A little under a decade and half back, right after graduating from School of Planning and Architecture, Vaibhav Dimri and Madhav Raman established Anagram. A greenhorn establishment it may have been, but over the years, through their practice the duo has honed their skill set and emerged as one of the leading architectural studios of the country.
Based out of New Delhi, the studio offers solutions for fields ranging from urban planning, public infrastructure, architecture, scenography, furniture design and interior design. An early recognition for the SAHRDC project – the breathing brick wall that they designed for the project brought the firm international acclaim – allowed them the flight which instilled an almost fearless determination to pursue the field with a revelatory sense of adventure.
The firm’s career trajectory highlights their ability to connect with the society. The humane quality displayed in every project piques the sensibilities of the user. A closer investigation reveals that the intention is beyond aesthetic appeal – their designs stem from the socio-cultural fabric of the site.
Stimulating designs as witnessed in projects like Kindred house – where the strategic interplay of materials provide textures and patterns – invigorate the human senses at various levels.
Through a shared passion for theatre, the talented pair forged a friendship that effectively has anchored their practice. Here, they discuss about the importance of experiential architecture and their inspirations.
Today, Anagram is recognised as one of the leading contemporary Indian practices. Tell us about the fourteen year journey that helped achieve this well-deserved acclaim.
We were a quintessential start-up and have had a roller coaster ride! Our first major breakthrough was with the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC), which received acclaim at an international level very early. Recognition instilled in us the confidence to stay on our chosen path of adventure and discovery. In addition to that our friendship helped us to get to the place where we are today.
Architecture is perceived differently by each architect, for some it is about function, or about visual experience. In today’s context it could also be about modern materials and technology. What does the term ‘architecture’ mean to you?
Architecture has always been about story telling. Buildings as cultural objects are interpreted not just by architects but by society as a whole. Architecture to us means creating a narrative that can be understood by the society.
Exhaustive research is put in every site undertaken by Anagram. What does the process involve in terms of identifying techniques, materials and practices?
Each project is unique and entails a design process vested in discovery, iteration and articulation which is not clearly defined and is often overlapping. The process thereby must be identified every time, mediated and re-identified.
Both of you are actively involved in academia and teaching. How has that helped your practice?
In a college design studio, you are exposed to multiple interpretations of the same problem which then you are mandated to critique. The experience is uniquely stimulating. Secondly, the profession itself does not always provide opportunity for academic research and articulation which can become a portal into a new way of crafting spaces.
The constantly evolving innovations in the field of design and tools like parametric design allow the architects to imagine beyond the obvious and that too with uncontested accuracy, but there is also that risk of restricting architecture to just plastic art. What are your views on the growing digitisation of the field?
Digitisation in architecture provides an efficient and effective platform for design. It remains a powerful tool used by the architect – and parametric design, like Computer Aided Design and computer based 3D modelling help us in exacting our concepts with commendable precision. Whether or not a fluid medium like architecture can become plastic lies entirely in the hands of the designer.
Anagram is also involved in allied fields like installation art and artistic discourses; what led to these interests?
Architecture and design is restricted by the imperatives of the program. Art on the other hand, affords you much more freedom to explore and express. Secondly, through our professional commitments, dabbling in installation and art gives us both an opportunity to have a shared adventure.
What are the parameters of a holistic sustainable project?
Sustainability today is no longer seen as limited to the physical environment. True sustainability cannot be achieved unless there is balance in the social, cultural, economic and ecological context. We imagine these parameters create a contoured mesh for any project and in their manipulation and mediation lies true sustainability.
Any current global architectural practice that inspires you… and why?
Thomas Heatherwick, London and Sao Fujimoto, Japan. They are disruptive architectural firms headed by young practitioners.
A structure you wish you had the opportunity to re-design…
The elevated metro stations and bus stations in Delhi.
Any other creative activity you indulge in?
In college we became friends because of our shared love for theatre and worked both on and off stage in several college productions. After college we formed a theatre society called Second Foundation and worked with a number of eminent theatre people.
Interview by Shweta Salvi