Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep – Le Corbusier
And these very words by the venerated architect Le Corbusier have been embraced and embodied by the Pune-based young architect Deepak Guggari. In 1998, Deepak graduated in architecture and went on to work with renowned architect Christopher Benninger of CCBA.
Six years later, Deepak started his firm VDGA with his landscape designer wife, Varsha and in a very short span of time made an eloquent mark in the field. Deepak’s bias towards natural elements is evident through his work, especially sunlight; the strategically deviced openings, courtyards and pergolas romance his built form. He deliberately shuns the much sought after gloss and trimmings – as clearly, the natural interventions applied in his spaces are enough to overwhelm you.
The studio takes on a plethora of work in hospitality, institutional, corporate interiors and the redevelopment sector. However, private residences designed by the firm have given them a distinct identity. Subtle influences of starchitects like Le Corbusier, Geoffery Bawa and Ricardo Legorreta are evident through his spatial lingo, but the influence is not forced. Deepak’s deep understanding of the Indian context is certified by the right dose of traditionality adopted in his projects. He manages to bring in the right balance between modern language and vernacular architecture. The layered visual experience that one witnesses in his work owes its richness to his tasteful material vocabulary.
Read on to know what makes this young gun tick…
Can you please share with us details about the inception of VDGA and its core fundamentals?
Art has always fascinated me, but it excited me more when I got exposed to the vast body of work that was happening in the field of architecture – its subtleties started overwhelming me. After graduating from college, I had a huge desire of building for people – realising their dreams through my vision. I finally succeeded when I started my own design studio VDGA along with my wife Varsha. Our core fundamentals have always been to do full justice to the requirements of the end users through architecture. It gives us immense pleasure to witness our clients rejoicing in the spaces that we build for them.
Your fascination with natural elements and the physical form shine through in your work. How crucial are these aspects and how do you manage to bring out the harmonious co-existence between the two?
There is this phrase from a book that I practically swore by during college days: Form, Space and Order. It reads “you never see the object but the light reflected by the object”; sounds simple but the moment we start realising this it is even more convincing.
I have always respected natural light and all natural elements. I believe that half of my skills I owe to the abundant sunlight that we have in our country. I attempt to create artwork with the help of these sunbeams – walls being my canvas; sometimes cutting their trajectory through pergolas and sometimes letting them fill the entire space with their warmth. The shadows travelling on the walls, changing their profiles through the day, replaces the artwork. I get excited by every skylight, courtyard or open terrace through which I can draw in this natural light. My interiors have to abide by the laws of the light. They add value to everything I create. Our buildings emerge from the landscape and become one with it. I can feel that openness at every corner of our architecture. I believe that good architecture can be created by respecting natural elements.
Architecture is perceived differently by each architect, for some it is about function, for some it is all about visual experience. In today’s context it could also be about modern materials and technology. What is ‘architecture’ to you?
There has been one undisputable primary function of architecture i.e. protection from weather. And after fulfilling this simple basic requirement architecture traverses more towards art. However beautiful a structure may be, if it does not allow sound protection from weather it refutes its purpose. Hence, functionality in architecture is the locus around which other parameters revolve.
We have always worked with our intuition and closely followed the context in which we build. Simply put, architecture broadly can be divided into constants and variables. Constants being the region and material, whereas, variables being the technique with which we handle both the constants. I always feel what you are reflects in what you do and vice versa. Wisdom comes to you by dealing with interesting varied cultures, people behaviour and all this as a default gets interpreted in the final form of architecture.
Your work shows a synthesis of traditional features and modern sensibilities which over time have become the trademark of your practice. Is there a design constant you follow for every project?
As mentioned before yes, we do follow design constants. The climate and material prevalent in that region are our constants. We are continuously thriving to work with our context; and with that constant in mind we try to create different spatial atmospheres. We believe in creating vernacular architecture, more true to its purpose. Our buildings follow modern lines while still keeping the old values and traditions intact.
All projects for an architect have some memories attached to it. Was there one such project which remains your top favourite, for the way it turned out or what you took away from it after its completion?
Though all projects are very close to my heart but the one I would choose is the Patil House, as it was my first project. I had taken every effort to see that I abide by all the principles I had been taught since my college days. The simplicity of that house reflects my naivety, and yet it accomplishes spaces par excellence. The way in which I had conceived that house in my mind was finally realised in its built form.
We see a substantial use of natural materials in your work that add texture and colour to the space. Is there any building material that fascinates you and one that you would like to explore?
The Indian material palette captivates me a lot. Be it Shahbad, Cudappah or Black Basalt, I have used all these in abundance and thoroughly enjoy designing with them. But one material which I haven’t explored in my projects is concrete. The texture, colour and the feel of this material has the power to alter the language of a building.
An architect / designer whose work continues to inspire you?
Since my early days in architecture I have been following Charles Correa for his immense understanding of Indian architecture and the undeniable justice his work had done to this subcontinent. Apart from Correa, Ricardo Legorreta and Geoffery Bawa have also influenced my thinking in a strong way. However, in recent times I have been closely following works of Architect Ernesto Bedmar and Marcio Kogan. Both follow completely different vocabularies but have a strong hold on architecture and spaces. Their works show clarity in thinking, respect to the context and define a strong language for themselves.
You have won several awards and your work has been widely published – what does this recognition mean to you?
Awards and recognition always have played a big role in motivating me. It fuels our momentum and puts more responsibility on us to perform better. They actually hone us and give us the confidence to take this onus of building. This recognition puts us on stage with some of the finest architects of the country and abroad and automatically brings us into the competition. Hence we know that we are competing with the best in the field and that we have to continuously evolve as designers.
Your favourite architect/designer amongst your contemporaries.
Though there are many talented architects across the world but I truly respect works of Architect Ernesto Bedmar. The simplicity that his buildings achieve is truly remarkable. The buildings, though appear effortless, are detailed perfectly.
A local monument which you admire and why?
I have been visiting the Jain Mandir in Dahigaon near my native village since childhood. The play of light in this temple has always lured me. The narrow corridors unwind into light wells, which filter in excellent natural light at the end of the passage. The journey from the ground floor of the temple to the basement is remarkable. The skylights are strategically placed. It gives one the feeling of total devotion and serenity.
A structure you wish you had the opportunity to design…
Though it is always easier said than done, but I feel if I had the opportunity to design the Lavasa township, it would have been conceived very differently, foremost respecting the Indian context.
On a lighter note….any weird request that a client has made?
Nothing can be weirder than the clients trying to negotiate architect’s fees by bribing them with future prospects, which are never realised.
Interview by Shweta Salvi