology can be soft or hard – everything impacts the design.
Design visualisation: We create detailed 3D models of all the projects – architecture or interior – so that there is complete clarity from day one for us, client and contractors.
We can visualise the entire building and spaces easily rather than client having to understand innumerable sections and elevations. It streamlines the entire construction process, leaving more time for productive work. Delivered project also closely resembles the 3D. This process will see industry wide application.

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Building information modeling: Use of BIM has been increasing and we use it a lot for our projects. We look forward to further integration of our work flow. It improves project delivery time and the client is always happy with that. We will see more and more integration of the entire process in many kinds of projects. People are becoming computer literate.
Building analysis and software: – A lot of tools are available to analyse design before construction. For instance, evaluating the impact of shading system on solar heat gain inside the building, daylighting availability, energy-savings

due to various parameters; all these enable us to take better design decisions. However, clients must be ready to appreciate and utilise the importance of these services. It will take some time. It will also change the character (all-glass, little shade) of the building that people aspire based on Western influence. Even the West realizes that such designs don’t work. It will bring about sensible climate-responsive buildings which occupants appreciate for their comfort and well-being, rather than acting as a fancy piece of art (if we can call it that).
Construction: Faster and less labour intensive construction

technology will have to be adopted considering the shortage of labour that industry faces (among other problems). It has tremendous advantages and scalability.
Many people are experimenting at various levels and there are companies successfully implementing the projects in India. However, for industry wide acceptance, there should be a thorough analysis of the impact of these systems, which goes beyond technology.
It has to consider social aspects, lifestyle of people, aspirations and appreciate the Indian context and bring awareness.

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Do you see increasing demand for outdoor living in new homes? What may be the reason?
There has been a definite increase in the demand for outdoor living spaces in individual bungalows because of the increasing exposure and aspirations of the client. People prefer to take a break from routine life and go to luxury establishments to have a nice relaxed time with family, friends and relatives, away from the city.
However, due to busy schedules, it does not become possible to spare dedicated time. Hence, clients prefer to have elaborate amenities as an extension of the house, just in case they may need them to enjoy quality time. Outdoor living spaces become an extension of the house. They help people to unwind from the routine indoor life at home and office and keep them going.

Which new materials are in demand?
Things change fast. Due to globalisation and easy availability of technology and materials, people in the construction industry keep on bringing new materials for exploration. It’s the novelty that attracts clientele.
Clients demand unique experience and products most of the time. In a way, any material that can be successfully used is in demand and sky is the limit. For certain type of projects, the cost does not matter much as long as the product is exclusive. Such aspirations often lead to issues such as lack of specialised workmanship or understanding of context, which may be problematic at times.

How can better urban planning result in better quality of life?
If we revolve around just one of the basic necessities of life in city and start resolving associated issues, it will create a huge impact overall. And it is not about urban planning only; we have to look at the broader picture and a multi-pronged approach.
Everyone breathes air. But is it healthy? No. That’s why we see increasing ads about air purifiers providing healthy indoor air. But this is like creating a problem and then solving it, rather than avoiding the problem in the first place.
While operating, air purifiers consume electricity, which is generated from fossil fuels, which emit air pollution somewhere else. So we are just transferring and increasing our problems.

Can all buildings afford air purifiers? What about the end-of-life waste generated by air filters? What about time spent outside buildings? Should kids use PM2.5 masks while playing cricket?
There are so many questions. But what about focusing on creating clean outdoor air in the first place? It would solve all the issues. We need seamless and comprehensive integration of public transport systems, bicycling, etc. across the city, which would automatically encourage people use it.
We need more native tree plantation all across the city, not just on paper. There are many good models available across the world. However, some aspects are cultural and personal. We need to change the way we think about home, work and commute.

– We use AC cars to avoid air pollution but in the process create more air pollution outside and the cycle repeats itself and conditions deteriorate endlessly.

Things change fast. Due to globalisation and easy availability of technology and materials, people in the construction industry keep on bringing new materials for exploration. It’s the novelty that attracts clientele.

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But we fail to understand the fact that in the end, I or my kid is going to breathe that air at home/school/playground. Did we gain anything? Probably no. There is a need for massive awareness and people will start realising. If not, regulations should take care of the situation.
– People buy home and stick to it for life. However, work place changes frequently and then they travel 10km to work creating traffic congestion, air pollution, spend billions on oil import, etc. This money could be used to create better infrastructure and facilities in the cities. We need to come up with innovative models of housing, where changing your address is seamless – right from paper work to logistics for shifting.

– Affordable housing projects are limited to certain areas of the city, which can be far from work places.

