A Chat with Architect Amritha Ballal, Founding Partner at SpaceMatters

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  April 19, 2016
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Architect Amritha Ballal

We speak to Amritha Ballal, Amritha Ballal, an architect, urbanist, writer and one of the founding partners at SpaceMatters Design studio and the urban research body ARCHI Lab (Action Research for Critical Habitat Innovation). With a focus on socially sustainable design and inclusive cities, Amritha has spearheaded projects that are diverse in scale and nature, ranging from one of the first Integrated Development Plans for an urban village in Delhi, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy post disaster brownfield redevelopment, as well as urban renewal of living heritage precincts in Ajmer and Margao in India, She teaches at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi and her published works include Landscapes of Memory (2012) on post disaster urban landscapes, and The city is our home (2011) on the spatiality urban homelessness. Amritha has been nominated in the global shortlist for emerging women in architecture awards 2013 by the Architecture Journal, UK, and the Rolex Mentor Protege awards 2014.  

Read on for more from the lady herself... 

Please tell us something about how you started SpaceMatters and how the journey has been?

SpaceMatters started with and is sustained by the spirit of collaboration, friendship and a shared passion for positively impacting the built environment. It has been 10 years on practise, which started with us winning the national competition for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Memorial, arguably one of the most complex projects in the country dealing with a space of pain and shame, environmental contamination and urban revitalisations. It taught us that as architects we are at best catalysts - with effort and grace achieving some alchemy with the conditions presented to us.

Could you share some specific milestones?

There are many, Bhopal has already found a mention, our first design build project creating a Japanese tea house in Delhi for an Indo Japanese client, exposed us to how cultural influence informs spaces and to stretching the possibilities of a single material - in this case wood. Being recognised as one of the best emerging practises and design professionals by Architecture Journal, UK and the Rolex Arts Foundation, being on the global shortlist for the Patna Museum and Nalanda University are others. All the partners enjoy research and teaching, so in one way starting to teach at our Alma Mater SPA, Delhi in 2007 was also a special and rewarding experience.

Japanese Tea House and Cultural CentreWooden structure - Japanese Tea House and Cultural Centre

SpaceMatters is known for spearheading cutting-edge designs in landscape designing. What do you think differentiates Spacematters from other firms?

We do not differentiate between interior, architecture, urban, landscape etc... For us it is important to visualise the project in totality, holistically and benefit from in house expertise. That contributes to the final design being more than a sum of its parts.

conference room designConference Room - Sony Corporate Headquarters

What was the vision you started with when you set up SpaceMatters?

We strongly believe that design is not a frill or indulgence but strongly impacts people and society - from your most private domain to the most public spaces. We feel as a society we are yet to wake up to our own potential in the design domain. For us SpaceMatters is a means - through our projects, research, and advocacy - to inform, impact and transform how design is perceived and practised.

Seclude Villas - RamgarhSeclude Villas - Ramgarh

How would you like to describe your team of you three?

Curious, driven, committed. Friends, partners, family.

Which would you say has been a hallmark project undertaken by the SpaceMatters team?

We would name two - 

One is Bhopal - where we overtime have engaged with the issues beyond what is understood as the conventional scope of an architect. We have worked with stakeholders, conducted workshops, conducted research. This process has defined the kind of practise we are - aware both of the possibilities and limitations of architecture. 

The other is the Temple of Stone and Light, which was culmination of many years of research and learning how to work with traditional crafts, material and artisans over many projects.  We felt me managed to best achieve design innovation and expression using both - the technology available to us as well as traditional skills and knowledge systems.

Temple of Stone and LightExterior View - Temple of Stone and Light

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