‘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:


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.


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


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.

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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.



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.


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

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


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),


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:


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.


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


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.

Major Projects

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



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.




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.


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%


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.

‘Benefits of design should percolate to the masses’

Nitin Killawala, Mumbai-based architect and director, Group Seven Architects and Planners Pvt Ltd, is vigorously campaigning for an integrated transport plan for Mumbai. Recipient of several national awards, including from the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) and the Institute of Interior Designs (IID), he believes masses and slum-dwellers should benefit from newer infrastructure projects rather than left to fend off speculative real estate operators. Excerpts from interview:


As someone who has been associated closely with the Indian architecture sector for four decades, what are your views on its evolution, especially in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata?
Every city grows progressively and it is the responsibility of both authorities and citizens to strive constantly for better quality of life. Although our cities have grown quantitatively in terms of population, infrastructure, wealth, education and technology, none of these components are qualitative. So the result is chaos, despair and deteriorating human values.

Do you see a gradual change for the better in terms of architectural standards, in our structures and buildings over the coming years, or will profits and finances overshadow such changes?
I do see some change for the better, but that is fragmented and happens not collectively but in isolation.


That’s why we do not see the positive impact. One of the most important aspects is that of the housing sector which is totally neglected by successive governments.
This is evident in flawed housing policies. The entire housing industry is in the hands of private developers; hence it is speculative and profit-oriented. Gone are the days when MHADA, CIDCO and DDA used to hold even competitions for excellence in housing across all typologies such as HIG, MIG and LIG including large public spaces.


Mumbai has been one of your focus areas and you have been vociferous in backing some projects and opposing others. Where do you see the metropolis headed for over the coming years in terms of the development of mega projects?
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is the richest local body (Rs42,000 crore in FDs alone) and the most corrupt public institution of the world. So Mumbai is a milking cow for any government and so long as it remains that way the city will continue to deteriorate.
All the chief ministers over the last two decades have had no concern for the city. Therefore, even though it is not a city-state (like Delhi, London, Singapore and New York) it should at least have its CEO to govern the city.

The situation now is so pathetic that we do not know who is the mayor of the city – when he’s appointed or removed, or even what he does?
We must realise that 90% of civil construction and building materials are consumed by infrastructure projects promoted by the government. The decision-makers for these projects are corporators and political parties across cities of India.
Many corporators are not even matriculates, lack basic civic sense and ethics. Unfortunately, they control infrastructure projects worth thousands of crores across the country.
The present government keeps on announcing populist projects such as the bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad but the real lifeline of suburban rail work is neglected,

There are plans for coastal roads with huge costs, but they never improve potholed roads.

What are the challenges confronting the Indian architectural segment – too many complex laws, political interference, or financial issues?
I strongly advocate that in our architectural curriculum, we must have elective subjects like law, politics, finance and management because these streams will add tremendous value to the profession as well as society at large.
Look at the bizarre political decision to make a new capital complex of Amaravati on the lines of the sets of Bahubali. Or the ruthless demolition of architect Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations and Industry at Pragati Maidan.

Due to rapid advancement in information technology and frequent cross–country travels even emerging cities are losing the sense of belonging. Look at Pune, Bengaluru and even Kochi and Guwahati – you do not find the uniqueness that was there about a decade ago, but there is bizarre urbanisation without any goals.

Bye-laws should be fine-tuned to adapt to new challenges, but our political sensibilities are so low that every government works for the next election, and real problems are never resolved.
I do not consider this as political interference but our helplessness because for a common person there are so many other issues on a daily basis that we have become immune to many important issues around us.


What are the prospects for Indian cities over the coming years? Will authorities pay heed to the warnings of architects and urban planners?
Due to rapid advancement in information technology and frequent cross–country travels even emerging cities are losing the sense of belonging. Look at Pune, Bengaluru and even Kochi and Guwahati – you do not find the uniqueness that was there about a decade ago, but there is bizarre urbanisation without any goals. Today as architects/planners we do not have constitutional appointments in any local planning authorities. This is one more reason that architects must educate themselves beyond architecture to use their strength legally and politically.

You must often be interacting with architecture students learning. How different is this generation as compared to those from yours?
Yes, students are more intuitive than our contemporaries, naturally because of unprecedented access to information, which is very good. However, implementing in practice in today’s social scenario as well as competitive world is becoming tougher for the young generation.