This forces people to travel for a longer time. The situation has psychological impact that we commonly observe – causes rash driving, tempts riders to over-speed, jump traffic signals just to reach home early. Families also spends less time together. But can we distribute housing typologies evenly across the city? We can play with the size and construction technology of the unit to make it affordable in certain areas.
Apart from changes in people, there is need for a strong leadership, which can take effective actions against the problems that we are facing today.

What changes do you see in client’s requirements after demonetisation?
Clientele, in general, has become focused regarding the investments.

Our urban dilemma is one focused on creating what I call “reactionary waste”

Mumbai-based architect Rajiv Thakkar, who grew up in New York, talks about his profession and shares his views on the evolution on contemporary Indian architecture. Excerpts from an interview:

Could you share your perspective on the current state of Indian architecture in terms of its creativity, opportunities for growth and the entry of new architects?
Although the abilities of many in the fields of architecture and design are not only comparable but exceed expectations in terms of international methods, approaches and practices, we are lagging far behind in the larger context of how we view academia and its relationship to the profession.
The continuing questioning and development of the architect as an active and integral component in the development of society, in terms of its creativity and of course growth is vital and at this point in time unfortunately largely absent.

Are you satisfied with the quality of projects rolling out in Indian cities, both in metros and the smaller urban centers?
Only a very minute percentage of projects seem to achieve something positive in terms of adding value to our physical environment. Most projects cater to components that neglect the larger ability of architecture, urban design, landscape design and other affiliated disciplines to impact and shape our built environments for the better.
We are still young as a nation and our talent even at a more nascent stage, but as we look towards the future I hope that the allied professions of design can learn from what we experience and help educate on the value of good design and its benefits to the environment.

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Do you see Indian architecture evolving over the coming years and gaining strength, especially with a new generation of architects entering the mainstream business?
Of course. Everything evolves or unfortunately devolves so one has to wait and see where we will be in 20 years but with the exponential increase in professionals entering the market one has to wonder are we adequately preparing students to address the challenges of design not only in architecture but other integral areas that immediately affect how we imagine our built environment?
Do subjects of sustainability, infrastructure, transportation, conservation and others fall into the mainstream of architectural education or do they sit on the sidelines of the design hierarchy? Do enough of our professionals continue their engagements with academia and research to actively give back to our professional development and growth? These are all rhetorical questions so I’m sure you understand my position.

What are the major changes that you are witnessing in the field of architecture, especially vis-a-vis the relationship between the profession and developers and with local authorities?
The market has become increasingly competitive and this in a way increases the pressure on designers to fulfill and exceed expectations set by the market in order to uniquely position them and provide novelty and innovation.
The developers and financiers of projects have realized in many instances that there is a value to innovative architectural design to sell their products. Although a great opportunity for the profession the ability of the profession to truly provide groundbreaking design is still limited to the aesthetic or superficial.
Gimmicks and aspirational tools far surpass real innovation and this is where I see the need for immediate change. The change may not be a choice we have if we develop at the current rate as questions of the environments ability or inability to absorb what we produce forces both sides of the spectrum to incorporate real holistic innovations in sustainability of design.

Could you provide a brief overview of the current urban scenario in India and its prospects for the future?
Our urban dilemma is one focused on creating what I call “reactionary waste”.
The examples of the skywalks or the flyovers are indicative of a system implemented to try and solve basic urban conditions (ie: pedestrian and vehicular circulations and movement) but exacerbate the situation by viewing these systems as independent, non-holistic sets of instruments.
As professionals that deal with the creation of our built environment, we are socially, culturally and technically poised to help reinvent our perception of our new urbanism.

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The developers and financiers of projects have realized in many instances that there is a value to innovative architectural design to sell their products. Although a great opportunity for the profession the ability of the profession to truly provide groundbreaking design is still limited to the aesthetic or superficial.

Maybe I sound too negative and I’m not stating we should stop city growth, but as professionals we need use our abilities to support the capacity of citizens, city and municipal governments to manage it and to provide quality design and services.
Cities and towns are not only the loci of production, but they are also the loci of the most important impacts of globalisation and, hence, the places of change and expectations for the future. Undervaluing urban areas can unwittingly place the economic and social futures of countries at risk.

Which are the prominent projects that you are handling at present? Could you briefly describe them?
I mostly working on interior projects currently as they take less time to come to fruition and after working on some large scale architectural projects over the past 14 years this has been quite a fulfilling change as I see ideas manifest quicker.
They range from retail boutiques, residences and boutique offices mostly. We are starting work on larger interior/architecture projects this spring which also look promising in terms of their design potential.

