We see design in every passing moment of our lives. It is what adds beauty, functionality, and joy to everyday living. However, one rarely ever stops to notice and understand its essence, and instead takes it for granted. Architect and Interiors India presents design dialogues between one of India’s leading architects, Architect Dikshu Kukreja, and eight thought leaders, and draws parallels between architects and design, fashion, politics, business, food and more.
We put Architect Dikshu Kukreja on the hot seat along with Interior Designer Sussanne Khan, Industrialist Gautam Singhania, Chef Manish Mehrotra, Social Entrepreneur and Corporate Honcho Sunil Kant Munjal, Ambassador Andre Aranha Correa do Lago, His Highness YKC Wadiyar and Fashion Kings Shantanu and Nikhil to discuss design that goes beyond the structures that we see, and the buildings that we build.
As for Dikshu himself, there is so much to say! Armed with a Masters in Architecture & Urban Design from Harvard, a Gold Medal from School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi, and a Taliesin Fellowship from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, USA, Dikshu is the Managing Director of CP Kukreja Architects, a firm founded by his father, which under his leadership now, has been ranked amongst the Top 100 Architecture firms in the world and Top 5 in Asia.
“I’m very optimistic about the future of design. I firmly believe that design can not only influence our moods and contribute to a place’s character, but also resolve some of the biggest challenges we are facing, be it political, social, cultural, or economical. It is vital we recognise our strengths to create opportunities for all. With our country still developing, I believe there is space for all creatives to carve their own niche and thrive in what they pursue. The upcoming generation is also striving towards sustainable and innovative designs that can help minimise the impact of climate change,” he says, his voice full of hope.
His camaraderie with each of the professionals featured here is what makes these conversations heart-warming and refreshing. The common thread of passion for design runs through and it’s very interesting to hear a design take from professionals who are leaders in fields other than architecture.
These conversations include some excerpts from the television series, Deciphering Design with Dikshu. Read on to enjoy some fabulous insights on design beyond architecture!
ARCHITECTURE THROUGH A DESIGNER’S LENS
A diva by all means, Sussanne Khan makes the quote, ‘dare to dream the impossible’ come to life. Her belief that luxury is about emotion and design is her tool reflects in her work as a designer of spaces and things. Her belief also seamlessly blends into her “industrial masculine with feminine edgy chic” design style. In 2011, when she introduced The Charcoal Project, a concept store in Mumbai, there was none other like it. From then to now, her journey has been inspiring and has made a statement in more ways than one.
At The Charcoal Project, along with a team of architects, interior designers and product designers, Sussanne has delivered many conceptual projects in the world of residential private homes, destination villas, commercial offices and model show apartments for various leading real estate brands. She continues to design and create intriguing new concepts that define her unique style of thought.
ON THE HOT SEAT!
When architect Dikshu Kukreja got talking with Sussanne about her preferred style or influences, she confessed, “I get my influences from architecture, preferably from architectures of the past. Whether it is the Renaissance, Gothic, Rococo or Baroque - all the various styles through the years in the history of art and architecture have always played a very strong influence on me. But then there is another part of me that’s very clean and modern. So, I think I would like to define my sensibility in a way of yin and yang – a balance between the old and new and I put it together. There has to be that preferred blend, so if I had to name it, it would be edgy-chic or relaxed luxury.”
KEEPING IT CONTEXTUAL
Who wouldn’t agree that context is the most important aspect of design? As Dikshu put it rightly, it’s important to judge “where the building is coming up, what is it coming up for, what’s the culture and history of the place, and what is the climate of the place. You can’t just impose.” Sussanne, a firm believer of designing while keeping the geography and natural light that enters the space in mind, agreed.
CAMERA ON MUMBAI
But what do we do about spaces like the apartments in Mumbai that are enclosed?
“For apartments, where there isn’t enough natural light entering the houses, and the homes are quite compact, nature is vital for interiors. It is the life that will make your objects come alive. Interiors is a combination of furniture and inanimate objects - but if you bring in a part of nature, you suddenly bring in life and you breathe air into the space. If there is a space which is confined and not so big, you can create an installation of something preserved like driftwood, rocks from the riverbed, or brambles and branches,” she says.
Now that sounds like a great idea!
