Mindspace Architects can be best described as a contemporary architecture design firm that specialises in imbibing the learnings of the past and seamlessly infusing it to today’s needs. Concentrating on designing and building spaces around the five elements of nature, the firm has successfully built several projects keeping in mind natural elements that best preserve the sanctity of the space, be it an educational institution, a home or an office building.
WORDS: RINKU B
MINDSPACE Architects, formed in Bengaluru in October 2004, is an architectural firm with extensive experience in handling residences, institutions, research labs and corporate offices. Founded by Sanjay Mohe, Vasuki Prakash and Suryanarayanan, the projects done by Mindspace have resulted in several national and international awards and consistent features in architectural journals.
Mindspace is presently led by partners, Sanjay Mohe, Medappa, Suryanarayanan, Amit Swain and Swetha along with 21 architects, engineers and support staff, all of whom work as a team. The design philosophy of Mindspace lies in attempting to use ‘light’ as a building material, respecting the five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, and working with the five elements of nature.
“Architecture is my religion,” says Sanjay Mohe, architect and founder. With over 30 years of experience in the field of architecture, it is little wonder that the prodigal alumnus of Sir JJ College of Architecture has created spectacular architectural works including research parks, factories, beach resorts, libraries and corporate offices. “As a child, when people asked me what my ambition was, I readily replied that I wanted to become an architect,” he says. “Right after college, I did a few small projects with my teachers. The turning point in my career arrived when I went to Saudi for the ‘Tower in Town’ project. I worked alongside eminent individuals who had immense architectural wisdom and experience. It was a great learning experience.” After over two decades of work with Chandravarkar and Thacker Associates, Sanjay founded Mindspace, where he is currently principal architect.
The Design Philosophy Explained:
According to him, “a house or a building is not just an engineering feat; it is a space that evokes an emotional response from those inhabiting the space. And that a building has to be placed within the context of a location and culture. The living space becomes a living entity with a soul and “it is not about external appearances as with a sculpture. The space within is important. You have to start from inside and move to the exterior.”
He further added, “Our underlying attempt in all projects is to participate, understand and work with nature, while also trying to imbibe culture and people’s aspirations. We try to create buildings that are simple, but not simplistic; that are modest and not monumental. Climate is an integral part of our work as designers in a tropical context. We work towards creating naturally cooler internal conditions by creating buffers to avoid the harsh sun, minimising glazing on western facades with high radiation and bringing in a strong air flow into the building.”
We believe in ideas without limits, and strive to create spaces without boundaries, as architecture for us is beyond the cosmetic and about the soul: it is about falling in love with an idea and fighting relentlessly for its realisation.
Sanjay delves into the wisdom of the past where constructions revolved around nature and climate. “In Kerala, there are single houses in the midst of huge plots as opposed to in Rajasthan where houses are built in clusters. These styles keep in mind the climatic requirements of these areas.
In humid Kerala you need more air circulation and in extreme climates such as in Rajasthan houses need to insulate each other.
Building was common sense driven and we need to stick to common sense while constructing spaces. And the common sense involves keeping nature a part of the plan as “architectural forms resultant to climate,” he says.
Inspired by The Five Elements
And aping the west in the name of modernity is not common sense, he says. “You cannot have a glass box in tropical climates such as ours. What we in India need is porosity in form, for more air circulation,” he adds. This stand, he clarifies, is not a critique of modern technology.
Whether it is research facility or an educational institution or a home, a building has to be constructed keeping the panchabhutas (five elements) in mind. It translates into letting the five elements circulate within the space. As part of letting the elements in, his buildings have plenty of space for air to circulate and he makes good use of natural light.
As far as sustainability goes, it cannot be over-emphasised, Mohe goes on. “A building in its lifetime is, probably, the largest pollutant. The process starts with piling right up to the construction and the subsequent requirements of the building. It is the largest consumer of natural resources,” he says. He adds, “We have been talking ‘green’ and about energy conservation for a long time, much before it became fashionable.” Energy conservation and sustainability are two aspects of common sense when it comes to construction.
Some of this common sense guides the architect in the construction of laboratories and educational spaces. While building a lab, for instance, the process is regimentality-driven, in parts. Laboratories have to meet strict international standards, cleanliness, complete with effluent treatment plants, has to be maintained. Along with that there is provision for interactive spaces.
“G.V. Prasad of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories gave us the brief that both sides of the brain (the artistic right and the analytical left) need to be stimulated equally. And therefore we had the brief that along with the ‘lab’ spaces there had to be provision for interactive spaces and art.” Therefore, beyond labs there are seminar halls, lecture halls… “spaces that encourage Eureka moments” as Mohe puts it.
The future of architecture education?
Ask his take on architecture education in India and you get to know that he believes it must be issue based as opposed to form-based. He opines that future architects must lay greater emphasis on the purpose and significance of a structure rather than the structure itself.
Working with nature, understanding climate and bringing in light and the other elements of nature to create buildings that are simple but not simplistic, that are modest and not monumental.
He advices strongly against blindly copying imageries from abroad, thereby encouraging each architect to find his/ her own individualistic style, “Globalisation has improved access to a wide range of technology and building materials. As a result, consumers today have become more demanding. However, this comes as a challenge as most architecture schools lay undue emphasis on the designing aspect alone.” But professional practice involves achieving the right balance between communication, coordination and management of demanding clients. “Institutions must aim to fill the widening gap between education and profession,” he says.
What does he think of the methods of teaching employed by professors of architecture? “Teachers must inculcate the value of patience and the art of appreciation in a student without compromising fundamental principles. It is important that the teacher be passionate enough inspire students and constantly challenge them to bring out their creativity.” He states that teaching must not be linear and focus only on theoretical aspects; but multi-dimensional enough to hone students’ professional competencies too. “Find your unique architecture philosophy, exploit your passion and be the architect of a bright future,” he signs off.
PROJECTS: DR K ANJI REDDY MEMORIAL, HYDERABAD
For a memorial in Hyderabad for scientist and entrepreneur Dr K Anji Reddy, we were given the site that was part of his farmhouse. The 1.2-acre location was the path Dr Reddy would take from his residence in the farmhouse to his adjacent laboratory. The existing trees which lined this path — silver oak, gulmohar, ashoka, casuarina, palm — became the answers to questions about his life. The design of the premises incorporated the trees well to reflect Dr Reddy’s life. His humble beginnings, from being a farmer’s son to a successful businessman, can be seen in the silver oaks avenue, and along the line of ashoka trees — where the textured flooring, from rough to semi-polished, culminates in a lawn with Bodhi trees, the symbol of enlightenment. The grid of gulmohar trees leads to a linear waterbody, which has a void in the centre, evocative of his absence. The memorial is informal in its language and set to human scale, allowing people to feel connected to nature and the man himself. One sees the gulmohar arching over the waterbody and the reflection of the changing sky, lending the whole space a transformative ambience.
INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT, BANGALORE
Built around the philosophy that a management college isn’t just a built structure of Steel and RCC but invokes life within its walls. A space which evokes positive emotions from students, teachers and visitors’ alike, IIM-B focuses on the internal potentials of a space rather than just the external ornamentation. Intertwined with greenery, the corridors and the student blocks are a true amalgamation of mass and nature. A major section of the college is designed by Master Architect B. V. Doshi, and Mohe has done an excellent job of lending his touch to the form and structure. The wide angles and symmetry in the arrangement makes for a beautiful experience. The library and student block are designed in context with climate and surroundings and keeping in mind the needs and personality of the management students