The one thing I am trying to maintain is engaging projects that have the ability to experiment and change the way people see our spatial environment.
I love to innovate and to test new concepts but at the same time my work is quite grounded in intuition and my own sensibilities. With each project I try to push the work in a slightly different direction to test my own boundaries.
Last year I participated as an artist in the Kochi Biennale with an installation titled ‘Home’ which explored issues dealing with architectural research on the subject of housing.
What are your dream cities – in India and abroad?
I don’t dream of any one city and place it in a hierarchical list but I find every city I have travelled to amazing and unique its own distinctive way but saying that I grew up in New York so it does have a special importance and understanding for me. I miss walking in the city and Central Park the most.

Do you travel often around the world? Which are your favourite destinations?
Yes and as mentioned earlier I have always found each place I have visited unique but if I have to name a few that still stand out in my thoughts. They would be Beirut, Istanbul, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

‘Next frontier is battle of privacy’

Girish Ajoomal is the director of RoundRobin Tech Services, Mumbai. The firm comprises a team of professionals with more than 20 years of experience in the Internet Security and Network Infrastructure sector.
Excerpts of an interview with Ajoomal:

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What are the main changes cyber security has gone through over the years?
Cyber security as a business started approximately 30 years ago, even before the widespread adoption of the Internet. Originally AntiVirus vendors, were the first to form as a response to viruses being transmitted via floppy disks.
People dedicated to attacking and “hacking” PC’s and networks were non-professionals, who did “hacking” as a past time. Over the years, attacking networks and all types of computing assets has become a “business”, as criminal gangs realised that there was easy money to be made from exploiting “holes” in cyber security.
Even state sponsored hacks are prevalent today, basically to “attack” enemies “virtually” – for example the Struxnet virus. There is a huge effort being made by several state sponsored actors, basically for the theft of Intellectual Property (IP).
Lately, one of the main targets has been mobile devices, a trend which will continue to grow exponentially, due to their widespread adoption.
Evidently, the industry has tried and responded to these new threat vectors, with the development of new types of products and solutions – firewalls, anti-spam, anti ransomware and many others.
However, this is an extremely dynamic sector and we will see many more mutations and attacks by the “bad” guys and breakneck development by the security industry to try and prevent these.

How can we as ordinary users of internet know the trust factor of others?
Start by being paranoid. Do not give your personal data away easily. Think before “joining” web sites, mailing lists and other “free” services. Ask yourself – do I really need to be on this or that service? Is it really necessary?
The next frontier will be the battle of privacy; we should try and reach an equilibrium with the amount of private data we give up and what we really need to give up.
So to answer your question more specifically, you cannot trust anybody, nobody is 100% safe. Even large companies and organisations are regularly hacked, so be selective, before giving up a huge asset like your personal data to organisations. And hence, reduce your risks to a minimum.

What is the difference between threat, vulnerability, and risk?
Threat is any threat which uses the Internet to facilitate cybercrime or attacks.

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Vulnerability is a weakness, bug or flaw which allows a hacker to exploit the same and “attack” the computer or network on which the vulnerability exists.
And so far as risk, in the case of the internet these are the possible ways / exposure in which a user or organisation is vulnerable to being exploited by others for their benefit, both economic or for theft of data or IP.

What is the goal of information security in an organisation?
To ensure business continuity and protect IP and other confidential data from leaving the organisation.

What are the risks associated with using public Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi has proliferated everywhere and the risks of using public Wi-Fi without adequate protection are immense. They can map the MAC address of your device, put cookies and other more virulent forms of malware onto your device, track what you do and even “sniff” your traffic data in great detail.
You also have “Rogue” AP’s (Access Points) trying to push the user into using them and they “infect” the device for all sorts of nefarious purposes.
Try not to use public WiFi’s as data plans for mobile devices are cheap and their speed is reasonable nowadays. If you do use public Wi-Fi please try and use a VPN service (several free and paid ones are available) to “mask” your identity.

What are your tips for protecting yourself against identity theft?
There is no “magical” solution for this. I suggest a layered approach to security. Everyone should try and use a “mix” of the following technologies:
a) VPN for browsing
b) Use a firewall both at work and home
c) Adequate End Point Anti Malware protection
d) 2 Factor Authentication

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What are the most challenging aspects of software security impacting businesses today?
Insider threats are the biggest threat impacting business. More than 70% of threats emanate from inside an organisation. These could be malicious or simply done by “mistake”.
Theft of IP and confidential data is the second one. Data breaches – usually detected far too late for the response to have been effective – is the third one.
Ransomware, another challenge, will increase as time goes by, as there is too much easy money to be made.

