Ar. Shashank Ninawe Celebrates Indianness in Architecture

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  Dec. 27, 2014
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Architect: Shashank Ninawe

Architect Shashank Ninawe is an intellectual, who is sentimental towards every creation of the nature; a rational who has a socially responsible attitude and a creative person who has a philosophical approach towards life. We caught up with this academician-practicing architect to know more about him.

When did you start your practice? How and what led to Shamank Consultancy?
I started my practice under the name of Shashank Ninawe and Associates in 1987 and Shamank Consultancy Services Pvt. Ltd. was formed in 2005. I had passed out in 1982 with a First class Honours, which was a rare distinction in those times in the field of Architectural education. And when I started the visualisation of my own residential duplex, where I was myself going to work on designing, approvals, construction, execution and finance, I decided to form Shamank CSPL. Concurrently with designing and constructing my green bungalow, I also achieved my PhD in Architectural Education Communication in 2008.

You are an educationist as well. How do you see the two roles complimenting each other?
I come from a family of academicians. So it was natural for me to veer towards Architectural education. But I had decided that unless I myself am ready for the teaching job, I wont take up this extremely responsible job of an Architectural teacher. After completing my job assignment in Dubai, I came back to Mumbai, to settle and start my own practice. Architectural practice and Architectural education complement each other, and the experience in the practice can further extend into the domain of teaching bringing a whole range of insights into Architectural teaching rather than making it a mundane task of just completing the syllabus. Thee insights assume greater significance in case of Technical subjects. Hence, I decided to teach once I had established my practice.

My teaching assignments also keep me abreast with the the present generation, which is technically very savvy and highly informed. So I have to be on my toes all the time!

What according to you is the biggest challenge being faced in architectural education today? How do you think these challenges can be countered?
The biggest challenge faced by the Architecture Education today is maintaining and augmenting the existing standards of Architectural education, which are increasingly getting diluted with the exponentially increasing number of Architectural colleges with no proper infrastructure and qualified experienced faculty.

We can counter these challenges by setting new benchmarks to be achieved in future, in line with the strides made in technology and the innovative approaches in architectural practice.

Coming back to your practice, you have been working on a very wide range of projects from 5 star hotels to private bungalows to residential complexes and slum development. What kind of projects do you enjoy doing the most?
The kind of projects that I enjoy the most are the assignments which throw open a challenge which appears to be insurmountable. Though, I have variegated projects, the closest to my heart is whatever is related to Theater or Cinema, of which I am a BIG follower. Also, hospitals and hotels, which have a strong functional challenge to meet with. Any of the projects which have the potential of saving the energy and are sustainable are of paramount interest to me.

Tell us something about your approach to your projects?
My approach to Architectural design is very simple and minimalist. I tend to be highly space conservative and create as much an open ended design as possible, creating or leaving possibilities of future absorption/ extension, maintainable, and above all aesthetically pleasing with new architectural expression and idiom every time...

What defines your style?
This radical and flexible approach (that I elaborated above) with every possibility of sustainability and proper usage of local materials and workmanship defines my style.

Could you share with us a project that you are most proud of and why?
The most promising job till now, has been the redevelopment of PLAZA theater, in Dadar, Mumbai. The theater was gutted down in the bomb blast which had rocked Mumbai in 1993, and the theatre had further deteriorated in the next five years, due to neglect. To reinstate the original glory of the theater, by refurbishing it entirely - from screen to chairs, installing the new projection and sound system, and maintaining the external facade of the theater, was very fulfilling.

Who/what inspires you and your works?
Primary motivation behind my works has been the 'Indianness' in our every day life and style. I am of the firm opinion that instead of aping the West in all that we design and create, we should develop our own identity, which will be in sync with our umbilical chord of our mother earth, deeply rooted in our culture and our society.

You have been working with a lot of builders and realtors. How do you ensure that each project is uniquely creative?
Even though most of the builders, have a commercial approach, I insist upon and try to convince them to consider what could be the best possible approach to their projects in terms of space planning; to convert the spaces into 'comfortable' living zones, which will yield long term returns on the investment by the user.

Tell us something about your green bungalow.
The Green Bungalow was a huge challenge for me because by the time I got up doing this project for myself in 2005, I was already conscious of the ENVIRONMENTAL issues plaguing our society and the careless attitude with which the materials were wasted to convert the precious mangroves into a waste graveyard. The location of my bungalow was in the literally green settings of the NATIONAL PARK, with greenery all around and extremely pure air quality, a rare commodity in urban concrete jungles. So while demolishing the existing ground floor bungalow, instead of carrying the 40 truckloads of debris and dumping them into mangroves or some distant ugly corner, I took up the challenge to recreate the debris into cast in situ blocks. The debris were ground and pulverised to convert them into cast in situ blocks. Along with all the natural cooling strategies which keep the bungalow 'COOL' all year around, the surrounding greenery, the air quality, the location and the siting make it a jewel in the crown.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
The redevelopment of the Plaza Theater and my own bungalow have been the biggest challenges till now in my life. Post my bungalow design, I had taken the project of debris recycling to the local Mumbai Municipality, so that the mountains of debris generated every day in Mumbai can be converted into building material and blocks and used for the various Government and Municipal projects. This would not just save a lot of energy and money but also be an effective and unique solid waste management process. Sadly, the proposal fell on deaf years.

What challenges do you continue to face and what is your strategy to tackle them?
I continue to be challenged by my quest for constant conservation of energy and for making the structure sustainable in the easiest of ways as practiced by our ancestors who had common building and materials knowledge, but at the same time, adapt it to the continuous challenges of urbanisation, which unfortunately, is becoming an unmanageable monster with every passing day.

What drives you?
What drives me is the constant hope that U can become the 'Change', rather than waiting for the change to happen. When all the values in every field are constantly falling at an accelerated pace, holding on to our own value system and endeavoring to promote or instill this value system in all the stake holders of the society, especially those in the Real Estate industry, is the eternal drive for me.

Any words of wisdom for youngsters starting out today?
Well.... I am not that Big a person to advice anyone. But I will say one thing, that you hold on to your belief in what you strongly believe, against all the odds. Then and only then can you scale the peak of success, whether its in education and/or in your profession.

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