Architect Yogesh Chandrahasan - WeBe Design Lab

Young Turks Dated:  March 18, 2015
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Ar. Yogesh Chandrahasan

The very young WeBe Design Lab, has been making waves with its flurry of award winning projects over the last couple of years. I caught up with Architect Yogesh Chandrahasan, one of the cofounders after the firm won the AICA award in the Landscape Design of the Year category. Read on to know how the young architect plans to steer the firm with his team. 

Please tell us a bit about the architect in you. How and when did you start WeBe Design Lab? What is the strength that each partner brings in? 
All of us studied in School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University Chennai. It is considered to be one of the premier institutions for architectural education. Our education as well as the professional work exposure that we all derived, including our internships, exposed us to not just the practicalities of construction but also the philosophies that most designers grapple with. The seven of us gravitated to each, we would have discussions on our changing perspectives on architecture, the field and the myriad challenges we face. Starting We Be was a natural extension of that.

We Be Design Lab's TeamWeBe Design Lab Team

We started in 2010, with some of us working full-fledged for We Be and some of us pursuing masters or gaining further professional experience.
All of us have our pet interests and actively try to excel in those interests and also try to incorporate the lessons learnt from them into the entire process of design and execution.

The name is fascinating. What is the story behind it?
We Be was conceived to be a platform for us to develop our skills and interests and then combining them into the work we produce.
‘WE’ intend to live, ‘BE’ rather than merely exist, to be vibrant, to breathe what we preach and to keep continuing what we believe in. Research and innovation in a DESIGN LAB are integral parts of our endeavour to provide sustainable solutions. The name WeBe derives from that philosophy of expanding our minds and souls in the directions we choose.

What kind of projects have you been working on?
Our firm is currently into various typologies such as, Industrial buildings, low budget hotel, Week end houses, Residential interiors, Office interiors, landscape design for houses and also actively involves in designing the pedestrian for the Chennai city roads.

How would you define your style?
Even though we’ve had a similar education, we were very clear that we did not want WeBe to be identified by any a particular ‘style’, at least not at a visceral level. We sought to have the fact that seven of us running the show, would be our biggest advantage. We actively encourage new design languages and experiments in our practice.

Tell us something about your award winning projects - D Stijl Garden, Wood House and Anora Beach Resort.
D Stijl Garden (landscape design), Wood House (interior design) and Anora Beach Resort (architecture, interior and landscape) located at Kangayam,Yercaud and Chennai respectively. Simple detailing, usage of local materials and inspiration or cues from the site were the driving factors in all three projects. Cohesive and contextual approach enhanced the quality of the outcome. 

living space during night

Since sustainability is the need of the hour, how do you ensure that your projects have the smallest carbon footprint?
We try to educate our clients as much as we can about the need of sustainable practices and the benefits of such methods. In India, the awareness of sustainability and the global energy crisis is not at the global levels. We realise that the extent of sustainability in our design solutions leaves a lot to be desired, but we also know that unless true awareness ingrains itself into the psyche of the people as a whole, most projects will have only token ‘solutions’.

As young architects, what are the challenges you face? What is your strategy to tackle them?
The main challenge we face on this aspect is the perception that we lack experience. We tackle this with a lot of patience and hard work. Sometimes we have to put in extra effort to convince a client that we are more than capable and what we might lack in experience, we make up in going the extra mile in making sure that the best is delivered every time.

What is your dream project?
I think that would be an urban project. I think this typology will really be a test of our philosophies of design and place making. It would also give us the perfect excuse into diving into answering some of the toughest questions urban designers face – what makes a truly democratic public space, how do we reconcile disparity in growth, etc. As young architects, these are questions that we constantly ask ourselves, not just at the desk or on site, but in our everyday lives.

Are you focused on Southern cities or do you take up projects pan India? How do you plan to expand We Be Design Lab?
We are definitely open to working in all parts of the country if not the world. Each city has an ethos that we would love to explore.
We want We Be to have a multi-faceted team with people of different design disciples working together. It would serve as a platform for collaborations with designers, technicians, and innovate new and exciting solutions.

How would you like We Be Design Lab to be known 15 years hence?
We want to look beyond buildings. Architecture is one of those rare fields that combine knowledge from all disciples, from geology to metaphysics to philosophy. We want to affect change in the collective conscience of design. A design awareness that is responsible and experimental at the same time. We Be Design Lab was envisioned as a laboratory where different ideas and techniques come together.

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