What does a company have to do to ensure IT security?
It has to enforce a multi layered approach to security composed of different solutions – UTM firewall with layered security, end point security, use VPN’s, secure Wi-Fi, two factor authentication, and ensure visibility into insider threats.
It also has to ensure systems are patched with the latest updates from manufacturers. Backup your data and then backup again.
Secure your data in the cloud and appoint a person/team responsible for cyber security and ensure that they are empowered with direct access to management.

What is the future of cyber security and what are the changes which are to be bought in?
There is a lot to be done in India as the general perception is that cyber security is usually not given it’s due importance. However, with the widespread advent of Internet adoption and Internet of Things, this will be more critical. The country needs to protect its critical assets, infrastructure and IP better.
Changes that are necessary include:
1) Increased awareness
2) Increased transparency
3) Accountability and appropriate fines for organisations who suffer breaches.
India should take the new legislation coming into play in Europe next year – GDPR – as a pioneering example of how legislation can force companies to protect their consumer’s data.
A national privacy authority should be set up with the ability to “fine” people who are not up-to-date with protection.

RoundRobin Tech Services
Unit #226, Kewal Ind. Estate,
S.B. Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai-400013
www.roundrobintech.com
Tel: +91-22-30458000

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The Making of London

The evolution of London began with a few parks, settlements, the safeguarding of Thames and the bridging of settlements from 1828 to 1921, which led to its becoming of the most important dockyard in the world. Historic settlements along the river Thames played a role in how the shipping channel emerged. Then occurred the re-planning and regeneration of the post-industrial metropolis, which further helped revitalise the riverfront. We take a look at how London evolved from its creation as a Roman city in 43AD to the crowded, chaotic megacity of this day.

WORDS: SEJAL MATHUR

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The city’s near 2,000-year history that took nine months to animate, was mapped by researchers at UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis who collated vast datasets to plot the capital’s transformation from first-century ‘Londinium’ to one of the world’s greatest cities that it is today.
Greater London expands over 600 square miles, but until the 17th century the capital was principally crowded into one square mile, marked by its tapering skyscrapers. Unlike other historical cities such as Athens or Rome, where there is an apparent makeshift of areas from different periods, London’s listed sites and buildings are individual structures and in many cases assembled progressively by parts from several periods.
The greatest preserved element of the city is its own urban fabric. London’s evolution began with the Roman creation of Londinium and some of the main axes of the contemporary city, such as Oxford Street, that still acts as an inseparable part.
London was abandoned in 410AD and under the Saxons, secluded farmsteads were built in the surrounding countryside such as Enfield, Hampton and Chelsea, which further developed to form the heart of villages still functioning as centres of modern London.
From the 9th century, London grew yet again within its original Roman boundary, and during the Norman period it was linked by the Strand to a new political centre at Westminster.
By then, most of Roman London had been lost, with its many timber buildings decayed and its stone buildings reused. Today, practically nothing from the Roman period exists above ground, though underneath the street level, many archaeological remains of substantial value and importance still survive.
During the Medieval period, epidemics like plagues and famines considerably delimited the population growth; nevertheless, under the Tudors, London’s population rose to about 200,000. Following Henry VIII’s demolition of London’s religious houses, significant new development occurred and several royal retreats were built away from the centre.

The Great Fire of 1666
The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed four-fifths of the city and more than 13,000 medieval, Tudor and early-17th century buildings were lost. Thus, an insignificant portion of pre-1700 London buildings and structures exist today.
Between 1714 and 1840, London’s population increased from around 630,000 to nearly about two million, rendering it the largest and most powerful city on the atlas.

A noteworthy part of Georgian structures remains despite the fact that commercial development in the first half of the 20th century ruined many.

The Victorian period found London growing once more, as the population grew from 2 million to 6.5 million. The opening of the London Underground in 1863 was successful in shortening distances and helped residents leave the crowded centre for comparatively spacious peripheral developments.
Despite the discarding of Victorian buildings between the 1940s and 1970s, the sheer scale of development has led to a much higher survival rate.
The population peaked in 1940 at around 8.5 million, before declining and then rising recently to just over 8 million. Despite the decline and the devastation caused by World War II, the 20th century saw the largest urban expansion in London’s history.

Efficient planning strategies
Tremendous efforts were made in actualising methodologies of feasible advancement and attempted town planning improvements in the 21st Century. Greater London has a population density of 5,200 per sq km on an area of 1,570 sq km, of which only 2.5 sq km are part of the development plan.
The 2012 Olympic Games helped London and the greater to improve the existing infrastructures mainly focusing on sustainable innovative architecture.

