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Interview: In Conversation with Ar. V.T Anand and Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan of VBT ConsortiumBy Niveditha Ravikumar
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In conversation with Ar. V.T. Anand & Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan, principal architects with M/s. VBT CONSORTIUM, one of the oldest Architectural practices in Bengaluru.
Ar. V.T. Anand has a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from U.V.C.E., Bengaluru. A rank holder in the University, Ar. Anand has a vast experience in handling Multi-disciplinary projects. A keen sportsman and an avid golfer, he is well travelled and has immense exposure to diverse architectural styles across the globe.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan has a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University, Chennai. Apart from excelling in academics, Mr. Mahajan had also been actively involved in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and also served as the Secretary - Sports for his Alma Mater. Well –travelled, tech savvy and with a wide exposure to various facets of architecture, he imparts the freshness and out of the box thinking required for any firm in the creative field.
Being one of the oldest firms in Bangalore, how do you think is the field of architecture improving in Bangalore?
Ar. V. T. Anand: Over the many years, we have seen a lot of emerging sectors in Bengaluru. These sectors now play a very pivotal role in the economy. I think architecturally, they have changed the skyline of the city.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: Bengaluru has gained a contemporary flavour over the past few years. There is an international dimension to the architectural fabric of the city now.
The year 1956 takes us to the initial years of independence, what does it take you to?
Ar. V. T. Anand: 1956 takes us to the initial inception of our firm, as founded by the late Mr. V.B. Thammiah. Architecture was still finding ground as a mainstream profession and the lines between Engineering and Architecture were still fairly blurred.
During the firm's inception, it was called ' V B Thammiah Associates' and now 'VBT Consortium'. Did the name change affect your business at any point?
Ar. V. T. Anand: As our portfolio began to encompass a larger profile and our associations grew to international networks, we felt the name change to VBT Consortium contributed to our global presence, without compromising on the professional ethics instilled by our parent company, M/s. V B Thammiah Associates.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: It has helped us collaborate with design practices of international repute and integrate global trends into our architecture.
As senior architects who graduated decades ago, what do you think is missing in design education these days?
Ar. V. T. Anand: I miss the good old days of sketching and conceptualizing with the butter sheet. But on a serious note, I do see that technology is defining the design process to a larger extent. I only hope the younger generation is using it as a tool rather than a determining factor in Architecture.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: I agree with Ar. Anand. Architectural sketching has become a lost art. Design Education today should also incorporate ongoing design trends and awareness of the new materials in the market, their potential application and construction techniques.
How do you define 'an architecture studio'?
Ar. V. T. Anand: A design studio should be a culmination of concepts and experiences to collectively take any design forward.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: A design studio is in reality not just a physical space with drafting boards and computers. The design studio is actually a creative pool of ideas, where Design reigns supreme. It is not a place for professional egos, but rather it should encourage design dialogues to enhance the Architectural process.
What is your favourite project and what is special about that?
Ar. V. T. Anand: That’s a little difficult to answer. Each project comes with some challenges and brings contentment as it progresses. But if I have to pick any one, I would say Bagmane Tridib, designed over a 5 acres land parcel facing the Ulsoor Lake in CV Raman Nagar. We utilized the visual impact of the lake to translate into the design of the curved façade of the building.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: My favourite project would be one of the large scale residential developments we are working on, Cityville Valmark. Designed on the Villament concept, the architectural vocabulary of this project reflects a contemporary urban grammar. It is inspired by the underlying concept of “Lake, Tree and Sky”.
What do you think is the future of Sustainability of India?
Ar. V. T. Anand: It will take some time, but yes, we will get there.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: Sustainability should not be an afterthought, but must be a part of the process from concept to completion. Here, I would like to stress on a parallel stream of Energy efficient design and the importance of the same in design of built environments of high energy consumption.
Are smart cities going to be smart enough?
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: Very valid question! Innovation and Harmonization at macro levels are very essential to enhance lifestyle in urban areas. But long term impacts will be dependent on good governance and the citizen’s own sense of civic duty.
The Apur township in Chennai, a corporate hub of 450 acres is a large scale project involving masterplanning majorly. Please tell us about it.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: The Apur Township is designed as a 450 Acres integrated township. The site has three natural water bodies and the development was conceptualized to integrate these natural features. The client envisioned the property to accommodate a golf course with weekend timeshare villas and apartments. Functional spaces like Commercial IT Buildings, Film Academy and convention centers were integrated into design as the principle work zones of the township. Facilities such as Sports center, School and hospital spaces were designated to add amenities and value to the township.
As the designers of Karnataka State Hockey stadium in Bangalore. which hosts the National game of India, how do you feel when you visit now?
Ar. V. T. Anand: We do feel it needs a bit of upkeep.
Serenity project in Ahmedabad (master planning) would have involved huge efforts and how did you conceptualize it?
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: The only answer to that is team work. I really wish that at least a segment of Architectural Education stresses on the importance of team work. Especially while handling such large scale projects, apart from creative and technical expertise, coordination skills are of paramount importance. After exploring different options, we finalized on the concept of “Vastu Purusha” and the seven chakras. Manifesting the abstract concept into a site planning exercise was very exciting for the whole team.
There are an increasing number of Architecture schools in India. What is your say on it?
Ar. V. T. Anand: Irrespective of the number, quality should be assured. With information at your fingertips today, educators have a larger role to play in ensuring the right kind of knowledge is being transferred to the students.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: It is an interesting perspective, as it shows a lot of people now understand the importance of formal professional education in the field of architecture.
There is an age difference of almost 20 years between the partners. Your advice to the young generation working on partnership basis.
Ar. V. T. Anand: The younger generation brings in fresh energy and new concepts. A sincere piece of advice to all partnerships – Be open to listen to the partner’s view point. You can always discuss and debate about it, but primarily be open to listen.
Ar. Neelaksh Mahajan: The older generation brings in a lot of technical knowhow which comes with many years of experience. As the younger partner in the firm, my advice to upcoming architects would be to focus on innovative concepts, but never to lose sight of workability of the same. Partnerships only work if both partners have the same vision.
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