Architect Rishi Dev: Clean Transformations

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  Dec. 25, 2014
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Architect: Rishi Dev

Architect Rishi Dev lets his work do the talking, for his simplistic designs have a deep connect to India's traditional culture. Founder of Delhi based architectural firm “Rishi Dev Architects & Associates”, he believes that there is a universal principle which binds all phenomena of this cosmos together. Dev, who holds a degree in Master in Ekistics (science of human settlements) says it’s the passion and zeal for his profession that has taught him to love and respect all creatures. "Definitely, architecture has taught me the philosophy behind all creation: be it any profession, the basic principles remain the same. Even though we see life and things in categories and layers, but beneath this illusion all creation is same. Be it any organism of whatever scale or size, the complexity with which it has been designed by nature is very intricate, respectable and wonderful," says ace architect who has completed more than 250 projects all over the world.

When Dev got into architecture he probably had no idea about how his professional journey would be as it was his parents who guided him into this profession. They felt that Dev would be able to express himself best if he chose a profession which combined the knowledge of both science and arts together. Since then, every day for him has been a wonderful experience. Today even as he heads his multidisciplinary firm, Dev makes sure that they follow a philosophy of  “simplicity’’ in whatever project they undertake. “Our strength lies in finding simplicity in natural principles and then letting them take their own complex forms. We stick to this approach whether we design an object, interiors, building or cities,” he explains.

Dev believes that each designer’s ego leaves a personalised mark on each of its creation which in a way dilutes the purity of work. To avoid that he insists that every architect should focus on “what the building wants to be”, instead of “what we want the buildings to be”. And therefore, at work, they follow an approach which sets apart their individual personalities as designers from what is to be designed. “I believe as an architect it is important that we train ourselves to be unprejudiced about our work for it to reach its desired outcome. Thus, the settlements, buildings or spaces that we design should be not just functionally efficient and aesthetically appealing, but they should also be economically sound, contextually distinctive and responsive to its surroundings, the user needs and aspirations," he adds.

Even while Dev was busy chasing his dreams at the central university of Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi, works of iconic Alvar Alto and Louis Kahn always inspired him. "I looked up to them as they both explored each project with a new zeal and approach. However, among planners one of my favourites included Ian L. Mc Harg, who was also one of the pioneers of the environmental movement.” But what about his personal signature style? "I am a naturalist. I strictly avoid leaving an imprint of my personality on the work. So following this design philosophy, all my works have been unique in responding to the local context and issues and stress on giving respect to all that is around us rather than following a whimsical idea. Therefore, the architectural style evolves from the overall context alone," he adds.

Today as the whole world is going green and emphasising on the concept of green buildings, Dev feels that in contemporary architectural and planning practices the understanding of ecology is too constrained, limited or clichéd. He avers, "We have limited ecological conservation to green buildings, eco-friendly materials and carbon footprint. When in reality ecology is much more than just a few drops in the ocean. We approach differently. All our works, be it a small building or a large planning project, concentrates on understanding the local ecology and its larger role. Thereafter, we find methods to carry out any development which does not interfere with critical cycles and processes in nature. This way, we manage development alongside ecological conservation.”

Also, Vastu vidya is integral part of their designs and architecture. Though it was a discipline followed in ancient India, its aim was to provide a harmonious living habitat to all creatures. “The science of Vastu vidya encompassed the rules and the ‘nature’ of all things in existence. This is very important as by inherent nature humans, in the name of development and progress, destroy the environment and disturb the ecological balance in more than one way. Thus the aim of ‘Vaastu vidya’ was to guide the planners and designers in a way that the expansion and development that was done did not disturb the natural cycles and bore the users all the benefits from nature,” he says. “But since there are many controversies related to Vastu vidya, our organisation has done much work to revive this discipline. We guide our clients with information and reasoning to justify the basis of the principles we follow in this science. There is no principle in this discipline that is without a justifiable and scientific reason.”

But how does he feel with the completion of each of his projects? "Emotional," he replies. And why not? Emotions often play a crucial role in the life of a designer, as this aspect guides, explores and influences the artist as well as his work thereby, leading to new discoveries, inventions and masterworks. “As an architect and as a teacher I have discovered that in all art forms, be it music, dance, drawing or architecture, emotions play the most important role in manifestation. While on one hand our emotions influence the outcome, on the other hand the lifelong challenge for a creator of any of these art forms is to overcome these personal emotions while in the process of creation, so one may understand that each creation has a latent emotion of its own which remains subdued and which awaits its expression in its own way,” he concludes.

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