NOTE-D – an acronym of ‘Nature of the Experiment’ is emblematic of Mumbai-based architectural firm, NOTE Design’s core philosophy. Helmed by architects Hemant Purohit and Smita Khanna, this 8-yr old practice offers contextual and concept-driven design. Each project brief provides them inspiration, offering an exciting challenge to experiment with new systems and techniques.
Synergising their individual strengths, Hemant and Smita constantly explore spatial behaviour. The firm stresses on detailing, site specific solutions, while judiciously probing and reinterpreting conventions.
A blend of local practices with global developments is manifested in their work. Their noteworthy repertoire ranges from residential, educational, to hospitality projects.
Here, they discuss their love for research and experimentation, and future goals.
What are the cornerstones of your practice?
HP/SK: Our design process and the teams involved in it are most important for the work that we do. The process includes setting up the relevant conceptual framework, a rigourous exploration of client brief and a constantly evolving research of systems and styles.
Typically, an architect’s inspirations and inclinations define his/her signature style. What are your inspirations?
HP/SK: Newer paradigms in spatial usage, materials and techniques attract us a lot. In that sense, SANAA, Valerio Olgiati and Nieto Sobejano’s works are inspiring. So are the design and techniques of Raw Edges, Nendo and vernacular artisans of India for their work on wood, stone and metal.
What’s your take on designing structures that are relevant yet timeless?
HP/SK: Structural relevance comes from its use – how our clients occupy the spaces we design for them. The other kind of relevance important for us is the application of techniques and mechanisation available today to the array of natural materials judiciously. We respect material as limited resource and try to bring out its best form through procedures on it. Any such process can remain relevant forever as it demonstrates a specific language of that era.
NOTE-D has been doing extensive work on material development; with a marked evolution of technology and material globally, what potential innovations do you foresee in the near future?
HP/SK: We work on designs of objects of day-to-day life as experiences that bring joy. Newer materials, the precision in technology and functionality of hardware allow us to redefine these objects. We believe arts and experiences will become bigger reasons behind the design of these day-to-day objects.
People will invent individual ways of life through them. Tables will find newer meanings for interaction and get-togethers (as in some of our furniture), doors and windows will connect people differently with the world outside, walls will cease to be inanimate and new materials will make domestic infrastructure more fun.
Any traditional technique which you haven’t explored and would like to work with?
HP/SK: We are excited about creating new colours and textures – especially through natural combinations and casting.
Any current global architectural practice that inspires you?
HP/SK: Apart from the ones mentioned above, we like the work of Sou Fujimoto.
What is the firm currently working on?
HP/SK: We are in the process of completing two second homes that engage with terrain & landscape and principles of Vaastu in an interesting manner. We are excited about developing new methods of learning through our design of a school in Bangalore, and working environments in Mumbai.
We are also addressing some very interesting briefs of young families for their interior design of first homes and apartments in Mumbai.
What kind of work do you envisage the studio doing in the coming years?
HP/SK: Design thinking and design projects are rapidly changing in India, which is very exciting for us. We are looking at designing architecture for public realm and developing small scale objects customised for individuals at the same time.
One thing about your profession that really irks you…
HP/SK: It is unfortunate that the profession has not been able to develop sophisticated tools as fast as some of the other fields. Over simplification of the nature of work that we do has led to degradation of the ‘discipline’ called design process. However, we continue to believe in it and propose newer roles and interventions in which we can contribute.
If not an architect what profession would you have chosen?
HP/SK: It is hard to put it as a matter of choice alone as so many factors go into inspiring and influencing your decision of profession.
HP: I could have been an engineer but working on written material.
SK: I could have been an artist.
Interview By Shweta Salvi