Public awareness and politics moulded the planning from diverse perspectives while many common policies and urban development practices were applied. London worked upon prompt urban advances with repercussions for the city itself and the greater area focusing on the efficacy of the novel architecture introduced in the urban lattice.
London had to adjust the specific improvements to the city with further sustainable goals as a legacy of the event. This shows how a city had to adapt itself to a large-scale, short-term event instead of having ordinary development through urban planning.
Furthermore, London integrated new architecture relatively close to the centre of the city to develop dilapidated areas with industrial backgrounds and social needs.

Many of the newly constructed structures were temporarily unassembled after the Games to give those spaces back to the city.

Green spaces to be utilised for recreational purposes were considered elementary on both planning strategies, a constant on European urban planning these days.
The scale of this capital city has set its own standards to achieve their sustainable goals. The aims were significant and vital to provide an improved standard of living for their people, and to better their global image. London exhibited the manner in which a megapolis can host a gigantic international event while keeping sustainable planning in mind.

Here’s what to learn from London
The underground rail system built in the 19th century became an instant success. The network made it advantageous for people to live farther from the central city. This is one of the reasons why London real estate still allures wealthy home buyers.
The city also adopted congestion pricing in 2003, which made traveling more convenient. Within 2 weeks of introducing this model, London witnessed a drop of 20% in traffic congestion, which further declined by 30 per cent in the succeeding two years.
Richard Ainsley, principal urban planner at Atkins, has been quoted as saying: “London does plan for its long-term growth, in terms of both population and economic growth. In 2014, we saw the first infrastructure plan looking at London’s growth to 2050, a great first step, but there is always more we can do. The key thing we need to do is make our plans more adaptable. A future-proofing plan shouldn’t just sit there; we shouldn’t just expect it to unfold exactly as we set out – we need to be able to flex it in ‘real time’, just as the socio-economic patterns around us are constantly shifting.”
Londoners are praiseworthy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), an engineer described as “one of the most ingenious” in history, whose railway bridges are still standing.
Another such personality was Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891), who built the city’s sewage system. The responsibility now lies with modern engineers and planners who have to emulate them given the swift pace of change and the way the future is to form.

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‘There is need for a fundamental rethink about the notion of housing’

An exclusive interview by the renowned, Delhi-based architect, Madhav Raman

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An architect and urbanist, Madhav Raman founded Anagram Architects in New Delhi in 2001, in partnership with Vaibhav Dimri.
It is internationally recognised as amongst the top emerging practices in the world with a commitment towards delivering deeply contextual designs that encourage sustainable lifestyles.

Over the years, the practice has garnered much international acclaim including a nomination for the Aga Khan Award 2010 and inclusion in Wallpaper Magazine’s “Architects Directory 2009”.
Its work has been premiated at the Architectural Review’s World Emerging Architecture Awards 2007, the Cityscape Architectural Awards 2008, 2010 and 2016, the Wienerberger Brick Awards 2010, the SAIE Bologna 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction 2011, Asia Pacific Design Awards 2012 and the International Design and Architecture Awards 2013.

Anagram Architects has also featured in the International Architecture Biennale 2010 in Rotterdam and Biennial of Design (BIO23) 2012 held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. For four years in a row (from 2014), it has been included in AD50, the Architectural Digest Magazine’s list of the 50 most influential Indian designers.

Madhav has presented talks at many prestigious forums including the Spring Lecture Series at RIBA, London, the Planning Commission’s mid-term appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan and the Urban Mobility India 2010.

He has also conducted lectures and workshops on architecture, urbanism, sustainability, non-motorised transit (NMT), Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and information and communication technology (ICT) at the Charles Correa Foundation (Panjim),

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The Doon School, Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Indian School of Business (Hyderabad), Sushant School of Art & Architecture (Gurgaon), Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (Mumbai), Centre for Environmental Planning Technology (Ahmedabad), School of Environment and Architecture (Mumbai) and Institute of Urban Transport (Delhi).
Keenly involved in academia, Madhav conducts a design studio at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, where he also guides dissertations, seminars and research papers.

He moderates the annual Design X Design roundtable in Delhi which aims at building discourse around Indian design across disciplines.
He writes regularly for the Architectural Digest and the Times of India in addition to being published in the “Bahaus” magazine, Architektur Fachmagazin, Designboom and Archdaily.

Excerpts from an interview with the prominent architect:

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What are your views on the evolution of Indian architecture in recent years? And where do you see it headed for in the future?
Youngsters who have graduated have to rethink and reconsider their decision of joining architecture colleges or firms working on large townships.

