Architecture Paradigm was established in the year 1996 by Manoj Ladhad, Sandeep J and Vimal Jain. The firm believes that its most significant strength lies in the capability of its team members and a belief in their values. All thirty-five of them being young, their instinct for design is tempered by real world experiences where they have been constantly exposed to designing and supervising a variety of projects.
Apart from designing projects Architecture Paradigm has also been instrumental in the development of a software for internal studio management called “Documan”, which is currently being used by many other architectural studios in the country. Numerous accolades and awards stand testimony to the passion and commitment of the studio but eventually it is every end result of an assignment that fuels the firm’s love to create environments that people enjoy and like to identify with.
How would you classify the architecture you practice?
There is really no classification. Our work is about an engagement with landscapes, both natural and manmade. It is a continuous learning experience dealing with the incredible amount of visual, tactile and virtual information we encounter on a day to day basis. Our cities today are dense and complex, simultaneously old and new, there is growth and decay, presence and absence, reality and fiction; it is always in a transitory state of being. We are influenced by these temporal conditions as most of our projects stem from these conditions. As a practice we look to approach this indiscernible landscape with an open and progressive stance. We are unafraid to speculate and design projects that can express the latent realities of these emerging conditions.
We deliberate on the nature of inhabitation in these conditions, as it becomes one of the key points for idea generation. Here the relationship between inside and the outside gains a pivotal role. Tradition demonstrates that the outdoors have been a crucial part of inhabitation in a climate like ours. It therefore necessitates inventiveness about living patterns and lifestyles. We explore this relationship in our work as we feel it has the potential to reflect time and place. There is a thorough engagement with the whole or part of a program where they have the potential to influence each other to express new or latent possibilities. Flexibility and open-endedness are seen as important aspects of programming as they are more of a necessity in these conditions.
How do you manage to adhere to your desired style of architecture in this turbulent environment?
Today working in these conditions requires the ability to collaborate with different faculties. Our practice in this regard relies on many voices where both consultants and clients become an active part of the process.
Here from ideas to execution, the process is subjected to critical views lending objectivity and depth to it. Underlying all this is a sense of optimism that makes it possible to initiate a difference. This collaborative structure enables us to reflect on our work, take risks and push boundaries. It is through such engagement that we are able to address various facets of the practice. With us passion and pragmatic concerns go hand in hand. Quality takes precedence in all our pursuits and this is enabled by an open studio which allows for a free exchange of views amongst people.
How far away is India from mainstreaming ‘sustainable’ architecture in the context of new developments?
Sustainable and innovative strategies have always been a part of our traditional culture and it was an integral part of people’s day to day lives. This sensibility still continues to exist in our villages. Architecture essentially should be based on sensitivity to the environment around us. The application of this sensibility in our energy guzzling cities is where the problem lies which is often an outcome of economics. In view of our depleting resources we have to continue being innovative to sustain as there is no other way out. Core principles of architecture have sustainability ingrained in them and we believe that architecture that does not address the concerns of the environment that plague us is meaningless architecture. Sustainability should not be practiced to merely satisfy a fad or a style; it should become a part of reality.
In other words architecture should not be about green ratings as mere figures and numbers are commonly known to be manipulated.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges your office faces now?
The building industry is perhaps the most, energy consuming and destructive activity that there is; this I feel poses a challenge to any practice. Design is often a palliative measure in these conditions but working sensitively, it gives us the opportunity to reconcile with the environment. We see working in India as an opportunity, a chance to interact with the talent from the industry, like talented craftsmen and designers. It allows us to innovate and look at buildings beyond systems and as extensions of ourselves and the landscapes we live in.
For your firm, what is sustainable architecture and how does it go about achieving it?
Our belief in sensitivity towards landscape both built and un-built forms the basis for our design approaches. A thorough understanding of the various factors contributing to the idea of context informs the process. The idea of going ‘green’ is not a stylistic agenda for us, much rather it is about an ecological initiative which is embedded in our attitude which is to be able to build an architecture that addresses the realities of our time.
We draw from the numerous built examples of our past and the traditional patterns of living, reflecting nuances of healthy life as much as the technologically advancements offering solutions to the ecological problems we face.
The approach to the planning of any project is driven by the climatic and sociological considerations. Materials that have low embodied energy and are locally available are given precedence. We look to tap renewable resources such as sun, wind, rain, plantation or certified timber and bamboo for our projects. We constantly review our labour intensive industry and its practices for enabling better buildings and a better life for the people who help us craft our buildings.
Where do you think architecture in India is headed?
In the capital driven conditions that we live in, architecture has come to reside in images rather than as built realities, but there is an element of positivity in the current architectural scenario with numerous young practices investing in quality rather than quantum of work. But with a large amount of population moving to the cities by 2050, the focus needs to be about improving the quality of life in urban areas; essentially there is a dire need of quality public spaces in the city. We live in temporal conditions where the building scenario is about, ‘here now, gone tomorrow structures’ that have so come to dominate our landscapes. Architecture in these conditions risks superficiality and is subservient to economic undercurrents that sweep our landscapes. India is also made up of many small towns with small populations. These are areas which are going to be critical from the point of how we as architects or designers are going to react to these emerging new frontiers in the landscape as they will bridge the gap between the urban and the rural conditions.
We in our studio feel that architecture for tomorrow should be about “presence” in an aesthetic and experiential sense.