ar. meena murthy kakkar and ar. vishal kakkar: ENVISAGE
IFJ|July - August 2020
ar. meena murthy kakkar and ar. vishal kakkar: ENVISAGE
boasting differing strengths, but the same core values, meena murthy kakkar and vishal kakkar of envisage have created their own niche

It was the design for a sports complex that brought Meena Murthy and Vishal Kakkar together. “After graduating from SPA in 2002, and working for a couple of years, I came across a sports complex design competition floated by HUDA,” explains Meena. “Vishal and I, classmates from SPA, decided to collaborate and were among the top three finalists; but the project got shelved. Nevertheless, working together was an extremely enjoyable experience and that’s when we started our own practice.”

With Meena as the Design Head, and Vishal as the Business Head, the duo set up their firm in Delhi in 2006, and almost immediately received a commission for a turnkey project, an office at Connaught Place. “That’s how our journey began,” explains Vishal, adding, “Our USP has been our distinct individual approaches and forte in architectural projects. Meena’s strength lies in design and quick solutions for any given situation, while my forte lies in cost control and highly effective planning and implementation.”

One milestone for the duo was their first institutional project at Una, Himachal Pradesh, in 2007. “This was a remarkable year for us,” reminisces Meena, “We moved our offices to South Delhi and went back to SPA to teach design.” In 2013, Envisage established its Chennai presence, and in 2019, the Delhi base shifted to their current address in Gurugram.

Both architects credit their early influences in helping them choose the path they set out to follow. For Meena, it was, “My parents, who drilled the importance of being an independent thinker and being financially self-sufficient into me.” For Vishal, it was his father, a builder, who would take him to construction sites from an early age, who was the role model. “That early exposure stands me in good stead to date, especially his excellent project management skills,” he explains.

All this early training served them well when executing their landmark project - the India Post Payments Bank or IPPB. Vishal explains, “This project was executed in conjunction with Deloitte and the Department of Post. IPPB was a PMO initiative to take digital banking to the grassroots level.”

According to Meena, the challenges were many. “The first was to introduce a new contemporary design typology for IPPB to stand apart from its parent - India Post. Second, to convince a huge team on the necessity of the change and its longevity. The most difficult one was to ensure that the design was executed without a hiccup in 650 locations across India, without any site visit – in a span of six months from inception.” The zeal with which the duo approached the IPPB was exactly the way they tackle all projects, big and small. “Our design vocabulary is constantly evolving,” says Meena. Vishal adds, “It would be a disappointment to look back 10 years from today and see myself as still having a similar approach to projects. Materials are evolving, clients etc., are all evolving, then why not us?”

The Covid pandemic has also brought out the advantages of staying open to change. “Only time will tell if the spatial changes that are being made to offices and institutions will be permanent,” explains Vishal. “However, as architects we need to take a relook at the quality of buildings we design and lessen their dependence on artificial systems of heating and cooling,”

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July - August 2020