AR­CHI­TECT SPEAK

The Ideal Home and Garden - - Contents - RE­SEARCH: BENOY SE­BAS­TIAN

In­ter­est­ing anec­dotes from ar­chi­tects turned prod­uct de­sign­ers

Five ar­chi­tects turned prod­uct de­sign­ers who chal­lenged con­ven­tional norms, and created an im­pact in the world of de­sign

What made you de­cide to be­come a prod­uct de­signer?

Be­ing an ar­chi­tect by train­ing, the shift to prod­uct de­sign, or what we term it as mi­cro-ar­chi­tec­ture came nat­u­rally. Small el­e­ments can have big im­pact on spa­ces, and the goal was to ex­pand the ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior de­sign ex­plo­rations through the prod­uct de­sign lens - mainly through ex­per­i­men­tal light­ing and fur­ni­ture to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing spa­ces.

What do you find the most ful­fill­ing about prod­uct cre­ation?

Ex­plor­ing ma­te­ri­als and de­sign pro­cesses are the most ex­cit­ing part of the process. Also work­ing with lo­cal ar­ti­sans and crafts­men, as it’s a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to un­der­stand the pro­duc­tion pro­cesses.

What skills did you gain from ar­chi­tec­ture school, or work­ing in the ar­chi­tec­ture in­dus­try, that have con­trib­uted to your suc­cess?

The key skills you gain from ar­chi­tec­ture, I feel are dis­ci­pline, pa­tience and quick think­ing. These skills are ex­tremely im­por­tant when man­ag­ing work­shops, ex­e­cut­ing labour and site work in the pro­fes­sion.

The best ad­vice I have re­ceived?

‘Be an hon­est ar­chi­tect’, these were the part­ing words from one of my for­mer em­ploy­ers, Fritz Haller, Man­ag­ing Part­ner at Lan­dolt+Haller Ar­chitek­ten in Switzer­land. I have lived up to it ever since try­ing to bring an hon­est ap­proach in de­sign, pro­duc­tion pro­cesses and all other as­pects of our busi­ness.

I al­ways wanted to de­sign?

I want to de­sign the light­ing for the next up­com­ing air­port in Navi-Mumbai. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the light­ing de­sign at the present in­ter­na­tional air­port in Mumbai was in­sp­sir­ing, and has given us a new goal for the next few years of what scales we have to achieve.

My best achieve­ment?

The light­ing de­sign com­pleted for the Lodha World Tow­ers was one of our most ful­fill­ing achieve­ments. The project in­cluded de­sign­ing chan­de­liers for spa­ces over 150 feet long, which we de­signed and ex­e­cuted within a stip­u­lated time-frame of un­der two months. Those projects opened up new av­enues for large scale projects for the stu­dio along with new found con­fi­dence in what we can achieve and de­liver.

Do you miss work­ing as an ar­chi­tect?

We are a multi-dis­ci­plinary prac­tice, and are still de­sign­ing and ex­e­cut­ing ar­chi­tec­ture works across var­i­ous scales. We have a 32,000 sqft pri­vate res­i­dence in Gand­hid­ham un­der de­sign, along with restora­tion of a 120 year old art deco build­ing in Mumbai. We also re­cently fin­ished a three storey pre-school in Thane. So, ar­chi­tec­ture, prod­uct de­sign are all an on­go­ing process.

What made you de­cide to be­come a prod­uct de­signer?

It started early on right af­ter grad­u­at­ing from ar­chi­tec­ture school; I at­tended var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional de­sign shows for our fam­ily run busi­ness, which re­ally im­pacted my per­cep­tion.

The de­sign and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion process, to de­tail­ing to pro­duc­tion pro­cesses, the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket - the whole spec­trum. I could see how the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge was trans­lated into ac­tual fin­ished prod­ucts. This was fur­ther fu­eled by Masters in De­sign, Lon­don, where I fell in love with de­sign all over again.

What do you find the most ful­fill­ing about prod­uct cre­ation?

Well-de­signed prod­ucts not only serve a ne­ces­sity, but also have an emo­tional ex­ten­sion. When I de­sign, I usu­ally try to re­spond to some­thing that moves me in a per­sonal way. The prod­uct should im­print on the user emo­tion­ally for them to seek it and not dis­pose it in a very short frame of time. The fact that it has power to en­ter your daily rit­u­als and can aug­ment your be­hav­iour is very ex­cit­ing.

What skills did you gain from ar­chi­tec­ture school, or work­ing in the ar­chi­tec­ture in­dus­try, that have con­trib­uted to your suc­cess?

