Expert Talk with Deepak Kalra

Tete-A-Tete with Experts Dated:  May 20, 2014
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Expert Architect: Deepak Kalra

I recently interviewed the multitalented Deepak Kalra of RMDK. Here is what he had to tell me of himself, his co- partner, and nature of the multidisciplinary works at his architectural practice, RMDK. Excerpts: 

Some Personal Information that you would like to share about yourself?

I did my architecture from School of planning and architecture, New Delhi, and joined a firm to get some practical experience - wanted to try out independent approaches, wanted to experiment without any bindings & answer ability to anyone but myself. 

When did you first start your practice? what kind of projects have you been doing since then?

We started in 1980. Both Ravish, my partner and I were batch mates in SPA and took our experience with well-known architects. We started our practice on a low key dealing mainly in residential projects and gradually came to be known more for our offbeat works at that particular time and got many good opportunities to work for exhibitions, interiors and architecture both in India and Abroad.

You are also product designers, will you like to tell us more?

I haven't had a formal training as a product designer but my curiosity & interest have carried me across rigid boundaries.Further  a good exposure  to the working methods of various agencies- even in the construction business and various contractor & designers abroad widened my horizons, opened my thought process & helped me evolve- that process Is continuing even today. My constant endeavours brought about establishment of the  first product design center in India with a very unconventional name “ I’m – the center for applied arts” in the year 1994 where various designers from indian institutions and even abroad can interact and display their works.

What has been your approach to projects?

When I pick up a project I study what other people have done and analytically put down the parameters of the requirements and always try and work out ‘out of the box’ solutions within the given parameters of acceptability. The  functions are resolved completely and then I take the liberty to rework them to generate the aesthetics. 

Also, the commercial aspects of the project, the viability and its target audience need to be considered. 

I never start with any pre meditated materials or finishes because I believe in using anything and everything right from mud to the most expensive finishes available.

What would define your “style” of work?

I would say its free style. I believe in adapting to the project requirement and work the concepts accordingly. I try and respond to the context and the culture of the place. Many of my works have drawn inspiration from indian architecture and I use the local skills at large.

Which kind of projects do you enjoy doing the most?

I usually pick up projects that inspire me or have some challenge at hand. I have to be passionate about my project to give my best. Of course, all projects come with their set of restrictions which one does need to honor. The most enjoyable ones have been where I am given the liberty to design without the typical budgetary restrictions.

Some of the best outcomes have also been where the client was sufficiently aware about the aspects of designing and after brainstorming sessions we worked out beautiful & creative solutions .

Which is your more favorite project among the projects done?

It would be difficult to say which is the ‘favorite’ as I put my heart and soul into any project that I do. But to name a few, we are currently working on a LEED – PLATINUM rated mall in West Bengal and am thoroughly enjoying working on it. Some of the best interior works have happened for l'affaire (GK and Select City walk, New delhi) and Heritage (South ext, New delhi).

Who/what inspires you and your works?

All art fields inspire me. I find inspiration for my work even in music. Among architects, I find Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando’s works very motivating. They both have a very clear and distinct design philosophy and have achieved perfection in their works.- indeed very inspiring. 

Do you feel architects and designers in India are concerned about environmental sustainability? How do you approach environmental sustainability at your firm RMDK?

 I for one am very strongly in favour of preserving our natural resources for our younger generations to enjoy. I have inducted young blood in RMDK MY OWN SON DHRUV KALRA who HAS  specialised in ENVIRONMENT SUSTAINABILITY.

Well, I feel more or less everybody is aware and understands the need for the same but somehow on the ground level the client’s perception and the budgetary constraints become a hindrance to achieve it. Even now in india only 5 out of 100 people are serious in implementing the various solutions available for a sustainable development and not just for the sake of branding (getting a certification). Definitely, a government intervention in terms of incentives and penalties are required to boost this aspect into the mainstream. 

What challenges do you continue to face and what is your strategy to tackle them?

Although I don't consider it a challenge , I see it more as a growth potential it is the EVERCHANGING  TECHNOLOGY & a continuous introduction of new materials. I keep myself absolutely abreast of various developments & incorporate them in my ongoing works. That is how although I have a strong signature style yet all look different & have a certain new & contemporary feel about them- I AM MY OWN COMPETITOR

What drives you?

The constant need to innovate and the kick of finally doing the job to my satisfaction. I have to be happy with what I have turned out  - My personal satisfaction and the kick I am looking for out of my work are a big driving force.

 Your words to youngsters starting out today.

KEEP YOUR EYES & EARS OPEN - everyday is a new learning experience, DESIGN IS DEFINITELY ONE FIELD WHERE CREATIVITY KNOWS NO BOUNDS- make a difference to your environment in whatever you are best.

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