Get your architecture right

Get your architecture right

Hiring an architect is quite similar to choosing a lawyer or a doctor. Research into their previous projects is essential to get a feel of their capabilities, architect Dinesh Verma tells A Varsha Rao.

Dinesh Verma, MD of Ace Group Architects, has been at the helm of the construction of several prominent software parks, hospitality avenues, residential nooks and educational institutes across the country. His signature style, which he calls ‘universal’, is what makes him stand out in the crowd. Dinesh believes architecture is one of the best professions for a designer, wherein s/he can see designs take form and come alive.

Excerpts from an interaction:

How has architecture changed over the past two decades?
 Architecture has become universal. Today, the geographical lines between countries have blurred, leading to global availability of ideas, manpower and materials. Gone are those days when you could identify a place by its architecture alone. I strongly believe that every creation in today’s world isn’t 100 per cent pure. No building can be typecast into a particular format anymore.

Could you shed some light on the role of an architect?

It’s a misconception that hiring an architect is a useless and expensive affair. Every architect’s primary role is to guide you – explore ideas, eliminate dead weight, be economical and help you gain more out of less. Majority of the population in our country does not believe in the concept of architects. But, the fact is, a home isn’t just about two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Every abode is a beautiful creation in itself and many factors go into designing it. For instance, for a residential project, I scrutinise the family closely – their eating habits, how many guests they entertain, entertainment preferences and so on. Another thing which can only be found in our nation is all the unsolicited advice from almost everyone in our lives, which again leads to misconceptions. Just because something works in a particular case, doesn’t mean it will work just the same for you.

What are the top five things to focus on while hiring an architect?

Do your homework while choosing the architect. It’s very similar to how you choose your doctor or lawyer. You should be confident that the architect can deliver on promises. Look at their past projects for a real feel of their capabilities.
 
After hiring, give your architect a free hand. Trust them to do your job and give them space. This helps the architect to feel accountable and deliver a good end product. They will use the freedom to give you the maximum creativity and ingenuity.

Be very clear about your requirements. Write down details about things you actually need instead of succumbing to fads. Don’t go in for a home theatre or a gym just because your friend has it. Convey your ‘wishlist’ to your architect openly. Be informal, have healthy discussions about your requirements.

Have a specific budget and timeline and ensure your architect knows about it. Ensure that both of you stick to the deadlines.
Be involved in the project from start to the end. Never leave the responsibility entirely on your architect or take it totally upon yourself.
 What are the most common mistakes we make while constructing a house?
 We make majority of the mistakes in the most common and simple areas of our homes. For instance, bathrooms, by logic, need to have a dry and wet area, clearly separated. But still, even after ages, you will find a sink, a wash area and a toilet in a corner in most of our bathrooms, which is hazardous.
Staircases are another problematic area. Everyone in a family, right from the little kid to the elderly, use the stairs. So, they have to suit everyone; the right heights of the railing, steps...everything matters. Our practices aren’t in sync with the modern lifestyles, we need to move forward.

Going green is the mantra today. How does the concept work in the field of architecture? It’s very important to give back to nature, probably more than what we take. We need to maintain the cycle of life. When I say go green in architecture, I don’t mean we have to live in homes made of clay and mud. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) specifies the life cycle of every building material – that is, it tells us exactly how many times we can reuse the same material. You make brick by taking out something out from the land, you burn them using firewood obtained by cutting trees and use them to construct your home. What happens after the house comes down? You can’t reuse the same bricks. On the other hand, steel when used in building construction can be utilised again, maybe by reshaping  or melting them.

What, according to you, is the current state of architecture in Bengaluru?

It’s all about urban design. There is a pattern in which every city grows and thrives and we need to factor that in our designs. We desperately need ‘neighbourhood planning’, wherein a community is self-contained in its own area for all its needs. Imagine the amount of burden you can reduce by doing this.

We need to strictly follow rules and stop violating them for the sake of convenience. On a broader scale, we need to think not just for ourselves, but also for our community.

What’s your design philosophy?
For me, the client comes first. I try to understand what they are asking for, build upon their ideas and then take it forward from there. Every project has a ‘look’ and ‘feel’ part. The basic functionalities form the ‘look’ part and are vital to every project. Experimenting within those basics to project something unique is the ‘feel’ part and it has to be a beautiful integration between both, which is challenging. I believe in providing the right environment for the right population. You can’t expect a village boy to feel at home in a concrete structure, can you?

Do you fear that technology will dominate architecture in the near future?

Yes, technology dominates all our lives today. It holds the potential to unlock a greater and better future, but it can never dominate architecture. Every essential element of our lives has the same functional components. The only thing they differ in is the design. That’s where we come in. At the core, every house is the same. But we architects make them unique with our designs.

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