- Arun K Bij
4 Decades of Architectural Practice
How did the idea of Design Plus originate? When did you start your practice and what has been the core mission?
As a thought, Design Plus originated on a drawing board at SPA in 1976. In 1981, the thought was formalized. We began with very humble commissions and an equally humble 100 SqFt. basement office. Since 2010, however, Design Plus has been a sole proprietorship with a lot of young architects leading the Design and Construction pipeline of each project. Our mission has always been to maintain an ethical and honest practise, with its prime loyalty being towards the Project (not an entity or agency).
How has the journey been so far?
Chapter 101, the last defining chapter of the book ‘101 Things I Learned in Architecture School’, claims that “Architects are late bloomers”. We probably endorse that view 100%. It’s been a rough journey and we proudly boast that we are doing our best and biggest work now. We are probably the only architectural firm I India that has won 6 National Design Competitions since 2011. We look forward to even bigger and even better work.
Could you define your design philosophy for us?
Design Plus believes in creating environments that are contemporary, multi-layered and sensitive to contextual conditions. We have evolved from a post-modern idiom to current didactic and vibrant global needs with exchanges of varying information at the root; from a unitary client to an organized development sector. At Design Plus we strive to develop environmentally and morphologically responsible designs within market and programmatic pressures.
From amongst the various awards and recognitions Design Plus has received, which are the ones that are the most special to you and why?
Design wise, it’ll be impossible to pick one award winning project. But personally, I would choose International Sports Complex at Saily. This is because I and Abhishek, both are fanatics. Moreover, both our undergrad thesis were cricket stadium complexes. So after 30 and 8 years respectively, we get to re-design and build our thesis. So, this project provides an opportunity to bind both our passions – Sports [cricket] and architecture.
And the most challenging?
Contradictory maybe, but to this also I would reply – Residences. The amount of effort that a residence takes is almost equivalent to a project that is 100 times its scale. Although, dealing with different personalities can be exciting it can be extremely draining as well.
As architects focused on delivering the market and programmatic pressures, what is your experience in dealing with clients?
We might differ here a bit. Timelines and cost pressures can be dealt with as long as they are realistic. As mentioned, our core mission is honest and ethical treatment towards the project. This mission encompasses everything; from architects working on the project, to client’s endeavour, cost, timelines, construction agencies engaged on the project. I have never pushed architects at Design Plus because a client expects an unreal delivery. All expectations regarding deliverables are addressed at the point of signing on the dotted line, although this skill is developed over time.
What is your vision for Design Plus in the coming years?
First and foremost, stick to the mission and ethos of the firm. Second, maintain the diversity of the portfolio. And while maintaining the above two aspects, we hope to grow in size and respect.
Where do you get your daily dose of inspiration from?
The profession itself. Where else will the conversations range from Land Use plans of a township to a location of a 19 number nail in woodwork? Our spectrum of knowledge and hence the expectation is vast. That is the excitement of the trade.
If there was one thing you wanted to change about the current architecture scenario in the country, what would that be?
Educated Patronage. It’s an idiom in our trade. A good client makes a good building. Currently, the respect for design is still mostly measured by the proverbial ‘L1’.
What is your advice to the young architects?
First - Passion for the field is the underlining requirement for architecture. I strongly urge young architects to re-visit the reason for pursuing the profession and find their drive for it. Second – Compassion. The opportunity to affect lives and livelihoods is immense, one should be very conscious of this fact. Architects need to be extremely sensitive at all scales – cities, neighbourhoods, individual. We should be able to adapt to both - the evolving needs of the demographics and the burdens of humanity on the planet’s landscape.
Excerpts from a 2015 Interview