A Cordial Chat with Architect Vinod Mehra

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  Aug. 9, 2014
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Architect, Vinod Mehra

Enthusiastic and brimming with ideas, architect Vinod Mehra is one of those architects of present era who never mind stepping out of their comfort zone when it comes to architecture. The architect is the founder of the firm Vinod Mehra Associates that offers design services in residential, commercial and hospitality sectors. 

Here is a brief account of his one-on-one chat with ZingyHomes team where he shares the secret behind this consistency and finally leaves an inspirational note for the younger crowd.

Some Personal Information that you would like to share. 
I basically hail from Amritsar in Punjab and my family has been involved in the textile business from generations. I was probably at that time the odd one out who was keenly interested in designing which was not even remotely related to the interests of the family. Hence I had to make a conscious decision to move out and hence joined MS University Baroda for my graduation in Architecture. I was encouraged and inspired by my then principal Ar. Suryakant Patel who also gave me the confidence to establish my independent firm VMA (Mumbai) in 1972.

When did you first start your practice and what kind of projects have you been doing?
VMA since its inception in the year 1972 has earned experience in several Residential, Industrial, Hospitality, Educational & commercial projects in India as well as abroad.

VMA have been associated over the past 40 years with reputed brands such as:

  • Sun-n-Sand (Mumbai, Shirdi, Panjim, Pune)
  • Airport Garden Sri Lanka
  • Ashoka Buildcon (Nasik)
  • Cello Pens (Vapi, Daman)
  • Flair Pens (Vapi, Daman)
  • Nayasa Plastoware (Daman)
  • Asian Plastoware (Daman)
  • AGPPL (Ashutosh Gowarikar Productions Private LTD, Mumbai)
  • Vavci (fashion boutique, Amritsar)
  • Simran International (Leather Export House, Gurgaon, Haryana)
  • Khar Gymkhana (Mumbai)
  • Renovation of Arya Vidya Mandir School (Bandra, Mumbai)

At present VMA is involved in construction of schools and colleges in Nasik, Bungalows in Lonavala, Factory for Nayasa Plastoware @ Daman, Fashion boutique @Amritsar, Bon Bon shoes @Bandra, commercial building for NIBR@ Andheri and Residential Interiors of flats in suburbs of Mumbai.

Tell us something about your approach to your projects?
From initial meetings, programming to developing design concepts through sketches drawings, execution and final handover, we at Vinod Mehra and Associates recognize the clients requirements and likings thereby providing long term and sensitized solutions.
The pursuit for excellence in client service is to deliver quality design implementation & building long term relations with clients.

What defines your style?
I strongly believe in these words by Javed Akhtar- 
“Your life is designed by 3 designers- circumstances, coincidences and you yourself." 
Any one of these can be a chief designer of your life at any particular moment. 
Grabbing the right opportunities, hard work, discipline and sincerity have helped me progress in life. 

Architecture and interiors are service oriented fields. It requires a thorough understanding of the environment desired by the end users and then carving out a space within it while creating striking and functional spaces within the specified budget. 

Which kind of projects do you enjoy the most?
Any project which is design oriented, involves research and which creates some value to the society. All these factors make a project interesting.
To add some newness to everything I do from design to the technique in execution, I strongly feel one must travel. Exploring various countries and their architectural heritage as well as newer projects adds to my knowledge. Also the space utilization, space integration, volume, lighting of spaces etc are points I keep in mind while admiring an interesting building. 

Tell us something about your most favorite project?
Sun n Sand Shirdi is one project that I feel most connected not only with respect to the designing but a very spiritual and deep attachment. I have always felt a presence of some soul there who has guided me through the project thereby helping me overcome any obstacle during construction. With regards to architecture it is a 100 room hotel with 20 apartment rooms, a banquet, Multi-cuisine restaurants, dedicated play space for kinds and beautiful landscaping.
Other than that the Ashoka House is also close to my heart. The building is a perfect example of classical architecture, which is also, happens to be my favorite design style.

Who/what inspires you and your works?
Anything and everything around us influences while designing. It could be a chair or a building, natural scenic beauty, from a tree to its leaf, from fashion to the colors involved in it, it is just a matter of time when the thought is converted into a concept and implemented for execution.

Do you feel architects and designers should be concerned about environmental sustainability?
Environmental Sustainability should be infused into the designs at the earlier stages itself.  This will lead to reducing the impact while the project is in progress. As it is with the increase in population and economic development, we are facing a dearth of space. Trying to construct in this limited space and minimizing the use of natural resources is a challenge every architect/ designer faces.  Short term gains should be over looked and processes should be developed for environmental sustainability in all businesses. 

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Unlike majority of the countries internationally where there is one standard set of rules that govern architecture, India has a different set of rules for every city. For example Mumbai, Pune and Nashik which are located in the same state but are governed by varied architectural norms. This serves as a road block to conducive planning and sustainability.  Less free space and lack of landscaping are result of rapid urbanization is a challenge most architects face. 
The diversity of rules that govern architectural design in India needs to be addressed and a pressing need for recognition and appreciation of Indian architects are the biggest challenges we face today.

What challenges do you continue to face and what is your strategy to tackle them?
Lack of space and rapid urbanization today continues to be a challenge for us. At our firm, we have tried to create interesting spaces from whatever limited area we have. Also to tackle the issue sustainability we have done landscaping at the ground level or landscaped terraces at other places.
Orientations of buildings have been designed in a way to optimize cross ventilation and maximum natural light utilization. Also solar and water energy harvesting are other techniques being used by us to create a sustainable environment. Use of Eco-friendly materials, energy saving lights and other solutions are a part of our strategy to overcome the above mentioned challenges.

What drives you?
To succeed one must experiment. Experimenting leads to evolving as an individual. I have constantly through my 40 years of being an architect experimented with different styles, materials, techniques, products etc which have made me a more evolved professional.

Any words of wisdom for youngsters starting out today?
As a young architect, when I started out, my agenda was designing something I was proud of and satisfying my client’s requirements. But today’s youth is more concerned about the monetary aspects of the project rather than the creative satisfaction.  Money is important but should not hold prime focus in a creative field. Also I believe there is no end to the learning process. One has to stay updated with the latest technology and new materials available.  Change and hard work are the constants in our field. Don’t be a blind follower of trends. Create your own style.

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