Ar­chi­tec­ture is the mother of all de­sign ed­u­ca­tions. Space is gen­er­ally treated in a more holis­tic way rather than a stylised/ dec­o­ra­tive ap­proach. De­sign re­search, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, in­clu­sion of lo­cal crafts, sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als, process op­ti­mi­sa­tion and user ex­pe­ri­ence fac­tors are all for de­sign­ing a space, which also ap­plies to prod­uct de­sign as well. There is a shift in scale cer­tainly, but even­tu­ally it’s all about cre­at­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence. The space or the prod­uct should move you. Or else don’t have it.

The best ad­vice I have re­ceived?

Don’t re­strict your­self to any one par­tic­u­lar de­sign medium. Try ev­ery­thing; each ma­te­rial emotes and be­haves dif­fer­ently.

My best achieve­ment?

The up­cy­cled se­ries that is cur­rently on a 10 year trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tion with IFA, Ger­many and the faceted se­ries, which was ex­hib­ited at the Tri­en­nale De­sign Mu­seum, Italy.

Do you miss work­ing as an ar­chi­tect?

Yes, ab­so­lutely!

What made you de­cide to be­come a prod­uct de­signer?

Our prac­tice pri­mar­ily con­sists of ar­chi­tects and we look at de­sign chal­lenges as op­por­tu­ni­ties. We have al­ways had an in­ter­est in work­ing on self-pro­pelled projects, where the brief is not nec­es­sar­ily client driven, but has been created by us. Prod­ucts are a good scale to be­gin with and fo­cus on de­tail there­fore we es­tab­lished MuseMART, which is our prod­uct brand and the first step to­wards work­ing on self-pro­pelled projects.

What do you find the most ful­fill­ing about prod­uct cre­ation?

Prod­ucts can be pro­to­typed and created in a timely man­ner, and in most cases prod­ucts can be held and ex­pe­ri­enced more in­ti­mately. The ma­te­rial anal­y­sis and man­u­fac­tur­ing process is ex­cit­ing and as op­posed to ar­chi­tec­ture there is in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion in de­sign­ing prod­ucts, as prod­ucts can be man­u­fac­tured in a lesser time pe­riod than de­sign­ing and cre­at­ing a struc­ture or a built en­vi­ron­ment.

What skills did you gain from ar­chi­tec­ture school, or work­ing in the ar­chi­tec­ture in­dus­try, that have con­trib­uted to your suc­cess?

Sa­van­nah Col­lege of Art and De­sign equipped me with de­sign prin­ci­ple tools and also laid the foun­da­tion for de­sign think­ing to en­able prob­lem solv­ing. The ex­pe­ri­ence that I gained from work­ing at a large firm like Gensler in New York helped me in build­ing my plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion skills and strate­gi­cally de­vel­op­ing de­sign guide­lines. Work­ing at Pi­nakin in Mumbai, I was able to fo­cus on in­te­rior de­sign de­tail­ing.

The best ad­vice I have re­ceived?

I don’t know about best, but one ad­vice that I re­mem­ber re­ceiv­ing in Val­ley School, Ben­galuru from my art teacher was to com­plete ev­ery­thing you start, and what­ever you do make sure you do it with pas­sion. An­other ad­vice that also res­onates is the one that I re­ceived from my project man­ager at Gensler in New York - fight the bat­tles that you need to, and not ev­ery bat­tle is meant to be fought.

I al­ways wanted to de­sign?

A com­plete ex­pe­ri­en­tial de­sign for a ho­tel or inn that en­tails ser­vice de­sign as well as prod­uct de­sign. To de­sign an ex­pe­ri­ence that be­gins with book­ing a room till the time of check out; from the graph­ics to the ar­chi­tec­ture and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. To de­sign an ex­pe­ri­ence that is lay­ered with details.

My best achieve­ment?

My best achieve­ment so far has been the es­tab­lish­ment and cre­ation of MuseLAB along with my friend, my pal and con­fi­dant; Huzefa Rang­wala. We are for­tu­nate to be work­ing with a bunch of great and en­thu­si­as­tic in­di­vid­u­als on our team

who are as pas­sion­ate and ex­cited as us.

Do you miss work­ing as an ar­chi­tect?

For­tu­nately for us we still have our ar­chi­tec­tural and in­te­rior de­sign prac­tice MuseLAB.

What made you de­cide to be­come a prod­uct de­signer? I was al­ways keen on pur­su­ing au­to­mo­tive de­sign as a ca­reer; I joined ar­chi­tec­ture as a base course in de­sign. Dur­ing my ar­chi­tec­ture days in col­lege, I was de­sign­ing and build­ing for­mula stu­dent race cars with fel­low stu­dents from the me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing de­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional For­mula-SAE com­pe­ti­tions, we com­peted in Aus­tralia, Italy and Ger­many. Then it dawned upon me that spe­cial­is­ing in a par­tic­u­lar dis­ci­pline would be very re­stric­tive, learn­ing quite a bit of au­to­mo­tive de­sign on my own with help and en­cour­age­ment from some men­tors, I thought prod­uct de­sign would just broaden the scope.