You were part of the design team for the Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial, Nashik. Could you tell us about the design philosophy behind it?

The Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial is a very old project realised through an architectural competition sponsored by Nashik Municipality in 2001.

The main concept and execution was relentlessly carried out by our friend and mentor late Akhil Dadkar.

I am happy to see that such large public space is used by citizens and is one of the attractions in Nashik City, although the campus needs constant maintenance and upgradation.

Could you talk about some of the interesting projects that you – and your firm – executed in recent years in Indian cities?

All our projects are in India and we make an attempt to make it interesting, by implementing Indian ethos in a contemporary manner.
However, there are a few projects which keeps us on our toes like a few school campus in south Gujarat, a training institute for the Reserve Bank of India at Prabhadevi in Mumbai and a couple of R & D centres for the pharma industry.

Your own house is a very interesting design as far as layout and use of materials are concerned. Can you please tell us about its uniqueness?
Our newly built family residence is an outcome of nurturing ancestral

assets and make it work for future generations. We have been staying in this property for over five decades.
The rebuilt structure is totally in steel – MS columns, fabricated ‘I’ beams and galvanised deck sheets. The reason for this option, although not economical than conventional RCC frame, was mainly the time factor – small plot size in developed neighbourhood and exploiting technology in steel structures.
Moreover steel structures provide tremendous flexibility in planning and sleeker yet strengthy aesthetical feel. In short it’s a typical urban house to suit individual needs – not necessarily opulent but adaptable.

The government has taken up the ambitious smart city project. What according to you makes a city smart?
Everyone in government is talking about smart cities and in equal breath we say it is ‘hyped’. The present government is thriving on hope, which is not bad per se. But every time there is renewal of hope, we do not reach anywhere.
This is yet another item for propaganda like Vaastu, green / environmental friendly cities, sustainable living and so on. To me there is nothing like ‘smart’ cities.
Cities should have sense of belonging. They should be simple, interactive and promote democratic spaces for every local citizen and even visitors. Today the rich-poor gap is widening and could lead social unrest in future.

“An architect has to create meaningful spaces. The rest will follow”

CP Kukreja Architects (CPKA), founded in 1969, is today one of the most influential architectural practices in the country. With a highly-qualified and professional team of architects, urban planners, structural engineers, and surveyors, the New Delhi-based CPKA is a multi-disciplinary firm known for some of the most iconic buildings across the globe and for its commitment to design excellence, innovation, and sustainability.
We feature an extensive interview with Dikshu C. Kukreja, the highly-qualified architect, who is a gold medalist in B.Arch from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi; has an M.Arch degree in urban design from Harvard University; besides an MCOA from the AIIA. Excerpts:


You have been conferred with several national and international awards. Could you please tell us about your journey that led to these accolades?

I have always felt that as an architect, all one can hope to do is to create meaningful spaces. The rest will follow. That has been our aim since when CP Kukreja Architects (CPKA) was established in 1969, almost five decades ago.
After winning the national competition for Jawaharlal Nehru University and rising to prominence, we made it our mission to contribute to the architectural field by designing buildings that respond to the complexities of the contextual urban fabric.
The journey has been nothing short of incredible, being given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects over the years, each posing a fresh challenge for us. To us, the fact that we have gained recognition and won awards for our work comes secondary to the way the built form interacts with its surroundings over time.
We try to gauge our success on the basis of a space’s functionality, aesthetic and sustainability.


In the end, it is important for one to realise that no matter how many accolades a practice gets, it is temporal – here today and gone tomorrow. What remains is the longevity of architecture itself, and therefore architects are called to build with a responsibility towards society and generations to come.

CPKA is known for some of the most Iconic buildings across the globe and the commitment to design excellence, innovation and sustainability. What is your design philosophy?

At CPKA, we believe that design is a process and not the end product. It is a journey of discovery, innovation, evolution and eventually, creation. With each project, we aim to “read” and “respond” to the built and un-built contexts of the urban scape.

The most important exercise in the design process is to read the silent gestures of forms and spaces, to converse with the natural environment and then translate those gestures into architectural ensembles.

We refer to this as ‘Responsive Architecture’ – a philosophy which advocates architecture as a response to the various existing forces and systems like nature, climate, society, technology, economy and culture.

