The firm creates public buildings and hence believes in keeping people first in all their designs which is also their philosophy. Their structures are not just people friendly, but they are also sustainable.
Orating about his architectural journey in different phases and beautifully describing steel…
We have with us Man-of-the-hour
Ar. GOONMEET SINGH CHAUHAN, FOUNDING PARTNER, DESIGN INTERNATIONAL FORUM
Q. How has been your journey from your first venture as an Architect to now?
A.I clearly see three innings in my journey. First innings was about finding my feet and experiencing how sketch translating into a building and the whole process of getting client approvals, principal approvals finding contractors and then eventually being able to deliver what you have imagined on the site. Its quite different before you actually nocked on practice and then you actually start delivering and I enjoy sketching and to me it was very important that the way we sketch and conceive and how eventually it gets built.
The second leg of the project involved slightly larger and about more significant projects. So, our focus as a company being able to deliver on site what we actually imagined really helped. Our technical abilities to integrate all the services, structures architectural details, understanding scale and proportions that helped me create buildings of some architectural distinction, while the third innings in the journey was where we got to do buildings of national importance. By bringing in deeper understanding of kind of institution you are building which are public buildings which outlook the architect, outlook the people who have given you the brief to design those buildings and they become the part of the public imagination in how they shape our cities and the broader sense of urban identities of our cities.
So, it’s been a very enjoyable journey and one is hopeful that the innings keep changing and I still feel that it’s important that I at least play another one or two innings because each time you re-constitute yourself in your intentions.
Q. Having done mega projects across different sectors, what is your take on Indian Steel Construction Industry?
A.I think the industry is at nascent stages. As of now steel has been focusing more on housing, bridges etc. In the last few years, the push is towards projects where speed is the key concern. But we are yet to really understand the material as an industry and use it the way architectural steel is meant to be used. So, I would say our industry is still behind where it should be and whole lots of catching up needs to be done.
The opportunities are enhanced and anybody who taps on to them will find great markets worth monetarily if somebody is looking to make a mark by being part of architecturally distinct steel buildings.
Q. What all aspects do you consider while designing any project?
A. Three things are very important one is the context in which one is building, second is sustainability. I like to create buildings which are naturally climate friendly not really based on equipment’s but based on designs.
I am always creating double skin on the façade and it’s a shaded envelope it is like Imagining a building under an umbrella. So, for me it’s very important that the architect understands and feelingly designs and immerse yourself in those buildings whether in which people are going to experience it. The third thing which is critical to me is I don’t like imposing architecture which subdues the spirit of the user. While some of my buildings are grand in terms of their scale as seen from outside because they are seen from afar so visually, they might be grand. But experientially you don’t feel lost when you enter inside, and they offer human scale of intractability and views which makes the user comfortable.
Then there are always projects specific problems which must be done but eventually we have been engaged in creating buildings which must deliver a purpose. The architect must understand the different purpose the buildings must service and not get slayed by brief too much. Liked we are doing railway projects where I felt the stench of urine at the station which is not part of the brief so you can put granites on the platforms, lifts, escalators but the stench cannot be removed. So, we work towards how we can remove the stench effectively, so I do see myself as a problem solver. This is the base line then context, sustainability, human architecture.
Q. What is your signature style while designing a project? What makes your design style different from other contemporaries?
A. I feel there is no compulsion to be different. I am a very conservative, conventional kind of person and I feel this poor emphasis at our age on being different takes the better of us from many of us. I think we must be authentic rather than being different. I think we must be grounded rather than being radical and I think we must not impose our style on to our projects.
It is essential to understand that unlike other creative professions such as fashion designing or cooking, we are working on public architecture. We run a full-scale practice in affordable as well as luxury housing, ports, railway stations, airports, etc. This kind of architecture does not allow you to fit into a specific style. Instead, we follow a comprehensive process to solve critical problems that may sometimes be missing in the brief but are vital for a building to function effectively.
