‘The works and philosophy of Mies Van der Rohe have always inspired us’, Dr. Amit Hajela

‘The works and philosophy of Mies Van der Rohe have always inspired us’, Dr. Amit Hajela

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The focus of our work over the years has been Humane Architecture which is people centric, the emphasis has been to provide comfort for the users and to create a harmonious and holistic built environment, says Dr. Amit Hajela, Architect & Urban Designer, Neev Architects Interiors Urban Design Consultants in an exclusive interview with Sawdust.

Dr. Amit Hajela-min

Dr. Amit Hajela-min
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Dr. Amit Hajela, Architect & Urban Designer, Neev Architects Interiors Urban Design Consultants
photographs: Neev Architects Interiors Urban Design Consultants

Can you tell us about the beginnings of your practice?  What were the formations years like and how did your work evolve?

Neev Architects Interiors and Urban Design Consultants made a humble beginning 26 years ago in 1990 and graduated to become a Private Limited Company in 2001 and hence called Neev Architects Interiors and Urban Design Consultants Pvt. Ltd. The firm has offered consultancy in the disciplines of Urban Design, Architecture, Interiors, Engineering Design and Project Management in collaboration with our associates where innovation has been driven by research and an integrated approach to Design and Project Delivery through team work right from the inception to the close out.  With this endeavour, the company has diversified further by adding another vertical in 2015 called Neev Architects Urban Design Designers Atelier.

Your studio works on a diverse set of projects – public and private. Is there a ‘process’ or’ method’ that is central to your work? How do you approach your work?

Our philosophy is ingrained in client satisfaction through value addition and creative forthright solutions to absorb growth for the future. A team of highly skilled and motivated team of Architects, Urban Designers, Engineers and Technologists have worked on an array of projects to include Urban Master Plans, Redevelopment and Revitalization, Campus Planning and Design for Higher Education Sector, Institutional Buildings, Healthcare Facility Planning, Cultural Buildings, Corporate Offices and workspaces, Housing and private Residential Buildings.

Our emphasis has been on rendering Comprehensive Consultancy Services – “Integrated Design services through single window operations.” The company has subscribed to Client and User satisfaction by maintaining highest standards of professional practice and ethics. The firm has grown exponentially on account of quality project delivery and constant support of our esteemed clients who have reposed faith in us thereby translating into multiple projects from the same client. A forward and positive outlook of the team cohesively works together and sets for itself highest standards of professional delivery.

Neev Architects Interiors and Urban Design Consultants Pvt. Ltd.  is committed to maintaining the Highest Standards of Work Practices through Highly Skilled, Dedicated and Motivated Design Team. Quality of Service that guarantees client satisfaction through creation of Sustainable Built Environments.

Tell us about people and things that inspire your work.

The focus of our work over the years has been Humane Architecture which is people centric, the emphasis has been to provide comfort for the users and to create a harmonious and holistic built environment. It has been our endeavour to create an eco system which addresses the above and is sensitive to the needs of the physically challenged. Most our projects have been an outcome of in-depth research on various aspects of urban design, architecture, interior design and landscape architecture. All the above disciplines have been integrated seamlessly.

The works and philosophy of Mies Van der Rohe have always inspired us and his philosophy of “Less is More” has always been an ideology for us and we have attempted to subscribe to this philosophy which has enabled us to create sustainable built environment. Apart from this, the works of Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Charles Correa have always motivated us.

Share with us the philosophical foundation of your studio. What are the fundamental ideas that outline your practice?

The fundamental objective of the studio is to create people centric built environments (in conformity to building codes), which are sustainable, cost effective and translates into client satisfaction. To achieve this objective, the design activity is always preceded by research on the architectural and urban design issues involved in the project, and to identify the gaps in the existing buildings which lead to innovation and adding greater value to the project. As a consulting firm, we have always maintained highest tradition of ethical practice as was conceived by the earlier generations for the practice of architecture. But the practice today has transformed drastically with a variety of models for project delivery which, in many ways have conflict of interest.

Is there a ‘Process’ or ‘Method’ that is central to your work – how do you approach your work.

We firmly believe in process driven design methodology rather than focusing on the product. Our conviction is that if the process is rightly pursued the product is bound to be holistic & comprehensive. Therefore, our methodology entails background research, evaluation of context, site studies, analysis of the program, existing ecosystem of the site, vision of the promoter which all amalgamates into the endeavour to add value to the project in any which way through design, management and utilisation of new technologies and creating buildings which are adaptable, scalable and maintainable.

Are there any special benefits – in terms of knowing latest techniques, architectural practices, etc. by enrolling oneself in international architecture schools as compared to the best local architecture schools?