Our primary objective is to create architecture that is a collective of all these blended seamlessly into a physical manifestation with the existing geographical setting and, at the same time containing within itself a strong potential to live up to the future developments and urban standards.

Which of your buildings have been the most challenging to design?

Working on the pilot Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project alongside IDOM, UK in the capital city was by far the most challenging project we have ever undertaken. Delhi has become a victim of half-baked ideas, with no clear vision for the future of the city.
Development is spreading in both horizontal and vertical directions, and satellite towns are emerging alongside re-densification projects in the mother city.
The TOD policy drafted by Delhi Development Authority was a major breakthrough. Not only did TOD interlink the different parts of the expanding city, but it also emphasised the need for high density growth at the centres of such development, thus reconciling the two sides of Delhi’s city-shaping.


East Delhi Hub in Karkardooma allowed us to interpret the TOD policy as a step towards a “Smart City.” We incorporated an “organic density” that introduces extensive vertical mixed-use development, which includes commercial, residential, medical and recreational facilities.
This ensured 24-hour activity at all points within the site, and thus promote safety by encouraging “eyes on the street.” In addition to this, we were able to maximise the un-built areas devoted to landscape through compact, high density planning, which would in turn serve as a vibrant public space, and include greens, plazas and multipurpose zones for cultural activities.
Vertical gardens, landscaped terraces and green facades were proposed as an attempt at providing “Greens for all.”


East Delhi Hub’s design is based on a sustainable grid and building configuration which combines a sustainable orientation with the complex geometry of the site.

The result is a highly efficient radial hexagonal system that upholds “Smart Mobility”, “Smart Infrastructure” and “Smart Living”. We perceive this project as a definition of “Living, Organic Architecture” on real ground.


The Gautam Buddha University at Noida was bestowed with the title of “Best Sustainable Campus” by BUILD 2016 Architecture Awards, London. Could you tell us about the design?

Gautam Buddha University was designed to underline the importance of a harmonious coexistence between man and his natural surroundings. Believing this relationship to be the key to fostering intellect, creativity and the dissemination of ideas, our aim was to create a “Centre of Learning” that embraces Mother Nature.

The very understanding and realisation of “Enlightenment” propagated by Gautam Buddha, the “Enlightened One,” and Buddhist teachings such as the Middle Path stress on the importance of a marriage between binaries like Dhatu (matter/solid) and Shunya (antimatter/void), existence and non-existence, Bhog (consumption) and Tyag (detachment) to maintain a balance that keeps the wheel of life turning.

The ratio and proportions of the image of the “Buddha in meditation” were considered to derive a rhythmically knitted pattern with strong connectivity, network and space organisation for the master plan of the 500-acre university campus.
For the main campus entrance, we created a dense forest to act as a visual and sound buffer. It creates a stark difference in environment, as the tranquility is a stark juxtaposition to the chaotic frenzy outside.
The academic and faculty blocks are arranged radially along the Central Promenade Axis, which culminates at the feet of a magnificent statue of Buddha himself.
A meditation centre, with its somber domed form echoes the architectural symbolism of the stupa. It was designed to visually tie the earth with the sky when viewed in the horizon. Features like water recycling through lakes and water bodies, natural lighting and ventilation, locally sourced materials and traditional elements like jaalis, chajjas and domes allowed us to further establish a strong link with the environment.

You have designed embassies for several nations. What is the thought process that goes behind designing such official buildings?

I think the challenge with designing any embassy or foreign mission is that the architect feels obliged to force an architectural vocabulary onto the structure irrespective of whether it works with the contextual influences or not.
Doubtless, it is important to reflect the cultural richness of the home state when designing foreign missions. Yet, the objective is not to portray this through mere cosmetic additions and alterations, but to achieve a tasteful amalgamation of styles.
Restraint plays an important role here. It is easy to be carried away with creating a beautiful building that blindly apes a foreign character and has no real relationship with its immediate surroundings, especially in terms of climate and geographical responsiveness.
However, the result of such a design exercise is always disastrous, because the built form is nothing more than an empty shell.


As far as the creative liberty of an architect is concerned, clients are entitled to make their demands, and they must be respected. The wishes of the end user cannot be ignored. However, the architect has the creative liberty to interpret these demands and engage with the client in the envisioning of the final product.
The idea of translating a concept from paper to the ground is a romantic idea, but it is seldom that simple. There is, and should be,


a constant dialogue and back and forth between the client and the designer. Only then can any design be approached in a holistic manner.

