Interview with Architect Salil Ranadive

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  April 15, 2015
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Architect: Salil Ranadive

An out and out Mumbaikar, Architect Salil Ranadive, started his own architectural practice straight after college. His very first project "Arressa Art Gallery" won him the IIID inaugral award for "Public Spaces". Modest despite his illustruous background, Ar. Ranadive draws inspiration from everyone around him. We find out more about the architect and the person behind the architect in this interview...

Tell us something about the real you...
I’m a Bombay boy through & through. Proud of what Bombay has been to me – and lately more & more disappointed at what its transformation into Mumbai really entails.

Cities are what I’m drawn to European mostly, some Asian, and the old Indian gems. Reading is an immense joy. Non-fiction mostly. Architectural Theory & Criticism, Urban Design, India, Social Studies. Used to be a rather successful athlete – now, derive great joy in high altitude hiking – in the Himalayas. Yoga brings me a sense of calm, balance & inward focus. And of course I can’t do without people around me – at work, at leisure, at home : colleagues, friends, family make me and give me strength.

Living RoomLiving Room - Ajmita House

You are from an illustrious family and studied under the legends of Indian architecture. Did that make life easy or more difficult?
Life is always as Easy, or as a Difficult – as one Allows it to be ! The wonderful part of where I come from is the access one has - to great minds, to great ideas, to meaningful dialogue, and to be able to be at the center of things. On the other hand, all that can also be very overwhelming, and giving one a false sense of self. After graduating, I did make a very conscious and deliberate effort to move away from anybody’s Shadow. It has been a great joyful journey – to carve out and create one’s own Niche and Identity over these past years.

When did you first start your practice and what kind of projects have you been doing? When did you start SR Architects?
The first project I got along with my batch-mate Anish Shah, was in 1988 – while we were still doing our Dissertations at CEPT. It was for an Art Gallery at Kemp’s Corner – and as it happened – we received a Best Public Place Award for it from the IIID (That incidentally was the first & last time I participated in an Awards Competition). After that, our Two-man partnership, grew to Three. Then, into a Private Limited Company, which continued till 2013. In September 2013, I moved away and started SR+A Architects – along with all the wonderful team-mates I had worked with all these years.

BMR AdvisorsExterior Building Design - BMR Advisors

Tell us something about your approach to your projects?
For us, the key to every project – is the Client. And this could be an Individual, a Family, a Company or an Institution. It is imperative for me to be able to establish an equation with them – to understand the way they function, their imperatives, their goal, their likes & dislikes, their joys.

We then aim to be the Facilitators – who can create a Poetic Solution to their primary functional need. Simultaneously, it’s equally important to address the Pragmatic aspects of a Project as well : Budgets, Time Schedules, Materials & Details and of course to recognize that the team includes the Engineers, the Contractors, the Suppliers, the Workers & the Craftsman too.

What would you say your signature style is?
Signature Style ….. I would say is a Critical Regionalism / Critical Contextualism. It’s about recognizing the signals that one gets from the Place, its Climate, its Soil, its Geography, its History, the People, their Stories, their Myths & Symbols and putting it together to say the Maximum number of Things using in the minimalist possible way. That however, typically takes the greatest amount of Effort – to keep simplifying, filtering, codifying and redoing it again and again until it emerges as an Architecture – that’s just perfect – much like Yoga.

Deck DesignDeck Design - Sanghi House

Which kind of projects do you enjoy the most?
Multi-disciplinary, Multi-functional Campuses – where the spectrum of opportunity covers Urban Design, Architecture, Interiors, Landscape – the Works!

Which has been your most favorite project so far?
All Projects where my Clients have become my friends, and have called me back and cooked me a nice meal – are my favorites! Critically of course, my favorites are our “Shoebox” Series of Projects in Bombay: One, a house with an elevated Courtyard The Other, an Office – that engages with the Outside through and Enclosed Street, and it is arranged around a Tree of Knowledge. Meanwhile another, is a Corporate Learning Centre in Gujarat – that is being built.

