ArchiFeature > Aniket Bhagwat
*An Indian By Design Exclusive*
I featured Aniket Bhagwat last month, and there has been considerable interest in his work; landscape and architecture. So I got in touch with him (thanks to dear friend Ambrish), and dug deeper into his works and thoughts. Here’s Aniket Bhagwat, talking about his projects, meandering into thoughts on architecture, Spade – an Indian architectural design magazine published with peers, and finally wrapping up in a discussion on enduring design.
> Sirpur Paper Mills
“A 2100 sq. mt corporate office building in Gurgaon, Delhi. The building is wrapped with Corten steel, that will rust and age over a period of time. The Deviarts Foundation gallery, headed by Lekha and Anupam Poddar, occupies two floors in it, and opens with a showcase on 30th August, 2008. The building will be complete by Diwali.”
“Aaaksh can host 7000 people under the metal grid. It’s a rare example, where you can custom light to precision, a space of almost 1,00000.00 sqft, without flood lighting it. The lights allow limitless variations, each light being about 6 feet in diameter.”
> The Terrace and Floor Patterns at Devigarh
“I like the Devigarh landscape because to me, it combines nuances of the physical past of the space, along with cultural references of a feudal culture, and presents it in a new language, that is not explicit, but initiates a dialogue with the keen observer that remains much after he has left the place.”
Beach House at Tithal
“The Birds are lights. The angle of their perch can be altered depending on the owners fancy. Sometimes the Birds can dip to drink water, or seem to take flight. Their eyes light up the pool.”
“That’s Anupam Poddar’s garden that we restored, and built the pool within it. The steps are concrete Ls, that do not touch. The pool was built on the edge of a Banyan tree. We planted a more feminine tree atop the pavilion, and a small delicate tree at the other end in water – almost like a family, holding the water.”
“Jariwalla was interesting. It’s a modern house in Ahmedabad; exposed brick and concrete on the outside. We then hollowed out the house, and filled it with clearly Indian interior spaces that use traces from wooden Parsi jaalis instead of walls and south Indian columns in a melange that we wanted to see if it sat well together. The light inside the house is very gentle. Samira Rathod worked on it with furniture that was chunky, heavy, detailed, almost refuting all this modern euro stuff.”
Outhouse for Hemant and Meena
“The stone court is a driving court, where guests have to navigate their cars as they arrive.”
“This is Anupam’s next hotel, after Devigarh. Work has started at site, in Jaipur. Spread over 22 acres, it will house 60 odd rooms and is committed to explore a new idiom of contemporary design, that’s rooted in the understanding of Rajasthan’s culture and climate.”
The Devarshi House
“This is turning out fine. It’s changing a lot from the images, but getting quieter in some sense – the story about how it got built is going to be fun to recall. It’s for a wonderful young person, who loves design and loves cars too – the house is like a street that he can drive right through in.”
The Jain House
“This is a house of many actors – the central brick lounge that peers at the north, the verandah, a stockade that holds two rooms and a pool at the back, and a glass dining pavilion at the end of the verandah. It’s under construction. I am going to bake bricks for this dome specially, thinner flatter bricks, baked in different hues of fire.”
The Santoor Farm
“This project has not started yet- it’s a house built around existing trees.”
Indian By Design: Your introduction states that your firm handles residential, industrial, recreation, urban, institutional landscapes, and ecological redevelopment projects. Did you start with the aim of doing all of it, or did it evolve with time?
Aniket: The firm is my fathers’ – he started it. So it’s an old firm which started as a clear landscape design firm in 1972, and has evolved since. So we did not start with that charter, but over the years found that was the kind of work we did. For the last 8 years, we now do a select amount of architecture that we find interesting.
Indian By Design: When someone approaches you with a project, how do you go about analysing what it could become?
Aniket: I approach any project with the intention of making the client a partner in the process- so what the project aspires to be is a collective vision- not mine or ours alone.
Indian By Design: I met an architect from Sri Lanka who felt modern Indian Architecture was not distinctive enough. Do you feel that to be true? What do you think is the biggest challenge Indian architecture faces today?
Aniket: Well, modern architecture anywhere in the world is the same- except for notable examples. I think Indian architecture is doing just fine, but could show more life from time to time. You see, the fact that we shy away from the kind of buildings and shapes that the world is building (Zaha Hadid et all)- is a tribute to the fact that we are sensible and in some sense mired, in some sense respectful of our cultural, economic and spatial context. But sometimes we take the mantle of being sensible, as a burden, and it weighs down Indian architecture greatly. The flip reaction is the irreverent work that seems to dot our urbanscape. But this too- needs longer discussion. In a nut shell, I disagree.
Indian By Design: Have Indian clients and architects begun to appreciate the true potential in landscape design?
Aniket: Well, it’s been a huge change over the last 10 years- so in general I would have to say yes, emphatically, yes.
Indian By Design: On Spade
Aniket: It’s a design magazine that few of us get out – first issue was out a few months back – we plan to do only two issues a year. It’s a magazine dedicated to Indian Architecural Design – no ads, no sponsors.
Indian By Design: How do you feel about design competitions?
Aniket: Most of them in India are poorly run, badly managed, and have poor judging capabilities. They also, almost never allow the winning project to be built. Generally a waste. I keep away from them.
Aniket: I find that in India, a lot that gets lauded is actually work that’s trying to copy work else where in the world, and is not rooted enough to the understanding of our culture, context and skill sets. Also, a fair amount of work has visual quality as a premium concern, and the space does seem to lose its charm upon repeated viewing, and holds little to simulate the mind, other than the initial visual spectacle.
Indian By Design: About what you said about design and how it should guard itself from turning transient. Felt it absolutely true in the context of architecture, which once built is there forever, and has to answer to generations, but felt that sometimes art, graphic design, interiors and the like might be excused from the sterner form of this caveat. As they can be delightful even if seasonal and ephemeral.
Aniket: I disagree. While the ephemeral, or the transient has place in any discipline, if a discipline lays claim on being temporary as a right of exixtence, god help it. We seem not to be able to seperate between the transient act of being and the nature of permanence communicated as an idea. When a rare flower blooms, is it transient, or is its memory permanent? A broken love affair? Transient or sears your heart forever? We make the mistake in distinguishing between the two as if they are two separate identities. That which is transient, perhaps has a greater value of being a permanent memory because it’s a singular focused emotion. That which strives for permanence, does not always manage to, since it has many paradigms to respond to. Now think of a great ad campaign, the old Beetle Volkswagon ad campaign, the Marcel Breuer chair. Permanent? Transient?
Apart from working on Landscape and Architectural projects, and writing for Spade, Aniket Bhagwat is also faculty at CEPT, teaching post-grad Landscape and under-grad Architecture. He can be reached via his website.
Filed under: Indian Architecture | 24 Comments
Tags: An Indian By Design Exclusive, Aniket Bhagwat, Indian Architecture, Indian Design, Indian Landscape Design