India is a country of disparity. While rural India is totally devoid of technology and development, urban India is rapidly expanding. How do you think this gap can be bridged?

The idea of translating a concept from paper to the ground is a romantic idea, but it is seldom that simple. There is, and should be, a constant dialogue and back and forth between the client and the designer. Only then can any design be approached in a holistic manner.

One of the harshest truths in India is that we have plenty of talented urban designers and urban planners, but the development of rural areas is left solely in the hands of policy makers.

Why should this be? Rural regions have their own complexities, just like an urban fabric would have. Yet, most of what we hear about any progress in these areas comes from government policies to safeguard the livelihood of the people here, be it switching to alternate sources of power, providing loans, etc.


While this is crucial, we cannot deny that one of the major contributing factors for the mass exodus of people to cities is because they are in search of better lifestyles.
There is no real “designing” of rural spaces to address the needs of those who live here. Everyone has the right to contented living, and it is important for us to understand that while an agrarian society can do without us, we cannot do without an agrarian society.
The disparity between rural and urban India is appalling, and this gap can only be bridged with serious, dedicated research in “rural design”. From the very beginning, we need to work hand-in-hand with experts from a variety of disciplines such as agriculturists, economists, architects, designers and planners to create a well-rounded field that may one day even be taught as part of the curriculum in architectural schools.
Educating and creating awareness among the current and next generation of architects about this issue would be a concrete step towards ensuring action is taken to uplift the lives of rural dwellers.

When we look at architecture in India, it is heavily influenced by foreign styles. Is there any form which we can truly say is our own Indian identity?

It is very difficult to define what “Indian Architecture” really is. We have borrowed from so many influences over the history of the Indian subcontinent that the diverse religions, lifestyles and indeed, architecture of this country are the result of a cultural melting pot.
The very idea of finding our “true” style is therefore complex, because if we had to go back into our origins, we would have to revive the Indus Valley Civilisation, which predates the Colonial Era, Mughal Age and even the Aryan Invasion.

Perhaps it is time for us to abandon the argument of defining what is ‘Indian,’ learn to embrace our past as an integral part of who we are, and look to the future as we continue on this journey of evolution and re-evolution.
To me, the future of Indian architecture is not about imbibing an identity that is only skin deep. It is about architecture that is sensitive to the needs of its context – social, political, economic, and geographic.
It is about creating a meaningful dialogue between the tangible and intangible aspects of the built form, and giving up superfluity for spaces that have a true impact on its surroundings.

When you look at the current generation of architects, what difference do you see (if any) from the time that you were a fresher?

I have to admit that with three dimensional visualisation and photo realistic conceptual imagery, architecture has reached new heights on paper. Young architects have been trained to better convey their ideas to the layman through these tools, and this is definitely a positive step towards progress.
However, this cannot and does not replace the architect’s design intuition, which is something technology cannot provide. As far as talent goes, I believe the next generation possesses the same capabilities and potential that we did when we began in the profession. Yet, it is in the hands of these young, aspiring architects on how they choose to take the reins.

Could you share your views on the term “Smart City”?

The term “Smart Cities” is in vogue, and everyone is using it.

Yet, the very definition of a smart city is still to be comprehended to its fullest, even by experts. People from different educational and professional backgrounds would explain this concept in different ways.
It is therefore important to incorporate a multidisciplinary view to generate a more comprehensive outlook with regard to this.
To me, a smart city is one that is high on efficiency in every way. From sustainability and low carbon footprints, to the incorporation of technology to transit, every facet of the city is geared towards complete productivity.
While this is undoubtedly a daring ambition, and may indeed be merely a utopian concept, we can take smaller steps towards achieving this, and in the process create better city living.

Vaastu is an ancient science of space. How important and relevant do you think it is in today’s times?

Vaastu, as ancient as it may be, was based on the principles of science as we know it. It took into account geographical phenomena such as the movement of the sun and wind patterns.
Even though architecture in the 21st century may not necessarily use the term “vaastu”, it is based on similar principles of climatically responsive design. It is impressive to think that we still use the fundamentals from what was taught centuries ago.
Doubtless, the logic of any design should stem from a strong, scientific, methodical backing. I therefore am convinced that “vaastu” has a place and relevance everywhere, and must be encouraged as an integral part of the curriculum in architectural schools.