“AR­CHI­TEC­TURE IS A COL­LAB­O­RA­TION WITH PEO­PLE, IDEAS AND AT­TI­TUDES”

Be it in­dus­trial and in­sti­tu­tional build­ings or of­fice in­te­ri­ors and bun­ga­lows, ar­chi­tect Shimul Javeri Kadri has been chang­ing the way we view de­sign since 1990, when she set up SJK Ar­chi­tects

India Today - - THIS & THAT - By ADITI PAI

The SJK Ar­chi­tects of­fice in Mumbai per­fectly res­onates with their de­sign pol­icy—con­tex­tual, con­tem­po­rary and crafted. Shimul Javeri Kadri’s work space is min­i­mal­is­tic and con­tem­po­rary with a dash of colour thrown in through the vi­brant ta­ble cover and a pink swing-seat. As she sits down for a chat, the 55-year-old rolls up the win­dow blinds to re­veal a row of bal­cony plants, vis­tas of the old tiled roofs and tow­er­ing build­ings in the By­culla neigh­bour­hood, jux­ta­pos­ing the new with the old.

Ar­chi­tec­tural vision for a project

Ar­chi­tec­ture is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with peo­ple, ideas and at­ti­tudes. Ev­ery project is about two se­ri­ous as­pi­ra­tions—how it is speak­ing for the client’s as­pi­ra­tions and what is it do­ing for the cur­rent mi­lieu and the so­cial con­text it is sit­ting in. We first un­der­stand the client’s vision and then cre­ate a vision that the client can be a part­ner in. It’s also a highly col­lab­o­ra­tive team ef­fort. The en­tire team of con­sul­tants must par­tic­i­pate and con­trib­ute to the vision as will a plethora of con­trac­tors, ar­ti­sans and ven­dors. It’s like mak­ing a film—find­ing and align­ing all the skill sets to pull to­gether and con­verge suc­cess­fully is a chal­lenge not only un­til the build­ing is built, but through its life and with the var­i­ous oc­cu­pants , who bring their own sto­ries into the vision.

On how her de­sign at­ti­tude has evolved

The big­gest change has been clar­ity. When I started out as a young ar­chi­tect in 1990 like most oth­ers, I strug­gled with my de­sign at­ti­tude. I was fas­ci­nated by the highly cli­mate and re­source-driven in­dige­nous ar­chi­tec­ture of In­dia which var­ied from the wadas to the havelis to the forts and gave us struc­tures that are so ap­pro­pri­ate. The 90s ush­ered in lib­er­al­i­sa­tion with newer ma­te­ri­als and tech­nolo­gies and the ex­pres­sions in the built en­vi­ron­ment were al­most scary—with a ‘me too’ syn­drome

of over­build­ing in glass and Alu­cobond (an alu­minium com­pos­ite ma­te­rial). Find­ing my voice and hold­ing it strong while in­cul­cat­ing the beauty of change has been an in­ter­est­ing jour­ney.

Con­tex­tual, crafted and con­tem­po­rary

We have a two-fold client—the im­me­di­ate client who is com­mis­sion­ing the project and the so­ci­ety. We need to see what the struc­ture will do for so­ci­ety, what will be the sym­bol­ism. We are work­ing on an agri­cul­ture re­search and train­ing cen­tre in Latur where we are bring­ing in sus­tain­able and sen­si­ble liv­ing prac­tices. It’s an eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive and his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant area so we have used fly ash bricks to cre­ate a well shaded and solid struc­ture which shields it­self from the strong sun­light and at the same time, uses steel arches that lend it a con­tem­po­rary look and a stature that the project needs be­cause it pays trib­ute to a pub­lic fig­ure. Sim­i­larly, in Gu­jarat, we are do­ing a mu­seum ded­i­cated to Jain­ism where we have brought in reli­gious sym­bol­ism by de­sign­ing it along the prin­ci­ples of a Jain man­dala and pur­pose­fully re­tained the sim­plic­ity and pu­rity of a white struc­ture that brings back mem­o­ries of Jain tem­ples.

Ar­chi­tec­ture in In­dia

I wish I could say there has been a dra­matic change but there isn’t. I ex­pected we would have amaz­ing pub­lic projects but the only area of in­vest­ment seems to be in res­i­den­tial build­ings. Gov­ern­ment isn’t play­ing pa­tron to en­cour­age in­no­va­tive ar­chi­tec­ture and there­fore, there’s way too lit­tle hap­pen­ing in pub­lic ar­chi­tec­ture, a rea­son In­dia isn’t mak­ing a mark in­ter­na­tion­ally. Of­ten the low­est bid­der gets the project and you re­ally can­not get in­no­va­tion through that. Pub­lic projects should be up for com­pe­ti­tion and these should be hon­oured. Also, ar­chi­tec­ture needs to be dis­cussed more so peo­ple are aware of good ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign.

Nur­tur­ing peo­ple at SJK

I have three part­ners in the firm who bring in a lot of en­ergy and tech­ni­cal know-how, a strong cul­ture of re­search and ex­plo­ration. We em­pha­sise on in­di­vid­ual growth so ev­ery day at lunch we see videos on any topic from the Com­mon­wealth Games to the Pulitzer to books. Our ‘Fri­days at Five’ is a fun ses­sion where we in­vite peo­ple to come and speak about their pro­fes­sion; we’ve even had an origami ses­sion once. It’s a playful and hard­work­ing set-up where we don’t fol­low spe­cific work tim­ings but abide by a very strong work ethic.

Per­sonal style

I en­joy In­dian hand­loom and craft—the joy of colour—and nat­u­ral met­als as jew­ellery ac­cents (cop­per, brass and sil­ver); but with ar­chi­tec­ture, I like sharp con­tem­po­rary and clean lines.

AT www.sjkar­chi­tect.com

Dasa­vatara Ho­tel, Tirupati (above); and Jain Mu­seum in Koba, Gu­jarat by SJK Ar­chi­tects

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