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More than 15 years ago, there was not much activity, which was why it was a bad time for start-ups. Technologically there has been a transition in the formats of how architecture can be practiced.
There are opportunities that involve working in collaboration, with architects getting together and discussing issues. And with IT being harnessed globally, it has created quite a buzz.
The last five years have seen sustainability become a debate in India. There is now more maturity in understanding the concept.
While things don’t necessarily need to look green, tangible tangibly sustainable strategies have started coming up.
Nevertheless, it is important for things to look green for us to be able to understand them better, which is important in mitigating climate change. Architects must take up the responsibility.
Today, there are 6,200 architects registered with the Council of Architecture, constituted by the Indian government.

In the past five years, the ones was on how to deal with the impact of the slowing down of the real estate sector. What one sees in the sector today is the bottom-end of the drop in real estate and construction.
What happened was a lot of speculation on paper but on ground the situation was different. Hence creating a problem relating to the backlog of built space in urban India (of housing or of infrastructure development).
The slowdown started about five years ago and has now become a crisis which Indian architecture has to deal with. People involved with government projects have also witnessed the slowdown because of the change in government.

The changing political scenarios affect architects, developers and it ultimately affects the end users.
What are your solutions to improve the quality of life in urban India, both in terms of what planners, designers and architects can do, and what citizens have to follow?
Projects like smart cities are not required. We lived in cities even before we were colonised and we’ve had cities of excellence. We had a good quality of life in cities like Varanasi (one of the oldest inhabited places), Delhi and Kolkata.

Each city had its own peculiarity which was enjoyed without having to adhere to a set of standards or benchmarks. It is just that a course correction needs to occur.
So from all perspectives, city dwelling is not new to us, but we have now post-liberalisation started adopting a way of dwelling that is alien to us and different from how we have naturally lived in cities.
There is a particular way in which we have grown up and have found ourselves attached and comfortable in the way where we go down the house into the mohalla where we can interact with people, buy, haggle, get together, gossips etc.
For instance, what would Kolkata be without these addas, how would we have produced the culture that is now a commonplace. Why else would you live in a city if it were not for people?
We need to connect to urban life again whether it is through architecture or urban planning. We need to realise that the only democratic spatial asset that our cities have are not the maidans/waterfront parks/malls, but the streets and mohallas.

Do you take up projects abroad? Is there good demand for top Indian architects internationally?
Anagram Architects has ventured internationally; not for architectural projects, but we have taken up academic

exercises in the realm of planning. We were involved in a programme called Urban Exchanger.
We were working on a project in India where we tried to make an edge between Sangam Vihar, one of Asia’s largest slum colonies, located on the edge of Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi.
The poorest of the poor stay there and the edge gets flooded and with all the garbage from the slums. So, they were trying to bring about a change.
Group housing projects abroad are characterised by mass housing, which includes high rise and low-income projects, many of which are falling apart.
There is a place in Germany, which had a bad reputation for crime, prostitution, drugs and so forth. It was the place where first time immigrants from Berlin moved in so it is characterised by a diverse population from all over the world, but not essentially very well off.

Since you are also active in group housing, could you share your ideas on how this could help in solving the lack of housing for the poor in India?
There is a need for a fundamental rethink about the notion of housing. It is important to recognise how one agrees with each element associated with housing. The sense of housing belongs in the village. There now exists unnecessary segregation in urban housing and the houses have become receptacles for storing possessions.

What is your advice for budding architects who are pursuing their courses across various universities in India?
It is a fact that blessings, luck and your status affects your career to a great extent. What then remains, minus your fortune is the way you are involved in practising something special and unique in your field of architecture which can have two angles to it.
First where you think it’s a complete waste wherein people don’t count and second where you wish to make a difference and do something for the good of the society.

My advice:
• Choose wisely
• Make sensible decisions
• Give mind and heart the space to expand since design education expands the mind in a manner no other field perhaps can. It is real and deep unlike in philosophy where it is just deep in the mind.
• Tap into the zone whereby just being an architect gives you a sense of satisfaction and immense joy

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How would you define architecture in one word or phrase?
It is hope, it is optimism which gives you a way to think of new details, ideas and designs – it gives you the positivity devoid of which, one would perhaps be hopeless.

Which of the projects have been your personal favourites to work on?
• Our first project, the SHRDC building was the most celebrated one because it was the first one the firm worked on.
• Also, the Ring T Rail Project in Delhi gave an insight at the urban level and was a kind of motivation setter. Another one was a non-architectural revitalisation project wherein just the power of reimagining was the ingredient. Its proposal had zero architecture in it, which was unique and different than previously done projects.

How did college life, to be specific the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, influence you in the way you design, live or think?
Yes it has influenced in the way I used to live, coming from an army background family with stints of studying within boundaries of the residential area where the maximum distance travelled was 10 minutes.
Life at SPA was a game changer and with its culture, a lot of exposure and great memories were imbibed in us which have continued to shape our decisions.

