Architect Amit Khanna

Young Turks Dated:  June 23, 2014
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Architect: Amit Khanna

Amit Khanna, is a young architect who has recently been featured in DesignxDesign, 20 Under 35 Exhibition held at New Delhi (2013) and theYoung Designers’13- Indian Architect and Builder. Founder and principal architect at the architectural firm AKDA(Amit Khanna Design Associates) he is an acclaimed photographer and writes for both online and offline media.

On a recent visit, he talked to us about the unique design process at his firm-one that invite learning- from a craftsman to a client, the vocabulary developed and the inclusive approach towards the various disciplines at the firm. Excerpts:

Some Personal Information that you would like to share.

I am the Founder & Design Principal at AKDA, a design firm that integrates the disciplines of architecture, interior design, furniture, lighting and product design. I head the design studio at AKDA, combining day-to-day involvement in design with my primary responsibilities for the strategic direction of the practice. 
Having graduated from the School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi in 2002, I am also currently teaching at the School with diverse responsibilities related to design, research and theoretical exploration.
My interest lies in photography and I write extensively for both online and offline media. 

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

I started my practice in 2004. We have been involved in a diverse array of projects including luxury residences, boutique retail & hospitality, commercial office and institutional buildings.

Tell us something about your approach to your projects.

The quest for absolute quality implies we follow a unique system of design development; one in which we allow ourselves to learn and imbibe from the skills and experience  of people who actually craft the buildings and objects that we design. Their early involvement acknowledges them as equal stakeholders in the process, and allows us as a studio to better predict construction outcomes and quality control.

What defines your style?

In the current architectural milieu of “starchitects” intent on peddling their wares like luxury brands, AKDA is not working towards a signature style.Buildings by the same architectural firm can and should look as disparate as their local conditions and requirements need them to be. To most, attaching meaning to architecture is a self-serving activity of the architect – intended to justify their inclusion in building process that has outgrown their need. For us, it is the start point of the process. Without it, there is nothing.

Which kind of projects do most enjoy doing?

The studio philosophy is to make regional specificity and sustainability intrinsic to the design process and product.Every object we produce, be it a 60,000SF office building or a 0.5SF light fixture, undergoes the same scrutiny of process and exactitude; A process that is founded in suitable materiality and innovation, irrespective of appearance.

Tell us something about your most favourite project.

My favourite project is a recently completed warehouse equipped with a high degree of automation. Designed from within, the spatial dimensions of robotic arms and stocking pallets dictated the planning, including the 20’ high ceilings. Rather than overlay a conventional punctured facade over the structural frame, the 140000sft building is wrapped in a perforated brick screen. The screen shades a glazed dust barrier, recessed from the south and north facades, creating a buffer zone that cuts glare, acts as a utility zone and provides a high degree of passive insulation. The thing we are most kicked about is the ambient temperature and light quality within the building. It is cool & well-lit, without the glare. Which, in a climate like Delhi, is nothing short of a miracle.

Who/what inspires you and your works?

Louis Kahn is always a source of great inspiration. Renzo Piano also has a thoroughly material-led design approach to architecture, which is fascinating considering the breadth of his oeuvre. My favourite building is the Kimbell Art Musuem.

Do you feel architects and designers should be concerned about environmental sustainability? How is environmental sustainability approached at your firm?

A recent addition to the firm’s outlook has been a growing sensitivity to the local urban environment we inhabit. As our projects increase in scale and scope, their subsequent impact on the micro-context has allowed us to think of community issues, apart from our clients’ interests. Through recent projects, we have extended programmatic requirements to improve urban edges and the comfort of non-paying users on the street.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

At AKDA, we do not fear the abundance of information available to clients. Rather than fight for control over the process, we embrace our clients’ awareness and allow them to participate in the evolution of the design. The focus is to deliver innovation that uplifts our environment, instead of allowing our built environment to be a mish-mash of private agendas- an outcome of vulgar misinformed aspiration.

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

To try and achieve a harmonious balance between nature and the making of buildings is a complex, conflicted issue. At AKDA, we are constantly struggling to make buildings that are more humane and kinder to the environment, and that is getting harder every day.

What drives you?

Architecture is an elusive muse. It is a lifelong, perhaps fruitless pursuit of perfection. Every project leaves something unsaid, something unresolved. The desire to keep creating new forms while striving for a well detailed, well-made building is a constant challenge.

Any words of wisdom for start ups.

Always design from first principles. Don’t imitate yourself.

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