‘There is a difference in which salaries are planned’, Rupali Naik

‘There is a difference in which salaries are planned’, Rupali Naik

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Rupali Naik, Partner and Chief Designer, A Design Studio

Rupali Naik-min

Rupali Naik-min
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Rupali Naik & Satish Naik, Partner and Chief Designer, A Design Studio
photographs: A Design Studio

What made you pursue architecture?

Since I always had a creative bend of mind, I wanted to pursue something in the field of creativity. I also wanted to make sure that I take up something entirely different from the rest of the crowd. Architecture seemed to fit perfectly in my aspirations and dreams, which is what drove me to take it up as a full-time career.

As a young woman, who or what had an influence on your way of thinking? Your work? What is architecture for you? How have you seen it collaborating with other fields?

I entered the field of architecture and design at a point when the transition of building from purely functional to functionally aesthetic was on in full swing. With the kind of changes taking place in the industry and the way in which mind sets of designers were changing, I found a lot of encouragement in giving my best to every project that I contributed to. The transformation of style of designing is something that has influenced my work and creativity the most, in a positive direction.

Architecture is a limitless ocean of creativity and art. There is nothing that cannot be achieved with the help of architecture. It is important that the professionals in the field think of themselves as creators of usable spaces rather than simply remaining designers. Architecture on its own can also not survive effectively, it is essential that the professionals in the field understand the importance of technology and civil work challenges so that there is a smooth process of work underway. I have seen that projects in which there is satisfactory balance between all agencies of work, the job is done with extreme ease. All the agencies of work should have respect for each other’s work to be able to deliver efficiently.

What is your take on the state of women in architecture today?… does gender inequality still persist? 

We live in a generally male dominated world, which is why there has been widespread domination of men in the field of architecture as well. However, since ages there have been iconic women in the field and they have been contributing to architecture in extremely unique ways. With the way in which the world and our country are progressing, I do not think a creative field like architecture can be run and taken forward by any single gender or entity. Creativity is a natural emotion that is beautifully expressed by the art of building and if there ever was an All-men network, I do not think it has a place in the modern society.

As far as personal experiences are concerned, I would not say I have been discriminated against, but I remember an incident that showed the importance of women presence in the field. We had an abusive and irate client for this one project that was handled by a male colleague of mine, during my job days. The client would use abusive language and display bad behaviour with the designer because of which my CEO replaced my colleague with me. It was after I got on the project that the client stopped being rude because of me being a woman.

Almost 47 per cent of women claim that men get paid more for the same work, and almost two-thirds believe the building industry has yet to accept the authority of the female architect – comment.

It is true that there is a difference in the way in which salaries for both genders are planned and I feel this is true for most fields. However, with more and more women being encouraged to enter the field and showcase their talent, the lines have already started to blur. When the contribution from males and females is equal there should be no reason why women should be paid less. As far as authority is concerned, anyone that is not ready to accept change cannot survive for very long in any field. If there are people that think women should not be in command, they may be missing out on some great leadership and it is their own loss.

What do you see as key for overcoming the issues (lack of sanitation-health-dignity-safety) women face in the architectural profession? 

Lack of sanitation is a real problem and is extremely deep rooted. Creating awareness among the common people of slums and smaller towns and cities is very essential in being able to remove the issue from its roots. While it may take time to completely get rid of the problem of sanitation, we as architects have a huge role to play. With the help of modern design and affordable solutions we can make sure that the most basic facilities of hygiene and sanitation are able to reach to a wider range of people. This is a social responsibility that we must take up on individual as well as company levels to make sure that the result is impactful.

How did you get your first project? What were the challenges you faced then and is it still the same – or has it comparatively eased?

My first project was achieved with the help of reference through a friend and was a residential 2 BHK project. While I already had experience in designing, working independently was something that was new for me. Since I was still getting used to handling independent projects, the contractors usually exhibited ego problems in taking instructions from me. This was also one of the biggest challenges that I faced during my initial days of work as an independent designer. Another problem that I faced was not having an eye for detail because I was still very fresh in the industry. However, after 14 years of experience I have now gained the knack to not only handle contractors but also make sure that everything on site is done smoothly and efficiently.