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Major Projects

Anagram Architects is currently involved in several major projects in different areas. A look at some of them:
Hospitality
Business Hotel, Igatpuri-250000 sqft
Ecological Resort, Gir Gujarat-87000 sqft
Hotel Goa -56000 sqft
Business Hotel, Siliguri-13745 sqft
Housing
Housing for Teachers at chestnut, The Doon School, Dehradun-35000 sqft
Luxury Housing, Dehradun-54228 sqm
Group Housing, Dehradun-5.25 lakhs sqft
Commercial
Mixed use development complex, Muzaffarpur-3,218 sqm
Integrated Commercial Complex, Gwalior- 3.21 acres
Institutional
Senior Secondary School, Noida-125,000 sqft
Senior Secondary Sports School, Noida-300,000 sqft

Speaking academically, it has not remained up to the mark and does not bask in the same repute as it earlier did maybe because they are doing the best they can but not the best they should!

What is that one thing you learnt in architecture which no other book could teach?
Managing egos. When you reach a certain level, you must be humble enough and not bear egos against yourself or your clients. Only practice can teach you that, starting from college life where you learn to defend yourself in front of the jury, but to be modest enough to accept mistakes without being egoistic and similar everyday situations.

If not architecture which other profession would you have taken up?
I would have loved to become an economist as the passion of the subject which is still intact and alive.

A passionate architect

Architecture his passion and with several major projects to his credit in India and abroad, he is also actively involved in development of open spaces in Mumbai.

As a principal architect with his partner I.M.Kadri, Rahul’s formative years began in exploring the forests of Kumaon Hills while studying at Sherwood College, Nainital. Romancing Nature infused a deep passion in him to create buildings and open spaces to offset the fast rising human settlements.

After completing his diploma in architecture from the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai, he did his master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1988.

Rahul assumed directorship of Kadri Consultants Pvt Ltd in 1995 and since then designed and executed several architecture and town planning projects. He has designed townships for the Tatas, the Jindals and Reliance, hotels and resorts for Taj and Club Mahindra, college campuses for Symbiosis and a building for the Supreme Court of India.

Over the years he has been passionate in creating public places where people and nature thrive. Kadri is also a trustee of Save the Children India – an organisation committed to the cause of the education of less privileged children.

Komal Rao gets down to brass tacks in an exclusive chat. Excerpts:

WORDS: KOMAL RAO

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What are the issues confronting Urban India?
We are still stuck in the 1960s mindset with planning 20 years in advance. The concept of zoning wherein we have a fixed plan for each block still rules.
The aim was residential areas should not be polluted by industrial ones and residential areas should be healthy enough to live in. But with changing times, many industries follow the non-polluting rule, with the service industry being on top of the charts.
Segregating services is an old idea which has to change. The idea that master plan can be conceived for the next 20 years is just not possible. Such concepts are like worn out clichés.
Each area and neighbourhood should be allowed to evolve on its own. Local area planning is something that really needs to be worked upon. For this to be implemented with success, our basic rules and laws must be changed.
A healthy city is about neighbourhood, the arteries of the city are transportation networks.
Some of the effective and efficient ways of transportation are the railways and the metro which are fast, less time consuming and non-polluting.

Roads are inefficient means of transport because of burgeoning traffic. Even if we were to talk about goods transportation, nothing like railways as a mode of transport.
In Japan after World War II, planners understood that to make rapid progress, the public and goods need to be moved faster and the trains would be the best option. Authorities therefore urged engineers and architects to speed up train services. For the first time, tunnels were drilled under mountains for faster movement of goods and passengers.

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How can India improve public transportation system?
We should re-model the bullet trains and not simply buy them from Japan or China.
Our engineers should focus on redesigning trains and make bullet trains fit our needs and pockets as well.
Currently the metro systems that we are using is not cost-effective being expensive.

The normal method of transportation should be rail and metro and cars be given lesser importance.

I recall my trip to Tokyo in 1980. They had seven layers of flyovers and cars moved everywhere causing traffic jam. But during my recent visit to Tokyo the experience was completely different.
The seven-layered flyovers removed, Tokyo’s road length reduced and footpaths made broader and on many roads there were hardly any cars. The reason was 10 layers of underground metro rails that made commuters move easily from one destination to another without depending on cars.
Each city in Japan is unique with its limited budget.

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There is competition among cities to excel and locals feeling a sense of power and responsibility. Nothing is centrally controlled or forced upon. Local units have the power to function independently.

