Interviewed By Mala Bajaj
The Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction highlights the concept of eco friendly designs and innovative projects through the vision of talented young minds. The winning entries of the Holcim Awards 2011 in the Asia Pacific region were announced at a ceremony in Singapore and among them were four entries from India. One of the winners was Ms. Mishkat Irfan Ahmed who won the second prize in the ‘Next Generation’ category. The subject of her winning entry was ‘town plan revitalization and urban development in Navi Mumbai.’
She is a Masters student from the University of California, Berkeley, United States and her project targets the further development of Ulwe, a precinct of the world’s largest planned city, Navi Mumbai.The jury commended her entry as being “a showcase of a conceptual framework for city expansion, applicable where classic urban planning fails”.
We present here an insightful interview with Mishkat, a creative and sensitive mind from the world of architecture.
Please tell us a little about yourself…
I am an Urban Designer-Architect by profession, 27 years of age, based in Mumbai. I completed my Masters in Urban Design at the University of California, Berkeley, and my Bachelor in Architecture from Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture, Mumbai.
Things I am passionate about: painting, reading fiction and discovering new places. My parents are Commercial Artists from the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai, and so perhaps I knew all along that I wanted to be in a field related to design. I also studied Science in high school (D.G. Ruparel, Mumbai) which made me approach architecture with a technical and artistic outlook. Urban design brings together various experts towards creating a vision – to transform, revitalise or create – and I enjoy that process thoroughly. The outcome is very satisfying !
Yes, and my favourite quote is: “Tomorrow is another day!” – Scarlett O’Hara, ‘Gone with the Wind’. That should explain quite a bit about me !
What can you tell us about the Holcim Awards and your award winning entry?
The Holcim Awards were much bigger than I imagined. The arrangements at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore were fantastic! It was a wonderful experience all along; the people were so nice and the concept of the awards itself is great – it’s an open competition (no entry fee) that ensures a grand prize if you win! This definitely encourages new talent and brings out new ideas on a global level. Also, many winners use the prize money to see their projects being transformed into reality which is so important to a designer.
My entry titled “The Village, the City and the Ecosystem – Context-Sensitive Design at Navi Mumbai’s Urban Edge” won the 2nd prize in the “Next Generation” (Student) category award in the Asia-Pacific Region.
It was originally my Masters of Urban Design thesis project that I developed further to submit for the Holcim awards. The design project is based on the existing writings and research published on Navi Mumbai and satellite cities across the world. It aims to develop a prototype for Greenfield development in India that addresses the natural landform, local culture and needs of the people and the translation of these socio-cultural-economic-environmental issues into a contemporary language for sustainable Indian urbanism.
Do you see green architecture coming into the mainstream of our country soon?
Buildings inherently have to be green! They have to respond to climate, topography, soil conditions and site constraints. I think the problem lies in aping the architectural language of other countries – glazed facades, mechanical systems etc. These respond to the weather conditions of those regions. For a country like India, we must develop our own language, inspired by the vernacular which is already very strong, only needs more recognition by the newer generation. Charles Correa, B.V. Doshi are pioneers in this area.
Other aspects of green architecture that involve technical skills are rapidly being introduced within building design now. Green architecture has gained prominence in the western world recently, so it will take some time to be a part of the mainstream here. Even a field like urban design is pretty much in its nascent stage in India, though it is far more developed and appreciated abroad.
What is the one thing you like about your field?
Focus, sensitivity, inspiration. I have always been able to produce interesting work only when I focused on the task at hand. Sensitivity is important for a designer who works for people – to understand what ‘they’ might feel/experience in a particular space. It’s great if you are able to sense beforehand how a person would use a space, and when it is created, it’s used exactly like that! Inspiration is always required for creating something out of nothing…inspiration not only from people but also personal events, travels and experiences. I lost my dearest grandmother a month before my master’s thesis was due; I think she provided me with the strength and inspiration to work hard and create work that has been so deeply appreciated not only by the Holcim Jury but also by my faculty and external reviewers at Berkeley.