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Sudipto Ghosh of S. Ghosh & AssociatesBy Andrew Chyne
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We speak to Architect Sudipto Ghosh of S. Ghosh & Associates, a firm started in 1973 by his parents, Sumit Ghosh and Suchitra Ghosh. Starting from the firm's focus on individual house back then to doing religious buildings, housing for the poor in the '80s to being commissioned for large scale, prestigious social housing and infrastructure projects in the '90s and consciously orienting towards sustainability in design in the current times; Sudipto and his firm, have sought to reinvent it continually to respond to the different needs and challenges of the day.
Your designs are unique. Can you tell us a bit about your design philosophy?
I don’t necessarily agree about our designs being unique. I think uniqueness is not something we pursue actively or even consciously. In design if one follows either of the two trajectories: intuition or rational thought (and the two may not be exclusive), it will lead to extremely personal interpretations of the design brief from the clients. As architects our task is to challenge the brief at every point of design. This is something we keep trying to remind ourselves. Even the most mundane of projects can become rather interesting if a design firm has this attitude.
The Interiors at Jindal Corporate office which I found on your website, are very artistic. Can you tell us more about blending Art with Architecture?
There are two offices we have done for the Jindal’s in two different locations that are separated by about 15 years. Both projects have had artists collaborate with us. The earlier one at Bhikaji Cama Place in New Delhi has an installation by Satish Gupta in the internal court called “The Primary Elements” in bronze. This becomes the pivotal piece around which the office is experienced. The second office building finished recently in Raigarh, Chattisgarh overlooks the client’s steel and power plant. We asked artist Julien Segard to work with us on this. He chose the spaces himself and produced five individual pieces in five locations that are not only stunning but also refreshing in the way that they look at the industry of steel and power production. It of course helps to have an enlightened client with you on such endeavours.
Your design for Jindal Township in Odisha, “Trees have become an integral part of your design”. Can you shed more light on this please?
Well, when we started the project in 2006, and I am recalling our first site visit when there was no township and no power plant, only a landscape that was barren barring a few really beautiful trees. I remember the villagers were quite hostile and they took away our camera as if that was the device that was giving outsiders control of their lands. It was quite sad and we did not feel very good about what might be the fate of the community that had been self-reliant till then. Today, they have schools, hospitals, jobs, their children attend higher secondary and will probably go to college and by far the development has been very positive for the community. Angul from being a group of villages, within a few years, has become a real town where you can by a laptop if you wanted one.
I am not so sure however, that development and urbanity are that great for the environment and the pristine landscape that we had then seen. It was therefore important for us to hold on to what we had, those beautiful trees at site around which the master-plan for the township took shape. Cutting trees for any project is a big no-no and all our clients understand and appreciate this.
Bricks has been used as natural color in your design for Ajay Binay Institute. Do you feel today's clients are open to this idea?
Exposed brickwork has been part of the modernist vocabulary for some time now. Bricks are beautiful and leaving them exposed requires the masons to suddenly become self-aware, to call upon their craft, and take care. In the house we live in, built by my parents, also my senior partners in the practice, in the late 70’s in exposed brick, uses a brick-bond that is not taught in architecture schools called a ‘monk’ bond. The Ajay Binay institute, where the building construction was to become instructional to the students of architecture here, utilizes the rat-trap bond that creates cavities and is great for insulation and saves 40% of the bricks. The masons at site had to be told how to do the brickwork.
A simple specification change can tie the designer to the people working at site in a bond. As architects we must realize these bonds that tie brick to brick and people to people. Clients who understand all of this will understand the value of it.
Are you getting a free hand on your design?
Oh yes! We wouldn’t be doing the projects if we found ourselves robbed of this.
What is your dream project like?
My dream-project would be one that would require me to lose sleep, spend the night tossing and turning with the design going round and round in my head; spend hours at site resolving junctions and difficult, unexpected problems; fight with the clients over budget and choice of materials and the engineers over difficult construction; scream at the construction workers for shoddy work. If one has done all of this only then does the dream project arise. In other words, dreams happen only when the nightmare is over.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
An architect’s biggest challenge is internal. I can’t articulate it to you. If I could, I would have been able to resolve it. But it is this internal struggle that fires what we do.
Besides your work, what do you like to do in your pastime?
I love to spend time with my two girls who are 10 and 12 years old, fooling around in the house. I love to cycle, go on hiking trips, swim when the weather permits.
If you were to change one thing about clients, what would it be?
Stop them from looking at our work as a product but as a process that starts with our first discussion and continues even after the building has been demolished half a century later.
Words of wisdom for young architects...?
Never work for money, no matter what you do…but never under-quote: the value of your work is far more…realize this. I am only beginning to understand this now after 18 years of practice.
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