I like to experiment a lot with sketches, computer models, and 3D models. In many instances, it is a deconstructive phase of playing wherein we discard a lot of options. This is an enriching part of the process where, instead of coming up with a preconceived notion of a project, you first solve the fundamental problems. Architecture eventually needs to synthesise. If the process of problem-solving and synthesising leads to the right solution, we proceed with it. There are also a lot of layers involved in this process of problem-solving- understanding the context, ensuring sustainability, deciding on materiality and scale- all of which need to be combined finally. I like to be contemporary in terms of the architectural vocabulary that emerges from the building materiality and prefer using more tactile materials.
Q. What does “sustainability” mean today
A.To look at the biggest challenge that our civilization faces is climate change and apart from growing disparities which has remained earlier too but just more apparent and also the absence of peace in many parts of the world. As an architect those are not our domain, our domain is sustainability among others. We must first educate our clients, educate industry, teams.
Sustainability is something that we need to embrace and look at ourselves who people in some way, vanguards in built environment, built conversation around it in institutions around which how much electricity they are using, how to optimize, add renewable energy, managing water, are they zero discharge facility or just draining their sewage water in civil lines, can they use it for horticulture on their own. Sustainability is not about getting some star ratings. Of course, all of us must do that from its benefits. It’s important for us to make it part & parcel of our conversation, built in environments with our clients and institutions and make them feel it where it’s not academic but real. Once we have done that, it causes a shift towards sustainable life.
Q.As an Architect what scope do you see in the Indian Steel infrastructure industry?
A. As an architect, we are suckers of Beauty. Steel is very versatile slim material; we owe it to design very sexy steel buildings. In some vacant position, Indian industry in steel construction can be at the global platform. We are the engines who can bring beauty to the buildings using steel.
Q. Can you please mention steel related projects designed by you?
A. Beautiful skywalk entirely made in steel rings. Apart from this, we are building Delhi’s largest hospital in shortest period of time constructed in 5-6 months which is under construction. Steel structures for educational buildings & 12 storey building less than a year using steel framework but because of fire norms eventually got concealed. We are also renovating a famous mall which is entirely in steel. Steel allows you to construct in a more clean and dry manner.
Q.How have technological advancements influenced your work?
A.I think the engineering capability of our steel industry is slowly improving thanks to better modelling facilities. Now you have Tekla which are allowing you to make shop drawings, engineering works, in terms of the manufacturing.
I am finding the computerization, digitization at the manufacturing level is really allowing us to work more precisely and also finding the ability of our design studios to interface with manufacturing much better. As both our digital platforms are now talking to each other. So that is one technical advancement which is impacting both design as well as execution.
Apart from a few architects who are trained abroad while most of us are unaware. So, I look forward to those advancements to being available in India in next 4-5 years. So far digitization is the only technical advancement which has helped as far as steel industry is concerned.
Q.Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work?
A.I studied at IIT Kharagpur which was a very form follows function a straight jacketed approach to then. We had a few professors who helped us start on a journey of learning by looking at others. So, I remember Prof. Sanghamitra Basu who is now a great exponent of architectural and heritage conservation. She thought us contemporary of architecture and history of architecture. So, I think I owe a lot to teachers like her these were early influencers.
Then I went in apprentice with Ar. B V Doshi he was such a joyful, delightful architect who completely took out seriousness from work. He does great buildings and meaningful architecture. He made it light, playful, joyful. I think owe a lot to limited time I spent there in making designing a joyous activity. Then I came to Delhi. I loved looking at Joseph Allen Stein works. The Timeless architecture rooted deep urban context yet sustainable much before it became mainstream conversation issue. I think his style of architecture has also influenced. I travelled a lot and so works of great architects globally and then its hard to say one name but its amalgamation of all these great influencers.
Q. What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?
A.I don’t believe in leaving behind legacy. These are pressures by the contemporary leaders on the society. I do good work and if continues to be mesangial then people will draw conclusion and I would depart.