And the most challenging?
The most challenging are those Projects when one has had to work at the highest level of efficiency & proficiency – while being completely outside of one’s Comfort Zone – and way beyond the Call of Duty.

One was when, as part of a Citizen’s Initiative, one moved through the corridors of the bureaucracy over a period encompass 10 years – to actually get Rs.50 crore sanctioned for what then became The Marine Drive Project.

Another on the opposite side of the spectrum was when one got just about 3 weeks to conceive and create a Z+ secure, 500 Seater Indoor Arena to host the Prime Minister for the Inauguration of the Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital.

workstation offceWorkstation Offce - BMR Advisors

Who/what inspires you and your works?
Inspirations come from anywhere. Everywhere. From the most unexpected places. At the most unexpected moments.

Often times, what someone says, gets linked to something one may have seen or read about, triggered of by something one felt, dreamt of, or experienced – So connections happens. Memories are Reflected. A fresh wind blows and something Inspirational takes root.

Mostly peoples actions, and their points of view Inspire me. Architects, Artists, Poets, Musicians, Composers, Film Directors, Authors, Essayists, My Yoga teacher and my Yoga Guru. My family, Economists and Social Commentators.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Challenges bigger & smaller, are an inherent part of everybody’s lives. I’ve had my share of them as well. I believe that my worst challenge is behind me, and I’ve come out stronger from it.

What challenges do you continue to face and what is your strategy to tackle them?
One faces old & new challenges every day. Some are personal, some professional , some social, cultural, etc. My best strategy is to find one’s inner calm – balance & stability – Being an architect who practices Yoga, probably helps.

What drives you?
The urge “To Build” is the biggest driver. One has begun to recognize how deeply spiritual the Act of Creating an Architecture actually is. The Act of transforming a part of Mother Earth. The responsibility to the people who will use, live in, walk through, or just even experience the Place & the Spaces one has created.

Kirloskar VillaExterior View of Kirloskar Villa

How would you like your work to be recognized?
Best always is to be recognized by one’s Peers. But truly the most satisfying has been when – in two instances, children who grew up in Houses we have designed – actually grew wanting to become Architects – saying they were inspired by their home environment. That’s been the best compliment, and the biggest Reward.

You are closely involved with your alma mater. How do you think architectural education in the country has evolved from the time when you were a student?
Yes, I’m closely involved with CEPT, as a Founder Member / Director of Alumni Association of the School of Architecture – the FAAA, since its inception in 2012.

Honestly, I was not at all happy with the way architectural education in India has been evolving (actually regressing) over the past two decades. There has been a plethora of Schools that have sprung up all across the country – with nearly no gravity, and clearly no direction.

On the contrary, I’m delighted to see the manner in which all systems are being re-honed, at CEPT Ahmedabad. The academic discourse is being re-invigorated and its pedagogy being re-focused. They have pioneered (at least here in India) a Summer & Winter School program, and provided its legendary “universal” education its true expression in its now truly cross-campus, cross-discipline, cross – faculty curriculum.

We should be seeing some exciting results emerging out of this great churn that’s been undertaken.

Kids BedroomKids Bedroom - Ajmita House

What would your advice to young architects be?
My primary advice to the them is: Don’t be in a Hurry!

Architecture intrinsically is Public Art connected and interwoven inseparably to the Multiple patterns of Social Life of man on this earth. It therefore requires great bandwidth along with great depth over-ridden by great flair to get it all right. And this comes with Experience – which only comes with Time. So keep working – very hard, for a long time, keeping your focus, keeping up your own intellectual pursuits, and with time – you will get there.

Your personal favorites when you sit for sketching designs?
I can sketch anywhere, using any kind of writing instrument, at anytime of the day or night. But, my favorites would be … sitting on a well-lighted large, wide desk, by a large picture window – with nature in the foreground and the city in the background, using my favorite Fountain Pen (I have a small collection of these), using Sketch pad with A4 or larger non-white paper. Sometimes, when I’m in the mood, the FIXPENCIL will do just fine.

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