How do we make India more organised and streamline urbanisation?
India as a nation is still not a democracy in the true sense. Many things need to be change.
Authorities in Mumbai, for instance, are coming out with another 20-year plan, though the previous one was not successful.
Ours is a fast-growing nation and we should understand that 20-year planning is not going to work in such a rapidly evolving country.
A Singapore-based company has been appointed to rework the rules,

There is no need for the government to get into the real estate business. If the government stops making profit from this the prices can fall by 75%

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rejecting the need for local ideas and plans.
What is the housing scenario in India? Can rapid growth of slums in Mumbai tackled?
The government relies on real estate for revenues. About 50% of the cost of our houses go as taxes. Development rights are given away as if they are commodities.
A buyer is not only paying the developer for the land, he is also paying the government for the FSI. So if the government is trying to bring the cost of housing and land down, why are they making a profit from buyers in the form of FSI?
There is no need for the government to get into the real estate business. If the government stops making profit from this the prices can fall by 75%.
About 50-60% people in Mumbai live in slums. Another 22% in dilapidated homes. The government has promised free housing for 82% of the population, but it is the remaining 18% taxpayers who will foot the bill for this “free housing”.
While slums are going in for redevelopment, the condition imposed on the developer strangely is that everyone should be given free housing.
We need to tackle things politically by getting out of the whole concept of free housing. Nor slums can be redeveloped by developers.
There are a number of ways to solve the problems, but politically we are unable to do so. The government has no intention of solving the housing problem as they would not profit and will lose taxes the way they garner it today.
The current government follows the same rules; all they are focusing on is the time limit. They wish to do everything faster, but what about changing the old policies as well? It is like bringing the bad old set of events again. The actual way to solve this issue is for government to look at the root causes setting right what has gone wrong over the years.

What are your views on the Smart City project?
Smart cities are being defined by the IT companies. High end IT companies have got big projects and showed the government the positive side. But has the government really thought about whether there is need for such cities?

Before everything else, we need to know and ask ourselves what exactly does it mean to be ‘smart?’ We should firstly prioritise what exactly do we want.
We need a clean place for living, clean water, schools and hospitals. While we wish for this, why not find a “smarter” way of doing this? There have been no serious thoughts given on how we can really achieve the goal.
The urban management team needs to have the best brains working on such a project. If we have the right team, they can evolve realistic plans.
This is something governments don’t do.
If we were to appoint the right people with apt knowledge, listen to them and go ahead with various policies, then wondrous changes could take place. The government needs to do it properly.

Are we shaping future generation of architects in right manner?
Yes, there are number of young architects who are doing marvellous work. But reforms are needed in architecture education.
At present, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) governs the syllabus.
There should be decentralisation. Let universities develop their own syllabus patterns for the right growth.
If the government believes in an open and free market then this should be taking place in the education system as well.

We don’t want big open places. Say more than 100 houses people interaction can be easier. Lack of common places leads to people living in isolation.
Colleges need to be properly located so that students of different colleges can meet as they come out of their premises.
It requires deft planning. Indeed architects have the power to make a society durable and prosperous.

What are your favourite cities in India and abroad?
In India, it would be Pondicherry, parts of Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
I prefer cities with good transportation and greenery. Globally, I prefer London, Tokyo and Amsterdam.

What is your dream project?
It would be an interactive place that helps people live without having to breathe polluted air. It can come from salutary planning from rising living standards. Dream projects educate people and make them environment conscious.
Other than architecture, what do you like?
Running my mother’s NGO is one. Educating pre-school kids, or children who fail to make it to the school or are dropouts.
Every country has its own style of architecture. Why did we lose our heritage architecture?
The old kings didn’t use strong materials to make structures last long. Italian cities have thick walls which have managed to withstand vagaries of nature.
Indian architecture never used strong materials or right design to make structures last long. Maybe we just didn’t have the money to go with such structures that could have cost more money.
We’re still enamoured of foreigners but not their way of making structures durable. We resort to easier methods and builders don’t have the requisite knowledge. Majority of architects are submissive. We are evolving.

What motivated you to become an architect?
Everyone in the family said that I had to become an architect. And the moment I started learning it, I loved architecture.
We need to prioritise and articulate what we really want and remain focused. The debate and discussion about what we want and what is our priority is something our country really needs to understand loud and clear.

We feel that the importance of knowing our neighbours and interacting with them has been slowly declining in modern times and has it impacted architecture?
While executing projects, there are a few aspects to take note of. One is the economic, the other environmental to be in tune with nature, flora and fauna; and the third social.
We need to create a happier and friendly place for people to live; a house that keeps the family happy. Every architect should make sure that buildings are for the people and not people for the buildings.