“As a designer, it is imbibed in your psyche to be socially and environmentally responsible”
Tell us briefly about how you got introduced to the world of Architecture?
Having an architecture background, I was exposed to the Architecture field during vacations. I was made to meet architects in London or New York and one or two days were exclusively allotted to visiting architectural sights. Also, my dad used to talk about it a lot. I never intended to be an architect and it was sort of a default case scenario. After undergrad, I thought of changing the field but then I thought let me finish the Grad school and then ended up opening my own firm. It was a tide which was pushing me in a direction and I just went with the flow.
How is it to have a firm of your own today?
I am enjoying it a lot. You have to be passionate about the field. It is a very demanding profession and it can break you very easily. You would have put in a lot of time and energy and the client will take one look and say this is not what I wanted. You need to distinguish between the client and the work you have done instead of taking it personal.
Your firm ShroffLeon has received the “NDTV Design & Architecture of the year” Award for a beach house project. How was the experience on that project like?
This is the project where we had a “tree” problem in the middle of the pool and had to work our way around it. It was a very interesting project. It was also the first architectural project we worked on as before that we were doing only interiors. This project was a bit of landscape and architecture. There was a lot of learning and we got to experiment. In this project, we used a material called Corten steel for the first time and after that we have been using this in 3-4 other projects. It’s a regular metal which after a while looks like rusted iron. Overall, it was a simple project and the client was extreme co-operative.
Nowadays, there is a trend of eco-friendly or go green. How easy is it to imbibe this in a project?
Honestly, I feel it’s a trend because people outside the industry are talking about it. As a designer, I feel it is imbibed in your psyche to be socially and environmentally responsible. Most of our houses are made of brick which are made locally in the area or stone which is quarried some kilometres away from the site. We have always built like that. All our houses are basically eco-friendly. Typically, the houses are either verandah or courtyard type, they are sensitive to climatic conditions.
What kind of freedom do Architects get in terms of design?
We have been very lucky to have very open minded and genuinely decent clients. We have had a bunch of clients who respect our opinion and if they don’t agree with what we say, they have a polite way of putting it across. There are two ways to look at this. One, if a client gives a lot of restrictions it is not a bad thing because it gives a perimeter to work in and the end product tends to be much richer. More often the client is fixated on things and it has a positive impact. It works as a challenge as well. For example; we had a project where we had designed everything and there was a tree which came in the middle of the pool. It called for readjustment without changing the design of the pool but we took it as a challenge and the result was much more richer.
What kind of skills do you look for when you hire a fresher? Do you hire interns as well?
I am not of the opinion that students need to be technically sound. The college should be an incubator of ideas. Five years of thinking is something which cannot be taught in two days. I look for people who can think and they can understand the ideas. You need to be a fun person. We take in only interns. We teach them how to work our way because we are very particular about how we draw, present our work. We expect people to work within those parameters and enhance those parameters.
You have done your education abroad. How important, as per you opinion, is international exposure to succeed in this field?
1. It is important to go abroad because it throws you on your own. You begin to start doing things and it brings about a certain maturity which you will not get if you continue to live here.
2.The work ethic in students here is pathetic. Abroad, you are made to do more than what is expected of you. The work ethic sort of inculcates in you which I do not think exists here.
3.They teach you to think critically which is something Indian education lacks. You are allowed to question things and that is something good about foreign education. When you start questioning, you come up with new ways of working.