BACK TO THE ROOTS
That parents and family have a big impact on one’s career choices or inclination towards a creative field is without doubt a reality. Narrating his story, Dikshu shares, “The most important influence for me, I would say, has to be my dad. When his friends would come over and ask, ‘What do you want to become when you grow up, Dikshu?’ I would immediately say – ‘an architect!’ And my dad would ask – ‘Why would you want to be an architect? Choose some other profession. You should think of something for yourself!’
I have never figured out whether he was playing reverse psychology on me or if he was really wanting me to think through on a serious level before I chose a profession. Regardless, he’s had a lot of influence – be it the thought process towards design or his love for nature, where I cannot see buildings being made without considering nature. Because at the end of the day, I feel, as architects, we are building at the cost of nature, which I think is very irresponsible.”
Sussanne too is a second-generation interior designer. She beams, “I think I was very privileged and lucky to have been born in my family. Both my parents are extremely artistic and they have a flair for design. Yes, of course, my mom is an interior designer of a time where there were very few interior designers in the film industry. My mom was always ordering design magazines and I had stars in my eyes when I used to go through those - I used to get so enamored by the homes!
Full of gratitude and sparkling with creativity, this conversation is a definite insight into the minds of masterminds.
TECHNOLOGY AT THE FOREFRONT OF DESIGN
People may know Gautam Singhania as the Chairman and Managing Director of Raymond Ltd. But he is not just a corporate honcho. The man with an innate sense of style and panache also has a penchant for all things nice, luxurious and adventurous. Be it boats, planes, cars, helicopters, jet skiing, water skiing and travelling, everything for Gautam is king size. He doesn’t believe in compromising on his passions. His coveted fleet of cars is a reflection of his taste for the finest and the most magnificent objects the world can offer. He owns the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570 Superleggera, Lotus Elise convertible, Nissan Skyline GTR, Honda S2000, Ferrari 458 Italia and Audi Q7, to name a few. This is not all! His zeal extends to private jets, speed boats and super luxurious yachts too. Not to mention, his home in South Mumbai is reportedly the second-tallest private building in India. The house is said to have five floors with a spa, helipad and two pools, besides a private museum devoted to the family’s century-old fabric business. Gautam is certainly a testimony to his brand’s tagline, the complete man! A true blue aficionado, indeed!
ON THE HOT SEAT
When the location of the conversation is as swank as the Super Car Club Garage, the talk of cars is inevitable. And when the conversation is with Gautam Singhania, it goes from 2 horsepower to 1800 horsepower in seconds. “I think I’ve had a passion for cars all my life, starting with Go Kart when I was a kid. And it’s not only one form of car that I have a passion for; probably the most unique range of cars – from Go karts to Formula 1 and from cars that are from the 18th century to 2020, so it’s a very diversified field of passion,” says Gautam, as he shares that while some may think that designing a building, a car or a yacht would have the same basics, there is one fundamental difference in the two, and that is weight. “In the design of buildings, you don't worry about the weight but if you design the interiors of an aircraft, weight is a big issue. Not only is weight an issue on an aircraft, it is also about fireproof materials, so the limitations of materials are an issue. In a yacht, the more weight you add, the faster you are going to sink. In cars, it really depends on the safety of what you are doing with the car. For e.g., if you are going into a race car zone then you’ve got to figure out what safety features you want,” he says.
While Dikshu agrees, he adds that while the science might differ, the approach to designing, whether a car or a building, remains the same and that is ensuring personalisation of the spaces to meet user comfort and maximising efficiency. On that note, there is no way one can avoid mentioning Gautam’s indigenously designed yacht. And while there are the fancy cars and the stunningly designed yacht, Gautam’s love for design extends to boats, planes cars, and now buildings – he is now designing a large-scale real estate project in Thane where he says, “His love for life is sure to come through!” He shares, “It’s all about technology today. If you take construction technology, in the good old days, one used shuttering, and a slab took 30 days. Today, we are doing five and a half slabs a month and that’s all driven by technology.”
“Talking about technology, when I look at buildings today, I realise how technology is a fundamental aspect driving them - smart homes, intelligent buildings. Design is now evolving around technology. It's not an exterior element that needs to be incorporated into the design but rather its starting point,” shares Dikshu.
When asked about the architecture of India, Gautam says, “India has got great architecture and there is so much depth to it. Whether you take Victoria Terminus, or the Taj Mahal, or if you compare Rajasthan or Kerala, they are very different. But that’s also because we have such diverse culture and heritage.” Spoken like a true connoisseur.
BUILDING AN IDEAL NATION
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