Expressing Yourself Is True Modernism

Nejeeb Khan, Founder Managing Director, KGD Architecture

How did you get into architecture in the first place?Q How did you get into architecture in the first place?
Traditionally, I belong to a family of artists, and even during my childhood, we used to discuss about paintings, aesthetics, building facades etc. at home, and that is where it at all started. Being brought up in Kerala, I used to admire its traditional form of architecture, and get inspired by it. And by the time I reached 12th standard in school, I was very sure that I want to do only architecture and nothing else. Architecture was kind of imbibed in me since my childhood days.

How have technological advancements influenced your work?
There is a tremendous kinship between technology and our work. KGD has three big mottos which is written as – architecture, innovation and green – and I strongly believe that innovation is everything, without innovation you cannot grow in any field. Over the past 10 years in architecture, there has been a lot of technological advancements in the form of BIM, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence etc. It has been quiet a serious advancement happening, and it has influenced our company big time. We have been big users of BIM in India, with 87 plus licenses in today’s time. We also have a separate studio which does a lot of virtual reality, especially for spacious projects like airports, hotels, and other expensive projects. We are using a lot of technology not only for the betterment of our designs, but also to take care of the sustainable aspect of our designs by extracting correct facts from the BIM models.

How, and to what extent, do other creative fields influence your design work?
One of the creative fields that has really helped me understand architecture is movies. In movies, you do create a kind of sketching or create a kind of series of events with lot of frames involved. Similarly, in architecture also I do think very much in those lines. For instance, if I am designing a hospital, I have a complete series of visualization in my mind, (considering the patients and their basic needs of infrastructure) and then create drawings accordingly.

Your work speaks volumes about modern architecture. What attracted you to modernism?
For me modern architecture is expressing the materials and the forms. Some of the architects that really influenced me are Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier who were modern architects expressing materials and volumes in their designs. Their great courage of showing the truth influenced me a lot.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?
The greatest challenge in any type of energy efficient building is changing the ecosystem – the foundation and the natural water slope within that area. While putting the basement, the water flow will stop in that location which eventually hampers the vegetation part. We are creating an impact on the landscape, and moreover on the ecosystem. The challenge is to lessen the impact, and to make sure that we are considerate about the situation, and we design accordingly. For example, if there is a contour, we design according to the contour and don’t want to go against the ecosystem. Yes, it will create some issues, but still, we need to reduce the impact and try to neutralize it.

Having experience in foreign projects as well, what difference do you feel in working conditions in India vis-à-vis international projects?
In US, the planning time is more, so we get to design a little more in detail, whereas in India, most of the time once the client takes a decision to build, they want it to execute very fast. The planning time of a project is of prime importance, and that is the biggest challenge faced in our country.

The next challenge is implementation. In western countries, the implementation of our designs is carried out in a bit more advanced manner. When it comes to safety, site protection, wastage disposal, and construction technologies, they are way much advanced than us. The process of making a building in western countries is smoother, whereas in India, it is not as smoother as compared to other countries.

Which do you think are the boundaries between public and private spaces? And in your projects?
We do a lot of projects which has a lot of public reach, be it hotels, hospitals, universities, or airports. We have a real understanding of how we are going to influence the public realm. We want to create a positive impact into the civic architecture of that place. If we are building a hospital, then 99 per cent of time we don’t build a huge wall and close the hospital from main street. We would probably create a transparent wall so that we make sure it becomes a civic architecture, and people enjoy our architecture.

We give a lot of importance to the public realm. Private stream is a little easy to define, because we have very good direction from the client. But, we are very focused on the public stream, for public appearances and public participation of our buildings.

Now-a-days skills of architects are blended with latest software solution and new technologies, what is your viewpoint on the same?
Yes that must be the need of the hour as we got to use technology. Today, there are 30-40 agencies working together to make a project including structural consultant, façade consultant, elevated consultant, soil consultant, lighting consultant, acoustic consultant, etc. To do a good job, you need a lot of specialized consultants and architect is like the captain of the ship. You need a lot of technology to create a better skill set.  I do agree that we have to marry to more and more technologies, management approaches and coordination approaches in creating a purpose of the building for the betterment of the people. Imagine if we have an aesthetically pleasing building, but, if the mechanical efficiencies are not there, if the fire is not working properly, if there are less number of elevators and people have to wait long to get into the building, then all the glory is gone for a toss. There should definitely be a technological push in all our buildings.

Being an architect what do you see as important issues or considerations in your project?
For us it is very simple. The biggest consideration is finding out the end users who is going to ultimately use the building, and imagining them as the part of the building and how they are going to use the building. As I told before, for me it is like a movie – in my mind I want to play that movie of people started using the building. I need to figure out how much I know the end users.

As per you what measures are expected from government in promotion of tall buildings?
The government has complete understanding of the cities and have 3D models of the cities with them. They know every inch of the cities. The government, in my opinion, should get more and more involved in the cities and understand and identify what is exactly needed for the tall buildings, and where is the location for the tall buildings. I think the clarity on the policies on tall buildings comes from the government with a lot of discussion with the public bodies, NGOs, planners and good consultants. In my opinion, more and more R&D about tall buildings and their needs in the cities is what the government is supposed to do.

Beyond design and construction how BIM can help improve the performance of the building?
BIM is come out of a concept of building lifecycle design, and is not just a building design. So, considering the building from the starting point to 50 years of life of the building, how building is going to perform, how it is going to act, how much energy it is going to take – all this is helped by the capacity of BIM. BIM will come into more and more project facility management, renovation of the building, maintenance of the building. BIM has a tremendous influence of the entire life cycle of the building.

BIM will definitely improve the building performance because the concept of BIM starts from the building lifecycle design. Facility management people will use it to greater extent, and if it is an office building, the multi-tenants will take the database from the architects and use it. At the same time, the data needs to be more and more safe so that it is not going in the wrong hands because it has every detail about the building all in one database. BIM will have a lot of impact on the building lifecycle.