‘Self-selecting out’ – Do women practically disappear either after marriage or children in this profession? 

We live in times when it is quite difficult for a single earner to provide for a good living for an entire family. In cases where women choose to opt out of their profession, the onus lies with a lot of factors. One of the biggest factors is the support of the husband. If the husband is supportive and understands the challenges of the architecture field it becomes easier for a woman to give undivided attention to her work. On the other hand, it is also important that women are serious about their passion and career and realise the importance of remaining financially and intellectually independent even after being married. It is only when both partners in a marriage are serious about the woman’s career that the woman can hold her stand. As far as the workplace is concerned, women need to understand that getting married changes nothing for the projects and the people that they work with, which implies that their attention to work should not start to defer after getting married.

I am of the strong belief that there is no need for women to opt for ‘self-selecting out’. While it may not be possible for people to work from home in our field of work, it is possible to easily remain in touch with clients and contractors with the advent of tools and resources such as WhatsApp groups. In our firm we make it a point to create a group on WhatsApp as soon as a project is taken on board, this helps in keeping all the involved parties in a single loop at the same time.

Tell us about yourself, your journey into this industry, and who would you consider as your constant mentors?

Born in 1986, I passed out of college in 2008. However, my journey as a professional in the field of Designing started right from the first year of college. I started working with an architecture firm early during the college days and also performed well at college. As a result of my work experience and concentration at college I was able to achieve the 1st rank in academics and a distinction.

After having gained extensive experience by working with various architecture firms and a great number of accomplished architects, I moved on to setting up my own firm. My architecture firm is now successfully established and can be found to have a web presence on more than 20 social mediums including this interview for one of the best e-design portals.

During the course of my career, I have considered Ar. Zaha Hadid to be my inspiration. She was born in 1950 in the city of Baghdad, Iraq. After having a flourishing career as an architect in London Zaha Hadid has achieved a great number of accolades and awards, one among which is the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize and she was the first woman architect to receive it, which is considered the highest architecture honour. While she has worked on a diverse range of products and spaces, Ar. Zaha Hadid ensured that she approached all her projects with uniqueness and with use of new spatial concepts. These are only some of her qualities that I completely admire and take inspiration from.

Any unique experience you wish to share…

It is important for young and budding women architects to realize that they will come across a lot of different people in the course of their career. With the help of a personal experience I would like to explain about how certain people try to take the guise of professional business to gain personal interest. I was approached by a man who claimed to be a consultant on LinkedIn and was constantly bombarded by requests to meet him for ‘work’. However, when I revealed to him about my own firm, which I was running in partnership with my husband, he completely cut out all communication. These are certain ways in which men try to take advantage of women in the field, which is why it is important to remain alert and aware about the true intentions of people that approach you.

What advice would you give your women architects to invest in their career?

I would want to give out the message that a gender has nothing to do with hard work and perseverance. If you have the strength and the conviction to give your best in every project that you take up, you do not have to even compare yourself with any man. At the end of the day it is results that matter, which can be driven in your favour only with the right amount of effort. There should be no reason why you leave any stone unturned in the successful completion of a project. When you consider yourself empowered, you are bound to be taken seriously by the world irrespective of your gender. Working with creativity, conviction and ethics is the key to success in this field.

What is missing in architecture today?

While aesthetics are given a lot of importance, a practical approach towards design planning is missing to a great extent. In order to replicate international styles of building a lot of architects forget to take into consideration the local requirements and constraints. Material quality is another thing that a lot of architects choose to compromise with. Expenses should not be cut at the cost of quality especially when so many lives depend on your work.

Architecture over the years – then and now: Elaborate.

Architecture in India has seen a huge shift over the last few years. While in the olden times, a lot of stress was given to functionality, the modern buildings are now made to seamlessly combine functionality with aesthetics. Quality of work and living is greatly influenced by the kind of surroundings that you are in and this is something that modern architecture aims to improve with every new project that is conceived and completed. Architectural design in the modern age has become much more complex and comprehensive than it ever was before.

Any last words that you would like to share for our readers?

Women in the field should make sure that they do not let anything hold them back from giving their best. While men can be great designers, it is women that can provide an emotional grace to a project. It is important for them to believe in their own capabilities and move ahead with the confidence that they are the best.