In the age of information, substantial information is available which can be accessed anytime through internet. However, the advantage of going abroad adds to the exposure and seeking primary information. The education in India imparted by the premier institutions is quite comprehensive, adequate and is relevant to the context in which we are required to intervene. However, the post graduation and doctoral programs certainly provide a broader understanding and offers better opportunities. The research in architecture is in infancy in India, which, certainly is more focused in some of the best universities of the world. The critical gap is in the application of knowledge though pedagogical changes are required to make education relevant and produce more employable graduates.

Tell us some of your projects which have given you the most satisfaction? (I know, all projects are satisfying, but best among them!)

The most satisfying projects are those which get executed as conceived. Though practice in India is quite limiting which prevents architects to deliver projects as desired, but, in many ways the original idea is transformed either by the clients, limitations of budget, application and availability of technology and infrastructure for construction. The most significant damage caused to the profession of architecture in India is by virtue of rendering architectural services through the process of tendering. If the country has to experience good architecture and quality outcomes then this system has to change for the good.

How do you define your convictions as an architect?

The evolution of perception towards design grows with time, and every project provides a great learning opportunity which is manifested through the articulation of space, form, building elements, scale, proportions, materials and technology. The strength of our practice has been the opportunity to execute an array of building types and projects which expanded our canvas and facilitated our intellectual growth leading to a very satisfying design journey. We always position ourselves as a keen learner at every stage of our professional engagement.

How important is client briefing? Apart from client briefing what are the other ways you adopt to know client’s mind?

The clarity of idea and the expected outcome in the mind of the client is determined by the articulate brief and the program he provides the project. The merit of the project outcomes is dependent on the above. However, it is crucial for the architect to read between the lines and engage with the client intensely to extract his vision which many a times is difficult to be expressed through words and documents. It is the intangible and emotional connect that needs to be explored and has to be manifested through the physical form.

Comfort, cost and environment friendliness – which aspect is the most important for you?

The 21st century paradigm is to create sustainable buildings which are environmentally sensitive which optimally use the available resources. The challenge for the architects always is to achieve cost effectiveness which can be fundamentally achieved through design and planning, selection of finishes and articulation of built environment which is responsive to the context and climate. The comfort of the users is paramount and should override the self in the architects. Moreover it is important to conduct post construction audit and self appraisal of building designed by an architect, which becomes an instrument for improvement and better project delivery.

What do you say about the planned ‘Smart City’ projects in India? Do you think they are workable? You have any suggestions?  

The most significant aspect of any mission in the Indian context is to engage with people and to use the principles of social engineering to address issues related to socio-economic, cultural, climatic and physical diversities. India demands an inclusive approach towards development which can primarily be achieved through community participation and inculcating sense of belongingness towards the mission and the country. The ‘Smart City’ projects in India will only be successful if we first create a ‘Smart Society’ which is ready to utilise the smart technologies.

What are the main difficulties and challenges you encounter – Market fluctuations, Material shortages, Spurious materials, Clients who don’t know what they want or Others.

Primarily most difficult aspect is to manage a client who doesn’t know what he wants and adds phenomenal confusion at each stage of working, which is a consequence of his ignorance. After 1991 during the post liberalisation period there has been a phenomenal surge in India with availability of good products in the country and usually the selection is done in consultation with the manufacturers and is recommended only after assurance is available that supply will not result in time overrun. The procedures are detailed accordingly to ensure that there are no cost or time overruns. We promote and recommend products which have undergone strict quality assurance procedures and have test results which satisfy the requirements and are suitable to the climate of the region wherein the application is required to be made.

How do you see your practice a decade from now? What are the objectives you wish your studio to achieve?

During the last one and half decades our core area of work has been in areas of Campus Design and Planning, Institutional and Healthcare sector which include housings as part of the development. Apart from the above, we have been working on high end integration of audio visual and other advanced building technologies in most of our projects. We firmly believe in integration of technology with alternative construction techniques and building materials immensely contributes towards energy conservation and sustainable design.

Our engagement with the projects has been to create destinations through public space design in response to the socio economic, cultural and physical content of our cities where we have made an intervention. There’s a great opportunity for public space design in India and the current emphasis of the Govt. Of India on education and healthcare sector makes our practice relevant, and would continue to use our experience in our forthcoming projects to innovate and create new paradigms through design and development.

The key objective of our studio is to reinforce our ideology towards integration of technology to architecture, sustainable development and a holistic approach towards the built environment, which translates into humane architecture and urban design, which is relevant in time and space. We would continue our emphasis on design outcomes which are ingrained in research, which is critical to our philosophy and practice.