What do you find the most ful­fill­ing about prod­uct cre­ation?

The most ful­fill­ing thing is the self ini­ti­ated de­sign ideas and con­cepts that I can work on and make a work­ing pro­to­type, rather than wait­ing for a client to bring in a project that only be­comes a re­al­ity with their fund­ing. It is quite sat­is­fy­ing to have the in­tegrity of de­sign not com­pro­mised in the process from the ini­tial in­tent to the fi­nal de­sign.

What skills did you gain from ar­chi­tec­ture school, or work­ing in the ar­chi­tec­ture in­dus­try, that have con­trib­uted to your suc­cess?

I love ar­chi­tec­ture; it is quite ro­man­tic to me. But, sadly I did not learn much, it al­ways felt like I was dis­cov­er­ing - ‘what not to do,’ maybe it was be­cause of the way it was taught and prac­ticed in In­dia. Rather ev­ery­thing I ex­plored out of ar­chi­tec­ture helped me get here.

The best ad­vice I have re­ceived?

‘Don’t do it! You can’t do the con­tem­po­rary work you aim­ing at de­vel­op­ing with In­ter­na­tional brands stay­ing here’. I took it as a play­ful chal­lenge.

I al­ways wanted to de­sign?

Ev­ery­thing that I haven’t yet de­signed. I would like to de­sign things that are beyond the cor­po­real world, mean­ing­ful things and ex­pe­ri­ences that shape us to be bet­ter cul­tur­ally and so­cially.

My best achieve­ment?

I’m an au­to­di­dact, so ev­ery time I ac­quire some new skill or learn some­thing, it gives a good sense of ac­com­plish­ment. De­sign­ing and com­pet­ing in For­mula-SAE around the world in col­lege, while be­ing en­rolled in ar­chi­tec­ture would be up there in the top. Also, my the­sis project, which I was asked to drop as the fac­ulty deemed it un­wor­thy, but I took an ex­tra se­mes­ter to do it on my own and did it quite well. The irony is that it was nom­i­nated for BeOPEN Fu­ture and ex­hib­ited at the 100% De­sign Lon­don 2012.

Do you miss work­ing as an ar­chi­tect?

I miss ar­chi­tec­ture a lot. I would soon be tak­ing up some se­lected projects.

What made you de­cide to be­come a fur­ni­ture de­signer?

Fur­ni­ture plays a vi­tal role to cre­ate de­sired ex­pe­ri­ence around the house. While do­ing in­te­rior projects, fur­ni­ture de­signs al­ways fas­ci­nated and in­spired me to de­sign any space with a per­fect am­bi­ence. I trav­elled across dif­fer­ent coun­tries and ex­plored dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and fell in love with fas­ci­nat­ing details, ma­te­ri­als and man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques of fur­ni­ture mak­ing.

What do you find the most ful­fill­ing about fur­ni­ture cre­ation?

I adore the cre­ative con­straints of func­tion­al­ity and try­ing to make some­thing last­ing. I ab­so­lutely en­joy the over­all de­sign­ing process from ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion to con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion and work­shop chal­lenges, un­til the pro­to­type is ready to show­case. Noth­ing can match the joy of re­ceiv­ing great feed­back from cus­tomers, not only in In­dia, but also from around the world.

What skills did you gain from ar­chi­tec­ture school, or work­ing in the ar­chi­tec­ture in­dus­try, that have con­trib­uted to your suc­cess ?

Ar­chi­tec­ture school was an over­whelm­ing, yet a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for me in terms of al­low­ing me the free­dom to fully ex­press my ideas. My prac­ti­cal train­ing and work ex­pe­ri­ence on the other hand taught me to work with chal­lenges and lim­i­ta­tions that helped me to carve out a niche in the in­dus­try.

The best ad­vice I have re­ceived?

It has to be from my men­tor - ar­chi­tect Atal Kapoor who once said, “if you come to me with a prob­lem and you do not have a solution, then you are def­i­nitely part of that prob­lem.” Try to see any prob­lem with this per­spec­tive and even­tu­ally, you will come up with a solution.

I al­ways wanted to de­sign?

Some­thing which is orig­i­nal and can re­flect my vi­vac­ity and en­thu­si­asm for life.

My best achieve­ment...

A dif­fi­cult ques­tion, but I cer­tainly feel my vigor mul­ti­plies multi-fold when my de­signs get ap­pre­ci­a­tion from few of the best global de­sign­ers whose work I truly ad­mire.

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